screenshot - calendar view“Getting the right information to the right people at the right time in the right way.”

The Princeton Timeline aims to let members of the Princeton community see everything they are supposed to do, and anything they might want to do, at Princeton on any given day of the year. It does this by consolidating event, activity and announcement information from a variety of University sources, including an information publishing system built into the Timeline itself.

The goal of the Timeline, quoted above, is both simple and ambitious. By “right information” we mean information that is pertinent and relevant. By “right people” we mean the people for whom the information is pertinent and relevant. By "right time" we mean delivered in an actionable time frame.By “right way”, we mean getting the information to people in ways that they prefer – not just through email, but through websites and through mechanisms that they have designated, such as text messages, calendar placements, and social media postings.

screenshot - event view Central to the Timeline is a distinction between two kinds of information: targeted posts and tagged posts. The former represent events, deadlines and announcements that are targeted at specific individuals or groups. An example of a targeted post might be an announcement to all senior History majors at Princeton specifying the deadline for submission of their senior thesis. All (and only) seniors majoring in History would see this post, and the system is able to determine who those individuals are by interrogating central University systems (the student sees these posts automatically because of their membership in the senior and history major groups).

Unlike targeted posts, tagged posts are sent to people not because they have a certain role (senior, history major), but because they have expressed interest in a certain category of events - a tag. An example of a tagged post would be an announcement of a University Glee Club concert. Individuals who have expressed an interest in the “music” tag would see this post. Unlike targeted posts, individuals see tagged posts only because they have explicitly expressed an interest in seeing such posts. Having both targeted and tagged posts allows the Timeline to handle both the events that people are supposed to know about because of their memberships or roles (in essence, what they are “supposed to do”), as well as the events that people want to know about because of their interests (what they might “want to do”).

screenshot - tagged event form A system such as the Timeline can make it very easy to send information out to a lot of people in lots of ways — potentially too easy. To manage the information flow, the Timeline implements control over who can send targeted and tagged posts. Publishing an item, targeted or tagged, requires authorization. Only people who have posting rights to specific groups or tags can send posts to those groups or tags. The Timeline also supports the notion of moderation, whereby posts are sent to be reviewed before they are published.

The core of the Timeline is a mobile-friendly website that members of the community log into to see all of their tagged and targeted posts, as well as to publish posts to groups and tags to which they have publishing rights. The website also allows people to designate their interests (subscribe to one or more tags), and to specify their information delivery preferences. The Timeline is accessible through web browsers and also as apps in the AppStore and Google Play. In addition to the website, Timeline can send posts to people using a variety of modalities: it can, of course, send emails, but it can also post events into people’s Google or Exchange calendars (if authorized), send them text messages, and post to alternative web and social media sites. The Timeline allows the publisher and the receiver to designate preferred information delivery modalities.

For additional information on the Timeline, please feel free to contact the Timeline administrator at timeline@princeton.edu.

To login to the Timeline: timeline.princeton.edu.