Heave ho, scallywags, there’s events listings o’er thar to liberate

(Avast, me hearties, this is the last of the pirate postings. Just be glad they weren’t podcasts πŸ˜‰

So the other ‘mashups’ itch I’ve been wanting to scratch recently revolves around events listings, specifically a list of ed tech conferences that’s been around for a few years. Now before ye raise the topsails and give chase, hear me out – the landlubber who created and maintains this list every year is to be much praised, as I have done so in the past, as are the folks at CIDER for posting it as HTML.

But in this age of participatory media and user generated content, does it make any sense for lists like these to get created and maintained by one person, in a Word document?

Aye, you say, but it was probably the easiest tool at hand for what was a selfless act of giving back to the community. Right you are; but howseabout I shows ya how to take this page, database-enable it and allow others to add to new events to it in about 5 minutes with free, easy-to-use web-based tools. Come aboard all ye who’s coming aboard…

Scrape, Clean and then…

So, much the same as the first exercise, we’ll use Dapper to scrape the HTML page, and Pipes to clean up unwanted stuff. Already we have an RSS feed of ed tech conference events; problem is, it’s a list that may never get updated, so having it as RSS hasn’t helped much, except…

Dabble Away!

…except there’s this neat service called Dabble DB that allows you to create online databases very easily. They have set it up so that to create one from scratch you don’t fill in information about tables and fields, like you would normally with RDBMS software, but instead create a “category” which contains “entries,” and “views,” and through adding attributes while describing an actual “entry” you build the DB in context. Quite nifty.

Even better though – you can point Dabble DB at an RSS feed or webpage with a table in it, and it will create a database based on those. Which is what I did, pointed to the cleaned up feed of ed tech events, from which Dabble DB created this default view along with a Calendar view of the same data.

So what?

Which is all well and good except…how is this any better than what we had? Well, first off, you can easily create some other views of the data. Here’s a map of the distribution of these conferences around the world (note: that feature still a work in progress; it only gives you totals, doesn’t let you drill all the way down. But then it was only recently released.)

Even better, you can embed the views of this database on any webpage by copying and pasting a simple line of code, so here’s a page on edtechpost with the calendar view, links to the chronological view and the geographic distribution views. Big whoop, I know, except look down at the bottom of that first page, you’ll see a form to add new events to the database. That form was also copy and pasted from the Dabble DB site.

So, from static HTML page to database with multiple views, and the ability for other users to add new entries, in less time than it actually took me to type this post. Even better though might have been if the originator of the list had chosen DabbleDB (or one of the other web-based databases or online calendars on this list, itself done in DabbleDB – oy, my head hurts!) to begin with and opened it up to the community to populate and maintain. Right?

So same lessons as the last time – the goal here isn’t to produce a new production version of this, but to show you another example of how these new tools can empower you, and to encourage information providers to ‘do it right the first time.’ And with that, I remain yours truly, Cabin Boy Nessman of the good ship Syndication.