Poets & Writers Local

So the Poets & Writers Local app has proven to be very popular. It's also boosted use of the web-based calendar, which has seen almost 70% traffic growth year-over-year. It's interesting to see where most of the users are, too. After New York, the top ten includes Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and San Diego. In fact, there are currently over 100 events listed in the calendar for San Diego. Chicago and D.C. are in the top ten, as well. More and more organizations, venues, and small presses are listing their events in the P&W calendar.

For those keeping track, there are over four thousand installs, between iOS and Android, with 75% of those being on iOS. Usage statistics mirror that balance.

Overall, I couldn't be more pleased the whole Titanium development process or with the results.

Poets & Writers Local

Poets & Writers Local screen shot

I built the Poets & Writers Local app and, so far, it's been really well received. It's available for both iOS and Android. I built both native apps simultaneously by using Appcelerator's Titanium to build it. It's a brilliant development platform that lets you build in javascript using libraries that hook into the native functions of each platform. Wherever possible, the libraries are abstracted to the point of allowing a single code base to build native apps for both platforms. I'd say that roughly 95% of the code for P&W Local works for both versions without modification, and there are excellent platform-specific libraries that can be leveraged to handle the rest.

The most-used function of the app is to pull location-centric data from the Literary Events Calendar on our Drupal-based website, pw.org. I wrote a little mini-API-like thing to grab the specific data and return it (leveraging Views, for you Drupal folk). The app handles the rest, including hooks into the respective native e-mail, voice, calendar, maps, and sharing features (Apple's Social Framework and Android Intents.)

Then Geoffrey Landis got in touch. He maintains a publicly accessible Google calendar of Cleveland literary events. Since I was already working on a way to import calendars through Google API, I jumped at the chance when he kindly asked about getting the Cleveland Poetics calendar into the P&W event calendar. It's a win-win situation. P&W gets more help feeding the calendar, and the Cleveland literary community gets to take advantage of the app. Now several other folks have asked us to import their calendars, as well, so the importer periodically checks Google's Calendar API for new and updated events and syncs the calendars.

Of course, that wasn't enough.

Now we're being contacted by folks who only have iCal files exposed. Some are Google-hosted, some aren't. So, now I'm working on doing the same thing for .ics files. Ugh. What a horrid little format is the iCal file. Honestly, it's almost as bad as parsing e-mail files, but with more chaos and (thankfully) fewer options. I must have tried half a dozen PHP iCal-parsing libraries before just giving up and writing my own. It helps that I'm a former PERL coder. I may not bleed regular expressions, but they're certainly detectable in a blood sample.

But, of course, that wasn't enough.

Up until now, they were all regional calendars, specific to a single city--and a single time zone. But what about the small press with events spread all over the countr(y|ies) [Canadian support is built into the calendar]? Yeah. Awesome idea. So now it needs to check where the event is taking place and adjust the date/time on a per-event basis, rather than on a per-calendar basis. Grumble grumble. Welcome to the wonderful world of feature creep.