Friday, October 23, 2020

A Windows 10 calendar interop mystery

 I've been gradually getting up to speed with Mozilla Thunderbird running on Windows 10, and I've encountered a mystery.

I received an iCal invite via Thunderbird, and attempted to share it to my Google Calendar by linking my Google account to Windows 10. But when I completed this, the invitation showed up not on my Google Calendar, but instead on the Windows 10 calendar.

I would have thought that using a Google login would have propagated the meeting to Google's calendars. Am I doing something wrong?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Microsoft clobbers its own internal calendar interoperability

After a couple of decades, I really can't be surprised by any inaction Microsoft takes on the industry-standard calendar-sharing front, but this latest takes the cake: Not syncing calendar data between Office 365 and a newly-purchased iPhone in a timely fashion, unless the iPhone purchaser first downloads and installs Outlook for iOS.

Shame on Microsoft. Even Steven Sinovsky, the former president of Windows for Microsoft, is pissed.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Google Duplex: A swamp-draining opportunity, lost

Still waiting for some really good swamp-draining news, but this ain't it. I would not appreciate getting one of these calls if I ran a restaurant or a salon. Seems more dehumanizing somehow than having a real person on the other end of the line. I wish they had built something that maps directly into reservation systems themselves & shows free/busy times, but that assumes a level of schedule interoperability that we have yet to achieve, not because standards don’t exist, but because they are not widely supported, and may never be. Instead, it’s basically like a new interruption. Or am I just old fashioned?

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Q&A: Ronald Tse, founder of Ribose, co-host of CalConnect's Hong Kong event, April 18-22

CalConnect XXXVI is just 12 days away. It's a special event -- the first CalConnect event in Asia. Previous events took place in North America and Europe. This month's event is April 18-22 in Hong Kong.

Since I am chair of the CalConnect board, I thought it would be informative to post a brief Q&A with Ronald Tse, founder of Ribose, which is the co-host of the event, along with Hong Kong's Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO). I also encourage you to consider attending if you want to get in on the ground floor of advancing calendaring and scheduling interoperability in Asia as well as the rest of the world. It should be one of CalConnect's most memorable events yet.

With that, here is my Q&A with Ronald Tse.

Calendar Swamp: Please briefly tell me who you are and what Ribose does.

Ronald Tse: I am Ronald Tse, founder and CEO of Ribose, one of the two co-hosts of the 36th CalConnect conference in Hong Kong. My passion and background is in computer science, having received both masters and bachelors degrees from Brown University in this field.

Ribose is a secure cloud collaboration platform used by organizations worldwide in industries that need to share and work with highly confidential and sensitive information, such as in pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and engineering.

Calendar Swamp: What does it mean to Ribose to host the first-ever CalConnect meeting in the Far East?

Ronald Tse: This is the first time CalConnect is being held in Asia, and this event aims to make CalConnect a truly global organization. I still remember the day we first talked and you, as the chairman of CalConnect, discovered our existence and invited us to join as CalConnect's first Asian member. We really appreciated that and can't express enough of our gratitude. Especially since we have now discovered the benefits of working with calendar standards. From the very beginning, our aim is not only to bring the conference to Asia, but to link up Asian tech organizations with CalConnect the organization, to improve calendaring for the Asian population. This is exactly the expectation [CalConnect Executive Director] Dave Thewlis had when we joined. And I'm happy to say that we have fulfilled at least part of the promise 3 years after joining.

Many people know of the CalDAV and iCalendar standards, including ourselves before we joined. However, what people don't realize is how accessible these standards are. If anyone is doing anything about calendaring or scheduling, be it delivery schedules, manufacturing schedules, or travel itineraries, it would be of massive benefit of everyone to implement these according to standards developed through CalConnect. We want to share this experience with other organizations that have not yet had the right exposure and encouragement especially in our part of the world.

CalConnect has a very established following in the U.S. where it originated and where the technology heavyweights are based. CalConnect is now also successful in Europe with an annual event there every year. With Asia's technology industry maturing at full speed, we want to make sure our region understands the benefits of these standards provide, or so to speak, how to stand upon shoulders of giants.

Calendar Swamp: How is use of calendars and schedules different in Asia than it is in the West? And how is it similar?

Ronald Tse: While Asia holds the world's largest population by far, it is also houses the most diverse set of cultures. Chinese and Indian calendar systems date back to ancient times. Similar to the Western world, historically being mainly agrarian societies, the calendar is most useful for farming schedules.

However, the significance of the calendar doesn't stop there: since the calendar touches everybody intimately, in certain cultures there is the concept of the calendar era, with each new ruler naming a new calendar era which the year one starts over again, signifying change. This tradition is still kept in Japan and to some extent in Taiwan today.

