CEMA Online – A Social Website?

CEMA Logo - property of CEMA

property of CEMA

On the 5th of August, the Cumulative Environmental Management Association released a new website – http://cemaonline.ca.

What’s CEMA you say? Well, their mission statement says:

“CEMA is a multi-stakeholder society that is a key advisor to the provincial and federal governments committed to respectful, inclusive dialogue to make recommendations to manage the cumulative environmental effects of regional development on air, land, water and biodiversity.”

After the website announcement, a few tweets flitted back and forth amongst the oil sands tribe, and then the very next day, Carol Christian of the Fort McMurray Today published an article entitled “Environmental agency embraces social media”.

Oil sands plus social media? You have my attention.

If you’ve read a few of my posts regarding digital communications, social media if you must, then you know my opinions of major stakeholders in regards to their (lack of) online presence.

So this intrigued me.

Within the CEMA press release, CEMA Executive Director Glen Semenchuck announces that the “website is an important stop for anyone seeking information on environmental research in the oilsands region”.

Semenchuck then goes on to say:

“The scientific research produced by CEMA’s reports and recommendations are referenced extensively by a wide variety of users including, the Government of Alberta, Government of Canada, environmental non-government groups, aboriginal groups, academic researchers and oilsands operators. The new website will make this research readily available to all interested parties”.

CEMA Online - Screenshot

The Data

Having access to all this data seems like a pretty good idea, so armed with a few choice keywords, the new search feature churned out these results (using the default settings):

  • emissions – 15 articles
  • air emissions – 11 articles
  • reclamation – 21 articles
  • water – 33 articles
  • water quality – 9 articles
  • environment – 51 articles
  • oil sands – 37 articles
  • tar sands – 4 articles

Not bad at all. Data, as they say, wants to be free – so allowing access is a great step forward. It will be interesting to see how often the data is accessed. I would be especially curious to see if any academic papers reference any of these articles.

I like this idea. I think transparency is the only way to go and I encourage other organizations to make their data available. I like this idea a lot.

Being Social

CEMA Facebook Screenshot

Not too happy about the social media aspect of the relaunch, but it is early days, so I’ll give them a bronze star for at least trying.

The Facebook site seems to have had a little more attention than the Twitter feed, and as of writing this post there are 17 people that like the CEMA Facebook page.

CEMA Twitter Screenshot

The Twitter feed of @NewCEMA is not really worth mentioning. But I did anyway. @NewCEMA has the default Twitter avatar, is following 0 people, has 7 followers and has been listed twice.

Granted it’s only 12 days old, but then again, Internet memes have hit 1,000,000 views and then come crashing back to the ground in that timeframe – surely a few minutes can be found for at least the CEMA logo to be used and a URL to be entered? (side note: Know Your Meme: Double Rainbow, a link that is definitely worth clicking dontchaknow).

Social media is hard. It takes a lot of time. A lot.

I’m not very good at it. I’ve recently seen my online time shrink dramatically, but I’m hoping to make a few adjustments, spend more time online and get better. Just adding a button and a link to a service is not “embracing” social media.

Social media is more than just a one-way method of communication. It’s interactive. It allows a one-to-many broadcast, and a many-to-one broadcast. It is only as powerful as the time and effort invested. Spending five hours a day, six days a week communicating through digital media? That’s embracing.


I like the fact that there are some CEMA videos up for viewing – it’s especially good to see Ainslie Campbell, who is an acquaintance and a Leadership Wood Buffalo graduate, give a presentation on the TEK mentorship program.

However it’s too bad that the videos are in a proprietary format (not viewable through iOS btw) and are not streamed through YouTube or Vimeo. Both services would be fantastic hosts for the videos, plus there are all sorts of social media tools built in to help spread the word. Using a ready-to-go tool will save you time and effort if you are serious about reaching as many people as possible.


The site, in general, is decent. It’s not too difficult to find what you’re looking for (though a site map would be awesome) and there’s plenty of content to poke around and investigate. This would be a good resource if you were doing research into the Canadian oil sands.

There is the occasional problem when content is either completely missing, or is misspelled (“An economy based on natural recourses“) – but then, that happens to me all the thyme, so who am I to judge? Plus the site is brand new, so bugs are to be expected.

Opening Up – A Nice Trend

I like this trend. I like open data, I like talk of social media, I like the fact that stakeholders are taking a second look at their online offerings.

This is a good milestone for CEMA – it’s not what I would call great, but then again CEMA’s mission is not digital communications – it’s to be a key advisor to the provincial and federal governments. The fact that they’re trying to become more transparent and accessible is awesome. I hope other organizations take this under advisement.

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