CalendarBurner: Feedburner for iCal calendars

I am currently using my experience with milonga.be to build a similar site for Tango in Bulgaria. One of the major components of the site is the tango calendar. In this case I have chosen not to use a special iCal visualisation tool (more on that later in a series posts on Tango2.0), but just the standard Google Calendar IFRAME-based widget.

It’s not a bad widget, but it’s too limited. You can only display “Day/Week/Month/Agenda” style, the colors and fonts are fixed and it does funny stuff for events that continue after 12:00AM (which tango events regularly do, believe me).

I’ve already talked about the fact that iCal is a sissy format and that Gcal needs some more features. I was just thinking that it would be nice if some company would jump on that and provide the whistles and bells for iCal/vCal feeds (like those of Google Calendar), just like Feedburner did with RSS/podcast feeds (and they got bought by Google, so maybe their idea wasn’t half bad). So I introduce the following concept: CalendarBurner (since the Calburner/iCalburner domains are taken).

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DrupalPress: Matt vs Dries

On my left side: Matt Mullenweg:

  • Matt was born in 1984 in Houston, Texas.
  • Amongst other things (see below) Matt is a passionate photographer.
  • In Jan 2003, unhappy with the capabilities of B2/Cafelog, he starts with the development of what will grow to be the hottest blog platform software around: WordPress.
  • In October 2004 he moves from Houston to San Francisco to work for CNET on, amongst other things, WordPress.
  • In October 2005, he leaves CNET too concentrate on WordPress and also launches Akismet, a (comment/trackback) spam detection platform (with plugins for e.g. WordPress).
  • In November 2005 Matt launches WordPress.com, the (free) hosted WordPress provider.
  • In Dec 2005 Matt annouces the creation of AutoMattic, the company behind WordPress.com, Akismet.
  • Matt is cited as #16 on PCWorld’s list of “50 Most Important People on the Web”

At my right hand: Dries Buytaert:

I especially like the ‘spam detection’ detail. If this is the main concern of two of the leading CMS platforms, you can imagine spam is a real problem.

If we extrapolate on the previous similarities, we could expect:

  • something like Drupal.com – a freemium hosted Drupal provider. The free version gives you an instant xyz.drupal.com site with some standard themes (layouts) and plugins. If you want your own domain, or a custom layout, you will have to pay.
  • a Mollom plugin for WordPress – because there is already an Akismet plugin for Drupal
  • WordPress starts releasing ‘distributions’: a special version for e.g. NGO’s, for schools, for music groups. This distribution will contain the latest core of WordPress with some plugins, themes, widgets, pages … pre-installed.

In any case, I admire both guys and hope they continue to successfully lead some of the most promising web software platforms around.

FM Brussel playlist live on Twitter

Via Pietel I heard of a Twitter account that publishes the playlist of StuBru in real-time. Interesting, but I listen to FM Brussel. How hard would it be to make the same thing for FM Brussel? Not that hard, it appears. After some twiddling with curl, twitter API and other PHP, here is the Twitter account for the playlist of FM Brussel.

http://twitter.com/fmbrussel


What Google Agenda currently misses

I am using Google Agenda as the central repository for the milonga.be Belgian tango agenda, which I edit together with half a dozen other tango enthusiasts. While the principle of a central, hosted calendar storage works wonderfully, I (have to) use a modified PHPiCalendar to display different views on the agenda (‘only Brussels’, ‘only workshops’, ‘1 week in advance’, ‘1 month in advance’, …). There are actually a couple of features that I’d like to see in Google Agenda, and what better place to list them but here:

Google Agenda: desired features

Metadata/Folksonomy

Currently an event in the agenda has the fields Title, Date/time (with recurrency, if any) , Location and Description. What I really miss is Tags (or categories, keywords, whatever you want to call them). Tags would allow me to attribute events to categories so that I can easily slice and dice them: only display the “milonga’s”, the events in Antwerp, the events in a specific place. Now I had to write a modified ‘filtered printable view’ for PHPiCalendar so that I can search on specific words in the event title, but that is really a hack. E.g. I now ask every editor to create the event titles as

“[TYPE]: [name of the event] @ [LOCATION]”

so that I can filter on “CONCERT:” or “@ Gent”. With the tags “concert, gent, polariteit, openair” it would be so much easier.

The iCalendar specification even mentions a ‘Categories’ field, although Google Agenda currently does not use it.

Continue reading What Google Agenda currently misses

Package Delivery 2.0

Sexteto Veritango
I spent last weekend at the Brussels Tango Festival, mostly taking pictures of people dancing. Because of the lack of light that is typical for tango events, I had bought a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens online one week before. First at Pixmania, but because they couldn’t deliver fast enough (product not in stock), I cancelled and ordered at Foto Konijnenberg. I expected the package to be delivered in a couple of days. When I didn’t see any sign of delivery and the track&trace URL didn’t work, I contacted Foto Konijnenberg (very friendly and correct customer support, by the way) to ask what was happening. Apparently the transport company had been at my door twice, did however not leave any message, took the package back and at that moment no one could tell me where the package was. We’re now 2 weeks after purchase and still at the same stage: my lens is somewhere in the purgatory between vendor and buyer but the transport company (TNT/DPD) has no clue where.

Apart from the fact that the transporter screwed up their tracking of the package, the whole process of showing up at closed doors and going back seems so inefficient. It’s like so much effort has been spent to smoothen out the process of purchasing online, but the physical delivery still works basically the same as twenty years ago, eventhough the drivers now have wireless devices and you have to sign on an electronic sensor.

