Category Archives: Online

Birmingham’s newest municipal website makes its debut

City of Birmingham website 2014 650Visitors to the city of Birmingham’s website ( since close of business last night have been pleasantly surprised. The newest iteration of the city’s digital facing first impression has launched quietly, though it is our understanding a more formal announcement should be forthcoming. It replaces the one used (with only minor tweaks) since January 2008This latest version was created by locally based web design firm Kinetic Communications. They have also been working on a new Birmingham City Council website that launched last month, replacing one in use since May 2012. The sites are so similar visually most visitors will not notice they are not one in the same when navigating.

This redesign is the latest effort to tackle an issue faced by many cities — how to build a useful website for its citizens and business owners. A look back at earlier iterations should give a pretty good idea of just how far the city’s come from 2001.

Which university reigns supreme? TIME decides to build a web app for that

UAvsAUToday a screenshot has been making the rounds (via TIME’s Twitter account and this story) showing the results of a digital comparison between the University of Alabama and Auburn University. The web app that’s come to this conclusion is thanks to the intrepid folks at TIME Magazine. The publication recently redesigned their website using the VIP platform, adding more interactive features.

With all the talk about Alabama vs. Auburn, especially after the buzz surrounding yesterday’s announcement of the hiring of Bruce Pearl down on the Plains, we were wondering how the local state institution, UAB, would do. So, we checked to see if they were included in the list of alma maters being used, and they were.

The good news is the Blazers are closer in influence to Auburn than we are to the folks in Tuscaloosa. We’ll let the pictures speak for themselves though. First, UAB vs. Alabama:


Now, UAB vs. Auburn:


Granted, the algorithm being used to determine this is based on the length of entries associated with those of the “107,408 living people whose Wikipedia profiles list at least one alma mater in the U.S.” who actually attended the schools in question. That said, they’re encouraging your help in making sure the listings provide the most accurate results possible (see the bottom of this post for details).

Birmingham made its fourth Livability top 10 list. This time, it’s for downtown

downtownbhamfromredmtnThe word’s been spreading like wildfire all afternoon – Birmingham, AL was included (as number 10) on’s list of the top 10 best downtown areas for 2014. Fort Worth, Texas topped the list, that also included cities like Providence, RI, and the other #bham, Bellingham, WA.

A statement shared via email by Birmingham Business Alliance president Brian Hilson expressed excitement about the significance of the latest recognition by outside media outlets:

“This is fantastic news, not only for the City of Birmingham, but for the entire Birmingham region,” said Hilson. “Downtowns, especially active ones like ours in Birmingham, help project a positive community image. Downtowns serve as a signature place for the community they are part of. They contain history, and they represent current and future economic vitality. In most metropolitan areas the downtown is the economic hub of the region, and that’s definitely true in Birmingham because of the concentration of employment, as well as the livability features downtown Birmingham offers. It is exciting to see downtown Birmingham receive this much-deserved recognition. We’ll use this positive news to promote further investment in Birmingham.”

The announcement adds to an ever-growing collection of top 10-type lists on which Alabama’s Magic City has been a part – including previous lists published by This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the website, launched in late 2009 and published by Franklin, TN-based Journal Communications, strives to be a resource about “America’s best places” and “what makes cities truly livable” (according to their fan page on Facebook) while chronicling more than 500 cities across the country.

The city has been previously recognized as having one of the top 10 libraries for children (#9, 2012); one of the top 10 spring break destinations for families (#6, 2013); and a top 10 place to retire (#8, 2013).

Sherri Ross Walters named a runner-up for 92Y Genius competition

walters headshotBirmingham, AL resident Sherri Ross Walters recently learned she was the only non-New York City resident among four winners to place in the 92nd Street Y’s Genius Start-Up Competition. She was among the 50+ that entered the contest, organized as part of the organization’s  7 Days of Genius festival.

Walters learned of the competition via a friend on Facebook sharing the link to an article from Inc. publicizing it in February. Her entry involved developing a citywide resource “to help the homeless find information in real time.” Information accessible would potentially include identifying which area shelters are open, available beds, and where meals will be served. All of this would be available to users via a small box mounted on bus stop poles. How she came up with the concept is indicative of the passion she’s shown to other efforts in the city in recent years, including the Birmingham Girls Club and Birmingham Dance Walk.

“I chatted with a sweet homeless man named Dave at a restaurant one day after buying him lunch,” said Walters via an email exchange earlier today. “He described having to get to the shelters early to get a place in line for a bed that evening. That really spoke to me.”

The area’s recent winter storms also had an impact on the development of the idea. “As our community was posting away on Facebook offering up shelter, baby items, medications, food, and the like, I knew that a lot of homeless people would never see that information,” she said.

“I love what our city does by opening Boutwell (like this) for them in extreme weather circumstances along with the amazing work our shelters and various groups do, but I wondered about the other nights of the year, along with what Dave told me,” she continued. “How many hours do they spend in line at a shelter and do they always get a bed? What if there were a fast, easy way for them to get the information they needed before trekking across down only to find out the shelter is full. Or that an organization that normally serves meals has run out of food for the evening. We have so many wonderful groups in our community that offer help – I wanted to create one place where the homeless could get that information.”

