Sunday, August 07, 2005

New IETF Working Group for Calendar

There's a new calendar working group at the IETF. This group's purpose is to simplify and improve the iCalendar standards. Complexity of the standards, and different interpretations in different vendors' implementations have been significant inhibitors to interoperability. This group's charter is specifically designed to solve those problems.

I hope that all interested parties contribute to the WG and, of course, continue to work with the Calendaring and Scheduling Consortium. Once interoperability is achieved, and calendar services seem as plumbing-like as electronic mail, there's no telling what new capabilities we'll have!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin...

Seems that I need to set some kind of calendar alarm to remind me to post here!

I haven't heard any new news on the front, although there was another Interop in early June, so there's nothing to report there.

There is, however, some new news as far as uses of iCalendar goes.

I regularly attend SHARE, which is a conference of computer users. SHARE started as a group of IBM users 50(!) years ago in 1955. They are now a group of IBM users, but users of anything which runs IBM software. The conference happens twice a year, and the sessions at SHARE run the gamut from Windows desktops to "giant" (actually smaller than some server racks) z/990 machines.

Like many other groups, SHARE tries to have conference agendas online to make it easier to plan your attendance. Well, starting with the next conference, their 105th, each session will have a calendar link attached to it, which allows you to dowload and open an iCalendar file! This, of course, lets you add the sessions directly to your calendar, if your calendar package supports iCalendar. It works in Outlook - I tested it at home even though I don't use Outlook for my home calendar. It won't, of course, work in Palm Desktop - because its VERSION component is "2.0" and Palm Desktop doesn't support that "new-fangled" iCalendar, they just support vCalendar. It may work in Apple's iCal but I don't have one to test with.

At any rate, this is great news - now we will be able to build our own personal agendas and sync them to our PDAs (if we have them). If you've ever tried to keep track of what sessions you want to attend for a large conference like SHARE, you'll realize what a boon this is.

Friday, May 27, 2005

More good news!

The July 2005 issue of Linux Journal has an article about extracting calendar information from a browser and building iCalendar info on the fly to return to the browser as MIME type "text/calendar".

This tells me that suddenly we have some traction, some visibility, for the calendaring issue - outside of "enterprise" products from proprietary vendors. Things are starting to happen, folks!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Good signs....

There are several good signs lately in the calendar world.

First, the Calendaring & Scheduling Consortium seems to be making progress with membership, they have some big players and are trying to recruit more.

Second, on the mailing lists related to calendar sharing via DAV, called CalDAV, things seem to be progressing fairly smoothly and they keep producing new drafts.

Third, the iCalendar simplification effort is progressing, with a lot of activity.

Fourth, I've seen participation from the "big three" (Lotus, Microsoft, Novell) of enterprise products on the lists (although they may not be members of the consortium yet).

Fifth, and most importantly - there are what appear to be many more university and open-source (the two sets often overlap) developers interested and contributing.

When a critical mass of developers on the Web decide to work on something, rapid progress is often made. In this case, I believe enough interest has been generated in "the calendaring problem" to move us much closer to the goal of true calendar interoperability. We can only hope.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

They're missing out on opportunities, and money too!

Most of the big players in the calendaring & scheduling world have some support for the iCalendar standards (RFC2445 at least, RFC2446/iTIP and RFC2447/iMIP to some degree). Some have better support than others. What all of them are missing, of course, is good interoperation with their competitor's products.

I'm making an educated guess, after three decades in computer work, that the vendors are afraid of true interoperation. The marketing guys reason that if their product is interchangable with someone else's, which would be true if the interoperation parts worked, they don't have a hold on you and you'll just switch out for something cheaper. They're wrong. Some people will switch out for cheaper stuff, but usually that's a fairly small minority. People want software that works for them, and more often than not will continue to use one vendor's software for years if it works well enough. So, the majority of people who switch do it because the other product wasn't getting the job done, or it was doing the job badly, or in some other way interfering with business or personal life.

Now we're reaching a point where a lot of interaction between businesses and people (or other businesses) takes place across interconnected networks. Nearly everyone reading this communicates via e-mail. Everyone uses different e-mail programs, but they all can send messages to each other, because the e-mail programs comply with some standards to make that happen. If you're a computer support person, you know that it's complex and hairy stuff that makes it work, there are bugs and flaws and arcane things going on in those standards. But if you're just a regular user of e-mail, you don't know, or care. You send e-mail, and Uncle Fred gets it. That's all you care about.

You can't, however, handle scheduling a meeting, or a birthday dinner appointment with Uncle Fred that way. Your calendar program might, if you're lucky, be able to send an invitation to ol' Fred; but his calendar program might not understand it. You might want to schedule a meeting between you, Spacely Sprockets, and Cogswell Cogs, but you can't do it, and you lose some valuable time playing telephone tag to set up the meeting.

Wouldn't you, then, pay a little bit of money to get a program which could "talk" to other calendar programs? Or wouldn't you stay loyal to a program which allowed you to do those things? I know I would, and I think you would too. That's why I believe that calendar interoperation will increase sales, rather than lose customers. And if the companies making this software don't believe that, then they're going to lose money as their customers move to buy software from companies that do believe it.

No company ever went broke selling its customers what they want to buy. I believe that the time has come where we want to buy calendar ease-of-use. I hope the Microsofts, Palms, and IBMs of this world believe it too.

Friday, February 25, 2005

So, it's been a while...

I haven't posted in some time, probably because not a lot has happened in the calendar world. There's been a new Calendar Interop by the Calendaring & Scheduling Consortium which included the first-ever interop for CalDav, a superset of WebDav which has some calendar folks excited. This Interop didn't include some of the previous participants, so I'm not sure how much progress is/was being made.

On another front, today there were suddenly rumors of Google Calendar (for one such post see Jeremy Zawadony's post), based on Google crawling for iCalendar (or Apple iCal, depending upon who you ask) data. This may be a manifestation not of a GCalendar application, but possibly of a specialized search for calendar information - which in and of itself would probably be a helpful thing. I suppose we'll know soon enough.