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Jamie Thomson

This is the blog of Jamie Thomson, a data mangler in London working for Dunnhumby

PDC schedule published as OData, but where's the iCalendar feed?

Chris Sells announced on twitter earlier today that the schedule for the upcoming Professional Developers' Conference (PDC) has been published as an OData feed at:
Whoop-de-doo! Now we can, get this, view the PDC schedule as raw XML rather than on a web page or in Outlook or on our phone, how cool is THAT?  (conveying sarcasm in the written word is never easy but hopefully I've managed it here!)
Seriously, I admire Microsoft's commitment to OData, both in their Creative Commons licensing of it and support of it in a myriad of products but advocating its use for things that it patently should not be used for is verging on irresponsible and using OData to publish schedule information is a classic example.
A standard format for publishing schedule information over the web already exists, its called iCalendar (RFC5545). The beauty of iCalendar is that it is supported today in many tools (e.g. Outlook, Google Calendar, Hotmail Calendar, Apple iCal) so I can subscribe to an iCalendar feed and see that schedule information alongside, and intertwined with, my personal calendar and any other calendars that I happen to subscribe to. Moreover the beauty of subscribing versus importing is that any changes to the schedule will automatically get propogated to me. Can any of that be achieved with an OData feed? No!
On the off-chance that anyone in the PDC team is reading this I implore you, please, publish the schedule in a format that makes it useful. OData is not that format.

As an aside, I am an avid proponent of iCalendar and have a strong belief that adoption of it both in our work and home lives could have significantly positive repercussions for all of us. With that in mind I actively canvas people to publish their data in iCalendar format and also contribute to Jon Udell's Elmcity project which you can read more about at Elmcity Project FAQ. I encourage you to contribute.
Published Tuesday, October 26, 2010 3:51 PM by jamiet
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Jon Udell said:

Hey Jamie,

I ran this by the PDC crew. There are per-event ICS links but, as you note, not an ICS feed for the whole show which would indeed be useful. I'm told that a full ICS feed normally is provided for PDC and MIX shows, it just wasn't this time for some reason.

I wouldn't call OData useless here, just differently useful. It enables these URL-line queries, for example:$filter=FullName+eq+'Scott Hanselman'$count -> 73$count?$filter=FullName+eq+'Scott Hanselman' -> 1$count?$filter=TrackId eq 'Cloud Services' -> 19

October 27, 2010 3:26 PM

jamiet said:

Hi Jon,

Thanks for the reply.

I would question whoever gave you the information about the full ics feed for previous events - I routinely check for such a feed every time a PDC or MIX comes around and can say with near-certainty that they have never provided such a thing.

I did think long and hard about insinuating that the OData feed is useless but in the end I decided it was merited because I honestly feel that that is what it is; I won't be using it. The current options to find PDC scheduling information are to either go and wade through a website or handcraft OData URLs; I'll take the browse option thanks very much.

I accept that the feed could be used to drive 3rd party apps/services hence argubly it *is* useful - but iCalendar/ics would still be much more suitable.

I do worry about Microsoft offering up OData as a panacea because, as I think I've proven herein, that's not what it is. Advocating open standards is to their credit but it shouldn't be to the detriment of existing open standards - especially ones that are so much more suitable.

Thanks again for the reply, I hope others wade into the debate. Maybe you could raise it on your blog?



October 28, 2010 6:16 AM

Jon Udell said:

Here's an iCalendar feed:

I was all set to write this up vis-a-vis OData when I realized it also raises some tricky timezone issues. Need to make sure I understand them before I write this up!

October 28, 2010 11:29 AM

jamiet said:

Ah nice one, thanks Jon. Now if only there were a way to subscribe to that in my new Windows Phone :)

October 28, 2010 11:36 AM

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