I had a major headache occur, as the result of moving onto a new Mac. All of a sudden the sync stopped working for calendars: I couldn’t get calendar info onto my n95 from iCal. I would select the ‘sync calendar’ option for the n95 (or other devices) in iSync, and I would get the message that some iCal compliant app needs to be running for the calendar sync to proceed. I would check the box, iCal would open, and… nothing.
Of course, the setup I was using was a second order kludge: I was syncing with iCalendar only as a means to get Google Calendar info onto my phone. All the iCalendar information was being pulled — through read-only subscription — from various Google calendars, plus one Dopplr calendar.
I wasted a Sunday morning at the Apple Genius Bar, fooling around, but really getting no where. The Genius there tried a bunch of stuff — moving preferences around, deleting things, etc. — but nothgin fixed it. At a certain point he advised me to drag my Library folder to the desktop, and reboot. Mac OS X will reinitialized the Library stuff necessary to run, and then I could start dragging back things I might need. Sounded like Windows to me.
One good thing came out of this near-total waste of time: I discovered that Google has a mobile web interface for Google Calendar. In a real sense this frees me from the entire apparatus of syncing. For the first time I have access to the location and description fields of my calendar entries, which were lost in the iCalendar/iSync migration. Even better, the location info leads to integration with Google maps on the phone (although the map display is tiny, and doesn’t really take advantage of the available screen space very well. Still, I was able to use it to navigate in Mountain View yesterday, after getting off the Caltrain (no, it’s not the Calendar Train)).
However, I still want an offline version of the calendar for the laptop and the phone, since sometimes I don’t even have wireless available for the phone (like on airplanes or subway tunnels).
But this episode is one baby step away from synching of static, highly structured and managed information, toward something else. I was handwaving at some folks at Plaxo yesterday about this idea: tht we are moving away from a mindset where we want information normalized and synched all over the place. I don’t really. I am not eager to have all manner of contacts in all the systems I use replicas of each other. Or calendars.
Consider Dopplr: I use that calendar just for travel, and I import it into Google Calendar to avoid duplication of effort. But I certainly don’t want to cram all sorts of calendar entries into Dopplr, even if it was possible.
I don’t want all the contacts in the world on my phone: just the ones I want to call. Adding more makes everything slower.
So the basic premise of blind repication just doesn’t work for me.
What I really want is to push ‘parts’ — bits of information that contain enough metadata to distinguish them from other sorts of information — and to have semi-smart apps that pull these “parts” out of the general brownian motion of the emerging web of traffic.
So, instead of syncing, I was to drop parts into the flow, and have apps that sniff for calendar entries, invitations, contact updates, whatever. Instead of this traffic being concealed in some sort of machine-to-machine communication, the traffic can flow past in plain site. I can see that John has a new office phone number, and some clever Facebook plugin or Plaxo capability could fish out that factoid and act on it. But I also can see it float by, which may cause me to erase the old entry from my little black book.
But, of course, these smartish, parts-sniffing apps don’t exist yet, except in hard-coded ways, like Pownce or Facebook events.
Dan Farber’s scoop about LinkedIn’s plans to adapt to the new world that Facebook is making is almost anticlimatic:
[from � LinkedIn to open up to developers | Between the Lines | ZDNet.com by Dan Farber]
I talked to LinkedIn founder and Chairman Reid Hoffman on Friday at the Supernova 2007 conference about Facebook’s rapid growth and potential incursion into his territory. He told me that over next 9 months LinkedIn would deliver APIs for developers, ostensibly to make it more of platform like Facebook, and create a way for users who spend more time socially in Facebook to get LlinkedIn notifications.
One half of that message is just sensible: if you have a huge social network, why not allow others to build on top of it? The second half almost suggests conceding leadership to Facebook, as if Facebook is the really social social network, while Linkedin is some more functional thing that just so happens to work based on social relationships. Which is really what I have always thought was wrong with LinkedIn: it’s a bunch of business processes that are partially automated that rely on a large database of people’s relationships. It is, however, not the sort of place where you make or foster relationships. So, in a way, Reid is conceding nothing, since what Facebook is doing is intensely social, not just leveraging a big dataset of contacts.
In a similar fashion, Plaxo’s Ben Golub and I spoke the other day, and the ‘contact unmanagement’ company has released a beta of Plaxo 3.0: a real category shift, in many ways. Along with a long roster of synchronization options (like Google Calendar, Mac OS X Address Book and Calendar, Outlook, and especially, LinkedIn, which represents a whole new angle: syncing social networks (to be expanded in another post)), Golub and company have added a ‘Pulse’ feature that plants the product over in the camp of flow apps, like Twitter, Jaiku, and Facebook.
