Is iCal the Next RSS?

In light of the proposition at IMA2007, that public broadcasting adopt a common program schedule format, I’m dusting off an email that I sent along to the now defunct NPR Pilots group in March of ’05 which people might find interesting…

I found out recently that Google’s calendar supports the iCal format (as does Apple’s iCal program, and Mozilla’s Sunbird). (Upcoming.org also supports an iCal export). So it would be possible that a station’s schedule could be edited in sunbird, saved to a DAV server and displayed on a station web site, or subscribed to within the google calendar, and distributed via google to people’s web pages as a widget. KQED has already done this here.

As a case in point, if this schedule:

http://kjzz.org/programs/schedule.ics

were actively updated, listeners (using Google Calendar, Apple’s iCal program or Mozilla’s Sunbird) could have up to the minute information about the KJZZ program schedule and copy information about any program into their personal calendar.

Additionally, this means that national organizations, such as NPR, if they were to subscribe to each individual stations’ feeds, could develop (or adapt) a parser to bring these ical files into their database, and thus actually display individual station’s schedule information at NPR.org. Other organizations and businesses who could benefit from this are publicradiofan.com , radiotime.com, and the individual program producers who could show which stations are airing their program, and when.

While this is not as ideal or complete as stations exchanging schedule information in xml, it is perhaps a first step in the right direction, and perhaps more useful to listeners in the end. As a matter of fact, this doesn’t have to be some prohibitive, technical rocket science… given the proper username and password, a designated staff member, can even edit their station’s schedule at their desktop (or at home) within Sunbird, and publish this to the station web site (or to any web server which supports the WebDAV protocol) – or they could use a hosted service like the iCal Exchange.

For those of you interested in displaying ical from within a plone site, Nate Aune (from plone4artists) has done some interesting work with iCal here :
http://plone4artists.org/products/plone4artistscalendar


A cursory search yielded a

PHP ical parser here:
http://sourceforge.net/projects/phpicalendar/

A parser for .Net:
http://sourceforge.net/projects/icalparser/

For Python:
http://codespeak.net/icalendar/

For Perl:
http://www.perl.com/pub/a/2005/08/18/ical_dot.html

Ruby too!:
http://icalendar.rubyforge.org/

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  • Todd Mundt talks about iCal from a different angle here.

  • John,
    Would you kindly translate this post into plain English???
    Lovingly,
    Your Wife
    PS Dinner is on the table!

  • Randy

    I, too, have no idea what you are talking about.