For those of you not on the TAMU Procomm mailing list, I will be giving a presentation next week on the campus calendar. It will be decidedly non-technical in nature, but will give a basic overview of what we’re doing and why. Michael and I will be available for any questions or help that you might have, or just come and let us put a face to a name.
Wed, June 8
3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
I’m hoping that we’ve now gotten all of the bugs worked out of the calendar. Based on feedback almost everyone agrees that this was a significant upgrade from the previous version.
One cool feature of the new version is the bit.ly short url that we have incorporated into the event description page. One thing that many of you might now know is that the bit.ly shortening service also will automatically produce QR codes based on their url. Simply add “.qrcode” to the end of the url and it will link you to a PNG that you can download (for example, http://bit.ly/fU4TX8.qrcode.)
So now if you want to print flyers or create other advertisements for your event it is a simple matter to retrieve a QR code image to put into your artwork that will allow viewers to go directly to your event information page.
For other useful tips follow us on the calendar-announce listserv list. If you aren’t already subscribed, you can do so at https://listserv.tamu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=CALENDAR-ANNOUNCE
The last few posts have probably taken most of the thunder out of this announcement, but I’m pleased to say that the new version of the university web calendar is now live at http://calendar.tamu.edu.
We see the new version as a step in the right direction in a number of ways. Visually it is not only more in line with the university site, but it simply looks nicer all around. Beyond its visual appeal, we think the new design makes it easier to find information on any given event. The spotlight section and “Top Calendars” navigation allows us to highlight feature calendars and events much more effectively than before. Our default view also is able to feature the high-profile events without them being hidden by the long list of everything else going on that day. Probably the most requested change is the new weekly and monthly calendar views that display all days of an ongoing event rather than just the first day.
Now that the calendar itself is finished we will be working on getting the documentation updated for you. We also plan to have a series of video tutorials for how to publish events and manage your calendars. In the meantime, if you aren’t already on the ListServ list, please go to the ListServ site and sign up for the
calendar-announce list. That’s where we will be posting news, tips, and other announcements regarding the calendar system.
I sent out a note earlier today to the calendar-announce email list regarding calendar widgets in the upcoming version of the calendar. I’m repeating that here for those of you not on that list. (If you aren’t on the list and have a departmental/organizational calendar on calendar.tamu.edu I highly encourage you to go to the listserv site and sign up to insure that you receive timely announcements about service updates, outages, etc.)
We are about a week away from launching the new version of the calendar. I am trying to make sure that those of you who pull event information through the calendar widgets have as seamless of a transition as possible. However – the widgets do pull directly from the code that creates the website, and some of that has changed.
I have created a sample page that drops in the default templates. I have noticed that it is possible for local site styles to conflict with and overwrite the styles for the calendar. If that is the case for you, please get in touch with us and we can help you set up a custom CSS file to fix your issues.
Since many of you have heard about the calendar upgrade project and have already asked what we’re doing, I’d like to mention a few specific improvements that you’ll see in the new version. Most of them are fixes from elements in the current generation of calendar code that do not work well or at all. Note that several of these input fields are in the collapsible “Additional Details” box, don’t forget about it.
Michael has recommended to several of you not to use subtitles because of the way the page is formatted. This will no longer be a problem, and we actively encourage the use of subtitles to add information to the event.
We encourage you to submit images with your calendar events. A combination of interesting event and good artwork will increase the likelihood of your event being chosen to go into the slideshow at the top of the page. We’ll update you with specific image dimensions as we get further along.
Please give us a link to your event’s web page. Using this box will make the link clickable and sets it off from simply printing it in the event description
The sponsoring office will now show up on an event description. If we don’t have you already in the list let us know and we’ll be happy to add you.
We are going to start truncating the descriptions in the event listings pages in order to make the entire page more uniform and readable. We highly encourage you to enter detailed descriptions, though, that can be seen on the full event details page. One of the things I have noticed during this rewrite is the number of events with interesting titles but descriptions that don’t really tell me what it’s about or make me want to attend.
* Ongoing Events
This is a big one that should please a lot of people. Currently only the first day of an event is shown on the weekly and monthly calendar views. Now we will be able to show each day of multi-day events. This should save a lot of work for those of you who had been making a separate event for each day to make sure it showed up.
* Short URLs
Using the bit.ly API we can assign a short URL to each page on the calendar. This automatically gets wrapped into the new Twitter “share this” icon.
* Organization of Event Types & Sub-calendars
We have created one master list combining event types and sub-calendars, and moved from pull-down menus to printed links. This should help the problem of finding specific topical events. Please review this page, and if you think your calendar has been mis-categorized please let us know.
