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TAMU Webmaster's Blog

Information and insight from the A&M Webmasters


Major Love From Our Calendar Partners

LiveWhale has updated their product web page, and are giving us some prominent recognition.  See the Our Favorites in the right column of the Our Customers page, the Calendar Inspiration section of the User Guide, and the main body of the Demo page.

Big shout out to LiveWhale for their product, their team, and the recognition.

This recognition is also a reflection of all of you who worked with us on the selection process, through implementation, and who maintain events within the system.  Thank you all, and I hope we can continue to make the system even more useful for our audiences.

Monday, February 27th, 2017 Calendar No Comments

Combining Calendars and Maps

While LiveWhale does have a native handling of both events and locations, it does not create an out-of-the-box function to display “events in this location.”  With a little outside programming and use of either the REST interface or a couple of widgets we can create exactly that.  I don’t think it will be necessary to create such a page for all of the 1,000+ locations on campus, but I am sure there there are several – especially those buildings which are used by many organizations – for which this could be quite beneficial.  This might even be something which gets fed through FourWinds onto display screens in those locations.  We are looking into an implementation, hopefully we will have something to share soon.

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016 Calendar No Comments

Calendar Features – RSVP Lists

One feature that is entirely new to the LiveWhale calendar system that we have never had before was the ability to create RSVP lists directly within a calendar event.  While we have never had the need for such an event within Marketing and Communications, other colleges were quite interested in the feature when we were evaluating calenadaring products.

The RSVP list is quite easy to set up.  When you create an event, one of the options on the web page will be to add an RSVP form to the event.  If you do select that option, it will then let you choose how many people to allow on the list, give you the option of having a waiting list once that fills up, allowing you to add information for a custom message to registrants, and many other options.  You can also choose to get an email notification whenever someone registers.

To view and manage your list of responses is just a matter of going to the “Event RSVPs” within your dashboard.  This page will give you the full breakdown of responses as well as an option of adding your own notes to any of them.  When you are ready for the event, there are built in options to email all registrants, print the list, or export it to CSV (which would normally be put into Excel.)

I have already had questions about whether this is compatible with other campus systems.  As of right now there is no interactivity, but this is something that we can explore as a second phase addition.

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016 Calendar No Comments

Calendar Features – Images and Maps

The first time I had seen the LiveWhale calendar system that powers our new university calendar was last October at the HighEdWeb conference.  In particular, Jason Pontius gave a presentation which really resonated with me.  He advocated for a calendar system being more than just someplace to post times and dates.  Instead it should be something that we use to tell about all of the wonderful things that happen on our campuses.  To market our events, and thereby market our university.  The calendar system that they built did that better than any of the ones we evaluated.

One of the things you will notice on the new calendar is that there is an increased use of imagery.  This is true on both the calendar view itself as well on on the specific event information pages.  As we visited with the people across campus who would be entering events, increasing their use of visuals was always the first thing we stressed.  The images pull in a visitor’s eyes, making them more interested in digging deeper and reading about the event.  Photos can also give a much deeper concept of what the event is about than any text description or contact information will ever do.

Keeping on the theme of visuals, another great addition is the use of Google maps to show locations.  Given the size of our campus, having these maps embedded on each event page can be vital to showing people exactly where the event is being held.  Almost all of the official locations on campus have been pre-loaded into the system for event planners to select from.  Because the system is based on Google Maps, off-campus events can easily be added to the map by simply pasting in the address and letting Google create a new pin.

We have already started receiving feedback on the new calendar, and both the public and the local event managers have recognized the focus that it puts on making the experience more useful and enjoyable for the user.

Monday, August 15th, 2016 Calendar No Comments

University Calendar Presentation

I have posted the slide deck for those of you who missed Friday’s presentation on the campus calendar. This presentation covered the process by which we chose LiveWhale as our campus calendar, how we expect the system will be used, and an overview of some of its features.

Friday, August 12th, 2016 Calendar No Comments

Calendar Features – Importing and Exporting Events

One of the biggest complaints that we had about the previous calendar system was that it did not import from other calendar systems.  That was a big disadvantage because many departments on campus used (whether through choice or mandate) another system for their departmental events, and no one wants to have to enter the same event into multiple systems.  So when we first started evaluating calendar products, the ability to import through feeds was one of the most important things on our list.

LiveWhale is able to do this very nicely.  By going into your “Linked Calendars” option you can point your calendar at an external iCAL feed and pull it into LiveWhale.  You further have your choice of linking the event to an entry within LiveWhale or to the original URL in the external system.  We have also had a few extra customizations added.  You can now set your linked calendars to automatically recommend events to the university calendar, and you can add custom images to your imported events.

LiveWhale also has several ways in which you can export events.  If you want to process and format the content yourselves, there is a complete REST interface that allows you to pull information out of the system through RSS, iCAL, or JSON formats.  Through structuring your URL call, you can pull your entire calendar or just specific pieces.

As well as feeds, LiveWhale has the concept of built-in widgets.  These allow you to create and store quite detailed queries and formatting which can be placed on your web page by the simple addition of a javascript call inside of a <div>.   Widgets can be quite complex.  The public facing side of the university calendar is, in fact, made up of widgets rather than native code creating the page look. This in effect allows you to use the calendar system as a back end and format the public-facing view however meets your needs.

