The Free List

Freequently asked questions

What is the Free List?

The Free List is a listing of recreational events in San Francisco that are completely Free to attendees. Absolutely no cost is involved in attending, other than getting there and making oneself presentable (as necessary.)

For more information about the Free List, check out the background and History page.

How is the Free List Organized?

Currently, the Free List is grouped into the following six categories:

On the web, the events for each day are found on their own web paged, accessed from a monthly calendar page. The calendar page lists the type of events that occur on each day.

So, by looking at the monthly calendar, you can either select a specific day on which you'd like to do something free, or you can look for days on which a certain type of event are occuring.

The e-mail listing is sent once a week and contains the full week's listings. They are sorted by date (Monday through Sunday) and then by Category.

What gets listed on the Free List?

Events that are open to the general public and are free.

Events must be truly free; the event may be sponsored by a commercial organization (user groups, for example) or may be tied to an opportunity to purchase items (booksignings/readings at a bookstore) but there must not be an implied purchase requirement (concert in a bar where patrons are expected to buy drinks.)

What doesn't get listed?

Events hosted by a religious organization for the purpose of promoting a religion will not be listed. This is a personal prejudice, if you don't like it, you can always ask for your money back.

Events sponsored by hate groups will not be listed. I support their right to believe whatever garbage they want, but I will not assist them in promoting it. If you don't like this policy, please direct your comments to my paternal grandparents.

Any other events which, for whatever reason, are deemed inappropriate.

Who decides what gets listed?

I do. As creator, administrator, and sole ruler of the Free List, I, Uncle Roger get to say what gets listed and what doesn't.

I reserve the right to list or not list events as I see fit, and as per my personal predjudices and preferences.

How can I get my event listed?

You can do it one of two ways: Use the web-based form or send an e-mail to with all the pertinent information.

If you send it via e-mail, include the following info:

Note that I may edit some of this information for length, clarity, or just for my own amusement. Also, please include a telephone number or e-mail address (for my use only!) which I can use to contact you in case I have questions about your event.

What if my event isn't Free?

The Free List only lists events that are completely Free.

However, I am easily corruptable. Throw lots of money at me and I'm sure we can work something out. Keep in mind, however, that I am also sickeningly honest, and will let Free List readers know when I've been corrupted.

Can I advertise on the Free List?

I'm sure we can work something out. (See the previous question.)

Note that I reserve the right to be rather picky as to whom I'm willing to sell out. (Or, if you prefer clarity over grammatical propriety, I reserve the right to be picky about who I sell out to.)

Will you ever charge for the Free List?

No. That's completely contrary to the whole idea.

What might happen, should life rear its ugly head, is that I might have to discontinue it, or preferably, pass the torch on to someone else.

But it will always be completely Free.

Can I set up a Free List for my town?

As if your town had as much cool things to do for Free as San Francisco. Ha! I scoff at you!

Seriously, it would be a lot less work, much more fun, and all around better, just to move to the City.

Okay, if you must stay in your piddling little town, and you honestly think that cool stuff happens there, sure. Pay me lots of money and I'll let you set up a Free List for your town.

Oh, alright. If you insist, yes you can do it for free. However, (and it's a big however!) you must:

  1. give me lots of credit for having thought it up in the first place,
  2. give me even more credit for having set up the really cool web pages, and designed the cool layout for the e-mail list, and
  3. (most importantly!) share any bribes, kickbacks, cheerleader phone numbers, or advertising revenue you might get with me.
Send me a note via e-mail and we'll discuss selling your soul to me... err, I mean setting you up with a Free List for your town.

How come the Free List home page points to a really old calendar?

Contrary to what you may have been told, I am not perfect. While I do my best to get the weekly listing out on time, and keep the calendars updated, occassionally I forget to update the mini-calendars or the calendar links on the main page.

Fear not, they will be there, you'll just have to do a little more work to find them. You can:

  1. Enter the appropriate URL to access the specific monthly or daily calendar, (See the next question for details,)
  2. Subscribe to the e-mail list to make sure you get the latest list of Free events each week, or
  3. Send me a nasty e-mail telling me to get off my duff and update the page.

How do I find the current calendar if the main page hasn't been updated?

