Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

Posts Tagged ‘icalendar

Adding calendars to Hotmail via a URL

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Earlier this week I published a calendar for the forthcoming SQLBits conference and blogged about it at Get the SQLBits agenda in your phone’s calendar. I had a link in the post that would easily enable someone to add my calendar to their own Google Calendar and wanted a similar link that would enable someone to add it to their Hotmail calendar too; I had an inkling that this was possible but I couldn’t find any documentation that explained how to do it. Luckily I managed to pull a few strings and after a short email exchange with some folks at Microsoft discovered what I needed to know:


Clicking that link will add my SQLBits calendar to your own Hotmail calendar.

It seems that the Hotmail Calendar team must have realised that they needed to make information about how to construct such URLs public and hence they have published an article explaining exactly how to do this at Adding Calendars.

Good news.



Written by Jamiet

January 21, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Windows Phone 7’s calendar application needs to become a hub

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On 26th October 2010 I published a blog post entitled Windows Phone 7 needs a location hub where I opined that the current Bing Maps application on Windows Phone 7 is rather limited because apps cannot publish their own data into it. I said then:

In this scenario apps would be able to publish information that is relevant to the user’s current location into this Location hub in much the same way that (e.g.) the SmugMug app currently publishes photos into the pictures hub.

Today I’m making a similar assertion – the calendar application also needs to be opened up as a hub so that other applications can publish their wares into it.

To illustrate how useful this would be imagine if the Facebook app could publish the events that you have agreed to attend into the calendar – your friends’ birthday events from Facebook could appear in the calendar app alongside your own personal appointments. Moreover, the Facebook app could show you the events that you are invited to and check your personal calendar to see whether you’re free to attend them or not.

Here’s another “for instance”. I use an app called “My Trips” which shows me my itineraries from TripIt.com. Giving “My Trips” the ability to publish into my calendar would be much more useful because I can see those itineraries alongside everything else that I have in my calendar.

Its a simple idea but one which I really hope comes to fruition because it would make the phone a lot more useful. Locking data inside apps a la the iPhone is something that Microsoft have stated they want to get away from by providing hubs – why should our calendars not receive a similar leg up?


P.S. This idea would also jive rather sweetly 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

Written by Jamiet

February 23, 2011 at 10:21 am

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Commenting on “The Internet of Things”

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Steve Clayton yesterday posted a blog post entitled The Internet Of Things where he talked about the possible forthcoming revolution that will happen when everything (e.g. your toaster) is attached to the internet. Some choice quotes from that:

“There are many more scenarios that begin to become possible – when I check in to a hotel, there is still to much systems integration for me to do to hook up my PC, music player and phone to the hotels systems. All of that could be stores in an online profile in the cloud to make my life easier – right now those systems are designed to make the hotel chain’s life easier”

“When I’m out and about, the potential for connecting to sensors is huge – street signs that adapt to me, road signs that are personalized and the potential for upload of data from my car to the cloud is huge – collective traffic movements uploaded to the cloud could help everyone avoid gridlock for example.”

This is an area of technology that fascinates me and I felt compelled to post a comment on Steve’s post passing on some of my own pertinent thoughts; I didn’t want that comment to go unseen because I do think there are some important points to be made and hence I am recounting it below for anyone that happens to stumble in here:

The internet of things has such incredible potential, I honestly don’t think we have yet dreamed up ways that this *could* be useful.

I do have a concern though – technologies like this will only be successful if they enter into the mainstream and in order to do that the public are going to have to accept them. That has happened for some technologies over the last couple of decades (e.g. SMTP, HTML) but not others (e.g. RSS, iCalendar). I do hope we take learnings from that and ensure that these technologies enter the mainstream in ways that joe public can comprehend them and their usefulness.

Incidentally, a fantastic book on this subject is “Pull” by David Siegel. Go and learn more at http://thepowerofpull.com

Do you have any thoughts on The Internet Of Things? I’d love to hear/read them.


Written by Jamiet

February 1, 2011 at 11:39 am

More thoughts on iCalendar – how apps may help increase adoption

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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.


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December 6, 2010 at 8:57 pm

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Announcing the Sunbury-on-Thames hub on Elmcity

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Ever heard of the Elmcity project? It is an effort by Jon Udell (blog | twitter) to do for calendars what Google Reader has done for blogs. Put more succinctly it is a calendar aggregator. Elmcity will search out publicly listed events for a given location and aggregate them all in a single place and (more importantly) to a single public calendar feed that anyone can subscribe to in their calendar program of choice (e.g. Hotmail Calendar, Google Calendar, Outlook, Apple iCal).

