Rethinking the TVC Calendar

So, a few weeks into using “Web Calendar”:http://webcalendar.sourceforge.net/ for the the “Village Church”:http://villagechurchnyc.com/events/month.php, I’m not really pleased with it. After muscling the CSS into submission, I’ve come to find that there are a few more issues that will really prevent us from using it over the long term. A few issues are requirements-related — for example, we needed to think through how to create multiple calendars for the church (one for ministry leaders, one for the public, etc.) without creating the extra burden of login account management. WebCalendar could let us create multiple calendars by using login groups or categories, but adds the expense of tracking who’s who in a login database, what their email is, asking them to log in, etc. We currently have to track this information in at least three seperate places, and this would just add one more.

Beyond that, though, WebCalendar fails to meet our needs in two other areas. The administrative functions are just not, well, the most user-friendly interface I’ve ever seen. Navigating through dozens of screens to find the right setting to turn on feeds, tweak the colors, or add users to the database makes for more work. What’s worse, though, is that I found that the TVC web calendar was generating an invalid iCal feed. Not an iCal feed that wouldn’t be read by other programs, but one that would actually have _incorrect information_. I got a reminder for Mother’s Day from the TVC calendar for two weeks after Mother’s Day. Not good.

We’ll be starting over with a new approach to this problem, but, thankfully, we’re not quite at square one. What I would like to do is take an existing Web 2.0 calendar — one of the fine products I “recently blogged about”:http://kennsarah.net/2006/04/14/web-20-calendar-showdown/ — get a valid iCal feed out of it, and slap a “phpiCalendar”:http://phpicalendar.net/documentation/index.php/Main_Page user interface over top of it. The result: we have a sophisticated calendar on the back end, maintained by Google or 30 Boxes or anybody other than me, and something that looks like the TVC web presence on the front end. It’s almost perfect, but there is a gotcha: phpiCalendar doesn’t seem to support iCal feeds that don’t end in “.ics”.

Why the programmatic limit? I have no idea. But there is a work-around: Adam Gurno “helpfully describes”:http://gurno.com/dru/?q=node/94 a cron job to periodically download an iCal feed to an actual .ics iCal file, which phpiCalendar will happily consume. This approach is completely different than going with the WebCalendar solution, but most of the work with that was CSS and design, which I should be able to leverage in a “phpiCalendar template”:http://phpicalendar.net/documentation/index.php/Templates.

Hey, I wasn’t busy enough, anyway. 😉

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