5 thoughts on “Why Johnny can’t syndicate (and what we can do about it)

  1. bravo. As you say at the end of your talk, this is a human problem not a technical one. We (all) need to be educators, showing what’s possible and then helping it get done. If all we show are technical solutions, they’ll continue to not grok why. If we show what’s possible without helping, they’ll (rightfully) become frustrated and never try again.

    once we solve this, we can move on to an even bigger challenge – getting restaurants off the menu-as-pdf habit.

  2. Hi Jon,

    I liked your slides but your very last point (about syndicating health care records) derailed my thinking a bit.

    Back to calendars! The key problem with syndication is that almost all systems either place complete control with you (“submit your event”) or complete control with the publisher (“syndicate to a central location”).

    And the issue is the same as with syndicated comments – if you have a page with your branding, then the syndicated content *becomes yours*. The first time someone syndicates a community event on “biG bounCy xXx get it now!!” is the same time every single branded hub disconnects their syndicated feeds.

    The human problem to be solved is how to make indirect references as easily curated as a “submit your event” page.

  3. The human problem to be solved is how to make indirect references as easily curated as a “submit your event” page.

    I think it’s easier to curate feeds vs events. In the per-event model you have to make many trust decisions — once per event. In the syndicated model you trust a feed once.

    What if a feed goes rogue? You can disconnect it. But that’s not likely to happen because the virtual trust relationships are built on real-world relationships. Let’s say you’re Mary the publisher. Tom, the communications director at the hospital, gives you a link to the hospital’s calendar feed with all the support group meetings and mom/baby yoga classes etc. Mary and Tom know one another (or can easily enough get to know one another) sufficiently well so that “biG bounCy xXx” just isn’t going to happen.

    It’s not the same as syndicated comments because feed contributors aren’t typically individuals, they’re well-known groups and organizations — and there are relatively few of them.

  4. I think I’ve mentioned this before, I think the problem is that publishing events or groups of events still isn’t simple for the average calendar maintainer (think “school secretary” for one example) – so they fall back on the classic they know : some form of table layout in a document or spreadsheet, with ‘Save as PDF’ their concession to ‘interoperability’ with the world.

    My ideal would contain at least these items
    1. Create events in the usual calendar tool (Outlook or whatever)
    2. Select one or more events
    3. Choose ‘publish calendar feed’
    4. Publish creates an XML file in xCalendar format (I have issues with the choices in xCalendar but not germane to this). The XML would have reference to an XSL stylesheet named by the user (or a default), and publishing would place the stylesheet in the same place as the XML

    There may need to be more than one stylesheet but at least one would have the function of transforming the XML into XHTML to make the calendar human-readable.

  5. “school secretary”

    That’s why I love this example: http://blog.jonudell.net/2011/11/09/ann-arbors-public-schools-are-thinking-like-the-web/

    From the talk:

    Notice how they’re using multiple instances of Google Calendar to separate sports, music, and clubs. This is a great strategy for both internal and external reasons. Internally it invests authority in the right people. There’s no bottleneck at the desk of some poor web calendar clerk. Instead of playing the Submit Your Event game, the sports and music and club staffers can manage their respective calendars — as they naturally do anyway — and then syndicate them to the school-wide calendar.

    From there the events can syndicate externally to community-wide contexts. A concert at the middle school is, after all, part of the musical life of Ann Arbor. It should be able to show up automatically on a community-wide calendar, and what’s more, it should be able to show up in the right category: music. And it can, because the Ann Arbor schools are thinking like the web.

    And that’s all accomplished using a “classic that they know” — good old Google Calendar. Could a new purpose-built tool do better? Sure, and maybe if the concept sinks in there’ll be a demand for one. But until then I say let’s work with what we’ve got that’s familiar, widely-deployed, and demonstrably easy (enough) for people to use.

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