The new year always brings a new calendar, but this time around it's ringing in substantial changes to an existing calendar -- Institute Calendar, an events listing formerly compiled by the News Office and usually printed on page 4 of MIT Tech Talk.
Beginning January 1, MIT Tech Talk will rely on TechCalendar, the on-line events calendar affiliated with the student newspaper, The Tech, for all seminar and lecture listings. Instead of compiling its own, MIT Tech Talk will publish TechCalendar listings each week.
This change in policy will allow Institute Calendar clients to advertise their seminars and lectures online without having to submit them separately to MIT Tech Talk's calendar section. In fact, MIT Tech Talk will no longer accept seminar and lecture listings for events taking place in 1999. It will continue to accept listings for Student Notices and Community Calendar.
TechCalendar is easy to use. For those who want a little help, an IAP course on the new calendar is being offered on two different days: Tuesday, Jan. 5 and Friday, Jan. 15 from 1-1:30pm in Rm 2-135. All members of the community are invited to attend one or both of these sessions.
Help is also available by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Regular Institute Calendar clients who have questions about making the transition may call x3-2704 or e-mail email@example.com.
TechCalendar was created this summer by two students who wanted to give the community something it needed: an interactive electronic calendar.
Douglas Heimburger, a junior in management science who was editor in chief of The Tech this fall, and Boris Zbarsky, a sophomore in physics, quietly brainstormed last spring and then put together the Institute's first true online, interactive calendar. It went live in August. The two worked closely with the News Office this fall to add a section for seminars and lectures that could be published in MIT Tech Talk.
TechCalendar brings MIT in line with many US universities which are moving toward the use of interactive, searchable electronic calendars to list community events. The new calendar provides immediate service; events submitted by community members will appear online within five minutes of being entered. TechCalendar also makes it easy to change a listing -- with a new time, date or room number -- or to add an additional lecture to a department's lecture series.
"This is a single, unified place to find out everything that's happening on campus -- now, tomorrow, whenever. You can search by event, date or group. Soon you'll be able to see what's playing at LSC this weekend, as well as what's next in the physics department lecture series," said Mr. Heimburger, who does independent consulting work for the MBTA in addition to keeping up with his studies and editing The Tech. "In short, it's the place to go when you're looking for something to do but don't know what kind of event you want, or when you want to find out more information about a particular event."
TechCalendar employs web certificates -- the same certificates most students, faculty and staff already have for gaining access to a myriad of online activities at the Institute. Community members with web certificates can fill out online requests to get authorization for adding, deleting or editing events for their group. New groups and authorized users are approved within 72 hours. Certificates are not required for viewing or searching the calendar.
Another attribute of TechCalendar is that it stores information about a group and its contact person. Once you've entered your vital information (name, e-mail address, group name, etc.), you don't have to re-enter that information every time you add or edit events.
"It remembers a lot of things," Mr. Heimburger said. "For instance, if all the events in a lecture series begin at 3pm, you only have to enter that once."
USERS LED THROUGH STEPS
The TechCalendar web site has links that walk the user through each step: getting web certificates, adding a group and becoming an authorized user, adding events, and finally, editing events.
"We welcome user feedback about the calendar's usability and features," said Mr. Heimburger. "We want to try to customize it, to add what people would like to see. In the future, we hope that groups can get an HTML version of their listings to download to their own web site. We might try to add an e-mail reminder service to tell people about events."
People who normally submit their seminars and lectures to MIT Tech Talk's Institute Calendar should begin using TechCalendar for 1999 events. Those events will appear online immediately, and will also be printed in MIT Tech Talk.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 16, 1998.