Martin Ström
my-domain.se

Show & Tell

A few days ago we launched a new web service we’ve had in the making for the last couple of months. It’s called Show & Tell and is basically an online calendar for lectures, book releases, artist talks, and other events in Stockholm containing some sort of showing and telling. The idea is incredibly simple, but up until now there was no website gathering all such events. Sure, many do exist on Facebook, but not nearly all of them, and there is a lot to wish for when working with and/or subscribing to Facebook events (to not mention the fact that Facebook owns all the content). Since we anyway would add everything interesting to a shared work calendar, the step to making a new calendar and publish it online was very easy.

Google Calendar

The calendar uses Google Calendar as its backbone. A calendar (called www.showtell.se) on Gcal is shared between us and a bunch of friends in different corners of the Stockholm cultural world. The calendar is then published using the built-in Gcal widget on a webpage hosted by us; www.showandtell.se (or www.showtell.se). Events can be added by the editors straight to gCal, or though iCal (/Outlook/etc) and automaticly synced with gCal using for example Spanning Sync.

Calinker

A few years ago we created a very simple service called Calinker. Its purpose was to reduce the number of times you and your friends/guests/coworkers etc have to enter the exact same calendar information to your own calendars. So instead of just sending your friends a date and location when the next dinner party is, with Calinker you can create that event one time and instead just share the link. The user can download the ICS-file to their own calendar software of choice (like Outlook, Apple iCal, Google Calendar etc).

Create events from e-mail

One smart feature with Calinker is the the possibilty to email events from any email address and in return get a link to a automaticly created event at Calinker.com (example), with all the info already filled in. When finding an event of interest online, all a S&T editor needs to do is use the ‘mail contents of this page’ feature in Safari, e-mail the event to Calinker, get a link in return, click the ICS-file and add the event to iCal that automaticly syncs itself onto S&T via Spanning Sync and Gcal. This of course works great with event invitations via email too; just forward the email to Calinker and get a link in return with the ICS file.

Suggest events

A lot of features we wanted on S&T (like maps, ICS-generation etc) already existed on Calinker so we wanted to re-use as much as possible for Show & Tell, especially for the ‘suggest’ feature (where people can suggest/inform us on new events). Using the inofficial Calinker API, we just post the event info from S&T to Calinker (via a proxy to allow cross domain AJAX) and the editors get an e-mail back with the ICS link, ready for Google Calendar. This was the most simple way of dealing with the suggest feature since  we could re-use many parts we already had built for Calinker.

Making Show & Tell SEO friendly

Since all the content is taken from a Google Calendar and just embedded on our website with an iframe, the site’s real content cannot be indexed by search engines (the only content a search engine would find is generic info such as about texts and headers). To work around this, once a day we automatically take the calendar’s RSS feed (available for all public Google Calendars) and render it as a hidden (as in display: none;) html element on S&T. This way the content will be indexed by the search engines but not visible to regular users. It could also work as an alternative for browsers with JavaScript/CSS turned off.

Linklists

Show & Tell also contains two linklists, both showing off linkli.st‘s potential as a lofi CMS: The first one is quite obvious; the tab called ‘Online lectures’ is basically an embedded linklist (original here), making it possible for us to update S&T straight from linkli.st. The second one is a bit more secret; The list of all editors of the site, under ‘About’ (original here). This is simply because editors might be added over time, and it’s easier to use linklist when adding an editor than having to bump an update of the complete S&T website.

Twitter

Show & Tell is also present at Twitter, as a reminder service before each event starts. The setup is quite experimental and works about 80% of the time, but we like the lofi-ness of it and decided to keep the system even though it’s not completley reliable. Here is how it works: Google Calendar has a feature where you can get a reminder emailed to you every time an event in your calendar is about to happen. That reminder is in our case set to 3 hours, and emailed to one of our Gmail accounts. In Gmail, a folder is set to re-route all incoming Google Calendar reminders to an account at twittercounter.com. Twittercounter.com is a web service that forwards e-mails to Twitter, and as soon as the e-mail reaches it, the email is turned into a tweet and posted by @showtellse. Since the actual Google Calendar itself is called www.showtell.se and every reminder tweet automaticly contains the name of the calendar (example), the clickable url is featured in every tweet, thus making it easy to find out more about each event.

Facebook

And there is — of course — also a Facebook page, that takes the RSS feed from gCal and turns each event into a post. It looks quite ugly, because the posts are based on publishing date (ie when we added something to the calendar) and not the date when the event takes place, but might come handy for people who don’t use Twitter.

Visit the site here: www.showandtell.se

Twitter reminders: www.twitter.com/showtellse

Facebook as RSS reader: www.facebook.com/pages/Show-Tell/271553430665

Peter Ström (Konst & Teknik) and Martin Ström, January 2010

Update 2010-02-03: Show & Tell Brussels

In collaboration with PLMD we started Show & Tell in anther favorite city of ours—Brussels. Check it out at www.showandtell.be. Read more on S&T Brussels in PLMD’s blog.


CSS is in progress