Let’s describe how I would have preferred to have my goods delivered:

Package Delivery 2.0

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Pipes + SQL = Structured Web Query Language

Let’s remix 2 original observations:

In Yahoo! Pipes, what used to be a table in the relational database is now: a web page, an RSS feed, etc. The current list of sources includes: Yahoo! Search, Yahoo! Local, Fetch (RSS feeds), Google Base and Flickr. Each source can be searched or queried using either pre-defined or user-defined parameters. For example, there can be a search of all french restaurants in Chicago via Yahoo! Local. The data source and the searches can be mixed together (think emergence), using a reach set of operators. Among them is the iterator (which lets the user loop through the results), a counter and many other functions that facilitate cleaning, manipulating and recombining the information.
Yahoo! Pipes and The Web As Database via PoorButHappy

and this one:

Command line interfaces. Once that was all we had. Then they disappeared, replaced by what we thought was a great advance: GUIs. GUIs were – and still are – valuable, but they fail to scale to the demands of today’s systems. So now command line interfaces are back again, hiding under the name of search. Now you see them, now you don’t. Now you see them again. And they will get better and better with time: mark my words, that is my prediction for the future of interfaces.
jnd.org

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Popurls: why I like Reddit and Del.icio.us better than Digg

A site I use often to keep a view on “what’s happening” is popurls.com. It show lots of links, pictures and videos (Flickr, Youtube, iFilm, Wired …) but the part I use most is the top of the page: the 20 new hot links from the social bookmarking sites Digg, del.icio.us and Reddit.
popurls

I also find that I use the right part of the page (Reddit & del.icio.us) much more than the left (Digg) – just see the clicked (light-gray) links on the screenshot above. Today I read “Digg is for kids, Reddit is for grown-ups” and let me try to formulate why Digg seems to have less appeal for me.

One click too many

The three services work differently: on the del.icio.us part, when you click on a link, you go straight to the actual page. This means that the owner of the site sees a “popurls.com” showing up in his referrer stats. Reddit links you to a Reddit URL (e.g. http://reddit.com/goto?rss=true&id=xuvx) which immediately redirects you to the actual page. So on the surface, you can’t see the difference. Digg, on the other hand, insist of sending you to the Digg page first, where a too shirt description of link invites you too click through. No instant gratification.

Level of discussion

Both Reddit and Digg do more than just collect links, they also provide the platform to have a conversation about them. There is a difference in level of civility in both sites. While a Reddit user might add “I don’t agree because …”, the level of Digg comments is often more like “You loser! Whata pile of bullsh*t! …”, probably due to a younger audience. Since Digg forces me to see these comments when I click one of the links, I see too much of that.

Nerd topics

I won’t deny that I’m a bit of a geek myself, but I like my news to be more of a mix of IT, human, political and cultural topics. To my feeling (that might be subjective) the topics on Digg are less interesting to me. Reddit is sometimes too much about American politics, but the rest of the topics are a mix better targeted for me. Del.icio.us is also quite my profile.

So that’s why I almost never look at the left column anymore. When there are interesting topics there, they typically also show up on the other two.

LeWeb3: the Babel effect

I went to see the movie “Babel” recently, and I liked it a lot. At some point I was asked “what is it about?” The best I could come up with is “bad judgement”. If you still plan on seeing the movie, skip the next paragraph (spoiler).

It was bad judgement to expect someone to not attend the wedding of her son, and bad judgement of her to drive back with a drunken nephew. Bad judgement of the Japanese guy to donate a gun to his Moroccon guide, of that man to sell it, of the buyer to give it to his teenager sons, of the boys to test the gun by shooting at a bus of tourists. Shit happens, yes, but sometimes people make an even bigger mess out of it by taking bad decisions for the wrong reasons.

Eiffel towerSo what happened at LeWeb3?

  • Loic got the message that Shimon Peres would attend the conference and took the bad decision to try to get his acquaintance-employer-buddy Sarkozy in too and make the conference into a politic forum for the French presidential campaign.
  • He felt obliged to invite the other candidates, and -my oh my- one opponent actually agreed to attend. He decided to create time for these political speeches by removing and/or compressing time from other, announced, speakers.
  • To be honest, his decision to play moderator/talk-show host for some speakers/panels was not a very good one either. He does not have the necessary skills/talent for that. Neither does Jeff Clavier, for that matter. (Thomas Crampton and the Swedish guy -I forget his name- were on the other hand good moderators)
  • Sam Sethi (TechCrunch UK) writes an honest post about his disappointment and Loic makes the bad move to react while still tired and angry.
  • Sam mentions the comment in a next post (maybe not excessively clever), Loic complains with Michael Arrington and Sam is fired. Not the best move Arrington ever made, although he has left comments open and responds to the critics, so behaves in the bloggers’ way.
  • After one of the last presentations on Tuesday, Loic comes on stage with a small boy walking besides him. He announced the next speaker and just before he leaves the stage tells us he’s teaching his son how to walk the stage: miscalculation of the amount of goodwill that remained in the room.

I’m not hoping more dramatic things will happen in this saga. I can’t help but feel bad for Loic too, he has been working on this event for months and now it’s turned ugly in his face. I just don’t think I will be attending any LeWeb4 (or LeWeek4, as Tom calls it). Conferences like Reboot (Denmark), SHIFT (Portugal) and LIFT (Switzerland) look like a much better platform for the topics that interest me. Also, I will probably organize new “Barcamp Brussels” editions in 2007.

LeWeb3Party 007
And to end with a positive note: we’ve had tasty food, we’ve met with some awesome people from all over the world, we’ve learned how to knot a bow tie, we had an hilarious dinner on Monday followed by a party we won’t be forgetting for a long time.