Also send along any other suggestions you might have, it’s never too late to make a better product.
Making these updates has given me a much better view than I’ve had in the past regarding how the calendar is being used, some common mis-perceptions, and some areas where we haven’t done a great job in communicating how to best use it. As we get into the process Michael and I will be posting a series of hints and best practices to help everybody get the most out of the system with the least effort.
Today we have a few minor announcements that I’ll put together into one post.
First, we published a new website this week. Our department’s Office of Business development is now online at http://trademarks.tamu.edu. This site will feature our collegiate licensing initiatives, trademark issues, and copyright requests. Of note to this audience, this is an example site for one of the site templates that we made available a few weeks ago.
At the request of one of the colleges, we have extended the web calendar by adding a new event category – Outreach Events. This category will be for our recruiting, incoming and future students/parents, and similar programs targeting the off-campus audience. Once we get enough events online we’ll be adding the link on the Future Students and other relevant pages.
Finally, we have a new feature for the mobile web site. The Division of Finance has updated their Aggie Answers application to be accessible for mobile devices. This will bring quick and easy access to Aggies on the go needing financial information.
Last week the Texas A&M University calendar passed a major milestone: two thousand events posted since it was launched.
Now that anyone with a NetID can submit events (and nearly 600 people have), we’re able to give the world a better idea of what’s happening at Texas A&M, in all its variations and colors. Instead of just wondering what a certain mysterious department really does, visitors can now view performances, lectures and seminars, campus-wide, in one place. I’m waiting to hear stories of large donations or interdisciplinary discoveries that began simply by reading the university calendar. I can imagine:
“I had never even heard of the technique before, but while lacing up my running shoes one morning when I was a freshman, a seminar on the calendar happened to catch my eye. And that led to completely changing my major, publishing my book four years later, the dedication of this new institute which I was privileged to fund, and… well, you know the rest.”
– Class of 2017
Well anyway, here are some current facts about the university calendar:
- The university calendar system now includes more than 150 departmental calendars, from every college, about 60 of them with active contributions.
- According to Google Analytics, the calendar was visited 214,002 times in the past month. People viewed 3,525 calendar pages.
- Some of our most popular events so far this semester have been Freshman Convocation, Gig ‘Em Week, and MSC Open House. And of course, everybody wanted to know, “When is the first day of class?” (More than 21,000 people searched for academic calendar information).
- Events featured on the A&M home page are viewed by 1.4 million people every month – that’s some exposure! But if you want your part of it, you have to submit your events – we don’t create the listings ourselves.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have more work to do. We still have important “information gaps,” where visitors are searching for events that haven’t been submitted but which they expected to find. As I said, each department is responsible for submitting its own events. If you hear of missing events, tell the sponsoring group to contact us, so we can explain how to add them. We’re still spreading the word about the calendar to more departments and more people.
- It’s easy to add and edit events.
- Any university department, division or institute can get their own calendar.
- You can customize and display your calendar events on your web pages.
While I was at it I made a few cosmetic changes to the mobile style sheets, slightly tweaking the page so that it would be easier to read on a mobile device.
We encourage anyone who is still not using the calendar to give us a call and let us set you up an account. We we have mentioned before, we will be updating the main university website over the summer, and campus events will continue to play a central part of the design. We will be including events on the front page exclusively through feeds from the calendar, so we encourage you to submit your events so that we can give them the exposure they deserve.
We are scheduling a brief outage of the university calendar for Sunday (May 30) afternoon in order to perform updates to the base application code. If the process goes smoothly the downtime will be minimal, but is unfortunately unavoidable.
Event information will remain available during this time on the mobile calendar view. I plan to set up a redirect from the main calendar to this site so that visitors will still be able to view events rather than getting a blank or broken page.
Once this maintenance is completed we will select and announce another weekend to update the mobile calendar as well.
After about a week playing with the style sheets and previewing it on every phone I could get my hands on, I think we are finally ready for a version-1 release of the mobile view of the Campus Calendar.
Kudos go out to the UNL developers who saw a need for this and made it so easy to integrate into our setup. Both this version and the standard version point to the same database, so you’ll be getting the same content, just in an easier to use small screen view.
As an aside, styling for the mobile device is very different than developing for the desktop. There is next to no browser continuity, and even different browsers on the same device will show things differently. We are going to use this as the start of a larger foray into the mobile world, so it will show to some degree what to expect. We will be taking the 320×240 screen size as our default to make sure we are compatible with older Blackberry devices, but will at the same time try to make it look good on iPhones, Storms, and other high-end devices. We are just getting our feet wet in this arena, so if you see something we could improve on feel free to give us a yell.