As calendar curators begin bringing the elmcity project to life in their communities, they’re broadening my horizons. Last year, for example, in the comments on this entry, I learned about FuseCal, a calendar-publishing service that can extract structured calendar information from semi-structured web pages. I’ve been using FuseCal ever since, but in my community I’ve only found one otherwise-inaccessible calendar that it can successfully parse. Curators in other communities, however, are finding more. The Baltimore list includes a handful of them, and so does the Huntington, WV list.
In that comment thread, I tweaked FuseCal’s product manager Matt Gillooly when I said that a service based on HTML screenscraping shouldn’t need to exist. His reply was spot on:
I agree that, ideally, FuseCal wouldn’t have to exist — in the same way that, ideally, hospitals and prisons wouldn’t have to exist. :-)
Seriously, though, I think you need to provide a lot of incentive in order to get people to change the way they behave. It’s much easier to sell a Tylenol than a vitamin.
Matt’s right, of course. My goal for this project is to bootstrap networks of calendar feeds in communities. What matters is lighting up feeds, much more than how they get lit. So it’s great to see FuseCal lighting up feeds in Baltimore and Huntington.
Another service that has seen limited use in my own community, but will be more important elsewhere, is Upcoming. It’s ironic because back in 2005, when I first started thinking about this stuff, Upcoming was the model for what I hoped would emerge in Keene. I walked around town that spring, took photos of event posters, noticed how little of that information was available online, and wondered what it would take to fix that. I’d been using Upcoming myself, but hadn’t had much success getting anyone else involved.
Four years later there still aren’t many Upcoming events for Keene. But as other communities come online, I’m finding that Upcoming is more popular there. So I’ve added it to the mix, and am finally using the API I asked for long ago.
The elmcity service now supports three major sources of events:
- A curated list of iCalendar feeds
The Eventful and Upcoming sources are governed by three bits of Delicious-tagged metadata. For Keene, they are:
radius=15 lat=42.9336 lon=-72.2786
Both services support queries that, if written in English, would say: “Give me all the events within 15 miles of Keene.”
Won’t there be duplication? Sure, and here’s an example from the Keene calendar.
Sun 05:00 PM Caribbean Night with Steel Drum music
(eventful: Inn at East Hill Farm)
Sun 05:00 PM Caribbean Night
(upcoming: The Inn at East Hill Farm)
I regard this as a good problem to have. Seeing an event from multiple sources is infinitely better than never seeing it at all. Over time I’ll look for ways to coalesce these duplicates. But for now, given that the vast majority of events aren’t being posted online in any structured way, I like showcasing the many ways to do that.