TimeBridge

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Impressions from CTC2006 / Boston

I am at the Collaborative Technology Conference (CTC 2006) in Boston (where the temprature is now ) – pretty interesting crowd in here. I was speaking on a panel organized by Michael Sampson previously one of the best collaboration bloggers out there www.shared-spaces.com [rip] and now with Foldera [good luck, Michael!])- and moderated by Larry Cannell from Ford titled “Calendaring: Time for an Update”.

Below are some of the main points made by the panelists, who, as a group, mostly focused on free/busy and other type of calendar sharing and organization.

Larry Cannell started by making the point that calendars manage our most important resource – time, and went on to argue that scheduling is still an art.

Next, I argued, in a slightly contrarian way, that free/busy as a scheduling tool is inherently flawed, because whether I am “free” or “busy” is, interestingly enough, probably the least important bit of information to my decision process. Instead, it is information contained in the proposal itself (who is asking? what is it about?) and the group dynamics (who else is going to be there?) that dominates a participant’s decision-making.

My main points were:
1. Calendars are not natural scheduling tool, because:
- The Propose/Accept/Reject model is flawed
- Free/busy access is inherently broken, in most situations
2. Any solution must:
- Start with the way people communicate (email, be polite, etc.)
- Capture group dynamics & support good citizenship
- Be easy & efficient

Consistent with my view that TimeBridge is a new way to interact with existing calendars, and there is no new need for “YAC” (“Yet Another Calendar” – as Fran from Airena said, if my notes are correct).

Later, Nathaniel Borenstein from IBM agreed that calendaring is a very hard problem, and suggested we start by asking the most basic questions:
- What is time? How can we structure it?
- How can one control the experience? With what tools?

Later, Nathaniel made the point that having standards, while very complex, will go a long way towards solving the problem, and pleaded the relevant organizations to take action. He made the point that IBM heard that the #1 (and 2, 3, 4 & 5) priority in terms of calendaring in large corporations is free/busy sharing.

Following that, John Robb of Zimbra described the commonly held view that calendars are disconnected islands of data. No sharing of free/busy of information, no ability to mesh-up, most are not shareable and lack universal access (such as from mobile devices). He basically argued (against IBM & Microsoft, I guess) that since the current off-line calendars were invented there were "few" advances in standards and technology. e.g. the World Wide Web emerged, XML was defined, Web 2.0 came into existence, search is omnipresent, Macs made a come back and open source is a respected way to get IT projects done.
What is coming? He mentioned initiating conference calls straight out of the calendars, integration with travel sites, overlay calendars with web analytics etc.

Gary Schwartz, representing Calconnect, provided an entertaining and candid overview of the history of standards and the current efforts underway.

The session ended with Fran Rabuck from Airena suggesting “if time is money, then your calendar is your wallet”.

I later added – if your calendar is your wallet, then TimeBridge is PayPal ;-)