Application Note #1:
Integrating Google Calendar into an Existing Website
Although many towns already have a web-viewable calendar of public meetings, some may not and others may wish to improve their web-based calendar. If you are interested in adding or updating a calendar to your website, we recommend the freely available Google Calendar which has an excellent user interface to control a calendar which has the most update features that we have seen in an online calendar system — including the ability to embed the calendar in your website. In addition, the Google Calendar (as do many other calendar system) allows you to add information about public meetings, including the inclusion of Agendas, to the Description field of the calendar.
This application note describes how to perform that integration.
- First, here is an example of a website that already has a calendar page.
-> go to: Existing Town-website calendar
The issue with this implementation is not that it isn’t effective for viewers of the website to understand the schedule for Public Meetings. Rather problem is that there is no calendar system interface behind this page — it must be edited by hand. This is fine as long as long as things are simple, but without a calendar system behind the calendar, things like setting up repeating meetings once are not possible. And, there is a large potential for problems with slight departures from the norm with a system like ours that tries to make sense out of a calendars. While a human is able to edit the structure as well as the contents of the entry and can make slight changes that result in equivalent rendering or at least understandable alternates, a computer program may have a difficult time understanding a format that it has never seen before. However, when there is a calendar system that produces an embeddable representation is used, the chance for variability is eliminated.
Fortunately for Minuteman Digital most Towns have websites that are using some sort of embeddable component from a online calendar system as the basis for their Public Meeting Calendar.
- For Towns that want to make the switch, Google offers an excellent free online calendar system that has an excellent user interface and all of the features of the most modern web-based systems, including an strategy for embedding the contents of the calendar on a website.
Below we see the end results of using Google Calendars with the website above:
-> go to: Modified page with embedded Google Calendar
Here are the steps needed to perform this integration of your website with Google Calendar
- Go to http://calendar.google.com and create an account on Google for your town, if your don’t already have one. Name it something like MyTownMA, as in WalpoleMA. This account will be used by the people in your Town who are responsible for managing the listings of public meetings. Be careful if you have your own Google account that you log out of Google and create an account specifically for your Town.
- Google supports the concept of multiple calendars per account. It displays your default calendar, plus and additional calendars you create in a composite view. In addition to the default calendar created for your account MyTownMA, you should create a separate calendar just for listing Public Meetings names something like “MyTown MA Public Meetings”.
- To enter Public Meeting listings, just click on the date of the meeting and click on the link labeled “Edit event details”. You will see the following dialog:
- The Open Meeting Law requires that you post the Title, Date, Time, Location and Agenda for the meeting. Put the Title in the field prompting you to enter the Title. Adjust the date and time for the start and end of the meeting. Put the location in the Where field.
- The final issue is where to put the Agenda. Minuteman Digital has created a web-based tool for entering agenda information which you can use for this purpose. If your go to the Operations page on our website and click on the Agenda link under the red Create column for your town (or one of the demonstration Towns at the bottom of the page if your down does not already have an entry), you will see a page with the following dialog:
You can enter your Agenda either by typing in the text and using the formatting buttons on the dialog or using CONTROL-V to paste content that has been placed on your clipboard by another source (such as an email message or Microsoft Word). When you clock on the Submit button you will see:
- Take the fragment of HTML code found in the text box (you may be able to click on the button that says “Copy to clipboard” depending on which browser you are using), and copy it to your clipbooard. Then go to the Google Calendar record for your meeting and append this HTML code fragment at the end of the field where you entered the title for the meeting. When your meetings are listed on your website, it will look like:
Clicking on the Agenda link will show the agenda to website viewers. In addition, it will be picked up by Minuteman Digital’s Municipal Meetings: Schedules and Agendas system when examining your Town’s online calendar of public meetings.