Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

More thoughts on iCalendar – how apps may help increase adoption

with 5 comments

Regular readers may know that I am a passionate advocate of iCalendar which is the enabling technology for subscribable calendars on the web. Previous blog posts include:

I am a supporter of Jon Udell’s Elmcity project that is seeking to broaden the awareness of iCalendar by aggregating iCalendar data per locale. My interest in the project has led to me becoming the curator for the Sunbury-on-Thames hub on Elmcity.

I firmly believe that use of iCalendar by government authorities (especially local authorities) and other organisations coupled with increased adoption by Joe Public would be a big win for all of us; up-to-date, relevant information could be distributed to the tool that people already use to manage their lives – i.e. their calendar.

At the time of writing however this has not happened even though the iCalendar format and supporting clients have been around for years; the problem as I see it is that iCalendar is not a technology that readily transfers over to the masses. RSS feeds have had the same problem – even though no-one that knowingly uses RSS feeds can deny their value I still don’t know any of my family or real world friends (i.e. those outside the technology industry) that can even explain what they are!

There was a word in that last paragraph that I made sure to use, can you guess what it was? The word was “knowingly” and therein lies an important point. Even though they don’t know it my friends and family actually use RSS feeds day-in day-out in the form of smartphone apps that consume RSS feeds and turn them into human-friendly content (news apps are classic examples). This is true of many technologies on the web today; do acronyms like DNS, TCP/IP, HTTP, XHTML, SQL, XQuery mean anything to my mother? Of course not, but she is making use of them whenever she browses the web which she does every single day. Users are abstracted away from the underlying infrastructure to the point that they are not aware of its existence.

I believe that the same abstraction principle should be applied to iCalendar. I propose that we as iCalendar advocates should not use our time trying to put the public in the know about iCalendar, instead let’s use that time to raise the level of abstraction so that they don’t have to know. More concretely I propose that a worthwhile endeavour for an iCalendar curator would be to provide, as the technology du jour, a smartphone app for their iCalendar feed.

At the time of writing I am talking the talk rather than walking the walking because I have not provided such an app for my Sunbury-on-Thames Elmcity hub and hence providing such an app for my smartphone of choice may become my personal winter project – if there are any .Net developers out there than fancy helping me then I would be most grateful – this form of development is not my strongpoint.



Written by Jamiet

December 6, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

5 Responses

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  1. It’s not my forte either, but I have been thinking about a generic iCalendar viewer for WP7 that displays as nicely as the built-in app but is not bound to services like Google/Exchange/Live.

    Maybe we can work together on it? One thing that will help: Doug Day’s DDay.iCal component is packaged in several ways, including for Silverlight.

    Jon Udell

    December 8, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    • Hi Jon,

      Yes indeed, I would love to do something like that. As I said I’d like to make this my little project for the holidays.

      I’ll try and throw something together and let you know either when I have something demo-able or am in need of some help (the latter is more likely).

      Watch this space.



      December 8, 2010 at 7:54 pm

  2. […] with my belief that apps would be a great way of bringing iCalendar to the masses. Read more at More thoughts on iCalendar – how apps may help increase adoption This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged icalendar, Windows Phone. Bookmark the […]

  3. Jon, Jamiet,

    I’m interested in creating a Calendar syndication and aggregation service that will act similarly to Google Reader for calendars. VERY much like Jamiet’s post: https://jamiekt.wordpress.com/2009/01/02/calendar-syndication-my-big-hope-for-2009s-breakthrough-technology/

    I’m a little late for the EOY 2009 deadline for your “big hope” but none the less I think it’s a service that can add value to people however late to market. I’m particularly interested in solving the problem listed in Jon’s FAQ’s:

    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.

    Much like this event which doesn’t even use the event microformat: http://www.agilephilly.com/xn/detail/3783271:Event:13613

    I’d like to create something that can parse that event automatically and then include that in a single aggregated feed that can be consumed by your calendar app of choice.

    I have some ideas and maybe a few hours a week would you guys be interested in creating something like this with me?

    Victor Feinman

    August 3, 2011 at 2:29 pm

  4. Hi Victor,
    Thanks for the comment, great to see that someone is interested in this.

    It sounds like you want to build some sort of parser that can read plain old web pages and determine event information within them, is that right? That sounds like a tall order (and not something that I would have time to help with I’m afraid) however I wouldn’t be surprised if someone out there has already written and open-sourced something that already does this (Jon may know so hopefully he gets notified about your reply here).
    Its certainly an interesting idea.



    August 3, 2011 at 2:40 pm

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