I owe many debts to Dave Winer. He introduced me to blogging in 1999 and was instrumental in the early days of Davos Newbies. And he’s a creator of RSS, which is the fundamental tool I use to gather information every day.
So I always sit up when he announces something new. Dave has been involved with Microsoft in creating something called Simple Sharing Extensions. I made the mistake of looking first at the FAQ, which I could hardly make head or tail out of. Fortunately Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie has provided a description that helps me make sense of what is going on.
For years, as many of you, my work life has involved significant travel. As significant bi-coastal coordination has now entered into the mix, things have gotten even more complicated for me, for my wife, for my assistant and hers. In order to stay on the same page, each of us has the need for (limited) visibility into aspects of each others’ calendars and schedules. Each of us has a mix of private, shared, and public events and meetings that we’re tracking.
Some of these we edit privately and publish to others. (This itself has posed significant challenges – particularly sharing partial information from confidential calendars.) The most challenging calendars we deal with are those that are “shared”, such as the family calendar my wife and I jointly maintain, or the calendars we share with outside groups – such as the meeting calendars of volunteer organizations.
It’s tough because we use a mix of different email/calendaring systems – corporate as well as non-corporate, web-based as well as client-based. And to each of us it makes sense to want to edit the calendar in our own PIM application of choice where we do all our calendaring and scheduling work – not within calendaring systems on other various websites.
And the same goes for contact lists. In our case, each of us has a mix of private, shared, and public ‘address books’ or ‘contact lists’ that we’re managing. At work I deal with contacts in my enterprise directory as well as my own private contact list. But I share two completely different contact lists with my wife – one that is our “home rolodex’ with plumbers, doctors and the like, and one that is our “family rolodex” with friends & family. And I know she has other contact lists she shares privately with members of groups she’s working with.
As an industry, we have simply not designed our calendaring and directory software and services for this “mesh” model. The websites, services and servers we build seem to all want to be the “owner” and “publisher”; it’s really inconsistent with the model that made email so successful, and the loosely-coupled nature of the web.
I face the same problems both at home and at work. At home, things work passably well thanks to our Mom’s Family Calendar. Our household would certainly break down without it, but it doesn’t tie in at all to the appointments I enter in Outlook for work, and we have no means of sharing contacts in the way Ray describes. In my small start-up we haven’t found a tool that is both affordable and simple enough so that a couple of my partners – who have a staggeringly low tolerance for intrusive or demanding tools – will actually use it.
So I like the sound of SSE. Now I’ll eagerly await its application in ways I can use.