No, I am not going to say join ‘em. I live in Huntington, WV - it’s a small city on the western most edge of WV with a population of around 40,000 people. It’s a great little place with an abundance of things to do the trouble is it has always been hard to discover what all those things are.

Fortunately, things are changing for the better in that regard. The net is making things much easier and, thankfully, our local newspaper, The Herald Dispatch, is helping everyone by offering up an online event calendar. They have a full time person on staff whose job is almost entirely consumed with keeping the calendar up-to-date. It’s fantastic. Sadly, however, it isn’t published as an ICS feed; instead the only interface to the system is via their web widget. The staff at the paper are happy to share the widget with websites that want to display the calendar but honestly I just didn’t think it was enough.

I really want an ICS feed to be available for that calendar. It has 6000+ events stored in it for the upcoming months and they are each categorized and sub-categorized. By providing a feed for all of these events that can be broken down by category the citizens of Huntington and the surrounding area can keep track of events in whatever fashion they want. If they want to subscribe with Outlook or Google calendar they could and it wouldn’t hurt traffic flow via events to the newspapers website at all - instead I think it would have the net effect of increasing traffic.

Fortunately, the folks at the paper agree. In fact they have been great about the idea and instantly bought into it! However, they didn’t have anyone available to create the script that would generate the ICS feed from their ad- hoc database of events so I volunteered to do it for them. Amazingly, even though this is an old company, they nimbly accepted my offer and put me in touch with the right guy. That day (last Thursday) I had the schema description, a dump of two months worth of events, and a basic overview of their current calendar’s architecture so I could get my work to fold in seamlessly. Last Friday I delivered the first iteration of the script!

Honestly, the script was a piece of cake to write thanks to having a pretty clearly defined standard to write against and the invaluable tool that is the online ICS validator plus a few nudges in the right direction from Wikipedia. Wikipedia has a chart that shows various elements and how they apply to different types of data in the ICS. I used that chart to help navigate the standard which is very lengthy.

I’m not sure when it will go live but I’m super happy the paper was so forward thinking and open to my suggestion and my offer to help. The Herald Dispatch does a great job of being focused on the local community, its news, and needs and I think this is another example that highlights their commitment to the community. I’m thankful that the small team I’ve been working with has been so helpful and open to my suggestions!