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Frequently Asked Questions about Publicdrum

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Frequently asked questions about Publicdrum

What is publicdrum?

Publicdrum is a non profit organization providing a web based data service that simplifies how event listings are distributed. (read more)

Our proposition:

  • Publicdrum is a cloud based data service designed to share event data.
  • People enter and maintain their events once - their single 'master' copy.
  • This data is then made available, for free and in all common data formats, to anyone who will present it to the public.

We were created to help individuals and small organizations get their event information as widely distributed as possible.

The result is an efficient connection between people with events and the web and print publishers who present their information to the public. (show less)

What does publicdrum do?

Publicdrum is not a calendar - we are a data service providing calendar content to those who DO have calendars and DO present event data to the public. (read more)

Our approach is to allow contributors to enter the information ONCE into a public resource. This information is then available to anyone wishing to display it to the public to extract - for free, in formats supporting automated use.

Publicdrum is an 'Enabling Technology'.
Open access to event data and tools to support its automated use allow contributors, publishers and developers to streamline their existing systems - and develop new ones. Sophisticated calendaring systems that were impossible just a few years ago can be built in minutes - at zero cost.

Newspapers and existing web calendars can use this data to supplement their current web form submissions - a very cost effective way to make their calendars more comprehensive. The free services at Publicdrum can help offset funding cuts that hurt Arts, tourism and community groups. They can offer community calendars displaying events of interest to their constituents at no cost and virtually no maintenance.

Tools to use the data.
We also offer free software that make it easy for anyone to select, combine, extract and display event data from this shared resource. The greatly simplifies putting a calendar on a web page.

If there in so single place for the public to find event information, the next best alternative is to get the information displayed at the places they DO visit. The more widely it is distributed the better - hence our motto 'be loud, be everywhere'!

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Why is this necessary?

The current process of distributing event data intended for public display is time consuming and expensive for everyone. (read more)

For contributors, submitting multiple events to multiple outlets using a web form is tedious and time consuming. The time it takes limits the number of places people will submit their events.

For publishers, processing calendar content is expensive. Worse, if too few contributors submit events, their calendar will either lack content - or they seek out events or purchase data from an aggregator.

Developers wanting to create applications that display events in new ways struggle with how to get the needed data. Publicdrum separates the display of data from the process of obtaining the data - removing a roadblock to innovation. (show less)

Key concept: disconnect the data from the display.

Any calendar has two parts - the Information being presented, and the page on which is being Displayed. (read more)

Most people who look at a calendar on the web or in a newspaper see...a calendar.

In fact, they are seeing two things, the event information and the presentation of the information. For instance, the font, the colors, the page layout - all are static, but the content is dynamic - it changes each time the calendar is published.

The key to Publicdrum is that we break the process of distributing event listings into two parts - contributors manage the data about their events and publishers focus on reporting the information. (show less)

Why does disconnecting data from presentation help?

The Display belongs to the outlet, the Content belongs to the contributor. If you simplify how they connect, everyone wins. (read more)

If you think about it, the information about an event really should be maintained by the person putting on the event. Similarly, web site or newspaper offering a calendar is concerned with finding information of interest to their readers - and presenting it in an attractive and useful way.

Align commercial interests:

This disconnect of data from presentation serves to clarify and align the commercial interests:

Contributors are less dependent on any one outlet - they can focus on crafting their message, and publishers can focus on the attributes that make them unique and competitive. Possession of an event listing is not a distinguishing factor between competitors - presenting it is a way that attract readers is.

Cuts costs for publishers.

A publisher crafts their presentation carefully - but they do it only once. The overhead of providing a calendar comes from continuously obtaining event data and mapping it into their presentation. If they can simplify obtaining and displaying the data, the cost of providing a calendar drops. Publicdrum does this.

Stability for contributors:

The public is fickle - today's preferred outlet will be obsolete tomorrow. Disconnecting the data from the presentation brings stability for the contributor by reducing risk. The loss of one outlet is not a problem if their message is widely distributed.

Regardless of how the data is presented to the public, contributors will continue to maintain their event information at Publicdrum - in the same way and in the same place.

Sustainability for outlets:

Websites often fail because the effort required to maintain them becomes overwhelming. If you maintain a website, the calendar is your most dynamic content - and requires constant effort to add new and remove old events.

Automated calendaring - displaying feeds selected from Publicdrum - cuts maintenance to zero. (show less)


How exactly does this work?

Contributors use a web form to enter and maintain their event information. Web and print publishers, developers and automated calendars have free access to select and display the data they want. (read more)

Contributors (people with events) use a guided web form to enter - and subsequently maintain - their event information. They control the content, revision, timing of the release - all aspects of their announcement.

These 'master copies' are stored in a database, enhanced with 'metadata' to support web automation. This data, and sophisticated tools to use it, are provided for free to anyone who will display it to the public.

Web and print publishers can augment submissions received from their web form - or use this public resource for all their calendar content. Publicdrum is designed to interface with the systems publishers currently use - no need to scrap anything.

