Dilbert might like the crazy way we do calendars online. But Scott Adams prefers a sane alternative.

When I shared my strategy for harvesting Keene’s softball schedules, the Little League baseball schedules hadn’t yet been published online. Now I see why. It took the folks at the Keene Cal Ripken Baseball Association (KCRBA) a while to get them written down in Excel, and then produced and uploaded as a set of web pages like this one. We’re two weeks into the season, and those pages are finally up, but not — sadly yet typically — in a useful calendar format that can mesh with other calendars.

Over the weekend, @llama_grande tweeted:

Dilbert creator on calendars @judell may enjoy http://bit.ly/2lKTlb

I set it aside thinking it was a cartoon I’d enjoy later. In fact, it’s a cogent essay by Scott Adams that nicely captures part of my motivation for doing the elmcity project. From the essay:

I think the family calendar is the organizing principle into which all external information should flow. I want the kids’ school schedules for sports and plays and even lunch choices to automatically flow into the home calendar. And when I want to decide what to do on the weekend, I want to click on the date for next Saturday and have all the relevant choices of plays, movies, and events pop up.

I think the biggest software revolution of the future is that the calendar will be the organizing filter for most of the information flowing into your life. You think you are bombarded with too much information every day, but in reality it is just the timing of the information that is wrong. Once the calendar becomes the organizing paradigm and filter, it won’t seem as if there is so much.

Meanwhile, here’s the reality for Kevin Curry:

checking a PDF 4 school lunch is daily routine 4 me

That’s how it is for most of us, most of the time. But it needn’t be.

Consider the Little League example. If the keystrokes that were poured into Excel to create those web pages had been directed into almost any calendar program, the schedules could have been published both as HTML for online viewing and as iCalendar for syndication to other calendars.

Happily, FuseCal can set things straight. It handily created calendars for each of the 27 teams. I collected the feed URLs and wrote a throwaway script to spray them into Delicious. In a few hours, when the elmcity service scans that account again, all the games will be included in the combined calendar. And anybody who wants what Scott Adams wants — to have the kids’ sports events flow into a home calendar — can have it.

This is wrong and backwards, of course. And while the creator of Dilbert would probably enjoy the absurdity of my solution, I’m glad to know he’s also thinking about the right way to move forward.

7 Comments

  1. I’ve used FuseCal to similar ends, and then subscribed to the resulting FuseCal in Google calendar. Works a treat. But obviously it would be grade if the source data were in iCal in the first place.

  2. Well this is another instance of “misuse” of Excel. Not exactly misuse, because it works, but Excel is continually used for general data organization/structuring, which is not really it’s goal. But everyone has it, and it does happen to be an easy way to visually arrange and structure your information. If the Excel designers had been writing a “general information structuring/database” program instead of a number crunching program specifically, having exporters for all kinds of formats like Ical, etc. would be a reasonable feature. But since it’s not, it probably would seem weird to them to include such a feature.

    I would love to find a program that lets you just input data directly and visually, in tables or similar form, do some basic manipulations or queries or filters on it, and export to other formats. This would cover most of the “misuse” of Excel but be far easier to use.

  3. “So shouldn’t the goal be to get Excel to have calendar template, and export iCal?”

    Actually yes, especially if Excel had been extended in this case to be a smart scheduling application.

    Speaking of which, I wonder if there are any apps in the sports scheduling category — e.g. http://www.leagueusa.com/product_scheduler.htm — that export ICS. I would like to be able to recommend one.

    Hmm. Checking…well, apparently not that one:

    http://www.lockportbaseball.com/schedule.php

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