2 months old!

Our launch on Sunday July 22nd makes this Saturday our 2 month birthday!

(Don’t worry, I’ll calm down after a bit about birthdays. Mostly I’m writing this to justify the 2 slices of cake I got at lunch today. Om nom nom.)

 

Our website has picked up 1,000 visits, 650 unique visits and 4,700 pageviews  – and not a single one in IE6! Our geeky audience means our browser stats still follow a pattern most websites probably wouldn’t recognise – 50% Chrome, 22% Firefox, 10% Safari, 6% Android and 5% Internet Explorer.

Our ATOM and ICAL feeds are being picked up by multiple readers and I think a screen in Amazon’s Edinburgh office shows the upcoming events as handy info for the workers.

A wide variety of groups have added events from SQL Server to WordPress with OWASP securityOpen Street Map and everything in between.

New features include weekly recurring events, and monthly recurring events and an iCal importer are both in the final stages of development. A monthly HTML email has been put together and you can see a preview of that here.

We recently moved to a server of our very own on Bytemark’s Bigv cloud, which should give us plenty of possibilities for growth.

Thanks for all the interest and support we have received so far; it’s great to get such a positive reaction. I’ll have much more time to devote to this project in October, so expect more features and news soon.

“Lies, damn lies and statistics” – measuring our users on iCal feeds

How do we measure our users and thus persuade people it’s worth adding events?

Of course we have Google Analytics installed and we know we have had over 3,000 pageviews from over 400 unique visitors, but because we have so many feeds that is an incomplete picture.

Our Apache log shows 20,000 hits. But if several users add a feed to the same web based reader, then the reader only hits our server once.

500 hits are on our Atom feed. When Google Reader fetches our Atom feed, the user agent string shows you the number of subscribers which is very neat.

But 800 hits are on our iCal feed. Google don’t include the subscriber count in it’s user agent string like it does for Atom feeds.

When we moved from MediaWiki to our own software, the URL for the feed changed. Both URL’s still work and both are being hit by Google, so we can tell we have some users there. Also, there are filtered iCal feeds available (per group and per location) and we can see some of them are being hit.

It was suggested we give each of our users their own feed URL by adding a random number to the URL. Then we’d get hit once for each user but such a scheme would mean extra traffic for us and the readers software. Also, every time a Google bot saw our webpage it would think we had a different feed that it had to index!

But there’s a problem with all of these; they don’t count active users. A user could add a feed to a reader then never look at it again, and the reader will carry on fetching the feed.

What to do? We could make all the URL’s in our feeds go through some redirection service and count clicks. But that won’t count people who just look at the data without clicking and it could be annoying to users if none of the URL’s in the feed state where they actually go.

So how can we count users on our feeds? For now we can just ignore this problem and carry on adding features and building the site, but at some point we need to demonstrate that it’s worth taking the time to add events on our site and the most effective way of doing that is with good statistics. Any ideas?

Open – a word with many meanings.

One of the questions I’ve been asked is what the word Open means in our title. There is an immediate association with Open Source software and while Open Source software is great there are many other ways something can be open. I’d like to talk about one of the more important ones – our data.

The original meaning intended was that it was open in that it listed all events. The original Tech Meetup calendar that inspired this one was the only meetup calendar I knew that listed other events alongside their own. Tech Meetup always had the ethos that it was bringing the tech community together, and so we never had any qualms about that. (We still have a dedicated space at the start of our events were announcements can be made.)

So that’s the first point to make: Open Tech Calendar is Open in that it lists events from any tech group.

The second point is where we get this data from. We embrace wiki principals in that any user can edit any event. We want to build a community of contributors.

As an event organiser myself, I know how many little tasks you have to do and how easy it is to miss some. I spoke to one event organiser who hadn’t added half of their own events to their own website and was skeptical about this project – what can you say? Actually, what we say is that it could be any attendee or fan of that Meetup who adds events, thus freeing event organisers.

That freedom leads nicely onto the third point; freedom for the event organisers from websites that try to take over their event. Websites like Meetup make you host your entire event on their site; email lists, members lists, events and who’s attending. While that’s great for some event organisers, its not for most.

So the third point is that we are open in that we are a directory of information. We do not attempt to claim ownership of an event. We are very happy to list an event but let you add links to the events real home, where ever that may be.

And finally, all that lovely data is useless if users can’t get to it in the form that they want. We have iCal feeds coming out of our ears for easy export.

Will all this work? We don’t know, and it will be very interesting to see. In the end of the day, we need complete and accurate data in a useable from for our users and maybe we’ll have to change as we grow. But I hope you’ll join us on our journey as we find out.

(Picture from here.)

Version 2 released less than a month after launch!

Today we are proud to announce the launch of a custom built web app!

We started with a wiki and while that got us of to a great start it was clear some things we wanted to do down the road would either be impossible or very fiddly for the users. So we decided to bite the bullet now and go for a rewrite in Symfony 2.

However we still embrace wiki principals of openness with any user being able to edit any event. Like a wiki, all edits and deletes are versioned and can easily be rolled back.

This rewrite already brings some new features; you can now export an iCal feed of just one event or of the events from just one group.

However it is still very rough, with the design and many user interfaces needing work. We will be working on those alongside new features – locations being the first big feature we will add.

For now, any feedback is welcome. We are looking forwards to OggCamp this weekend – talk to you there?

(Picture from here)

No automatically reoccurring events please

One of the design decisions we took from the start is not to allow events to automatically reoccur for ever. Here’s why.

We want to make sure that the data we publish is correct and up to date. This is essential; if users find significant amounts of bad data they won’t trust us anymore, especially if they had to find out painfully by turning up to an event that doesn’t exist anymore and sitting in a bar by themselves.

If an event can reoccur for ever, the event could move or die out and it would still appear on the calendar. So that’s the simple reason why. No Zombie events!

So at the moment you have to add each event individually, which honestly isn’t as bad as it sounds. Someone organising a monthly event can add a whole year in several minutes, and you can added specific details to each individual event like who the speakers are.

We will look at adding reoccurring events later, but with a “catch”, so you have to come back and confirm your event’s still going every couple of months (EDIT: This is now done!).  (This was a true Lean project, in that we stated with a Minimum Viable Product we hacked up in a weekend and most features are coming soon!)

Please get in touch or comment with any feedback.

ps. Searching for Zombie photos on Flickr for this was far more fun than it should have been. Some great costumes. Actual one used is this one.

One Week Old!

It’s one week after our launch and we wanted to thank everyone for the positive feedback!

Already a whole host of local groups have their events listed from Glasgow to Edinburgh via Dundee and Shotts: TechMeetup Edinburgh, Edinburgh Coffee Morning, Edinburgh Hacklab, Turing Festival, Open Street Map Edinburgh, Edinburgh Branch BCS, EdLambda, Edinburgh Perl Mongers, SUPA, TechMeetup Glasgow, PopupHack Glasgow and Refresh Glasgow. (Are you involved in an event you’d like to see here? It’s easy to add it.)

We have received lots of feedback and feature requests from our early contributors, one of which has already been coded and released.

With 1800 pageviews, 367 visits and 270 unique visitors lots of people have been curious about the project and as you might expect, they are quite a geeky audience:

50% Chrome! 50%! A mere 4% IE! And not a single IE 6 visitor!

So what’s next?

Edinburgh is about to go festival crazy and things just generally go a bit odd at this time of year. We’ll quietly be here, working with event organisers to add more events and working to pass the word among the tech communities. I’ll be at OggCamp and TuringFestival, which will be a great opportunity to spread the word. Then as all the tech events pick up in September, we’ll see you there and we’ll see what happens next!