A single window onto all that happens at Berkeley
New online calendar network keeps everyone current while fostering information-sharing among units
| 17 January 2007
A dizzying number of events take place on the Berkeley campus every week. To keep abreast of the constellation of seminars, lectures, films, and performing-arts and sporting events, currently you have to check out more than 50 online calendars (in addition to the Berkeleyan's weekly two-page print calendar), none of which share information.
Staying on top of campus events is about to get a whole lot easier. Last month, Public Affairs launched the first phase of the UC Berkeley Calendar Network, debuting a new campuswide online calendar at events.berkeley.edu.
In its next phase, beginning later this semester, the first campus units will join the calendar network. With ease, they will be able to add events from other departments to their calendars and make available their events for publication in listings elsewhere on campus. With a single entry on the new calendar website, administrators will be able to publish their events on their own unit's calendar and indicate whether the event should be made available to the campuswide calendar and other campus listings. A simple online tool allows administrators in the network to quickly sort through the wealth of upcoming events and select and publish those of interest to their department.
The calendar network was conceived and "built specifically for a university culture where departments control the look, feel, and content of their websites, but where they also have the need to share information," says Jeffery Kahn, manager of Public Affairs' Web team, who led the project.
The new campuswide calendar allows users to look at events through different filters by clicking on categorical tabs such as Academic, Performing Arts, Sports, Lectures, Films, or Critics Choice. Selecting events for a given time period - a day, week, or month - is also an option, as is viewing a variety of RSS feeds.
Calendar administrators, many of whom have been involved in the development process, will find other new features once they join the network. For instance, upon publishing an event, they can notify an e-mail list about that event. They also can recommend events sponsored by their departments to other units.
The calendar was designed so that calendar administrators need only know how to use a Web browser, explains Sara Leavitt, coordinator of the new network for Public Affairs. "It doesn't require a programmer or Web specialist," she emphasizes.
Working together the Berkeley way
More than two years in development, the new calendar network is a case study in collaboration and cooperation involving multiple units and a variety of stakeholders.
Kahn knew the task would be daunting. "You can view this as an obstacle course where you have to get buy-in from everyone. Or you can treat it as a challenge, to see how many of the worthwhile ideas out there can be realized. Certainly, Berkeley is a highly decentralized campus where every college and unit cherishes its independence."
Kahn's observation is readily apparent as one surveys Berkeley's myriad departmental websites: A quick tour of just a handful reveals that while most campus sites incorporate shades of blue and gold into their color scheme, similarities typically end there, with design, navigation, features, and functionality all varying widely.
Early on, many departments indicated that the look and feel of the new calendar must sync with their existing websites. ("Branding for individual departments is very important," observes Leavitt.) Consequently, the calendar network allows departments to customize the design of their calendars using a built-in formatting tool. Over time, the network will grow to include many calendars, each with its own look, feel, and content.
At the onset of the project, Robert Glushko, an adjunct professor at the School of Information, played an important role, saying he thought a calendar network could indeed be created at Berkeley. Allison Bloodworth, an I-School graduate student, took up Glushko's challenge. Applying the information-systems theories she had learned in the classroom, Bloodworth teamed with three other students in a graduate project focusing on a Berkeley event calendar.
Embracing the user-centered design process taught at the graduate school, the students queried more than 20 departments to find what sets of information appeared most consistently among their calendars, using the feedback to help create a Berkeley event model.
"Allison and the three other I-School grad students did the initial work that made the project possible," says Kahn. Bloodworth's contributions proved so valuable that Jon Conhaim, then-head of eBerkeley and a project partner, hired her after graduation to continue doing development in collaboration with Public Affairs.
In July 2005, Public Affairs contracted with Clear Ink, a Berkeley firm, to work with the campus on the project. In December, the teamwork bore fruit with the launch of the first phase of the calendar project.
"The calendar network is an attempt to take down the walls between departments, to foster interdisciplinary interaction, and to open Sather Gate to the wider community," says Kahn. Already, he says, he's heard from four other UC campuses interested in adopting the Berkeley calendar model. Another notable response arrived via e-mail from a young woman in Brazil who wrote to say that a survey of the calendar's many events has fueled her dreams of coming to Berkeley.
The calendar's tagline - "It's all happening at Berkeley" - spotlights the multiplicity of events taking place each day on campus. "The underlying reason why this network was built," says Kahn, "is to make that manifestly evident."