Ask Calagator: RSVPs

April 12, 2010

Calagator is a collaborative, community project. If this discussion interests you, we encourage you to get involved by asking more questions, joining the mailing list, or coming to a code sprint if you’re in Portland.

Now: you ask, we attempt to answer. The response is behind a cut because it’s a bit long; different core team members often have different approaches to things, so we included two responses.

Aaron says:

I use Upcoming or Eventbrite so that I can manage RSVPs for a variety of free events… I know that you guys have been working on the feature for a while; it’s really the one reason why I don’t pay much attention to Calagator at this point. While I’d love to support the local guy, I need the features that the non-local guy has :/

Audrey replies:

Why doesn’t Calagator have an RSVP feature?

Two big things have to happen to get a new feature into Calagator: we have to decide how it will work, and we have to write the code.

Deciding how RSVPs should work involved quite a bit of debate. A system like Eventbrite’s where people RSVP directly to the event organizer doesn’t really make sense for us–we can’t guarantee that the event organizer even uses our site, since events can be added by anyone. Calagator’s goal is to be an event repository, but not necessarily the only or even primary source of information about that event. Eventually we decided that we could probably do a feature where users say “hey, I’m going to this event”, like a public bookmark. We could use OpenID to let people save and retrieve their event bookmarks. This seemed like a good enough idea to start working on it.

Which brings us to the second half, actually writing the code. We got most of the way through implementing this before being derailed by–honestly, I don’t remember what. Something else that needed to get done. Now the code in that branch is probably really out of date, and will take more work to bring it in line. This is the downside of being a volunteer project; we just don’t have time to work on everything we’d like to.

Will Calagator have a RSVP feature eventually?

Well… I don’t want to promise anything. If someone were to pay for the developer time to do it then I think we could guarantee it would happen. But personally, I admit I have a fair amount of ambivalence about this, even as a fellow organizer of free community events. I haven’t really missed Calagator having a RSVP tool, most of the time. It’s not that it’s a bad idea, just that I don’t know if it’s the most Calagatorish thing to do. Events have a lot of different potential RSVP needs (do you want a rough head count? do people need to RSVP to attend, even if it’s free? do they need to buy a ticket?) And there are services that cover each of these use cases separately: Plancast lets you tell your friends where you’ll be, Upcoming is good for a general head count, and Eventbrite lets you sell (or hand out for free) event tickets. So the most appropriate thing might be for us to link into those other services so you can see the information reflected on the Calagator event page. I don’t know. We’ll see.

Igal replies:

Community involvement is vital to Calagator’s success — it’s where we get our content, it’s who we serve, and it’s why we’re doing “Ask Calagator”. Sometimes figuring out how to do something is tricky, and it becomes important to have those that most want a particular feature step forward and describing their vision in greater detail to help those that will implement it.

Calagator is useful as it is for those that need RSVPs now for their events. People publish events requiring these to Calagator to publicize them, and explain in the event’s description of that attendees must reserve or purchase a ticket from another website.

While services like Eventbrite focus on individual ownership of an individual event, Calagator focuses on collective ownership of an entire community’s events. I don’t feel we can add RSVPs to Calagator because it’s designed to let anyone in the community edit events and RSVPs would require us to limit the editing of events to only their owners. However, it is possible to stay within Calagator’s nature and still provide useful information about who is interested in or going to an event.

Last year, I built an experimental Calagator “my_events” branch that provided this functionality. It allowed people to login via OpenID and publish their interest in an event — these are more like user’s favorites, rather than event’s reservations. The new functionality provided a headcount and roster for each event; allowed users to see what events they’d marked and get an iCalendar feed; and allowed people to view others users marked events and subscribe to them.

I didn’t get much positive feedback on this demo’s functionality, with most people complaining about things that I couldn’t do: it didn’t provide real RSVPs, didn’t sell tickets, and wasn’t integrated into their closed source software (e.g., social network, calendaring app, etc). I couldn’t rally support for completing or improving this functionality, so this work was abandoned.

If there’s a renewed interest in this sort of functionality, I’d like to have people lend us a hand by describing some specifics of what they would find useful for us to build, before we throw any more code at this.

One Response to “Ask Calagator: RSVPs”

  1. Audrey and Igal, thanks for responding to my question. When viewed from the standpoints you present, I can see the arguments where RSVP functionality would be hard to implement given the community model of Calagator.

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