Friday, August 12th, 2016 Calendar No Comments

A New Campus Calendar

After almost a year of knowing we need to implement a new calendar, evaluating vendors, and customizing our final selection, we are happy to announce that our new web calendar is now online.

Powered by LiveWhale Calendar, this new system represents a significant step forward.  The new software is much easier to use and administer than our previous system, and offers many new features that make the calendar more valuable to both departments on campus and our website viewers.

Even more important than the new features is a new philosophy for what the calendar is all about.  Rather than being just a list of everybody’s events, we want to use the calendar as a platform to market the university by showing off all the wonderful things that take place on campus.  We want no not just give a time and date for every meeting on campus, but also to showcase things like the world leaders that the Bush School brings to campus, the prestigious authors that the libraries host, Fortune 500 CEOs that speak at the Mays school, and so forth.  Showing the types of events that occur here reinforces with our audience the concept of Texas A&M as a destination school.

To that end, we want to produce a calendar that not only gave event details, but does so in a highly visual manner that makes viewers interested in reading the event – and therefore more likely to attend.  The LiveWhale calendar system is beautifully set up to do this.  During several vendor conversations it became evident that they were in sync with what we want to do and that they have built a platform with exactly that in mind.

We will post a series of articles going over the new features of the calendar, how we hope to use it, and how you can contribute to the process.


Thursday, August 11th, 2016 Calendar No Comments

Web Calendar Project Update

I mentioned earlier that replacing the web calendar was going to be one of our projects for the spring semester.  I was taken back by the amount of campus interest in participating.  We had over thirty people – ranging from IT folks to marketers/communicators to administrators – volunteer to take part.

This group looked at several vendor products and evaluated how well each would meet our local needs.  The goal was to make sure that the solution works for both us here in Marcomm as well as for all of the departments and offices who need their own calendaring solution.

The team has now selected a preferred solution – LiveWhale Calendar.  The next step (after purchasing and contracting anyway!) is to put together an implementation team to identify the important content elements.  In the same spirit of selecting a product that meets our needs, I also want to make sure that this collaboration carries through the rollout as well.  If you or your office were not part of the evaluation team but would like to join at this state please send me a note to let me know.  I hope this team can also serve as an overall guidance team to promote some best practices for creating and marketing our events.





Thursday, February 25th, 2016 Calendar No Comments

How to Get Your Event on the Home Page

A headline on the Texas A&M home page is usually seen by more than 25,000 people a day. So how can your department get a piece of that valuable traffic? Here are some of the criteria we use when choosing which campus events will be featured on the home page.

  1. You can’t win if you don’t play. We don’t write our own material. Every event on the home page comes from
  2. Appeal to outsiders. The main purpose of our home page is to reach out to prospective students and their parents. If a 30-year-old two-percenter has trouble caring about the event’s headline, a Delaware senior deciding between Cornell and A&M will have even more trouble.
  3. Headlines should stand alone. They should make sense by themselves. As a whole, the headlines on the home page should communicate a strong, positive message about Texas A&M – even if a visitor doesn’t click on any of them.
  4. Create a wow. Every headline should cause readers to say, “I didn’t know anybody did that. At least, I never heard of that before. And to think that it’s all happening at Texas A&M University. They sure do amazing things there.” Even if they don’t understand how the technology works, they still may be impressed by what it does!
  5. Make them want to click on the headline. Don’t expect visitors to click on “Monthly Departmental Seminar” before they can find out that it features a famous researcher with a tantalizing topic. They won’t bother to click at all on such a vague headline, and they may never know why they should have. If you have a famous researcher with a tantalizing topic, put that information in the headline.
  6. Make your headlines unique. Of course, if you’re presenting a series of identical workshops or performances, the headlines on the calendar will repeat. Otherwise, put the recurring seminar series name in the Subtitle or Description field, and leave the Title field for the latest, current installment. For example, you can use the lecture title as the event title, or condense it down. If you don’t know the lecture title, use the speaker’s name.
  7. Use title case. That means capitalizing each word, except for articles, prepositions, conjunctions, and forms of “to be.” It keeps your headline from standing out like a sore thumb.

But the headline, though it should stand alone, is not the whole story.

  1. Use proper grammar and punctuation. No matter how interesting the event, substandard English does not represent the University well, and will not appear on the home page (unless we’re slipping at our job.)
  2. Inform, don’t promote. Events on the home page answer the basic questions of who, what, when, where, and why, and your article or listing needs to match that style. In truth, shameless promotion turns off any readers that you’re not targeting. That is, parents might want to read about a junior service project, but if the article begins with “Hey Juniors!” they may assume they’re not supposed to. And whenever you say, “Don’t miss it!!” you’re saying that you can’t think of enough good reasons not to.

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Thursday, June 19th, 2014 Calendar No Comments

Calendar XML Feed Issue

Someone pointed out this morning that the XML feed for the online calendar is showing start and end times incorrectly. The time listed is correct local time, but the entire event is marked as GMT (for example, 09:00:00Z for an event that does actually take place at 9:00 local time.)

I’m not sure how many of you, if any, are processing the XML file to put events on your own web page. If you are, did you have to produce a patch to make it work right? We would like to correct the format of the feed, but want to make sure that in doing so we won’t break any of your sites.

If anybody is using the feed and would be impacted by our reverting it back to proper local time, please let us know so that we can coordinate the upgrade with you.

Thursday, April 19th, 2012 Calendar No Comments