Where have all the calendars gone?

When not on the clock for Macworld , I can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of the Oakland Coliseum, cheering the home-town nine on to victory after victory—at least until the annual autumnal fizzle.

Nevertheless, it’s just a few weeks until pitchers and catchers report, so hope springs eternal. And with that frame of mind, I sat down this weekend to add an Oakland Athletics schedule to my iCal calendar to begin the process of planning how I’ll be spending my nights and weekends from April through, Lord willing, late October.

The only trouble with my plan: there were no A’s 2006 iCal calendars to be found anywhere. Not at Apple’s iCal calendar library, where—as of this writing, anyway—the only A’s calendar available is one for the 2005 season. (And I already know how that one works out. Confidential to White Sox fans: it ends well for you .) iCalShare, an independent site where I grab most of my sports-related calendars, didn’t have one either (at least, not when I was looking for one this weekend—more on that later), nor did iCal World. Of course, iCal World doesn’t seem to have added any baseball calendars since the end of the 2003 season, so it’s not like A’s fans should take the snub personally.

So what’s a baseball fan to do when his iCal needs go unfulfilled? If he’s brimming with the can-do pioneer spirit that made America great—or if he just has a Sunday afternoon with a lot of time on his hands—he creates his own 2006 Oakland A's schedule. Which is what I did—you can view my handiwork here. Or, even better, you can subscribe to it and make it a part of your own iCal calendar, should you ever want to know who Oakland will be playing on July 1. (The hated, hated Diamondbacks at 1:05 in the afternoon, in case you were curious.)

If anything, putting together and publishing my own iCal calendar for all the world to admire and use gave me a few insights into why more people might not be inspired to whip up their own calendars. To wit:

It’s a bit of a drudgery. An entire season’s worth of baseball games means 162 separate calendar entries, each with different start times, against different teams, and in different cities. Perhaps there’s an Automator action or AppleScript that I could have conjured up if I was going to make a habit out of this iCal business, but for a one-time-only calendar, it made more sense just to keep hitting Command-N until my index finger began to lose feeling.

A calendar creator’s work is never done. Several of the entries on my calendar still have the dreaded “TBA” start time, I’ll have to go back and update that once the Boston Red Sox get around to deciding at what time of the day they’ll deign to face the A’s in mid-July. I’ve also had to go back and update my calendar to include home-game promotions and giveaways because I think it’s important for the world to know when the first 10,000 fans will receive a Huston Street bobblehead doll (Sunday, April 16 against the fiendish and sinister Texas Rangers). There’s something to be said about keeping things current for the sake of completeness, but that doesn’t make it any less of a hassle.

All your work will probably go for naught. So after spending all this time prepping and proofing my calendar and uploading it to .Mac, I went over to iCalShare to present my work to other like-minded Mac users…only to discover that someone beat me to the punch by just a few hours.

So it’s easy to see why some people might think, “Bag this shared calendar jazz. I think I’ll spend the afternoon playing World of Warcraft instead.” And is it that big a deal if they do?

I think that it sort of is. Yes, iCal has a lot going for it—namely, that it’s free (or, to be more accurately, free with the cost of buying Mac OS X), and it has third-party software makers falling all over themselves to add export features that integrate their programs with iCal. But another one of the program’s strengths is the fact that you can go out to the Web and find pre-fabricated calendars that fit your interests. If those calendars become harder to find, then iCal becomes just a little less valuable.

Which brings us to the next question: so what should be done about it? And my carefully reasoned, well-thought-out response is: I really have no idea.

I suppose some of the burden for keeping iCal vibrant falls on Apple. Yes, I know it’s a basically free application, and, no, I don’t expect Apple to hire a full-time drone whose sole job obligation is to churn out assorted iCal calendars from sun-up to sun-down. But a little more attention to iCal might go a long way to keeping this surprisingly useful little program at the forefront of Mac users’ minds. At least try not to limit the occasional major revisions to the program to landmark operating system updates, thus ensuring that any revisions to iCal will get lost in the shuffle.

But other than that, my idea well has run dry. Maybe you’ve got an idea on how to revive interest in generating public iCal calendars…or maybe you don’t see why it’s worth the bother. In either way, I’d love to hear from you since I’ve got about 363 days before I need to start work on my 2007 A’s calendar, and I’d love for someone to save me the grunt work.

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