There are simple tools that let them surf the database - more sophisticated one for aggregation and extraction of event data - even tools to automatically move selected event data into their existing database or application.

Contributors can use these same tools to put automated calendars on their blogs, websites and social network pages. Choose from a wide range of links, embeds and widgets - never to edit an event list again!

Developers can use this public data as they create new ways to combine and display event data, and aggregators can extract it for distribution or resale. We provide a sophisticated API offering open access to all event data, in a wide range of formats. (show less)

Who is sponsoring Publicdrum?

Publicdrum is incorporated in Michigan as SyndicateUs LLC. (read more)

We are collaboratively developed using both paid and volunteer developers.

We have received support from many individuals and organizations, including Q Ltd., Ann Arbor Mi, UM School of Information, Nexys Inc, Waco Texas and independent developers around the world.

Collaborative development allows ideas to mature at modest cost and providing a data service like this is very inexpensive - leased server and database space. These expenses are currently paid by members of SyndicateUS. At some point we will seek external funding, but for the foreseeable future our finances are secure.

We are uniquely placed as a non commercial public resource providing free access to user contributed event data. We have attracted a growing number of publishers, web outlets and aggregators who recognize the value of shared data and extract are using it to provide or augment their calendar content.

  • Public Drum is non profit, collaboratively developed and all services are free.
  • We provide an easy to use interface to a non commercial public data resource for event data.
  • We offer a service where people enter event listings ONE time and employ technology to distribute them.
  • Our belief is that if events are easily available to publishers - they'll display them.
  • Conversely if publishers can reliably find content for their readers they will look for your events here.
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In 2007 a group of performers, artists and venue owners began seeking a more efficient way to distribute event listings to newspapers and websites. The result of this collaboration was made available to the public in 2008. (read more)

We began in April 2007 as and evolved as people began to use the services and suggest improvements.

We found the results so helpful, we made it available to the general public in March of 2008.

A truly generous donation of pro bono work by Q Ltd of Ann Arbor helped us clarify our vision and rebranded us as Publicdrum.

The subsequent decline of the newspapers and decimation of public funding has increased interest in alternative promotion paths.

The concept of creating a not for profit public data resource for event information began to attract interest in technology circles, resulting in volunteer developers joining the project. During 2008 we developed a wide range of tools designed to bring efficiency and cost savings to everyone involved in distributing and presenting event data.

In mid 2008 we implemented an automated data feed to Zvents, a major national aggregator.

Beginning in Fall 2008, the Ann Arbor Spark began to use Publicdrum's data services as an underlying technology for their regional event calendaring system.

2009 saw a growing recognition by print and web publishers that aggregation of data from trusted partners was an answer to rising costs and fragmented readership.

We have slowly been forging relationships with publishers who are beginning to use our data resource as a free adjunct to their existing web form.

In February, Publicdrum was featured as a presenter at Artserve Michigan.

In June 2009 we launched a pilot project to demonstrate the idea of integrated Community Calendaring.

The is a grass roots project within the Arts sector to promote their events more efficiently - particularly in light of devastating funding cuts. For Publicdrum, it is an exciting chance to expand our data, work with a much wider range of users and to get guidance on how we can improve our services. (show less)

What's the catch?

A fair question . There is no catch, we have no other services to up sell, we don't take advertising, we don't sell your data - or identity. (read more)

The secret is that what we offer is pretty basic - a database, a couple of web forms and a bunch of software tools to manipulate the data. Our value is not what we have - it's what people can do with it.

We do have a mission:

Publicdrum is our way of proposing - and exploring - two ideas we think have merit:

  • First - if you break the process of distributing event data into to two parts; the data and its presentation - a number of the complexities we face today evaporate.
  • Second - providing a trusted public resource for event data - where anyone can maintain their events and any publisher can extract the data for free - will save everyone time and money and permit development of vastly better services for the public.

You see examples of the first idea every day - the people who make a movie don't make the TV you watch it on. The product and the presentation are independent.

The second idea - providing something useful for free - is neither wacky or without precedent. The biggest corporations in the world run on Linux - an operating system envisioned by an individual, developed by volunteers and available for free. Don't get me wrong - there is a ton of money made with Linux - but it's made by using it - not having it.

We believe the same model applies to event data. The contributor needs an audience, publishers need content - and both expect to make money conducting their business. Why not make their intersection efficient - make event data free? (show less)


Part 2. Frequently asked questions about Community Calendaring.

What is community calendaring?

Remember how it use to be? You'd submit your information to the local newspaper, they'd print it - and almost everyone in town read it.

Community calendaring is an attempt to recover that simplicity. (read more)

One submission - reaching almost everyone.

The internet greatly expanded the places people go for information - and conversely, diluted the audience for any one outlet. The answer is to be present on as many outlets as possible - and the key is to be able to do it efficiently. That's what Publicdrum does.

Publicdrum's objective is to provide a public place to put event data, Web 2.0 tools to distribute it - and make that data available for free to anyone who will display it to the public. (show less)

What sort of events are appropriate?

Any event that is open to the public. (read more)

If the public can attend - we want to extend your invitation!

