Let’s build a community calendar for the Coastside

Posted by on Fri, May 5, 2006

Ever since I started Coastsider, I’ve been looking for a way to build a community calendar that everyone could contribute to.  That’s a difficult problem to solve gracefully.

A few weeks ago, Google introduced their calendar.  I think it’s a good solution to the problem.  Anyone can create a calendar for their organization or business and publish it for anyone to read. I also think it has an amazingly good user interface.  But what’s really exciting is that other people with Google or iCal calendars can subscribe to your calendar and have your events listed alongside their personal schedules.

I’d like to test out an idea.  What if every organization and business on the Coastside that maintains a public calendar had a public Google calendar?  I know that’s going to sound like a pain to some of you, but I think you’ll find that the benefits quickly outweigh the cost.  Google’s calendar is significantly easier to use and maintain than nearly all major calendars on the Web, and it’s easier to share than others.  The usefulness of everyone keeping their calendars in the same place grows quickly as the number of calendars increases.

Coastsider will support the effort. If you have a calendar to share and are interested playing, click the link to see the rest of the proposal.  Our goal is to add the items with the broadest appeal to Coastsider, but everyone in the community would be able to subscribe to more-specialized calendars alongside the most popular ones.

Let’s call this a beta test, so don’t abandon your old calendar yet.  But I’d like to find some organizations willing to try it out. Coastsider will maintain a public list of Coastside community calendars, to promote the idea and let everyone know what’s available. We’ll work to integrate events from the Calendar into Coastsider’s calendar.  We can use the comments on this article as a clearinghouse for tips, problems, and solutions.

Guidelines & Issues:

  • When you create your calendar, be sure to put the word "Coastside" in your location, so that everyone in the community be able to find it when they search for calendars on Google. Set the calendar to share information with everyone. You can also set it up so that more than one person in your organization can update the calendar.
  • Keep the description of each item to fifty words or less.  Be sure to include prices and contact information for events in the description.
  • This solution only really works for organizations with multiple items in their schedule. We’ll probably have to set up a separate calendar for individual events.
  • If you calendar is on iCal, Yahoo, or Outlook, you can export it using directions on Google and import it onto your Google calendar.
  • Google doesn’t support Safari yet.  If you have a Mac, you’ll need to download Firefox to use Google calendar.  It’s easy to download, install and use.
  • Some people don’t like Google. Personally, I’m neutral. But I love their calendar.  Over time, I expect other companies to offer similar features and I expect them to work together. So we won’t be locked in to Google in the long run.

We’ve started maintaining Coastsider’s calendars on Google to see if we can make this work for our site.  To get you started, we’ve published the following Coastsider calendars on Google:

You can copy the links on the calendars’ names and paste them into the "subscribe" form on Google. Or, iCal if you want to use them on your desktop.

Please post questions and suggestions as comments on this story, so everyone can see them.  When you have a public calendar set up, please announce it here as well.

Google calendar’s public-URL-import functionality is quite effectively hidden from the casual observer. If you can’t find the “subscribe” form, first get a google mail account, then

1) Go to http://calendar.google.com
2) On the left-hand side, under “My Calendars” and “Other Calendars”, there’s a “Manage calendars” link. Clicking that will take you to the “Calendar Settings” page.
3) Click the “Calendars” tab
4) In the “Other Calendars” section, click “Add calendar”
5) Click the “Public Calendar Address” tab
6) Paste one of the URLs above into the “Public Calendar Address:” field and click OK.

Thanks setting this info up! Very slick!