Speaking from personal experience, in the Chinese and Korean cultures, people are still ingrained with the traditional lunar calendar for important events and celebrations such as birthdays. Here in Asia, calendars do much more than just keeping time and tracking the movement between the earth and the sun: it is prevalent in East Asia to use the traditional calendar to demarc seasons, direct daily activities, for fortune, luck and taboos. And of course for fortune telling, date choosing, geomancy and so forth. While the Gregorian calendar is close to being the world's common calendar, more so than English being the common language, there are other calendar systems that are still alive and kicking, and rightfully so. And I believe CalConnect is the platform to reflect this fact.

Calendar Swamp: What are some of Ribose's biggest opportunities and challenges?

Ronald Tse: At Ribose we are a user driven organization. Our biggest opportunities (and challenges) are in satisfying our users to collaborate effectively while providing them the security protection needed for their data. Security is often considered to be a roadblock to user experience: our challenge is in how to provide the necessary security measures without overwhelming or hampering the user experience, especially in calendaring.

Calendar Swamp: If you had to summarize what sharing calendars and schedules means to people who do not think about it much, what would you say?

Ronald Tse: Time, being something that cannot be bought, should be important to anyone. If you ever found yourself having missed an important event, maybe it's time to consider using the excellent calendaring and scheduling tools available today!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

CalConnect Web site relaunched

Very pleased to announce the relaunch of, now based upon the modern Drupal content management system. I acted as CalConnect project manager for this reboot. If you're reading this post at your desk, check it out on a mobile device too!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Some good news from CalConnect XXXV

Nearly seven months after my last post here, I have a couple of pieces of good news on the calendar sharing front, and they both concide with CalConnect XXXV, taking place this week at AOL in Palo Alto. It's an event which allows me once again to hang out with a bunch of really smart folks imagining tomorrow's calendar and schedule-sharing technology.

First, I've learned that the Apple iCalendar/iCloud search limitation I encountered and blogged about during my "ten years" post has been resolved. That is, my iOS devices are now storing ALL my Apple iCalendar entries, not just one year's worth. That means that I can now search through events as far back as February 2007! My previous workaround was to export this data as an .ICS file and then import it into a Google Calendar, a kludge I was not crazy about for a number of reasons.

Why this was a problem seven months ago must remain a mystery. I am pretty sure it wasn't user error (me). Maybe there had been a bug in Apple iCalendar back then, which has since been resolved.

Second, I am leading the team to relaunch CalConnect's Web site by the end of this month. The work underway looks very promising, and among other things, it's allowing me to become a modest user of the Drupal content management system, which is a skill I've long wanted to sharpen. Stay tuned to Calendar Swamp for news of the CalConnect Web site relaunch! Kudos to CalConnect for giving me this opportunity to make a contribution to this community, rather than just ranting about things in general on this blog.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

10 years of Calendar Swamp

10 years later, it still feels like January in the road to interoperable calendars and schedules.

There has been some progress, but still mostly inside new calendar silos, as opposed to the kinds of standards that made email the success (and ubiquitous pain) that it is. Love it or hate it, you know how email works and you just use it. Calendar sharers should be so lucky.

I never did get a way to seamlessly share Windows and Macintosh calendar information. Ten years ago, I wasn't using Microsoft Outlook. Today, I see all its warts, the way it shares meeting invitations with my iPhone but doesn't display the same information as the Outlook client does.

My five+ years of iPhone appointments are automagically backed up to iCloud, but when I load my calendar on iCloud, I can't search it. Meanwhile, my iOS devices only display calendar entries going forward or up to one year back. If I want to search all five years, I have to export the calendar as an .ics file to a Google Calendar, and then I'm acutely aware that Google is reading my calendar over my shoulder. It's their business model. (Oh, or I could buy a Mac. That's a high price to pay just to search some calendar entries.)

Meanwhile, my Outlook calendar remains tethered to Outlook, a truly terrible piece of email software which every company on the planet wants to abandon -- probably including Microsoft at this point. I use non-Outlook email for a variety of reasons. It's way too complicated to try to schedule something that way, so I always end up asking folks to send me Outlook calendar invites. And then they're using my Outlook email address, making maintenance of that email box a small nightmore.

What was true 10 years ago remains true now: If the public doesn't demand calendar and schedule interoperability, liberating calendaring from hardware and email platforms, vendors won't deliver it for them. The loss of productivity of all that calendaring and scheduling being done in email silos on siloed platforms remains incalculable.

Let the second 10 years of draining the Swamp commence!

Thank you loyal readers - truly you are the advance guard of fed-up calendar enthusiasts who have inspired me repeatedly over the past 10 years. And if you feel like helping, demand your technology suppliers join CalConnect, the only group on the planet trying on a worldwide scale to make a truly interoperable ecosystem of calendars and schedules. Not only could CalConnect's work make the average worker feel more productive, it could also sort out many event-related aspects of the Internet of Things, the Smart Grid, healthcare systems, and other use cases too numerous to mention.

Disclosure: I remain CalConnect's chairman of the board, and intend to stand for re-nomination to the board, for another three-year term, later this summer.