Regular readers of this blog and my more technical work-related blog will know that I have particular interest in subscribable calendars and calendar aggregation from my past blog posts:

and so was eager to get involved with Elmcity; hence I have created an Elmcity event hub for my hometown, Sunbury-on-Thames. I was impressed by the ease with which I was able to set this up (go read the Elmcity FAQ to find out how to set up an Elmcity hub for your own home town) and was pleased to see, via my hub, that indeed people do add events to Eventful & UpComing for the surrounding area. Here’s some stuff coming up in the first few weeks of November that I would never have otherwise known about:


If you want to view the hub then go to http://elmcity.cloudapp.net/services/jamiethomson/html or, if you want to make it really useful, subscribe to the calendar using this URL: http://elmcity.cloudapp.net/services/jamiethomson/ics in your calendar program of choice (Hotmail Calendar, Google Calendar etc…

Now that the hub is up and running the challenge is to make it seriously useful by getting local organisations like schools, clubs, local authority groups etc… to start publishing their calendars in a way that I can get them into the hub. That wont be easy but I shall be endeavouring to publicise the hub and this blog post is just the start of that – I hope to report some success in the coming months.

In the meantime, if you are a Sunbury-on-Thames resident and have stumbled in here I would really love to know what you think of this little experiment so please let me know what you think about the Elmcity hub and perhaps let me know about local events that I can add in. I can be reached on Twitter or via email.

Thanks for reading



Written by Jamiet

October 14, 2010 at 6:15 pm

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An open letter to Surrey County Council regarding the Charlton Lane Eco Park

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My local county council is actively circulating plans for developing the local recycling and waste disposal centre into what they call an “Eco Park” which they describe on their website at Charlton Lane Eco Park as:

Surrey Waste Management (a wholly owned subsidiary of SITA UK) is working on behalf of Surrey County Council to develop an Eco Park at Charlton Lane, Shepperton.
The Eco Park will include further improvements to the community recycling centre including the introduction of a reuse facility. It will also include:

  • The construction of an anaerobic digestion facility to treat food waste.
  • The construction of an advanced thermal treatment (batch oxidation system gasification) facility, which will treat residual waste.
  • Bulking and baling facility for dry recyclables and local trade.
  • Visitor centre

I view this as positive news for the local borough and have some ideas about how the council can leverage technology for great benefit. With that in mind I have sent an email to the council in which I ask for an opportunity to present some of those ideas, I have provided a copy of that email below.

For the foreseeable future I will use this blog as a means to inform how this progresses. Apologies in advance if this is not the sort of content you expect to read here.


Dear Councillors,

My name is Jamie Thomson, I am a resident of Sunbury-on-Thames and hence also a resident in the borough of Spelthorne.

I am writing to you after reading both the August 2010 edition of the Charlton Lane Eco Park newsletter that I received through my letterbox today and the accompanying website http://www.surreycc.gov.uk/ecopark. My wife and I are committed to reducing our environmental impact and hence are very intrigued about Surrey County Council’s plans for the Charlton Lane site and hope to see the borough emerge as a centre for innovation in the area of renewables and recycling.

My reason for writing this email is in regard to the Eco Park, though does not relate directly to any of the issues addressed in the newsletter or on the website; let me explain. My background is in information technology and I am an avid proponent of using technology for enrichment and firmly believe that the adoption of innovative technology will be the great enabler for improving quality of life in the coming decades. My main interest in this area concerns the “opening up” of governmental data at both the national and local level so that it can be accessed and utilised by the public. Furthermore I believe that the adoption of technology can significantly reduce the cost of providing public services.

There are many examples today of where making public UK data freely available (and consumable) has proved, or will prove to be, beneficial; here are just a few:

I have no doubt that as part of your plans for the Eco Park you will be generating lots of information and it is my sincere hope that that information is made available to the public so that it can be analysed and utilised in ways that benefit the Eco Park and, as a consequence, the residents of Surrey.

I have many ideas as to how what data could be made available and, more crucially, how it could be made useful. The purpose of this email is not to bore you with those ideas right now but I am hoping that this email captures your interest and that you (and/or your colleagues) will be sufficiently intrigued to allow me to present some of those ideas to you. I earnestly await your reply.

I note that there is a public consultation at Halliford Community Centre on 18th September 2010; I will be attending and hope that I will be able to discuss this email with you or your colleagues at that event.

