How to make interactive geographical timelines using Google Calendar and Yahoo Pipes

I was recently given a task where my job was to create a calendar holding around 50 events. Each event also needed to be mapped, and have a corresponding blog post.

Mapping calendar entries made me think, if this could be used for other stuff than simply putting events on a map, – which is quite useful in it’s own way. I thought it would be cool if you could create an interactive map-timeline, controlled dynamically by a (shared)calendar.

Yahoo Pipes by default uses Yahoo Maps, which is great when it comes to narratives. As you can see from the map below (If you don’t see it, click here), each entry has a little arrow that let’s you navigate from marker to marker in a specific order. Each marker also has a number indicating it’s place in a sequence. This is nothing more than entries in a Google Calender with time/date stamps, geo info and a description, mapped automatically using Yahoo Pipes.


Here’s how you do it.

1. Create a Google Calendar

Simply go to your Google Calendar and create or import a new calendar. You can do this from the settings page under calendars.

2. Make it public

You need to make the calendar public, otherwise Yahoo Pipes won’t have access to it. You can do this while you create it, or afterwards by ticking the box ‘Make this calendar public’ from the sharing settings on your specific calendar. To access the settings for a specific calendar, you click the little arrow in the box on the left hand side that contains your calendars (My Calendars).

3. Create events

Now you simply start adding events to your calendar. Specify what happened, where it happened, when and add the description. You don’t have to add the entries chronologically, they will be sorted by date/time automatically.

4. Feed the iCal file to the Pipe

Go to your calendar settings page, not the general Calendar settings, but the settings for your specific calendar. You will see a section called ‘Calendar address’ with three buttons. Click the green ICAL button and copy the link that pops up. Now go to Mapping Google Calendar Events Pipe and paste it into the ‘Calendar iCal URL’ field and hit ‘Run Pipe’. – Your events are now mapped.

5. Embed on your website

To embed the timeline/map on your website, simply select ‘Get as badge’ just above the map. This will allow you to insert it on your blog or website.

I’m sure there are ways to make this more stable. So if you know how to optimize the pipe, please feel free to do so and let me know.

As Google Maps is already a part of Google Calendar, you would think that there was a nifty way to quickly put a whole calendar on a map, but no. And after failing to use what looked like a saviour, I bumped into a post by Tony Hurst on how to display Google Calendar events on a Google Map. Unfortunately it turns out that the XML feed Tony uses, only parses the 25 most recent calendar entries.

Google Calendar releases their event-entries in iCal format which contains all events. And with a little customization of Tony’s pipe, I managed to come up with a way to map all events from a calendar.

I think this could be potentially useful for developing stories, especially if you can collaborate on the calendar. You end up with data that can be used for nearly anything, not just maps. And if locations aren’t relevant for the story, you could simply take your iCal file and make a normal timeline.

102 thoughts on “How to make interactive geographical timelines using Google Calendar and Yahoo Pipes

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