Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Google Calendar (plus some tricks)

I've just started using Google Calendar and I have to say it seems an excellent way to publish events. You can embed your calendar in your website, as I have done for my concerts, and other world music concerts in Brisbane-Byron and Japan. You can also invite other people to join your calendar so that they can add their events directly, for example I'm also a contributor to Fueya Kangiten's Japan Indian Classical Music Calendar (インド音楽ライブ情報 by笛屋歓喜店). BTW I'm looking for contributors to my BrisByron and Japan calendars - please contact me if you'd like to become a contributor.

As I mentioned, I have 3 calendars and contribute to a 4th. It's really easy to copy between calendars, so I have my own personal concert calendar and I copy events from that to the other regional all-events calendars.

I've found a few tricks to keep in mind when using Google Calendar:

Easy way: If you just use plain text event descriptions and publish events within one time-zone, you probably won't need to read all this... Also note that if you enter a URL explicitly as text ("http://.....") it will work as a link. However with many links this starts to look ugly, and some URLs can get very long and unwieldy, in which case you'll want to know the following:
  1. HTML Event Descriptions
    Event descriptions default to plain text, however you can add links and adjust font-sizes.

    Start a blog with - their blogs seem to use the same format, so you can put things together with their WYSIWYG interface, then switch to the HTML view and copy everything from there.

    If publishing HTML from other sources, watch out for the following:
    • Remove all BR and P tags - Google formats the text to include carriage returns, which are usually ignored when displaying HTML. If you have regularly formatted HTML, with carriage returns AND BR or P tags, you'll end up with double blank lines.
    • When you edit an event, or copy to another calendar, the event description will suddenly revert to plain text with no markup code. (Hopefully Google will fix this problem eventually...) So it's useful to have a place you've kept the modified HTML you've so carefully crafted. When making a post, I put together the code in Blogger - it uses the same format, so it's pretty easy. I have a template file which includes a small header with "Posted on behalf of..." and a footer with my own details (including a link back to my website). Also see the next point on RSS readers...

  2. Use an RSS Reader
    An RSS reader (also useful for following news and blogs) can be very helpful when dealing with Google Calendar. You can subscribe to your calendars' RSS feeds and so see any updates automatically. I'm sticking in the Google family and using Google Reader, although there are many other options including Bloglines and Thunderbird.

    Benefits of RSS Reader:
    • HTML in your event description shows up here, so when you need to edit or copy an event, you can copy the HTML event description from your RSS reader.
    • See any updates to your calendars automatically. For example, when I see a new post on the Fueya Kangiten calendar, I know I need to copy it to my own calendar. Also, I can check that other contributors to my calendar are doing it properly.
    • If, like me, you're publishing other people's events, and they publish those events to their own blogs, you can quickly see when they have a new event.

  3. Beware Time-Zones!
    You have to be careful if you're posting events across timezones. For example, I'm currently in Japan, but still posting events to my Australian events calendar. In Google Calendar, I have the timezones for my two calendars set appropriately, but there's also your own personal time-zone setting (find it by clicking Settings at the top-right of your Google Calendar page). I've got my current time-zone set to Japan. I realised that if I published an event in Brisbane at the local Brisbane time, when it gets published to my website it shows up an hour later. It considers that the time I entered is Tokyo time, so in Brisbane that's one hour later! There are two possible fixes (until Google works out how to have events related only to the local timezone):
    • I either have to correct my personal time zone setting each time I publish an event in a different region;
    • or I have to remember to adjust the publication time to that of my current timezone. (For example if I'm in Japan and publishing an event for Brisbane, I'll say it's 1 hour earlier than the real time - then it all comes out OK.)

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