All the web pages for each month are stored in their own directory. By pointing your browser to the correct directory and file, you can access the monthly calendar or daily schedule for any month or day that is on the system. Note that old months may be removed to save disk space at any time.

To build the correct URL, first determine the month you are interested in, in YYMM format. If you are interested in, for example, February 1999, your month is 9902. Stick "fl" (as in Free List) on the front, and you have the directory (aka folder) that the pages are stored in. So, all the web pages for February 1999 are located at:

To get to a specific page add either "calendar.htm" (for the monthly calendar) or "dailynn.htm" (for daily listings, where nn is the day of the month) onto the end of the above URL. So, if you wanted to see what was happening on Valentine's day, 1999, point your browser at:


Why aren't there any events listed for the end of this month?

If it's early in the month, the chances are great that I have not yet entered them into the database, and so the system found nothing when it generated the pages for later in the month.

I often do not get around to entering events until the weekend prior to the week in which they occur. Unfortunately, I do have to work for a living, and as yet have not figured out how to derive any significant income from the Free List.

I do try to get events entered as early as possible, and will continue to improve the system to make it easier to get them entered earlier.

Why can't I find next month's calendar?

Because it isn't there... But seriously folks, first see the previous question. In addition, I often don't receive notice until shortly before (and sometimes after) the start of the month. Couple that with the time it takes to enter the events into the database, and you begin to get the picture.

I'm coming to San Francisco on holiday; should I sign up?

You're certainly welcome to, but you might find it easier to check the web pages instead. Note that free web access (text based, mostly) is available at the public libraries.

If you do sign up for the e-mail list, note that you will probably want to unsubscribe when you return home. And since you're about to ask it, read the next question.

Can you send me only the listings for the weeks I'll be there?

No. I'm barely able to pay my bills on time, let alone remember to feed the cat. There is simply no way I could possibly remember to send specific listings to individuals.

And before you ask, yes, I could automate it, but that would take time and there are more important tasks in the FreeList to do bucket, not to mention the Real World.

Can you send me the listing for [some date in the future]?

No. If I'm really on top of things, I get all the events entered into the database early in the month, and am able to get the listings out on Sunday, or even Saturday. To try to get them out earlier would require lots of money or a small miracle.

Another reason exists; I often don't get notice of events until the last minute so until then, I'm as much in the dark as you are.

How long does it take to compile the Free List each week/month?

There are two main activities that require a noticeable amount of time: updating the Free List home page and entering events into the database.

The main Free List web page still requires manual modification to get the links to point to what really is the current, previous, and next months. In addition, the small calendars at the top of the page have to be put in manually (a basic calendar beginning on the correct day of the month is copied from a template file, then the month and year are replaced with the correct date.)

This takes about an hour each month. Eventually, I will automate this (or make the main page dynamically generated) but for the time being, it remains the task I am most likely to forget.

Updating the list of subscribers requires about half an hour each week, as it is still done manually. This is another area where automation would help a great deal.

Whenever new events are added to the database, the daily and monthly web pages need to be updated and transfered to the server. This generally requires about an hour each week, but it is something that I can get started and then do something else while it's happening.

Building the daily web pages, the monthly calendars, and the weekly e-mail listing actually takes much less time than you might think -- it is all done automatically once the events are entered into the database.

The main task, however, is entering events into the database. Currently, I get the events from mailing lists, web pages, or manual submissions from people like you. For each one, I have to put in the date, time, location, description, title, and contact info. I can cut and paste descriptions from e-mails, web pages, and so on, but more often than not, they need some sort of editing to fit into the context of the Free List. (What may be obvious in an e-mail listing of events at a bookstore may not be so obvious when listed among other, dissimilar events on the free list.) Currently, this requires about 25 to 30 hours each month.

What's this database you keep talking about? What software do you use?

When I talk about the Free List database, I am referring to a file containing all the events, along with the information about them. (For the more technical members of the audience, it's not really a database at the moment, but a simple flat file.)

The software that runs the Free List is a suite of programs I wrote specifically to automate the tasks involved in putting out the Free List. It is all written in QBasic for MS-DOS, and will run on virtually any MS-DOS computer. Currently, however, it lives on my main computer, a '486-based MS-DOS/Win3.11 laptop I've carried since the beginning of 1994.

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