More thoughts on iCalendar – how apps may help increase adoption
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:
- Subscribable World Cup 2010 Calendar
- Calendar syndication – My big hope for 2009′s breakthrough technology
- Thinking differently about BI delivery
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.