  • Events that require registration - like a training session or a house concert are OK
  • Things with limited enrollment, like classes - fine
  • Events with limitations - like special knowledge or physical ability - also OK

Some things don't quite belong - please don't submit things like:

  • Non events - things like happy hour.
  • Private events - a member only meeting or a by invitation event.

Unsure? Ask yourself "Do I want the public to know about this event and can they attend"? If yes - put it in! (show less)

How does community calendaring work?

A Community Calendar is one providing event information of interest to a specific constituency. Generally, information from multiple contributors is combined and displayed by a third party. (read more)

Familiar examples would be a Visitor Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, Arts umbrella or a Tourism department. Each of these gathers information from many groups, selects, edits and displays the data they wish to promote. Some may select by geography, others may select by topic.

These calendars can be costly to implement and time consuming to maintain. The biggest problem for most is obtaining content - they usually offer a web form and hope the public will submit their data.

A web form is a barrier to participation.

Most people with events want to be on every calendar possible - but entering events into a web form is time consuming. They submit to as many outlets as time allows - but they miss many opportunities to be seen.

Sharing data helps contributors - and the outlets.

Publicdrum facilitates sharing; contributors enter it once, outlets can have any data the want for free.

  • For contributors: Time savings + greater visibility = higher participation.
  • For outlets: More content = better calendar

At Publicdrum, when we speak of 'Community Calendaring' we are actually speaking of a collection of tools that allow someone with events (we call them 'contributors') to enter them ONE time and distribute them widely and automatically.

Some of these tools 'push' the information out - for example where we submit the event to newspapers or you send a calendar link to your email list.

Other tools allow data to be 'pulled' from our database - typical for most 'new media' outlets, aggregators and developers. By offering both push and pull technology we support both traditional and emerging outlets.

All the data entered by contributors is available - for free - to anyone who will display it to the public. Traditional media can save costs by not processing submissions - and emerging media can offer hyper local calendar content at zero cost through automated aggregation. (show less)

How will this initiative help me reach a wider audience?

There is no single place where he public goes to get it's event information. Your current web site, social media pages and email promotion are great - but mostly reach your existing audience. (read more)

In marketing terms:

  • the market is 'fractured' - the public has a bewildering number of choices.
  • the audience is 'diluted' - what are the chances that people will find the few places you appear?

The cure is to appear more places - and automation makes this possible.

Solve a problem for the outlets you need:

Outlets (newspapers, broadcasters, web calendars, new media) wanting to offer a calendar need content - but may not have the money (or readership) to support editors. Sharing event data permits them to more easily get your information, and thus are more likely to display it.

We believe a tool like this will attract interest and be used because it solves problems for everyone involved:

  • Useful for the public. It becomes easier to find event information of interest - analogous to the what the newspapers used to provide.
  • Efficient for the Contributor. They maintain their event data in one place, saving time - and reach more people via automation.
  • Cost effective for the Outlets. A more efficient may to get content and tools that support cost reducing automation.
  • Enables Cross promotion.

Cross Promotion:

If you put on public events, you probably have a web site or other public face - and so do other groups in your area. What if you could display your events prominently - but also offer a second calendar showing theirs? Conversely, would it be beneficial if your events appeared on their site - and reached their audience?

The idea of cross promotion is similar to Amazon suggesting other books you might enjoy - except you introduce your audience to other events you think have merit. To some degree, this indirect advocacy resembles viral marketing - where your information is distributed voluntarily by others.

The data sharing enabled by Publicdrum allows you to easily display your events as well as combine the events from any number of other organizations.

The objective is to act as a advocate for other organizations by suggesting their events - and to get other organizations to suggest yours. (show less)

How does this work with my other promotion paths?

Publicdrum is not a competitor to your existing outlets - we are a tool they can use to cut costs. We also actively 'push' the data we receive into the major aggregators, who in turn distribute it further. (read more)

We have no services aimed directly at the public - our goal is to help the people who do present information to the public.

We are part of the emerging 'new media' and support publishers, aggregators and developers by offering tools and data services to help them find, aggregate and extract the calendar content they subsequently present to the public.

Everyone is facing budget problems - if we can save an outlet some money, great! We encourage you to support your outlets - speak to the event editors, understand their needs and help in any way possible. (show less)

How can I get started?

Events are submitted using a web form at We suggest you have a look at Publicdrum, and if it looks helpful:

  1. Register
  2. Fill out the profile form for your organization
  3. Enter a few events

Nothing more is required to be included in the Community Calendar initiative. (read more)

A recommended next step is to select several other organizations you think your audience might enjoy, and use the Very Local calendar in your emails.

Since you've gone to the trouble of entering your events, you may want to take advantage of some of the other free services designed to simplify your routine promotion tasks:

  • Media submission - automatically submits your events to your media outlets. Never miss a submission deadline again!
  • Automate your web page - Put an automated calendar on your web page - never edit it again! Similar tools are available email, blogs and social networks.
  • Extract and reuse your data. Easily transfer the data you've entered to Word, Excel or any web editor. Available as text, html, rss, xml and ical.
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