The ECO Canterbury Environmental Activities calendar

The ECO Canterbury Environmental Activities Calendar is here.

Here is a letter from Diana Shand to assist publicising the calendar. Please let your members know about the calendar and generally spread the word about its existence. The more relevant events we can get up on the calendar the more useful it will be to all of us and the public in general. Please continue to submit events via the form (one activity at a time) or spreadsheet (multiple activities) or by referring me (Dave Evans, info@ecocanterbury.org.nz) to your Facebook events.

Launch preparations for the calendar

At the ECO Canterbury network meeting on Monday 10 July it was decided that it is nearly time to launch the ECO Canterbury Environmental Activities Calendar. Any environmental, conservation or sustainability group in Canterbury whose aims and policy are in sympathy with those of ECO (see the ECO constitution) is welcome to join the network and have its activities listed on the calendar.

Listing activities

There are a few rules the meeting decided on – to ensure the Calendar will work for us. We will shortly send out a Launching our Calendar letter you can use to promote it and encourage usage by your members and the public. We hope to be ready for the launch by the end of the month, provided the activity loading process goes well.

But before it’s worth promoting the calendar to the public we need to get plenty of activities listed. There is a value to listing activities on the calendar even before it is promoted to the general public, as I’m sure all those reading this have an interest in knowing what activities other groups are holding, in order to avoid clashes.

If a Network member group’s activities are on a Facebook page, Google calendar or some other standardised calendar then those activities can be harvested with little effort. Alternatively activities can be submitted for uploading to the calendar using a spreadsheet template. Single activities can be entered through a Google form. Don’t be shy, please send us your activities.

Activities will be moderated before appearing in the calendar. Activities suggested for listing by members will be uploaded if they fit with the purpose of the calendar. Significant (e.g. national) activities from outside Canterbury may be listed. Although local government entities may not be members of the network their activities may be listed. Political events may appear on the calendar provided all parties with parliamentary representation are invited. Events originated and branded by one political party will not be listed.

We are anticipating a widening catchment of events, starting in greater Christchurch, spreading to all of North Canterbury and eventually covering Canterbury in its entirety. If the number of activities increases to the point where it becomes hard to see the activities you are looking for then a facility will be added for filtering the activities so only activities of the type and region you select are visible.

Member groups

Currently there is no cost to being a network member and using the calendar, but it is expected that in the longer term there will be a cost of about $10 – 20 per annum for each member. If a member group operates on no funds then the cost could be waived.

We would like to profile each member group on a page of the website. This profile would be a few sentences describing the group, its purpose and a link to the group’s website. A logo would be helpful too. As the number of groups grows the list will be subdivided into categories and/or regions etc.

Currently we have heard from: 350.org Christchurch, Action for Change Meetup, Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust, Braided River Aid (Braid), Canterbury Anglers Inc, Christchurch Fishing and Casting Club Inc, CANA-Coal Action Network, Cycling Action Network, Diamond Harbour Community Association, Diamond Harbour Reserve Management Committee, ECO, Engineers for Social Responsibility Canterbury, Christchurch Enviro Hub, Forest & Bird North Canterbury Branch, Generation Zero, It’s Our Future Christchurch, Network Waitangi Otautahi, New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers Inc, Sustainable Otautahi Christchurch, Working Waters Trust…

Should your organisation(s) be included? Please let us know by replying to this email.

Other features

Significant upcoming activities can be highlighted on the home page of the site. The calendar has an RSS feed of upcoming activities, which makes it quick and easy to see what’s coming up.

Activities without a public focus (e.g. committee meetings) will not be listed, but a website page listing regular (e.g. third Wednesday of month) non-public activities is envisaged.

A page has been added to the website where the activity policy and related information can be found. There is also a link to the activity capture spreadsheet template so it can be downloaded and populated with activities for the calendar.

Feedback

Please send comments, questions and activity listings (via the form or a spreadsheet or Facebook URL) to info@ecocanterbury.org.nz. The activity selection and listing processes are bound to take a while to sort out and feedback is very welcome.

Initial responses

I have had a few positive responses to the site, which is encouraging, and also a couple of requests to put up events. Please note that this site is only for testing the concept, not for publicising events in the long term. If there is a consensus to go with a calendar site like this one then I think the first thing we need to do is decide on a name for the initiative. Once we have a name we could choose a domain name that is consistent with it. www.daveevans.nz is really not appropriate!

Getting events on to the calendar is not automated. I suspect it will always need moderating to some extent, given the destructive trolls that live under the Internet. I am willing to put the events up, but only if they are made known to me in an agreed form that gives all the details – hence the Google form in the previous post. Events can also be picked semi-automatically from a Facebook event calendar or a Google calendar. If you want to submit several events I could supply a template spreadsheet that has all the necessary columns. I am not offering to search out an enter event details myself, that just wouldn’t scale to the potentially large number of events.

Comments can be made on any of these posts by clicking on the “Leave a comment” link below. Perhaps leave your suggestions for the name of the initiative. Once we have some candidate names perhaps we could use a SurveyMonkey poll to select the most popular. This would be quicker than waiting until the next networking meeting, if that’s the way people want to go.

Draft calendar operation

This site is a first attempt at providing an event calendar for environmental/ecological organisations in the greater Christchurch area. Nothing about it is “set in concrete” and I (Dave Evans) welcome suggestions for improvements. If the site is seen to be useful, then one of the first things that needs to be decided is a name for the site and a domain name could follow from that. Options could be proposed and a Doodle poll held to help decide.

The Events menu entry in the top right corner takes you to the full calendar. The right sidebar of the other pages features the most imminent events. Each event in the calendar and the sidebar is a link to a page for the event that has more detail on it. Some events have an associated image to create a bit of colour. The events in the calendar were mostly imported from www.braid.org.nz, courtesy of Sonny Whitelaw, or uploaded from the Trees for Canterbury Facebook page. I added a couple of Travis Wetland Trust events to test the processes.

The home page is a blog that could be used to feature events, or pass on information not related to any particular event. An RSS feed could be used to alert people to upcoming events. I started on a page linking to associated groups, but you’ll see that I didn’t get very far. Pages for other purposes could be added – this is a WordPress-based site.

I can envisage a number of ways to get events into the calendar. Importing events from a Facebook page is one of the easiest and all I have to do is tell the Event Aggregator software the URL of the page. Importing from Google calendars is similar. Events can also be imported from an ICS file, a widely used calendar format. I got the events from Braid by exporting events from its calendar to an ICS file and then importing them into this site’s calendar – a couple of minutes work. I have also made a Google form where event details may be entered, but this is still a work in progress. They go from there to a spreadsheet, from where I can easily import the events into the event calendar. Some imports can be done automatically on a regular basis.

Hosting and domain name registration would be about $150 pa and the Event Aggregator plugin for automated event imports costs $130 pa.

Comments and questions are welcomed.