The elmcity+azure project is live today at elmcity.cloudapp.net. The service is currently gathering and organizing online calendars for two towns: Keene, NH and Ann Arbor, MI. I’m keeping the list of iCalendar feeds for Keene, and Ed Vielmetti is keeping the list for Ann Arbor.

If you’d like to play along in your town, just pick a Delicious account, bookmark all the useful iCalendar feeds you can find, plug in some metadata, and point me to the account. I’ll register it with the service, which will:

  • Regularly parse the iCalendar feeds in your list.
  • Report numbers of events found in the feeds, or details of errors encountered.
  • Scan Eventful.com for events in your specified location.
  • Merge all the events.
  • Publish an HTML view of the merged calendar, based on the HTML template and CSS file that you specify.
  • Produce JSON and XML views of the merged data.
  • Serve up an embeddable JavaScript widget for just the current day.

If you decide to try curating one of these lists, you’ll quickly find, as I have, that there are no major technical hurdles. True, there are some issues with invalid iCalendar feeds. But that’s not what prevents us from having a comprehensive view of all the public events happening where we live. The real challenge is explaining how to publish useful calendars using free, ubiquitous tools, why posting a PDf to the website isn’t good enough, and what network effects can happen when more of us publish and syndicate calendar feeds.

It’s a big challenge. But progress in this domain can generalize to others. When I discussed this project at Transparency Camp, Greg Elin said: “OK, so you’re not trying to get people to adopt a technology, you’re trying to get them to adopt a pattern.”

That’s it exactly. This pattern of collaborative curation isn’t yet well understood or widely practiced. But it’s a key strategy that Internet citizens can use to enhance collective awareness and enable collective action. So if you try this experiment, I’m most interested to know what words, images, behaviors, or demonstrations help you get that idea across.