Since we profiled Israeli startup Dapper, the controversial and very intriguing service has added about 2,000 new data sources that anyone can mix and mash from sites around the web. That’s been done in one month. The company calls itself a way to “create an API for any website,” though others call it a fancy screen scraper. Whether it’s a legitimate business or not, whether the rest of the web can be pushed into an era of data portability at Dapper’s pace, remains to be seen. So far the company says only two small websites have gone through their opt-out process.
This week, though, the folks at Dapper added iCal as one of the formats available for data export. Now in addition to adding data gleaned from any site on the web to your own applications via 11 different formats – you can also sync data from many sites with iCal, Google Calendar, Outlook or anything else that supports the iCal format. That means I’ve got the weather.com forecast for my zip code for the next ten days automatically appearing at the top of my iCal display. Very nice.
Unfortunately, the service in general is very difficult to use. I asked the company for examples of data sources (called dapps) already in the database that could be easily imported in iCal format. Here’s four quick examples they provided:
These dapps work with iCal reasonably well, so it’s clearly possible and very useful. I don’t want news in my calendar but I do want forthcoming events and the weather. The Dapper team tells me they are going to hire a UI designer as soon as they get some funding and that couldn’t happen soon enough because the site is a disaster (for me) to try and use. Some one please, help them with the UI, this is a great tool that so many potential users just walk away from because it’s so hard to use. I can’t give up on it because when some one is able to make it work the results are really valuable. So ask yourself what you’d like in your calendar, maybe someone else has already braved the interface dungeon that is Dapper and created a tool for to accomplish your goal, or maybe you can struggle through it yourself. One way or the other, it’s a very handy service when it works. It’s nice to have the weather forecast on my calendar.