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