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University Scheduler “Thing” Now Open for Pennsic-wide Events

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The New Pennsic University Pavilion opens its gates
Photo by Master Phillip the Pilgrim

University Scheduler “Thing” Now Open for Pennsic-wide Events
By Kathyrn de Wrytar
Features Reporter

Powerful new scheduling software developed by Pennsic University has not only made it easy to accurately list this year’s courses, but has now been deployed to add events that occur across the entire War.

The program can be accessed from smartphones and mobile devices and should make it easy for Pennsic participants to quickly customize their own War calendars. It is named after the Old Norse word for a folkmoot or assembly, and can be accessed at thing.pennsicuniversity.org.

Baroness Gwynnyd of York, University Chancellor, said that University officials quickly realized the tool they developed had the capability to help people far beyond the classroom. The system already includes the Battlefield schedule, as well as War-wide events such as children’s activities and some public gatherings.

“Though this came through the university, and was originally done to make scheduling classes easier, it became obvious that it scaled easily to other parts of Pennsic,” she said.

The system is not meant to replace the printed Pennsic schedule, but university officials note that Thing carries the most up-to-date scheduling information, including class cancellations.

Individuals who access the system benefit in two primary ways. One, they may upload an event of public interest at Pennsic and within minutes the event will be available to all other electronic schedule users. Pennsic staff moderate the schedule to ensure that listings are appropriate. Appropriate events are those that are open to the public, follow Pennsic policies, and are of broad interest. This could include informal events, such as public parties.

The second benefit to individuals is the ability to search and select Pennsic events and classes based on their own particular interests, and to download a calendar of those events directly to their computer or mobile device.

“If you’re interested in heraldry, you can make a list of just the heraldry classes, or you might want a combined schedule of heraldry and dance events, the battles you are fighting in, and the parties you want to attend,” said Baroness Gwynnyd.

From the “schedules” listing in the upper left-hand corner of Thing’s menu, users can download either the entire schedule or a customized schedule for classes in formats including pdf, html, csv, and iCal.

Anyone can look at the schedule without creating an account. To save, modify, or share a schedule, users need to create a log-in account; to add an event to the schedule click the “Become an Instructor” button. Logins are free, though users must give a minimal amount of contact information to establish their account.

The Chancellor notes that adding an event or class to Thing does not automatically give approval for the event and inappropriate events will not be added to the schedule. Normal Pennsic reservation and administrative processes must be followed by those offering classes or events.

Thing was programmed by Lord Griffon de Willingham, of Artemesia, in an effort led by Baroness Gwynnyd and supported by the entire Pennsic University staff. Thing is written on an html development system called Ruby on Rails; the Chancellor said the program is entirely modular and explained that Pennsic University hopes to develop and add many more features as time goes on.

“This is a work in progress, and all of the effort has been donated for the good of Pennsic and the SCA. So far everybody who has used it has told us they are delighted. We are also looking for programmers who would like to be part of this effort. They should stop by University Point or contact pennsicuniversity@gmail.com,” said Baroness Gwynnyd.

Further information on Thing and some limited computer access to it is available at University Point.