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August 12, 2005

Building our Tax Calendar

12 August 2005 Last week I promised to follow up on my quest to find a practical solution for building an online events calendar. Something like the one on this site, but with a convenient way of building a list of events, regularly feeding it to the web site and giving users a simple way of importing the events into their calendar (hopefully, not just Outlook).

A good way of thinking of the Web today is as "small pieces loosely joined". We'll therefore try and build the calendar without writing any code, using readily available standards, software components and services.

The calendar should be easy to update remotely. Using RSS means that a feed will periodically update the calendar on the site, while also giving users the option of getting updates without going to the host web site. The Mambo CMS which is used on the current website already has a component which accepts RSS feeds, so that issue has already been solved for us.

Despite the fact that commentators feel that calendar interoperability is a train wreck, for the moment, RFC2445 is what we've got and hope that we can make a simple application like this work without re-inventing the wheel. As it happens, there is an event database , EVDB, which already exists, uses existing standards and does almost everything we require.

EVDB site showing tax calendar

While it is tuned for time & place style events, it wasn't hard to enter the events and build a calendar with the tax dates. EVDB already has ICAL and RSS exports, so it looks like we have our solution. Unfortunately, a few practical issues get in the way. We're looking to build a feed which simply lists all due dates for a rolling two month period, rather than individual posts as they are created. EVDB features a developer API to access the database and build whatever we like, but for the purpose of this exercise, we want do this project without programming.

The little ICAL button on EVDB's individual entries, however, implements the import feature just like we would like to use in our calendar. It allows us to download that entry or import it directly into a calendar. Looking at the content of the file, we see it is pretty straight forward:

DESCRIPTION:Payments for August 2005 due.
In principle, we have a solution:

Now that we've built the calendar, next week we'll find a practical solution for building a RSS feed.

Posted by Marius at August 12, 2005 11:39 AM

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