Cracking calendars

When you think about it, the progress in online calendaring (if there is such a word?) has been one of the web’s bigger disappointments. It’s not for a lack of ideas, services (Google, 30Boxes) or standards (iCal)… maybe it just isn’t sexy enough compared to Flash-ier functionality. But things are finally moving, it seems.
I’m starting to see sites waking up to the potential of offering date-based information in date-based formats. This morning, for example, I added the next few televised Arsenal games into my calendar, thanks to the Arsenal fixture list‘s one-click links to .ics files. And I added details of the train I’m catching shortly, thanks to the new iCalendar links on the fantastic site. Very simple, very straightforward, but a huge step forward in terms of convenience.
And hurrah! – it looks like decent calendaring is finally coming to WordPress. An already pretty good plugin by Kieran O’Shea is set for a major update, with all sorts of powerful new features.
I’m also working with a (very!) high-profile client on a closed-community website, and it’s looking like date-based information could be the site’s ‘killer app’. We’re exploring the possibilities of tying a personalised ‘to-do list’ into a calendar presentation of key dates, so (for example) each task’s deadline appears automatically in your calendar (until it’s completed).
For added convenience, we’re talking about offering a downloadable AIR-based desktop widget / client / thing, which could also include the latest news items from the site (via RSS). An already interesting project is now getting very exciting indeed.

4 thoughts on “Cracking calendars”

  1. Many thanks for mentioning my plugin 🙂
    I think you are right about date-based information being the next big thing. In my opinion the reason it hasn’t been at the fore-front so far is because of how difficult it can be to get dates to work exactly the way we as human beings want them to on a computer system. There are disagreements on time zones, date formatting, what day the week should start on and other such things.
    As I have discovered, all of this makes producing a calendar that pleases everybody a bit of a challenge! Still I hope that my next version, as you say a major update, will go some way to making many more users happy.

  2. But hasn’t this stuff been around for a long time? I’ve been subsribed to football fixtures calendars for over four years and I know that quite a few academic institutions syndicate course timetables (lectures, deadlines for essays etc) via .ics.
    You’re right that is often not visible on web pages but there’s quite a lot of it around.

  3. I’m not saying there aren’t any examples out there… just that there aren’t many. And it’s not as if there isn’t plenty of date-based information out there, which would be perfectly suited to it. Besides, based on past experience, the academics and football fans are usually well ahead of the game. I have fond memories of using the Arsenal fans’ emailing list whilst at university, back in 1993. (Run out of MIT, interestingly!)

  4. Yeah I think I was trying to say that there isn’t as many examples of online Calendaring in a visible format – its mostly been e-mails etc. in my experience.
    As has been pointed out there are examples of date based information being disseminated but its the display format which is the most important thing if you are going to get the mainstream on board. I have found it lacking in many cases; lists of events, days of the week are often missing and just dates are listed etc.
    I’m interested in getting exports in flat file format (iCal and the like) set up from my WordPress calendar as there has been a lot of demand for this.
    I found a really nice web based calendar this morning which goes one step further in providing a breakdown of what is going on over periods of time. Obviously its related to academic terms but the way it behaves is fluid and intuitive. It has certainly given me some ideas anyhow.

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