Thursday, February 28, 2008

Microsoft gives blessing to an open-source calendar

Looking over yesterday's flurry of Microsoft-related announcements, I noticed that SpikeSource has Microsoft's blessing to service and support WebCalendar, an open-source calendar written in PHP, which SpikeSource now supports under Windows 2008. It's not clear whether SpikeSource also supports WebCalendar on Linux, but I suspect they do. It's a very small step forward, hardly swamp-draining, but it's something.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Book Review: Collaboration 2.0

While at CalConnect XI, I met David Coleman, co-author (with Stewart Levine) of Collaboration 2.0: Technology and Best Practices for Successful Collaboration in a Web 2.0 World (HappyAbout, January 2008, $29.95 paperback or $19.95 eBook). He then provided me with a review copy in eBook form.

I'm happy to report that the book doesn't simply urge that everyone adopt Gmail and Google Calendar and leave it at that. Instead, the book is a wide survey of competitive solutions and, of most interest to you, how to wire the calendars embedded in such solutions to each other.

Coleman brings years of expertise on groupware, and Levine's published works focus on helping groups work together. Another contributor was Coleman's Collaborative Strategies colleague Ann Marcus, who worked at InfoWorld in the 1990s at the same time I did.

I'm going to limit my review to the portion of the book dealing with calendar sharing. There's a lot of other info on all kinds of messaging, ranging from texting to avatars. I guess my view is calendar interoperability is a particular kind of messaging, structured a particular way, around events (and, increasingly, tasks). In Chapter 5, Coleman nails the problem:

"How many times has it take 12 different e-mails to set up a simple meeting or conference call with three to four people."
A few pages later, Coleman describes the ten distinct steps required for the meeting organizer to arrange one meeting. Clearly this has to change. Using a calendar-sharing service such as TimeBridge can cut this process to five steps. It's heartening to see such a calendar-sharing service featured in a book (for the first time?). Then Coleman compares TimeBridge to a U.K.-based service I was unfamiliar with called ikordo. ikordo mainly relies upon email as the final messenger to arrange meetings, which is probably a necessary evil since so many people don't use a calendar no matter what. There's an Outlook plug-in now in beta, plans to support Google Calendar, but no Apple iCal support planned as of yet.

Coleman also gives an overview of Tungle, a "meeting coordinator" Web site I've been aware of for a while but haven't mentioned here on Calendar Swamp.

Another option I wasn't aware of that Coleman dug up was iPolipo -- which since publication of Collaboration 2.0 has been renamed Jiffle. I took a quick look, and it seems to have a sophisticated free/busy service that lets you mark different portions of your calendar free depending on who's asking. I'm sure we're going to see a lot more of this kind of service.

Finally, there's a mention of Calgoo, which I've written about before in these pages.

Overall, kudos to David Coleman for taking the bull by the horns in the first calendar-sharing comparison of its kind. If you're serious about tracking this like I am, check out Collaboration 2.0 and subscribe to Coleman's blog.

UPDATE: Corrected URL for Jiffle. It's

Friday, February 22, 2008

Does Microsoft's new openness stop at Windows Mobile?

Lots of new developer stuff at Microsoft's interoperability Web site, but not a word that I can find on improving access to Windows Mobile data, past, present or future. That keeps the Windows Mobile data (such as calendaring) a most difficult nut to crack. Does anyone know any different?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Use Lotus Notes on Mac? Listen up

I got an email from Tim Goggin, who writes:
"We've just released PocketMac GoBetween for Lotus Notes, the first tool to allow Mac users to sync their Lotus Notes data to the almost 200 devices, handhelds and phones Apple supports natively. These devices include iPhones, Palm handhelds, Nokia devices and much more."
The cost is $24.95. And the list of supported phones on the Web site includes photos of each supported phone. That's pretty nice.

CalConnect: A progress report

As I said on Feb. 8, I was an invited guest to CalConnect Roundtable XI, the absolute worldwide nerve center of calendar interoperability efforts. A variety of organizations, including universities, vendors and service providers, tried out various implementations of CalDAV, realtime Internet scheduling connections between CalDAV and some other calendars, including via MAPI and ActiveSync, and something I had not been aware of, a developing free/busy URL standard. CalConnect isn't releasing details of which technologies were demonstrated at RoundTable XI implementing these standards and proto-standards, but I'm happy to report that some big names were on board. Today, CalConnect released a public slide deck (link updated 2/22/08) summarizing RoundTable XI and the group's progress. If you're interested in the details, check out the slide deck, and if you have any questions or feedback I might be able to address, please submit a comment to this post.

