Every day, I receive emails, newsletters and catalogues informing me about some small subset of the thousands of potentially interesting things on in London. If I’m really paying attention in the moment, I might actually get around to typing some of them into my ipaq and maybe even get around to booking. More usually, though, the moment that I see the information is a moment when my attention is mostly occupied with something else: looking though email for an important messsage from a client, or opening letters in the hope of finding a long-chased invoice. Most event invitations simply get trashed because they simply arrive at the wrong time for me to pay attention to them.
Sound familiar? This is much the same problem as we faced catching up with news and opinions pre-RSS syndication/aggregation. Would that there were a similar tool to take care of our diaries for us.
But of course there is: RFC2445/iCal is a nice, simple(ish) specification for internet-friendly (and more importantly aggregation-friendly) scheduling. With RFC2445-compliant client software, it is straightforward to publish a calendar on the internet, and equally straightforward to subscribe to multiple calendars and aggregate them as you wish. So, for example, I could have my own personally-aggregated diary comprised of the iCal diaries published by all my favouriite venues and organisations: no more scanning through endless newsletters to see what’s on and when.
Apple even provide, as part of their .Mac hosting service, easy online publication of personal or organisational calendars straight from their iCal application.
So why hasn’t calendar syndication really caught on?
I’m guessing that it simply hasn’t yet reached tipping point. Apple may be ahead of the game, but they’ve not really lit the fire of hype under the whole idea, and robust iCal calendar clients for other platforms have been slow in development. I’m guessing that all of that will change soon: Mozilla’s Sunbird is coming along nicely. And there are webby RFC2445 clients such as phpiCalendar which do a fine job of rendering aggregated diaries online. Even better, phpiCalendar also generates RSS feeds based on daily/weekly/monthly schedules, all ready for aggregation via any RSS aggregator/ticker. Surely the calendar revolution must be almost upon us?
Or at least: there must be a first mover business opportunity in there somewhere. I think Apple have missed out: I like their .Mac personal hosting service (which I think is actually a bit bigger and slightly more clever than it initially appears (more later)), but they just aren’t pushing this hard enough. In any case, calendar syndication seems, to me, an obvious adjunct to hosted blogging. Time to get on the phone and see who is interested…
I guess I should be putting my money where my mouse is: my own calendar (mostly London-based music and art), hand-aggregated from various sources, can be subscribed to using an iCal-compatible client using this link. Or, there’s this web view, with daily and weekly RSS feeds. Have fun. Of course, in a world of federated calendars, I wouldn’t have to prepare this by hand: I could just point you at some OPML-ish XML with my favourite diary sources wrapped within.