Walters finished as second runner-up in the competition, securing a pass to the 92Y Spring 2014 Talks Season Pass. She is currently investigating ways to move forward with the project locally, including pursuing conversations with city officials to determine feasibility, and the homeless community to “help pinpoint the greatest needs for the first phase.” She is also hoping to work with others to “develop a prototype and plan, including entrepreneurial friends to discuss business plan and funding and engineers to talk about the application once needs are determined.”

She points out, according to the website OneRoof, that Birmingham has nearly 1,500 people on any given night who experience homelessness. Walters thinks her idea can make a difference. “I am hoping that with this new communication system, they can find the resources they need to spend a safe night indoors, as well as get food, toiletries, and the help they need. I also envision this being a tool they can use to help each other by staying in touch, finding lost friends, and reporting emergencies if needed,” she said.

According to the competition’s webpage, “The entries were judged by 92Y, Cornell Tech and venture capital firm RRE Ventures on the ideas’ innovation, potential impact and implementation plan.” The winners were announced at the Genius of the Start-Up event held on Monday, March 3. The series of events continues through March 10 and can be watched via live stream on the 92Y’s website or follow the Twitter hashtag #thatsgenius.

Local Comcast/Time Warner Cable deal impact unknown

CablesWhile much of Birmingham was seeing proof of our winter wonderland melt away earlier this month, a major deal was struck between the two largest cable providers in the United States. Neither one of them has a presence in the Birmingham market, though the proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable by Comcast could impact services provided by Bright House Networks.

The company, the nation’s sixth largest internet service provider is owned by Advance Publications. That New York-based company is also the parent company for the Alabama Media Group/

The reason this matters is because Bright House Networks’s cable television carriage deals are still negotiated by Time Warner Cable – as pointed out in this piece published on the Tampa Bay Times’s website on February 13. If the merger is approved, it will . There hasn’t been a major carriage issue for the company since 2009, when a last-minute deal kept 11 Viacom stations, including MTV and Comedy Central, from disappearing off the station guide. 

Photo: CablesDeclanTM/Flickr.

Where does Birmingham Instagram?

herefeed screenshotInstagram is still a major player in our local online media consumption in Birmingham, AL. The folks behind InstagramBham do a really great job of making sure those active on the service in the community are connected. They’ve definitely continued to grow since our original brief on them in 2012. Perhaps a tool like HereFeed will help them discover even more people.

The San Diego, CA, web-based service just launched this month, receiving coverage from the likes of Fast Company, The Daily Dot, and all those Curbed websites. Its capturing interest because of its ability to provide real-time tracking of uploads to the popular photo-sharing service.

The pink bubbles grow as more people upload geo-tagged photos. You’re able to see the images if you either click on the bubbles or scroll down. Users may toggle between “top” and “recent” maps as well, though the rawness of real-time means some images, though public, may not be suitable for work. Plus, you’ll need to enable your web browser to share its location to take full advantage if you check the site out on a non-mobile device.

The Daily Dot reminded its readers of the existence of an iPhone app, Skedadel, that isn’t as focused on real-time. The folks at FC give us a bit more background as we learn the project’s creator, a former vice president of social products at MySpace and a founder of Science, Inc. (a company focused on funding, developing and advising “companies focused on solving the everyday problems of modern living”) named Ryan Sit has been working on this for some time. It provides only a glimpse of what could be possible for the delivery of information in our location-based world.


How many Birmingham neighborhoods do you know?

cthlogoThere’s been a great deal of buzz surrounding a series of pieces highlighting the best and worst cities in the state written by Media Group columnist John Archibald. During his regular weekly segment on WBHM, local Morning Edition host Tanya Ott highlighted a comment on Archibald’s most recent piece about the state’s worst cities made by Emily Lowrey, founder and publisher of Magic City Postsuggesting take a closer look at each of the city’s 99 neighborhoods as part of its overall analysis.

It got us wondering just how familiar folks were with all of Birmingham, AL’s 99 neighborhoods (or the city’s general boundaries for that matter). Luckily, someone was already working on a solution, courtesy of a Code for America Brigade project – Click That Hood. The premise of the simple – it asks you just how familiar you are with the locations of neighborhoods in several cities across the country. Marcus Dillavou, a founder and lead engineer at VIPAAR, decided to add Birmingham to the site himself, sharing a post describing how he went about it earlier today. It should give folks an idea of the issues involving access to usable general data about the city. He was able to add 87 of the 99 neighborhoods to the map, all of them located north of Red Mountain.

The site is being highlighted in advance of this weekend’s second annual Code Across America initiative, appropriate as February 23 is International Open Data Day. The hope is to continue to spark an interest in civic innovation. There are no known events taking place in Birmingham, though perhaps helping Marcus tackle getting the rest of the city on the map or helping populate Bhamwiki with information about those neighborhoods (& other things Birmingham) would be pretty significant tasks unto themselves.

We also figured it was time to get our area’s See Click Fix map out from hiding on our site. A button taking you to the page will appear on the sidebar tomorrow morning.