Elm City faq

Q: What is the elmcity project?

Q: Why iCalendar?

Q: What do contributors do?

Q: What do curators do?

Q: How do I contribute events to a hub?

Q: OK, I started a hub, where’s my stuff?

Q: Where do I find iCalendar feeds?

Q: OK, I’ve found or created some iCalendar feeds. How do I get the collector to collect and process them?

Q: How can I customize the collector for my location?

Q: How do I categorize feeds and events?

Q: How do I view categorized events?

Q: Where do curators hang out?


 

Q: What is the elmcity project?

A: It’s a web service that:

  • Collects online calendar events for geographic or topical communities
  • Merges information from many sources: Eventful, Upcoming, Eventbrite, Facebook, Meetup, and iCalendar feeds published by popular calendar programs
  • Creates network effects using iCalendar (ICS) feeds, in the same way that blogging and microblogging systems create network effects using RSS, Atom, and Twitter feeds
  • Does not store events in a centralized database, but rather operates as a hub that merges streams of events and republishes the merged result in a variety of formats
  • Is managed by one or more curators in a community, on behalf of everyone in the community
  • Runs on, and demonstrates the capabilities of, Microsoft’s Azure platform
  • Is released under the Apache 2.0 license at github.com/judell/elmcity

 

Q: Why iCalendar?

A: Please see the one-page summary.


 

Q: What do contributors do?

A: Please see the pictorial overview.


 

Q: What do curators do?

A: Please see the pictorial overview.


 

Q: How do I contribute events to a hub?

A: You can contribute in any of these ways:

  1. Publish your own iCalendar feed, and give its URL to the hub’s curator. You can do this most easily using Google Calendar or Hotmail Calendar. You can also use Microsoft Outlook or Apple iCal

    Stan Dyck, who curates the Puget Sound Engineering Council hub, created an excellent decision chart that describes the iCalendar options.

  2. Eventful: Post an event to a venue within your hub’s radius.

  3. Yahoo: Post an event to a venue within your hub’s radius.

  4. EventBrite: Post an event to a venue within your hub’s radius.

  5. Facebook: Post an public event to the Events app on a Facebook Page.

  6. Meetup: Make your Meetup group’s calendar public.



 

Q: Where do I find iCalendar feeds?

A: This is a major challenge, and also an exciting opportunity. Although there seems to be a lot of calendar information floating around on the web, most of it isn’t usefully available. Web pages and PDF files are much more common than iCalendar feeds. But those formats cannot be read, processed, and syndicated in the ways that iCalendar feeds can be.

The central goal of this project is to light up iCalendar feeds that could easily exist on the web, and should, but don’t.

Here are some strategies:

  1. Create your own feeds.
    Maybe you coach a youth soccer team, or run a local restaurant that features musical performances, or participate in a birdwatching club whose hikes are open to the public. You can, and should, and maybe already do publish a web page about these events. But you probably don’t publish an iCalendar feed.

    Here’s the strategy: Maintain the calendar information in a program like Google Calendar, Hotmail Calendar, Outlook, or Apple iCal. That way, you can publish your calendar to the web in HTML format for people to read, and simultaneously publish in ICS format for syndication. Here’s how to do that for Google Calendar and Hotmail Calendar, for Outlook 2007, and Apple iCal.

  2. Light up existing feeds.
    In a number of cases, people are publishing web calendars without even realizing that they are also publishing iCalendar feeds. This happens most often with Google Calendar. Consider WV Get To Know Your Neighbor. The site uses Google Calendar to publish an events page. Unbeknownst to the site owner, there is an ICS link that corresponds to that calendar. The link is:

    http://www.google.com/calendar/ical/get2knowyourneighbor@gmail.com/public/basic.ics

    Given the email address associated with any Google Calendar, you can produce an iCalendar link of this form. The Huntington WV curator did so, and as a result the Get To Know Your Neighbor calendar is now included in the set of Huntington feeds. If you don’t know and can’t easily find the email address associated with the calendar, just ask the site owner.

    Other sources of existing feeds: Eventful or Upcoming venues, Facebook Pages, Meetup groups.


 

Q: Why should people care about publishing iCalendar feeds?

A: For two major reasons:

  1. Personal information management
    When you publish an iCalendar feed, people can subscribe to it from their personal calendar programs: Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple iCal, others. They can see public events (the soccer game, the musical performance) as overlays on their personal events (the dentist appointment, the birthday party).
  2. Social information management
    When you publish an iCalendar feed, it can syndicate to one or more services like the elmcity collector. A comprehensive view of what’s going on in a town or neighborhood can therefore emerge without any central management or control. Individuals, groups, and organizations can write down their event information once, and have it propagate through the syndication network without loss of fidelity or control.

 

Q: OK, I’ve found or created some iCalendar feeds. How do I get the collector to collect and process them?

A: You sign into elmcity, using the Twitter, Facebook, Windows Live, or Google account you provided when you started your hub, and use the feed editor to add feeds.


 

Q: How can I customize the collector for my location?

A: You sign into elmcity, using the Twitter, Facebook, Windows Live, or Google account you provided when you started your hub, and use the hub editor to adjust the default settings as needed.


 

Q: How do I categorize feeds and events?

A: On a per-feed basis, if all of the events from a feed can be categorized, you can name that category in the elmcity feed editor.

On a per-event basis, if events in the iCalendar feed use the CATEGORIES property, it’ll come through automatically.

On a per-event basis, the Description field can also use these patterns anywhere in the text:

url=http://www.harlowspub.com

category=music,bluegrass


 

Q: How do I view categorized events?

A: All the formats accept a ?view= parameter. So for example:

http://elmcity.cloudapp.net/services/elmcity/html?view=government

http://elmcity.cloudapp.net/services/elmcity/rss?view=music


 

Q: Where do curators hang out?

A: We are currently using the FriendFeed room friendfeed.com/rooms/elmcity. The room subscribes to the following sources:

Feel free to join this FriendFeed room. But there’s no need to do so. You can monitor activity there, or subscribe to its RSS feed, without having to register and join.

















































































45 thoughts on “Elm City faq

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  10. Chris Smith

    John, can you point me to a set of best practices for category tagging for ICS feeds?

    The City government in Portland, Oregon is working on an open data project and I’d like to encourage them to make ICS feeds a part of the effort, but am trying to sort out how citizens could filter and parse the hundreds of meetings and events that would show up in the City’s feed.

    Reply
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  23. Mike Honey

    Hi John, good effort to push this project along – it would be great to see better integration of all the many calendars we juggle in our professional and personal lives. I run a handful of websites with event calendars so I’ll definitely introduce iCalendar and hook them into the global feed – very exciting.

    I have a question about SharePoint integration – your FAQ mentioned the “Community Kit for SharePoint”, but on the linked page I couldn’t find any info about an iCalendar module?
    Thanks
    Mike

    Reply
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  26. peter

    hi,

    am interested in trying to set up for a Swedish municipality. before trying, would like to ask if I will likelyrun into issues with languge coding? geo location is also done differently in my neck of the woods, for example we don’t do states… examples outside English speaking world you can point to?

    all the best,
    peter

    Reply
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  30. Kevin Jones

    Hi Jon,

    Great site. I’m trying to publish my organization’s google calendar feed to your events page with no success. I sent an email, got the iCal feed and pasted it into the email, but I’ve not seen my events appear. Can you let me know what I’m doing incorrectly?

    Reply
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