Pulse pulls new media traffic from your Plaxo contacts: photos from Flickr, blog updates, address modifications, and so on. I have already requested some kind of desktop tool (like Twitterific) for Pulse.
I find the Plaxo sync stuff sort of awkward, but that’s because I have my calendars and contacts spread out in a very unique way. I use Google Calendar as my actual calendar, and only sync to the Mac OS X iCal so I can sync to my phone. And I have addresses all over, primarily because I can’t sync between my Mac Address app and Google. If Plaxo fixes that I would be happy, but the Google address sync is still planned for the future.
I see Plaxo breaking into two twinned parts: synchronization of various sorts of coordinative data caught up in calendars, address books and to-do lists (yawn… useful, but so twentieth century), and a new (less boring) collection of services that are traffic-and-flow based.
Pulse is another run at the Nerdvana meme I have been pursuing for a long, long time. The basic notion of Nerdvana is that we want to have updates of all sorts from our contacts collated into a buddylist representation, which is where Golub tells be Plaxo is headed. I could see Brian Solis’ online presence, most recent status message, last five blog posts, and recent Flickr pictures, but linked to the buddylist icon for Brian.
[I can’t tell you how many IM companies I have have suggested this too, over the years, by the way. But again, we have to look to the upstarts to do the breakthroughs, I guess.]
If Plaxo heads this way, my recommendation will be to break Pulse out as a separate application, one that relies on data managed within the Plaxo platform, but sylistically and operationally separate. It has nothing to do with sync of data, and everything to do with media traffic flowing through personal relationships.
Both Plaxo and LinkedIn seem to be making serious business model adjustments, based on the new world.
Scoble provides thumbnails on a bunch of social presence apps, including hints about an upcoming Plaxo release (I am getting a demo on Friday).
The whole sector is heating up, so the October Social Presence Summit is looking really good.
A Plaxo-sponsored survey discovered that bloggers are more connected than journalists and reporter:
[via email from Alicia Mickelsen (Breakaway Communications)]
A new survey to be announced tomorrow rated 50 different professions by connectedness and found some interesting results – including that bloggers are more connected than reporters/journalists/writers. The survey compared the size of each profession’s address book, and bloggers have an average of 267 contacts in their address books while reporters had an average of 247 contacts. The overall average address book holds 203 contacts.
8% more connected! Booyah!
Actually sounds fairly weak, and might be more of an indication that bloggers are 8% more likely to commit a contact to Plaxo. Another example about the twisting of statistics when you have hardened marketing types trying to propagandize the world instead of understanding it.
I am joining in the chorus of praise for 30 Boxes (along with Scoble, Thomas Hawk (who calls it the best calendar ever), Matt Mullenweg, and Om, who called 30 boxes the gmail of calendars) even though I have only fooled with it for a few hours. I posted about it a few days ago, but just based on others’ thoughts. But now I have gotten access to the beta (thanks Narendra!)
In the past few months I have fiddled with a long list of online calendar tools — Plaxo, Planzo, Kiko, Airset, and Trumba — but I haven’t connected with any of them. Mostly because I am looking for a calendar tool to pull together the various unconnected elements of a digital life, not to simply replace a Filofax.
30 Boxes is at an incomplete stage, but what there is is dead-on. Especially the social element.
In this screenshot (click to expand), I have clicked on a particular day, and all the timestamped elements of my digital world are pulled in: blog posts, Flickr photos, and I had hoped to see recent music played from Last.fm, but I had some sort of RSS snafu. (Along the way I discovered that my favorite geoloco app, Plazes.com, does not provide an RSS feed for my peregrinations, which is dumb.)
But also notice the stuff that my new buddy, Thomas Hawk, has incorporated into his calendar which I am including into mine. This is where it gets interesting.
30Boxes allows users to tag events, which would perhaps be cool all on its own. However, when you are setting up the sharing filters for friends getting access to you calendar, you can restrict access to those events tagged with specific terms. For the members of a project team, you can grant access only to events with the project name tag, for example. Or you can show your karate events to other karateka from your dojo. Or family events to family.
And of course, I still want the Nerdvana buddylist view: where the various posts, pictures, and events associated with my friends are displayed as attributes hanging off an instant messaging style buddylist, and my attributes and presence info are displayed to them in their buddylists. But I bet I will have to wait for Yahoo, Google, MSN, or AOL to provide that for me.