Friday, December 17, 2004

Another start on the path to calendar nirvana..

The Calendaring and Scheduling Consortium had its public launch (see the press release here) this week. There are quite a group of people involved - including some very experienced and/or smart ones. It looks promising, but we've seen promise before in the calendaring world, promise in the "candidate campaign promise" sense which disappears soon after the election. I'm always optimistic that this time will be the time things change, but who can be sure at this point?

There are at least two big vendors missing from the founder's list, who ought to be ashamed of themselves - Microsoft, because of the prevalence of Outlook in organizations; and Palm, because they're basically the progenitors of personal information management in the mobile space. Come on guys, it will only help you sell more copies if people can use your tool to schedule with all of their partners! The only mobile vendor I see is Symbian.. are they the stand-in for all of the cell-phone companies? When everyone claims we'll be living and dying by the cell phone, why aren't more cell phone software firms working with this group?

There are, at least, several universities involved - while their scheduling needs may not be the same as Everyman's, they do tend to have a lot of bright student programmers who like to work on things..

The group's purpose though is admirable, and one I support whole-heartedly (it's the purpose of this blog, too): to push vendors to come up with even some decent interoperability so that we can finally use our calendaring tools with businesses, with customers, and with each other. If we can get there, the door will open to all sorts of helpful calendar-related applications in the future, too. Let's just hope we get there.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Calendars everywhere, someday!

Imagine this... you search for an event - your favorite band's concert in your city, a public hearing, your second cousin from Poughkeepsie's birthday. When you find it, with a simple click you add it to your own calendar. That's one of the great potential benefits of calendar standards, which we could do today, except that web authoring tools don't support the iCalendar standard. It's hard enough to get calendar vendors to support it, so that's not unexpected, but it is pretty simple to do.

All that is necessary is for the web authoring tool to create a small iCalendar (.ics) file for each calendar-type event, and add an anchor tag that references that file. Actually, iCalendar files can contain multiple events but let's keep it simple for this discussion. Then when a user clicks on the file, it is opened in whatever application supports .ics files (MIME type "text/calendar"). It works with Apple's iCal program, and I hear with Outlook (I don't have Outlook so I don't know for sure). It currently won't work with Palm's Desktop program, because that only supports the older and outdated vCalendar specification.

Here's an iCalendar example with a small add-to-calendar icon:

Watch Dick Clark (iCalendar)

And for Palm Desktop users, the vCalendar version

Watch Dick Clark (vCalendar)

Try one of them, and see how it works for you. Now, imagine doing that for any event information that you now have to copy and re-type into your personal calendar - wouldn't life be easier?