Thursday, August 21, 2008

 

Berkeley Calendar Network wins Innovation Award

I feel like a proud parent … or perhaps grandparent or great-grandparent is more accurate (I'll explain that in a minute) … because the Berkeley Event Calendar Network has recently won the 2008 Larry L. Sautter Award for Innovation in Information Technology, a UC systemwide honor.

An "event calendar network" is exactly that, and the motivation for it is quite simple. Before the event calendar network existed, there were literally scores of different Web calendars on the berkeley.edu domain, all with incompatible models of "event" so they couldn't share information. If a distinguished visitor was giving a lecture at our School of Information that might appeal to people in computer science or business, we'd have to enter the event in three different Web forms to get it on the relevant calendars (and that always seemed like too much effort). There was no easy way to share, syndicate or subscribe to events, which meant that people missed out on events they would have gone to if they'd only known about them.

Fast forwarding to today -- because of the calendar network, when you submit an event to your "home" calendar (the "master calendar" is this one), if you mark it "public" so it can be shared, other calendars can transparently include it in their calendars. About 50 calendars are in the network, and new ones join all the time. You can easily can sort events by category or change the display, and each calendar has a customizable CSS "skin" so that it can be plugged into the home page of each department / school / organization in the network. This lets a calendar join the network and get the advantages of event syndication without losing its native look and feel.

But like many network-based applications, the event calendar took a while to achieve critical mass, and it has been a long time coming. The reason I feel like the great-grandfather is because I assigned the task of designing an interoperable model of an event for calendars on the Berkeley campus to my Document Engineering class in the Spring of 2003. Yes, 2003 – over 5 years ago.

Four of the students in that class – Allison Bloodworth, Nadine Fiebrich, Myra Liu, and Zhanna Shamis – transformed my little homework assignment into their final project as part of their master's degree requirements at the School of Information. They overachieved big time in that effort as you can see from the hyperdocumented design artifacts on their project website, and it was not a surprise to me as their project advisor when they subsequently won the Chen award for best final project in 2004. After graduation, Allison went to work for the UCB campus, and she slogged hard for a few years to turn this master's degree project into a deployable application.

The graduation award for the project wasn't a fluke. Later that year I co-authored a paper with Allison titled Model-driven Application Design for a Campus Calendar Network, and this received a "best paper" award at the XML 2004 conference, mostly as a result of Allison's engaging presentation.

A year later, when Tim McGrath and I were finishing the writing on our Document Engineering book, we showcased the event calendar as a case study that weaves through the book to illustrate the design techniques and modeling artifacts. We used the calendar as a case study not just because it was convenient, but because the interoperability problems it was designed to overcome are typical of every large organization that struggles with incompatible time sheets, expense reimbursements, registration forms, and other administrative documents.

So as you can tell, I am a very proud (parent^N) of this event calendar network, and it just pleases me immensely to see it get this award. Now if only the School of Information would join the network, so I could avoid making up reasons why it hasn't even though the project was born there over 5 years ago.

-Bob Glushko

Comments:
I'm wondering if you, or anyone reading knows the licensing terms for this project?

Obviously there is extensive documentation on http://groups.ischool.berkeley.edu/EventCalendar/ and there's a little mention of "wanting to create a developer network," but I'm not seeing anything explicit about licensing terms or an open source community, etc.
 
Hi Joe,

I will try to update the website with some info on this soon. Unfortunately UC Berkeley's Public Affairs department didn't have the resources to manage an open-source project, so as of now it's only an internal application which for the moment is just being shared with other UC's. But I think that could change with the right proposal...Sara Leavitt, UC Berkeley's Calendar Coordinator, is the contact for any other questions/information.
 
Hi,

I'm Head of innovation in a worldwide IT company and I would like to know when you plan to launch an open source community for Calendar Network project ?
By the way your guys done a great job with this solution !
 
Really useful data, much thanks for your article.
 
I just downloaded your paper while reading your post and I'm very interested in giving it a careful and analytical reading, I know that your insights will enjoy me, thanks for sharing!
 
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