Open Tech Calendar

Hello. I’m James and I’ve been running a quiet Open Data success story up in Scotland and the North for almost four years now. Open Tech Calendar is a website that lists tech events for the community.

It started because of my involvement in a local Scottish event, Tech Meetup. This was always seen as a place to bring many small parts of the community together – it always has a space at the start for announcements for instance.

It also had a Google Calendar of everyone’s events. However while Google Calendar is great as a personal calendar, it was never designed as a group calendar. One day we woke up to find almost all of it had been deleted and we had no way of getting it back. I set out to make a replacement that could make the data more useful in terms of filters and reusability but most importantly, safer for many people editing events at once.

Open Tech Calendar is a directory of tech events; we simply list events and are happy to link to the original website and ticket page of the event. (One of the problems with many event listing sites is they try and “take over” an online listing of the event, and we try and avoid that.)

TechMeetup Edinburgh - Open Tech Calendar

The Open in the title means several things; anyone is free to add or edit events like a Wiki. (We can also import some other data sources.) We try and have easy web interfaces to do this, and so far several hundred people have added data.

But it also means we make our data open in many different formats, filtered by many different variables. Our Open API served over 1,000,000 hits in 2015 and you can get feeds in iCS, JSON or ATOM. Feeds can be of all events, only events in one area or events run by one group. We know many people export a feed straight into their personal calendar, others reuse our data on other websites and some people make dashboards for offices with upcoming events.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 17.09.49

The event wiki software behind Open Tech Calendar is Open Sourced for other people and communities to use. It’s really focused on providing a space where many different people can edit the same calendar safely to share knowledge of events, and there are features to support that. It’s a particular niche that we often have problems getting across to people, but we think is worthwhile.

The existing Open Data around events has in many ways been disappointing – a lot of people have said “oh, you can use a lot of Open Data in this” when first hearing about this. However, it turns out there was very little existing data we could reuse! There was the obvious problems like dealing with closed API’s and restrictive licensing terms around them or events that just didn’t have an Open Data feed (and you would have hoped tech events would know better). But also some more subtle ones. For instance, many people set up recurring events in a calendar then forget to ever update them – so an event that runs on the 4th Wed in the month might not run in Dec as that clashes with Christmas, and that’s a special case that requires an update. Also there is no good event Open Data format, which complicates things.

So we see one of our core missions as providing and trying to encourage others to provide much better Open Data around events! If you are interested in a community of people working on better knowledge of events, check out Open Tech Calendar for tech events or the Open Source software behind it for your own community!

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