Dr. Kim Foale

Researcher and developer. Thoughts on senses, data, access, and equality.

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March 1, 2015 · Portfolio Ruby Middleman Static Site website communication

First National Festival of LGBT History

As Communications Director for the First National Festival of LGBT History, I built this site and wrote all copy and communications. This was a huge and engaging volunteer job that took over all my free time for a year or so.

Check out the First National Festival of LGBT History now.

Here's a screenshot of the homepage but you really need to browse it, we spent a lot of time spacing out content so it doesn't translate well to a still.

Front page screenshot

I knew I would be approving and publishing all the content for this site, so I built it in a static site generator called Middleman. Static site generators have a lot of benefits, but the main ones for this project were the hackability - I was able to custom code in anything we needed to be responsive to the shifting festival aims.

The main technical challenge for this site was around the calendaring. With 8 volunteers organising getting on for 100 events over a lot of sites, it was important to have something that could be edited quickly and let people find events of interest. I looked at a few commercial and open-source solutions, but none of them really did what we needed, or were hopelessly overpriced. To the drawing board!

Festival calendar

I built this solution with Phoebe that uses Google Calendar as a backend. Each of the 6 categories shown here (main festival, family space etc.) are downloaded as an ICS file and then converted into HTML using a Ruby parser. Ticketing information and the like was then parsed from YAML data stored in the event listings. This solution worked like a dream for developers and attendees alike, and I've still not seen anyone else publish a better festival calendar! You can play with the archived site or check out the source on GitHub.

I'm no longer involved in this festival but the 2015 site is still up to browse.

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