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December 07, 2005
Why I Don't Use a Calendar
An online calendar like Outlook, that is. Actually, I use a bunch of calendars, but all paper. Don't look at me like that. After attending the When 2.0 workshop yesterday at Stanford, I already know most of you in corporateland can't imagine how I get anything done without some kind of online calendar.
But as folks at When 2.0--mostly entrepreneurs who are pitching some kind of online calendar service--admitted, I'm hardly alone. "Most 'normal' people don't keep their schedules on a computer," noted Esther Dyson, who presented the workshop. While I would never consider myself representative of "most normal people," the reasons for my reticence probably aren't unique. And they suggest some potential solutions--though it looks like it still could take awhile for online calendars to become as commonly used as, say, email or search engines. ...
* Paper's still easier, always available, and generally more portable. Fact is, there's still way too much friction in having to log in to a service, type in an appointment, and call it up later.
* Most people I know, both at work and in the rest of my life, don't use Outlook or similar shareable scheduling programs. At the same time, although standards efforts are underway for sharing data among different calendars, it can't be done yet. So there's no benefit from network effects.
* Despite the best efforts of employers, work and personal life for most people haven't meshed completely. And most calendar services haven't made it easy enough--though they're making valiant efforts--to selectively share particular events in our own calendars with colleagues, family, friends, and social groups.
* My own job involves relatively little need to coordinate schedules on a regular basis with a regular set of colleagues. Our work is organized such that we simply don't need to coordinate our schedules all that much. I suspect that's still true for many people's work life.
* I still don't have always-on connectivity, especially outside the office. If my company bought me a Treo, that might change, but that's unlikely in the short term.
* Personally, I suspect I tend to shy away from jobs that require scheduling all my time into meetings and events. Heck, I stopped wearing a watch because I found myself trying to squeeze too many things into some arbitrary number of minutes, making me feel in ever-less control of my life. Maybe I'm not as "productive," but life isn't all about productivity.
All that said, there's a huge amount of work being done in scheduling and events management by Microsoft, IBM, Yahoo, Evite, and the open-source Chandler project, as well as such startups as Airena, TimeBridge, Zvents, Trumba, EVDB, Zimbra, and no doubt a bunch of others I know even less about. I'm not sure how much technology can do about the social challenges of shared calendars, but it's clear that much innovation is soon to come. I'm not ready to toss out my desk calendar or the scribbled notes in my shirt pocket. But now I can actually imagine a time when I will.
Social Software, Web, Web 2.0
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This is a great article! *Adoption* is the biggest single issue facing all these calendars. No doubt, the ability to easily share calendars will one day be a driver of adoption, but there are even bigger issues to address before then.
Our company, Mediabee, has been methodically addressing these issues with our product. For example, in our research, users told us that unless we could meet or beat the 6 seconds it took to make an entry such as "Soccer,3pm,Mark" on the wall calendar, there wasn't a chance of being adopted. But that's only one of the many barriers.
You can find a white paper on the barriers to adoption of electronic home calendaring solutions on our website. A quick overview of our application can be found at http://mediabee.com/dashboard.
You should give it a try. You may not give up your desk calendar yet, but you're sure to be tempted.
Posted by: Saro Saravanan at December 7, 2005 07:01 PM
First, thanks for the mention of Airena and our AirSet service, even if you aren't a fan of online calendars I know some of your readers might be and will give our service a try.
I can't say that I disagree with many of your comments. Paper calendars are great -- high contrast, always on, fast and easy to edit -- the only draw back is that you have to do all of the data entry yourself. What shared online calendars enable is the ability for one person to enter an event and have it appear on all participants calendar. Of course if many of the people with whom you schedule events are not in front of a PC all day, it's hard to argue that even this is much of a benefit. However, this will all change as services like AirSet and others integrate their solutions with mobile phones. Almost everyone has, and carries a mobile phone. I am using the beta version of our mobile phone client as is my wife and I can't tell you how ecstatic she is about the ability to put an event with a reminder on the calendar in my phone from her PC or her mobile phone. It's hard to reach out and write on the paper calendar in other people's pocket. (Of course this anecdote will drive some users even further from adopting online calendars, but you get the idea :-)
Posted by: Brian Dougherty at December 8, 2005 12:15 AM
I completely agree with you on this point, I've tried all kinds of electronic and web calendars and always go back to paper for the fact that is just easier to deal with. The only calendar other than paper I use right now is the Calendar for the Google Desktop Sidebar (http://desktop.google.com/plugins/i/calendar.html).
It is still limited but I suspect it will eventually work with their online calendar, which will be great as long as they don't over populate it with useless features.
Posted by: Errol Mars at December 12, 2005 12:51 AM