If you have read this far then I thank you for your attention and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours sincerely,

Jamie K. Thomson

Written by Jamiet

September 8, 2010 at 9:36 pm

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Calendar syndication – My big hope for 2009’s breakthrough technology

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As is customary at this time of year my thoughts have turned to what may happen in the tech world in 2009 and I have a hope that one particular technology will break into the mainstream; calendar syndication. “What is calendar syndication?” you may ask. It can be simply described as the practice of publishing, sharing and subscribing to electronic, publicly-available calendars.


My life, and I expect yours as well, runs on a schedule. I need to know when and where things are happening and I simply have too many balls to juggle to hope that I’ll be able to remember all my appointments so writing them down is the only way to keep track of my schedule. Furthermore, I need to know what my wife is doing as well. This is nothing new of course,  I’m sure the majority of households have a calendar pinned on the kitchen wall on which everyone’s appointments get written but I believe that people need to be shown that there are better options available to us. A kitchen calendar has a number of problems, chiefly that you need to be in the kitchen in order to read it or add to it. Wouldn’t it be better if that calendar existed online so that my wife and I could access it from anywhere in the world? I’m sure readers of this blog know that the ability to do this is available (for free) to anyone that can avail of an internet connection but I’m also pretty certain that the kitchen wall calendar is going to reign supreme for a good while yet.Sharing calendars between family members and them being ubiquitously available isn’t my main reason for hoping that calendar syndication makes the breakthrough however. There are many many silos of information existing in my
and others’ life that would be better represented as a subscribable calendar. For example:

    • My local council’s rubbish/recycling collection schedule
    • Conference agendas
    • Sports club calendars
    • School PTA meetings
    • My football team’s fixture list

Typically this information IS published electronically but invariably it will be done using a web page or PDF document that I would need to copy and paste into my own calendar and, moreover, the only way I would know if the dates had changed would be if I revisited the web page – that is not something that I am especially willing to do on a regular basis so all things considered its not an optimum solution. If all of these organisations published their information in a calendar that  I could instead subscribe to then the problem would be solved. I really hope people don’t underestimate the huge value in being able to see all of their schedule information in one place and not being required to manually check for updates.

By way of putting my money where my mouth is I have tackled the first of those items listed above, my local council’s rubbish/recycling collection schedule. I need to know when the refuse collectors (“bin men” as we colloquially call them in the UK) are coming round so that I remember to put the bins out onto the street the night before. Today that schedule is delivered annually via post (which, incidentally, must cost the council a packet in postage fees) and we have it pinned on a noticeboard in our kitchen. I have taken that information and copied it into a calendar that I have made publicly available for all of my neighbours:


and here’s the subscribe link:


So, if you know anyone that lives in UK postal district TW16 then tell them to come here and add the link to their Outlook calendar, Google calendar, Live calendar, Mac iCal or similar. It is incredibly simple to create these calendars when you know how – it literally took me less than 10 minutes. Furthermore I have contacted my local council via email and asked them if they would be interested in taking responsibility for formally publishing their rubbish/recycling schedules in a similar way; I haven’t heard back from them as yet but if and when I do I’ll report back here on any progress so watch this space.I have also published the 2008/9 fixture list of my favourite football (i.e. soccer) team as a subscribable calendar so if you know of any Leeds United fans (of which I am one) out there that would appreciate seeing their team’s fixture list appear in their calendar then tell them to get in touch with me in the comments below.

Do I think a massed adoption of calendar synchronisation will happen in 2009? No, I don’t unfortunately; this is all just wishful thinking. The general public haven’t really embraced the brilliance of content syndication via RSS feeds as yet so I don’t see them jumping onto the calendar syndication gravy train any time soon. I am positive that it will happen one day though – its too useful a technology for adoption not to happen. My hope is that one day the general public become as familiar with calendar syndication as they are with using email.In the meantime, if you want to see what calendars are published publicly today then http://www.icalshare.com has got an extensive catalogue. Want to know when all the latest BluRay releases are coming out for example? Here’s a calendar that tells you.Lets’s wrap this up. Do you have any thoughts on this? Do you subscribe to other people’s calendars? What tool do you use to do that? Would you be willing to help spread the gospel of calendar syndication? Could I sell this concept any better that I have done here? Is this blog entry too rooted in technology to be understood by technophobes? Am I deluded in thinking that this technology will, one day, reach mass adoption? Please let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think.-Jamie

Written by Jamiet

January 2, 2009 at 7:42 pm

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