Calendaring is an application that has often caused me to shake my head. For something so basic, we still haven't gotten it right. Sharing calendars between applications requires an import/export shuffle, timezones still mess everything up, and the free-busy problem is a major headache. I despise any email that starts "We need to schedule a time..." because I know it's going to set off an email storm and waste my time.
Sure, if you're inside an enterprise and everyone else can be forced to use Exchange, Notes, or Groupwise, then you can mostly solve the free-busy problem, but as soon as you want to include folks outside of the sphere of your IT hegemony, you're sunk. Things like Google Calendar, iCalShare.com, and MeetingWizard are nice, but they're not the bullet-proof, distributed solution the world needs.
I'd pretty much given up hope, but a recent show on IT Conversations with Dave Thewlis has opened my eyes to some recent developments that might give rise to a solution.
Dave is the executive director of The Calendaring and Scheduling Consortium (CalConnect), an IT consortium focused on the promotion and evolution of calendaring and scheduling standards and the development of interoperable Internet-based calendaring and scheduling products and applications.
CalConnect, working thought the IETF, promotes standards like CalDav, a standard for distributing iCalendar files. There are various clients and servers that support CalDAV. What's more, CalConnect hosts interop events three times a year to show how various calendaring systems can work together.
At WWDF this year, Apple announced Darwin Calendar Server, which will be included with server versions of Leopard when it ships, but anyone can download and install it right now, since it's open source. Unfortunately, you can't get a copy of iCal (Apple's calendar program) that supports CalDAV until you install Leopard and other clients are immature.
With any luck and some time, CalConnect's efforts might result in you and I being able to easily schedule meetings with people regardless of the systems they're using. Cross your fingers.