In the spirit of keystroke conservation, I’m relaying some elmcity-related questions and answers from email to here. Hopefully it will attract more questions and more answers.
Dear Mr. Udell,
I am looking for a flexible calendar aggregator that I can use to report upcoming events for our college’s “Learning Commons” WordPress MU website, a site that will hopefully help keep our students abreast of events and opportunities taking place on campus.
1) Our site will be maintained using WordPress MU, so ideally the
display of the calendars, and/or event-lists will be handled by a
WordPress plugin. The one I am favouring is
http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-ics-importer/ . I have
tried this plugin and it almost does what we want.
Specifically, the plugin includes:
– a single widget that can display the “event-list” for one calendar;
– flexible options for displaying and aggregating calendars.
This plugin almost does what I want, but not quite.
a) The plugin is now limited to a single “events-list” widget. But with WordPress 2.8, it is possible to have many instances of a widget, so theoretically, I could display the “Diagnostic Tests” calendar in one instance , and the “Peer-tutoring” calendar in another widget instance.
b) It would be nice to have an option to display only the current week for specific calendars. While in other cases, it makes sense to display the entire month. And although I haven’t thought about it, likely displaying just the current day would be useful.
c) I would like flexibility over which calendars to aggregate, creating as many “topic” hubs as the current maintainer of the website might think useful for the students.
2) It would be nice to remove the calendar aggregation from the WordPress plugin, and handle that separately. Hopefully the calendars will change much less frequently than the website will be viewed. If I understand http://blog.jonudell.net/elmcity-project-faq/ properly, this might be possible using the elmcity-project.
For example, I think we could use “topical hub aggregation” to create a “diagnostic test calendar” that aggregates the holiday calendar and the different departments “diagnostic test” calendars. What I don’t understand is what is the output of “elmcity”. Does it output a single merged calendar (ics) that could be displayed by the above plugin? Is that a possibility?
Similarly, I believe I could create a different meta bookmark to aggregate our holiday calendar and our different peer-tutoring calendars (created by each department). Is this correct?
We have lots of groups, faculty, departments and staff on campus, and each wants to publicize their upcoming events. Letting them input and maintain their own calendars really seems to make sense. (Thanks for the idea. It seems clear this is the way to go, but I don’t seem to have the pieces to construct the output properly, as yet.)
I agree with your analysis that it would be better to have a separation of concerns between aggregation and display. So let’s do that, and start with aggregation.
I would like flexibility over which calendars to aggregate, creating as many “topic” hubs as the current maintainer of the website might think useful for the students.
I think the elmcity system can be helpful here. I’ve recently discovered that there are really two levels — what I’ve started to call curation and meta-curation.
I believe I could create bookmarks to aggregate our holiday calendar and our different peer-tutoring calendars (created by each department). Is this correct?
Right. It sounds like you’d want to curate a topic hub. It could be YourCollege, but if there may need to be other topic hubs you could choose a more specific name, like YourCollegeLearningCommons. That’d be your Delicious account name, and you’d be the “meta-curator” in this scenario.
As meta-curator you’d bookmark, in that Delicious account:
- Your holiday calendar
- Multiple departments’ calendars
Each of those would be managed by the responsible/authoritative person, using any software (Outlook, Google, Apple, Drupal, Notes, Live, etc.) that can publish an ICS feed.
There’s another level of flexibility using tags. In the above scenario, as meta-curator you could tag your holiday feed as holiday, and your LearningCommons feeds as LearningCommons, and then filter them accordingly.
What I don’t understand is what is the output of elmcity. Does it output a single merged calendar (ics) that could be displayed by the above plugin?
Yes. The outputs currently are:
A merged ICS file
A default HTML view that can be included in an iframe (e.g.: http://elmcity.info/events includes http://elmcity.cloudapp.net/services/elmcity/html). If that solution works for you, the template and CSS for the view can be altered, and you can point to your versions from your Delicious metadata
A Today view (e.g. http://elmcity.cloudapp.net/services/elmcity/today_as_html) that can be included (in an iframe, or programmatically)
XML and JSON data for programmatic use
Now, for the display options. So far, we’ve got:
Use the WordPress plugin to display merged ICS
Display the entire calendar as included (maybe customized) HTML
Display today’s events as included or script-sourced HTML
I have also just recently added a new method that enables things like this: http://jonudell.net/test/upcoming-widget.html
You can view the source to see how it’s done. The “API call” here is:
Yours might be:
This is brand new, as of yesterday. Actually I just realized I should use “upcoming” instead of “recent” so I’ll go and change that now :-) But you get the idea.
The flexibility here is ultimately governed by:
1. The curator’s expressive and disciplined use of tags to create useful views
2. The kinds of queries I make available through the API. So far I’ve only been asked to do ‘next N events’ so that’s what I did yesterday. But my intention is to support every kind of query that’s feasible, and that people ask for. Things like a week’s worth, or a week’s worth in a category, are obvious next steps.