Thursday, 12 November 2009

Keeping Up With Events

Having spent the first few weeks of my Arcadia Fellowship in quiet reflection (?!), a couple of weeks ago I started browsing the various Cambridge events listings looking for things to do in an evening. Whilst the 'amplification' of public events might not immediately seem like a role that should be taken on by the Library, I think it can be argued as relevant if it is the Library's role to help maximise the findability or discovery (and hence consumption) of a university's intellectual and cultural output.

Anyway, anyway... the University has several 'centralised' online calendars that promote university related events, as well as separate listings on some of the College and Department websites. The central calendars I've found are:

-, a comprehensive listing of public talks, published via 'lists' that are maintained by event promoters:

- the Cambridge University "What's On" Event guide:

- the Cambridge University Student Union Events listings:

(The site actually provides a variety of ways of managing events and republishing, syndicating and/or embedding calendar events listing in third party websites, so there is much to be said for Colleges, Departments, societies, clubs etc using to manage their events listings, and then just pull the results into their own web pages from that site).

Feeds are available from some of the sites, (though not necessarily autodiscoverably ;-) - forthcoming events on the CUSU site (either across all events, or by category); events from lists on (though I couldn't find a feed of "Today's events"/events by date (hence the screenscraping pipe I blogged about in Cambridge Calendar Feeds (Part I) - Screenscraping with Yahoo Pipes). The site (I've just discovered), also offers XML and iCal support at a list level or venue level, though not date level?)

To try and make life easier for myself finding events, I thought it might be handy to try and pull a simple mobile application together that could aggregate "Today's Events" in a single place. Being lazy, it made sense to reuse a pattern I've used before - the iUI javascript library powered by Yahoo pipe JSON feeds - to prototype a really crude system to see if it was useful for finding events via a phone interface.

So here's what a first pass app looks like - it's a working demo that provides something tangible to talk around about what might actually make a mobile events app useful:

At the top, a simple listing to the separate listings sources:

Each link leads to a menu of today's (or in the CUSU case, upcoming) events:

Then we get minor details and a link to the actual webpage for the event:

The webpage is then delivered howsoever...

CUSU page in a mobil browser

So what would be obvious features to include?

- a full description of the event, and its location;
- a map view of the location of the event (ideally, a marker by the public entrance to a building within which an event is held, and hopefully from which access to the actual event is signposted!).

Building the app is one thing, getting the data is another of course. So what data access would help the app builder?

A feed or XML description of "today's events" containing:
- the title of the event;
- the time of the event;
- a description of the event;
- the location of the event (ideally lat/long coordinates);
- maybe written directions about finding the location;
- a link to the 'homepage' of the event.

To try the 'app' out via your phone browser, visit or go via this United Events of Cambridge QR Code.

Comments (and I think they're working now) would be appreciated...

[Note to self: merging calendars might also be useful... eg Merging Several Calendar iCal Feeds With Yahoo Pipes, Displaying Events from Multiple Google Calendars in a Single Embedded Calendar View]

1 comment:

Tom said...

Categorization of events (either by format, e.g. talk/concert/participatory event, or by area of interest) immediately springs to mind, as there are quite a lot in each feed. Is there any metadata provided by your three sources that could help with that?

Secondly, is the metadata from the three feeds sufficiently compatible that they could be merged into one, hopefully with de-duplication?

I'm with you on the library's role!