Finding local events

Often I look on the Web to see if there is a film, concert or other interesting event next weekend and not too far from here. But they aren't easy to find.

The “hcalendar” microformat

The films are still OK. Some sites offer the programmes of all cinemas in France and allow to search without too much difficulty by theatre, by film or by distance from some town.

But the other events are distributed over several sites, none complete, all with different interfaces (often unusable because of cookies or JavaScript). And, of course, a site that offers the films and the other events in a single calendar doesn't exist.

In principle it isn't a problem that the information is distributed. When I read the news, I have a small program that I configured to find all the information on a handful of sites; all sites that are likely to have interesting articles. The program is an RSS browser and it works because all those sites provide their information in a standard format (RSS or Atom).

There is no equivalent of RSS or Atom for announcing cultural events. RSS and Atom aren't made for that either. But there is a solution, a solution that is even better for announcing cultural events than RSS is for news. That solution is a “microformat” called “hcalendar.”

Because it is a microformat, the information is directly included in the HTML pages. No need to create a page in HTML and another in RSS. There is only one page, which is readable both in a normal browser as HTML, but also in an hcalendar browser, thanks to the little extras in the HTML code.

The problem is to convince the authors of HTML pages to include the hcalendar codes. Few people know that these codes exist.

And I also want, of course, a good hcalendar browser. There are Firefox extensions, a NetNewsWire extension, and programs to add events from an HTML page to a calendar program. But I prefer a simple browser, that only displays the events that it finds in all the pages that I subscribed it to. And that can sort them by date, type and town.

Bert Bos
Created 25 January 2007