Introducing bCal

And for once: geeky news of interest to the non-geeky crowd…

For the past few days, I have been spending every available minute on a brand new pet project. I was finally able to release a first prototype yesterday (well, this morning really, but that was before going to sleep, round 5am).

bCal is, to be short, an “event aggregator”: it collects event announcements scattered across blog entries into a calendar where they can be subscribed to (from a desktop application, like Apple iCal) or viewed online (through a PHPiCalendar interface) by anybody.

A few features of bCal:

  • Works with any blog platform (WP, MT etc) as long as it supports TrackBack pings. In fact, any page could be used, along with an external third-party TrackBack tool.
  • Uses the hCal microformat. Events simply need to be entered into the body of the entry as an an hCal record. Until plugins appear to do that automatically, the hCal code can be copy-pasted from hCalendar Creator.
  • Calendar data can be used in a multitude of formats. At the moment, the two options are online or through an iCal export (can be downloaded or subscribed to, from most Calendar applications). RSS (through PHPiCalendar) is also available. More formats will no doubt come.
  • Anybody can create a new calendar and administer it using bCal management tools. Each calendar can be configured to control who can ping it (anybody, registered users only, approved users only, with or without moderation etc.) and will soon also offer similar options for viewing.
  • The project is open-source. It’s been so far written by David House and myself. Once stable enough, I will put all the code up for download (with the exception of the generic CMS backend currently used, which isn’t open-source, but should be replaced at some point). All participants are most welcome: there’s work for everybody and every skillset!

In a nutshell, to start using bCal

  • Pick a calendar that caters to your location/hobbies (e.g. Tokyo Bloggers if you live in Tokyo) or create one to fit your needs. You can play with the Test Calendar to get started.
  • Depending on the calendar you picked, you may need to have an account, or even, be reviewed by the calendar’s admin. The Test Calendar only requires you to register your blog URL (no approval necessary): this takes all of 20 seconds and is only necessary once.
  • Create an entry in your blog and insert some hCal data in the entry body (see at the bottom of this entry for an example).
  • Trackback the calendar page. For example:
    http://bcal.unknowngenius.com/calendars/test-calendar/tb/
  • You’re on! You can immediately see your event listed on the online export of the calendar you pinged, or use the iCal export with your own calendaring application.

All details, advanced features and technical details, on the bCal Wiki, feel free to edit and add your contribution.

A sample event

I inserted an hCal event in this post and pinged the Tokyo Bloggers calendar:

You can see it listed here!

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