Technical aspects

Presentation of Ucalenda, the first calendar of university events aiming to promote academic events taking place in the universities of Romandy.


From a technical point of view, the site is built using the latest technologies from the Microsoft stack (C#, ASP.Net MVC and SQL Server) and has been developed by Signum Software.
Ucalenda Website has been designed from the ground up with innovation in mind and Signum Framework, the open source framework built by this company, is what makes this innovation possible.
The core idea of Ucalenda is a calendar for academic events, so our user knows what’s going on around his university. As Ucalenda grew in popularity a more social perspective became necessary and now the site is meant to turn into the main social Web for university students in Europe.
The main challenges that we faced building the site were developing all the features that users take for granted in a social Website including Photos, Comments, Tags, Profiles , Messages, and Attendance to events in record time. We also have to provide the compelling user interface which users expect, making massive use of AJAX and new technologies like HTML 5.0 and Silverlight.
We could try to find something already done and adapt it to our needs, but the ideas we had for the future made us see that we needed to take full control of the platform in order to make it a reality. On the other side we had a very tight schedule: we had to be ready for Balélec (May 2010).
Signum Framework allowed us to have a completely functional site with the basic features for the deadline, including the backend (the administrative part of the Web), while keeping full control of the whole site, enabling us to implement the features that will make Ucalenda different.
For example, once you get into ucalenda.com main page and you choose a university, you are redirected to one of the universities virtual sites. Every site has its own language and timezone, its own calendar of events for the university, top events, albums and even the search bar is aware of the current university. If an event has a comment made by a user of another university, and you want to see his profile, you will change to the university the user belongs to. This allows us to create a centralized global social Web that gives local information which is actually useful.
Also, as we move forward, Ucalenda content will need to be produced by users, but at the same time we want to keep Ucalenda as a public open space that is useful for students daily.
In order to do so we are preparing a complex hierarchy of roles, like anonymous user, registered user, moderators, photographers, editors and administrators. All of them are allowed to see and do different things.
Also, the users can have a public profile or not, and can be confined so they are only allowed to change entities within their organization or university.

Keeping all this complexity manageable, so we can produce innovation in the future in a reliable way, is a tough problem. By using Signum Framework we have total control of the platform, including the ORM (Object-to-relational Mapper), the query system (full Linq provider), the validation infrastructure (mainly declarative using attributes) and the user interface, using ASP.Net MVC and Ajax, putting up in a excellent position for the challenges in the horizon.
We have a lot of ideas for improvements and new features; here is an advancement of the kind of things you could expect to see in Ucalenda soon:

  • We are planning to include friendship relationships between users, so we can enrich our privacy settings.
  • Also, we are studying different ways to relate users by groups or circles of interest, and allow users and organizations to have their own space to speak about themselves (using our own implementation of WikiMarkup) or create their own events.

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