More Thinking on Google Calendar

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As soon as I saw Google Calendar for the first time, I knew I’d ultimately be faced with a difficult dilemma: is it suitable for RedMonk’s collaboration business? Our need, of course, has been well documented. The arguments for Google Calendar, likewise, are fairly straightforward to anyone who’s used the application. It’s fast, easy to use, and provides thoughtful features like SMS notification.

The arguments against are more subtle. There’s the fact that it’s free, of course; for many businesses, RedMonk included,free is a paradoxical barrier to entry because it’s difficult to trust something you don’t pay for. But that, in my mind, at least, is surmountable. Especially if Google offers a for pay version.

But what of the technical obstacles?

  1. Email Integration:
    One the nice things about Exchange/Outlook is the integration between calendar and email. Gmail/Gcalendar have this – and actually go one better than the Microsoft combo by reading every message, not just invites – but due to this limitation we cannot currently use Gmail as a front end for our work email. In theory, this could eventually be addressed via Google Hosted, but that’s putting even more of our enterprise eggs in the Google basket – which I have questions about.

  2. Which Calendar?
    One of the things I’ve been struggling with since moving most of my schedule into Google Calendar is what the best way to use it is. I have two basic types of events – work and personal – and two general audiences – you guessed it: work and personal. Google offers the functional ability to create and maintain separate calendars, and granularly adminster permissions on each. But I’m finding a fair amount of overlap between the two, and managing them individually is tiresome. When I travel, for example, I’d like that to be seamlessly reflected in both calendars so that both audiences know when I’m out of town. Currently, however, I need to create the appointment in one calendar and copy it to the other. The various solutions I’ve entertained – selective read only access, collapsing to a single calendar, etc – have one drawback or another. It’s interesting, because the problem here is not a lack of functionality, but rather a lack of understanding as to how to use it. Anyone have any bright ideas here?

  3. URI Access to Calendar Resources:
    Google, to their credit, makes sharing calendars not tremendously difficult. But take my Denver Tech Meetup calendar; the only way to share that currently (as nearly as I can determine), is via an XML or iCal feed. Those are terrific for some portions of that audience, and terrible for others. It’d be nice to be able to expose the calendar as a distributable URI (even better as a JavaScript include, say, for a blog). How else, for example, can I share my free/busy information with non-technologists that want to schedule time with me during JavaOne?

Despite the above, Google Calendar is one of the top three collaboration options (along w/ Joyent and Zimbra) under consideration at the present time. In the next two or three weeks (because of travel), I’ll sit down with Cote and James to try and determine just what we’re going to use, because the status quo just isn’t acceptable. What are your thoughts on Google Calendar (or alternatives) – pro or con?


  1. 1) Hmm, I think Google Hosted is probably your best answer here…

    2) Unfortunately I don’t have any really great suggestions. We were going for a simple sharing model that let people share largely disjoint sets of events with different groups of people, and were trying to avoid the notion of “sub calendars” — i.e., some calendars are truly separate (my calendar vs. the devnver tech calendar — I’m not busy just because there is a meetup) and others are really sub calendars of “mine” — your work/personal example. But it seems that’s exactly what your use case asks for. Its a lot easier for us to handle an event on multiple sub-calendars than on multiple “real” calendars. Curious to hear other thoughts on this.

    3) This is in the works. Stay tuned.

  2. I have to wonder why Google didn’t use the labels paradigm employed in Gmail?

    That would largely eliminate the issue with having to copy events from calendar to calendar.

  3. I’ve been using Hosted GMail and recommend it. I’m pretty sure that the headers are fine, but I sent you an email so you can see for yourself.

  4. I’m not sure if your referring to this with ‘collapsing to a single calender’ but my only idea is to have a third calender! (seems to add more problems doesn’t it?) and that third calender is a calender for common items between work and personnel.

  5. Carl: thanks much for the note. understood on point 2, and frankly i can’t blame you – simple is good. the sub-calendar approach would be helpful in my situation, but likely difficult to use effectively out of sheer complexity. look forward to the URI access.

    Danno: great question – don’t know the answer.

    Andrew: thanks very much. as noted in my reply, that does seem to remedy the problem.

    anonymous: that’s good advice, and a strategy more than a few people seem to be using. maybe i’ll just start a “Travel” calendar that people can subscribe to to see when i’m out of town.

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