The City of Brandon’s information technology department is stepping up its game to take the 2013 Lieutenant Governor's Winter Festival to the next level.
Jason Kelusky, the city’s IT manager, said the growth and evolution of the festival prompted the department to create a dedicated website to the event last year — brandonwinterfestival.ca — and photo aggregate for festival goers this year — lgwf.brandon.ca.
"We wanted to create a photo-sharing site around the festival as a pilot project for other things for the future," Kelusky said. "It’s a great way to crowd source some photos of Winter Festival so that we can collect some of the photos and people can share them from the event."
Kelusky said it’s really the explosion of the smartphone that prompted the move into crowd sourcing. And the technology should allow the festival’s digital footprint — be it through photos, reviews and videos — to grow, which in turn will only create more exposure.
"It will serve as a mosaic of the history (of the festival) from year to year," Kelusky said.
"Mashing up" several interactive platforms is where all technology is headed, and Kelusky said next year they hope to have more interactive maps to keep people informed about the festival.
He also said the website and photo aggregate are a work in progress as this year is the pilot project, making feedback from all users extremely important moving forward.
"After the festival we are going to get some feedback from people that used it and see if it’s something that we can improve on and what elements can be more user-friendly."
For those following on twitter, the #lgwf2013 hashtag has given festival goers the most current information regarding the event.
Twitter hashtags allow a group of people to post, inform and have a conversation about a single topic and the #lgwf2013 hashtag has featured reviews on pavilion food, information on lineups and photos of the entertainment throughout the night.
The brandonsun.com website features the conversation under the Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival’s top breaking news story.
"It’s so immediate and it’s as close to real time as we can get," Brandon Sun online co-ordinator Grant Hamilton said. "It’s not just knowing about wait times, it’s knowing that the food is really good at this pavilion tonight or that they’re out of perogies."
The Twitter conversation surrounding the festival is also seen as a helpful tool for people to make those tough decisions during the festival.
"There are 13 pavilions and only three nights, so it’s tough to get to all of them which means you have to pick and choose," Hamilton said. "The technology and the crowd sourcing helps you pick and choose."
And in some cases, it can help pull festival goers out of their routines, introducing them to pavilions that maybe they haven’t set foot in before.
"It lets them see what other people are doing during the festival and how others are experiencing it and it can help break them out of that rut."
The technology is here to stay, according to Hamilton, and will only evolve as people adapt and come to expect real-time information about the festival.
"Citizen journalism augments what we do, it doesn’t replace it," Hamilton said. "Everyone can join the conversation and it’s not about competing, it’s about continually adding to the experience. As it grows, it’s up to us (as a media organization) to step back and curate that conversation."