Avid readers will be aware of the powerful pling-o-matic tool we built with 1UPDesign to process records from the Open Family Services Directory, parse and reformat them ready for upload to the plings web service.
At the core of the pling-o-matic is an application which parses the freetext of the records from the OFS searching for unstructured instances of dates, days and times; Where present the starttime and endtimes are created in a structured format.
It occurred to us we could harness this semantic application to parse data from elsewhere. So, over the last few weeks we’ve been experimenting with collecting data from other sources. Using a dedicated application developed by 1UP we’ve scraped the content from a number of sites and are working to reformat the data ready for plings.
However by far the most effective source of data we’ve found has been Google Calendars maintained by local authorities.
Not only does this lend the local authorities all of the benefits that are native to Google Calendars but it also means the data is available to the pling-o-matic in great quality, well structured feeds.
Jamie Tickner from Cumbria County Council was quick to see the benefits of using calendars to manage his data.
“Prior to storing our events data in a google calendar I just added events details manually on to a web page using standard html. This was fine but not very dynamic and there were no other uses for the data. Also it meant that I was the only person who could add events to the website.”
So I decided to set up a google calendar. The main advantages of this were that the calendar could easily be embedded in to existing websites and activity providers could add their own events with minimal training.”
We’re now processing the calendars that contain all the positive activity data for Cumbria. These calendars have helped us produce in excess of 500 plings during the next four weeks.”
Jamie is “very pleased with the work Substance have done” and is looking forward to taking advantage of the array of applications available now he’s got data live at plings.
We’re on the lookout for other organisations (from a single youth club to Local Authority) who already have Google Calendars full of data and would like to take the opportunity to get their data live at plings. If you’ve got a calendar you’d like us to take a look at please contact us
Alternatively for those of you who haven’t got calendars full of data yet here’s some of the benefits of using Google calendars to collate your data:-
- Collaboration – Any member of a large organisation can add, edit or remove a calendar entry at anytime and from anywhere with an internet connection
- Publishing – It’s really easy to publish your events on your own website using the google calendar widget or elsewhere using Google’s range of calendar feeds and the calendar API
- Mobile – Google’s Mobile service (which links seamlessly into iPhone and Android) can be accessed anywhere from mobile devices.