CalConnect needs help urgently in one area. This group needs more participants with security expertise. No one wants calendar systems to be plagued by the spam and malware that afflict email. If you have messaging security expertise, or know someone who does, please get in touch with CalConnect and help out on this critical work.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Mac Leopard calendar sync issues

According to the Spanning Sync blog, Apple's Leopard update to Mac OS X last year introduced some calendar sync bugs. An OS X update (10.5.2) last week fixed some of these bugs but introduced others "which affect not only Spanning Sync but also applications like Plaxo, Entourage, BusySync, and .Mac itself." Apple's working on fixes. Meanwhile, Mac folks should continue to sync carefully.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Backpack adding group calendars

37Signals is adding group calendars to Backpack, its online "information organizer." The calendar feature currently costs $5 a month. There are also new privacy controls. It's not calendar-sharing nirvana, but it's another step forward, particularly for those using Backpack already.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

TimeBridge MyTime is a URL worth grabbing

TimeBridge has a new feature called MyTime which provides a simple URL for your free/busy information. Go for it now and claim a simple URL before others with your same name do so. I grabbed I've only wired it up to my Google Calendar for now, and since I don't use Google Calendar as my primary calendar, it won't really reflect my free/busy time, for now. But this one's worth watching, particularly as free/busy interoperability spreads across the calendar-o-sphere.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

GooSync's adding tasks, so Google Calendar's next

GooSync, the software that syncs Google Calendar with mobile phones and PDAs, just emailed its community that the company is seeking testers for a new task feature being beta-tested by GooSync later this month. This must mean Google Calendar will be getting tasks (completable events) shortly. Last month, I said Microsoft was expanding the calendar genre by adding tasks to Windows Mobile calendars, but upon investigation I had overlooked reports from April 2006 that tasks were already an unimplemented feature of Google Calendar. Bottom line, it's time to add tasks to our basic list of calendar-sharing must-haves.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Denmark's visionary free-busy sharing/calendar service

Infrastructure drives productivity. Railroads helped the North win the U.S. Civil War. The U.S. Interstate Highway System helped the U.S. become an industrial titan in the 20th century. The Internet, and email in particular, is making connected workforces more productive. But the point of Calendar Swamp all along has been to advocate for a new instructure, one of calendar sharing, that could make workers more productive by eliminating countless emails and phone calls currently required to determine when someone is free or busy, and arrange events that everyone involved can agree upon.

Enterprises have understood this for years, and typically lock themselves into Microsoft, Apple or IBM calendars exclusively in order to achieve a common calendar-sharing platform. But I knew it was only a matter of time before calendar-sharing rose to the level of national importance. Now, the Kingdom of Denmark has done just that.

For only $400,000, Denmark has built a Web site and connectors to popular online calendars that, conservatively, could save the country $10 million a year if the 816,000 public employees in Denmark used it to save one hour a year determining when others were free or busy for meetings. Needless to say, I think an hour a year savings is a conservative estimate. Some weeks, I feel like I could save an hour a week if calendar sharing or even just free/busy info sharing were ubiquitous.

This week, I was privileged to meet two Danish government officials -- Helle Birkedal Martinussen, Business Solution Architect with the Danish Ministry of the Environment, and Bitten Clausen, IT-Architect with the Ministry of Science's National IT and Telecom Agency. With them was Christian Orellana, CEO of Cabo Communications, the company that developed the Danes' new service,

We met at a meeting of CalConnect, the Calendaring and Scheduling Consortium, whose meetings are open to members-only but to which I and one other outsider were invited to attend this week with the understanding that we not disclose certain details of what we saw. I agreed to this and was honored to represent the worldwide Calendar Swamp community. I will have more to say about what I saw in a post next week. Longtime readers of Calendar Swamp will recognize CalConnect from the link to it provided from this blog, and from my 2006 IT Conversations podcast with Dave Thewlis.

For now, listen to my meeting with the previously-mentioned Danish visitors to CalConnect, Calendar Swamp Podcast #7, about 10 minutes in length, recorded on February 6, 2008. Something big is starting to happen, and those economies that jump on this bandwagon will be the winners. has limited services for English-language visitors, but check back there soon, Orellana told me. In the interest of providing more info to English speakers, particularly the more technical of you reading this, here are some excerpts from an informational flyer handed to me:

"Cooperation across organizations -- both within the public sector and between the public and private sectors involves, among other things, the task of setting up meetings. With participants from a variety of different organizations and calendaring platforms, the task of scheduling a meeting has proven very time consuming -- mainly due to the lack of free-busy information for the participants.

"To investigate the possibilities for better and more efficient ways of organizing meetings the project was fostered in 2002...

"For quick and easy adaptation the system was built on existing technologies where applicable.

"Free-busy information is published to a shared repository at using iCal/WebDAV and xCal/SOAP interfaces. (There is a strong use of XML for data exchange between public authorities in Denmark.)

"While Outlook natively supports free-busy lookup and publishing using iCal/WebDAV, server components for publishing free-busy information were developed for GroupWise, Lotus Domino, and Exchange (in the works).

"To assist users of server-based systems a rich web interface was developed allowing these users to schedule meetings using a web browser. (The web interface is widely used by Outlook users as well.)

"Besides calendaring services, provides directory services to find subscribed users. The directory can be accessed via LDAP or by using the web interface.

"Preliminary support for server-based free-busy lookup for Gmail and Zimbra users was recently added.

" is based on an Open Source platform [GPL] developed by Cabo Communications. The platform includes facilities for calendaring, address book, online documents, chat, etc.

"The source code is available at, as well as interfaces for Microsoft Outlook, IBM Lotus Notes and Novell Groupwise."

UPDATE: On this page, CalConnect has posted presentations from and from Cabo Communications.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Microsoft-Yahoo! calendars "don't combine well"

John Dvorak writes that the Yahoo! and Microsoft calendars "don't combine well." It's something I never really tested, because I was certain that would be my conclusion.