Saturday, November 07, 2009

Creating iCal files really easily using our online wizard

iCal files could prove them to be the next bit of web technology to breach the line between geeky curiosity and mission critical wonderfulness. New technology is doomed to fail unless the business uses of it become apparently to the decision makers in organisations.

For a while now we’ve been playing with iCal files, there’s something about the ability to place events in user’s Outlook calendars that really appeals to our geekier side. We tinkered with iCal capabilities and spent some time trying to get our clients excited about them, but without an obvious business use (outside of promoting a single specific event) we struggled to inspire client ‘buy in’.


Then (as is often the case with this one particular client) I received a phone call asking the impossible of me. They wanted to send about a thousand people an email containing a special link, when a recipient clicked said link my client wanted every event they’re holding for the entire year to be automatically added to the recipients calendars, be they Outlook, Lotus Notes, iCalendar, Google Calendar or anything else. I say with no hint of sarcasm that I love clients like this, having a direction and a challenge in ones head makes technical explorations so much easy and far more focussed!

iCal files immediately sprang to mind, I had cobbled them together in notepad for single events a few times in the past and they’re an incredibly effective reminder facility when placed in event confirmation emails. I looked into the iCal system a bit more depth and found out I could load a single iCal file with as many events as I wished. One click, for a huge payload.

After much time spent scanning the web for a simple iCal creator that I could recommend to my clients I came to the conclusion that there wasn’t one. If a technology is going to make the leap to the mainstream it MUST be accessible. Industry professionals don’t mind smashing a code file about in notepad, but someone sat at their desk who doesn’t share our peculiar interest in messing with technical mechanics – someone who just wants to get the job done – will not (and never will) invest their time in learning how to tinker with something, they just want it to work. This is why Apple Macs are so popular, and why Linux is still lurking in the shadows.

So with some help from a friendly (and very talented) developer called Liz Warner I set about publishing an online wizard based on the EventCreator system. Liz created a simple to use online wizard to create multiple event iCal files. No programming experience needed, in fact users can be utterly ignorant of the existence of notepad and they’ll still play like a winner with this neat little tool.

Sounds neat, take me to the iCal wizard…

More about iCal files…