30 Boxes, Best… Calender… EVER!

30 Boxes, View by Day

Let the ajaxification of your life continue! Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit down with a group of bloggers and technologists for a discussion about how we use calendaring as well as view a preview of 83 Degree’s latest project 30 Boxes (you can’t get into the site now, but will be able to when they launch their public beta on Sunday). In attendance at yesterday’s meeting, in addition to myself, were Matt Mullenweg from WordPress, Mike Tatum from CNET, Niall Kennedy from Technorati, Lane Becker from Adaptive Path and Andy Baio and Gordon Luk from Upcoming.org. From 83 Degrees (the company bringing you 30 Boxes) were Julie Davidson, Narendra Rocherolle and Nick Widler.

30 Boxes Demo
30 Boxes Preview

Ok, so at first when I was invited to come take a look at 30 Boxes my first reaction to myself was, “big deal,” how excited can you really get about a calendar. I mean I’ve used Yahoo! Calendar for years and it is a fairly simple tool to do a fairly simple task, what else would I need? I was preparing to be underwhelmed.

Well, what happened instead was that I was totally and utterly impressed by what 30 Boxes turned out to be. Last week in a sneak preview on the app, Om had written, “30 Boxes will be to calendars what GMail was to Email,” a big claim. Well after playing with it for a bit I have to totally agree. And still it is so much more. Sure, as you’d expect you get all the ajaxy eye candy type stuff, but it was the built in social networking functionality that blew me away.

To start with 30 Boxes is really steeped in social networking. Like Flickr and Upcoming.org and Delicious, central to the power of the program is the ability that it gives you to share your calendar with others. This in and of itself is a controversial thing. For many of us calendars are pretty personal and private. But Julie, Narendra and Nick have decided to push the envelope here with the thought (along the same premise as Upcoming.org) that many of us in fact do have large parts of our lives that we don’t consider private — that we in fact want to share with our friends and perhaps even the rest of the world.

Central to 30 Boxes is the concept of buddies. Basically in order to add someone as a buddy on 30 Boxes all you need to do is enter in their email address (talk about genius viral marketing). They then are sent an email inviting them to 30 Boxes and if you choose you can allow them to see your calendar, see only events tagged a certain way in your calendar (cool, tagging in a calendar app), or see none of your calendar. While certainly there may be people that you want to see all of your calendar (spouse, partner, assistant, etc.), there will be others that you only want to see items tagged, for instance, techmeet, or concert, or whatever other tags you choose to use.

What’s even cooler, you can filter your calendar and have your approved buddies shared items appear on your calendar. This is entirely user customizable and you can toggle buddies on and off however you want. Want to see something even cooler? Not only do your buddies scheduled events show up on your calendar (if you choose), but so do their Flickr photos, their Upcoming.org events, and even their blog posts. Merely by typing in their email address 30 Boxes goes out and fetches the RSS feeds for Flickr photos, upcoming and it even found my Blogger Blog. Hot Donkey!

What’s more the calendar has an open API available and 83 Degree’s team are encouraging others to add on to the program and build tools to continue to make it better. It works well in the major browsers today and will be available for public download this coming Sunday.

30 Boxes

At present you can choose from two themes for the calendar, a gray screen or Google mail blue. I like the Google mail blue better but I’m sure we will see even more themes in the future, particularly as outside developers work with the API.

The layout of the calendar is sleek and as I mentioned before all warm and axajy. It allows you to view the calendar with today’s date central irrespective of month view, which I really like, and has really easy ways to jump to other days with a mini little calendar icon in the upper right hand corner. Entering items for your calendar is super intuitive. You just type whatever into the box and the calendar figures out where it goes. For instance, you can type in dinner tomorrow at Myth and it knows that tomorrow means February 3rd and will put it on your calendar for that day. You of course can add by the actual day too or edit by day but simply typing into an add event box is really easy. And (here’s more eye candy) if you throw in the address in your calendar (as you would expect of course) it fetches a Google map for you.

The calendar has a great single day print out available to give you your day at a glance and integrates with your email. Say for instance you have a flight on a certain day. Just forward the email to your calendar and it automatically saves a copy of the HTML flight itinerary and attaches it. This then gets printed out with your daily view if you want or is available online. Very slick.

Events marked “private” are shown on your calendar view with a lock but are not shown to others that you share your calendar with unless you’ve given them permission.

At present there is not a tool to import your Yahoo calendar data into 30 Boxes but 83 Degrees was optimistic that we would see a tool to do this in the future. By opening up the API they of course are hoping that others will see the value and build tools like this to make the calendar even better.

The calendar of course has a search function and a place to keep private notes, phone numbers, etc. of your contacts.

30 Boxes Buddies
30 Boxes Buddies

Also very cool with the sharing aspect again is how you schedule shared events. Let’s say you are putting together a dinner next Saturday night. Rather than use straight email for your friends or an eVite, you’d just enter the event on your calendar and then choose your buddies to invite. These buddies are then sent emails and can choose to either accept or decline. A record or who has accepted, declined, or not answered remains on that date for you. This is very smart as right now I always have to manually re-enter my dates from upcoming, eVite, friends emails, etc. This is a far faster efficient way to tie these group events to your calendar.

The calendar does most all of the other basic stuff you’d want, repeating events for instance. It also a
llows me to have Firefox remember the password for easy future access to the calendar. All of the relogging in over and over and over again with Yahoo! calendar would drive me batty.

You can track the 30Beta Blog for more info on the calendar and its features as they are made available. Keep in mind that the 30 Boxes blog and calendar won’t work for you until the beta goes live this coming Sunday.

So what what I thought was going to be a boring pitch on a calendar instead turned out to be one of the most exciting social network tools I’ve seen in a long time. This calendar is going to catch on like wildfire and it wouldn’t surprise me to see someone try to buy it pretty quick. Check it out on Sunday and if you want to share calendars with me just add me as a buddy at tom@thomashawk.com. Of course Narendra, Julie and Nick have a lot of experience selling cool web apps to companies as well, having formerly built (and sold twice) Webshots.

While undoubtedly many will bring up privacy concerns with such an open based calendaring app, I do think that it is super important to remember that 1. Sharing your calendar is voluntary and *you* decide who gets to see what. and 2 I’m really glad to see 83 Degrees pushing the envelope on this. Yesterday Narendra reminded us that it was not so long ago that people considered their photographs very private and personal and now we are all better off that we have begun to accept the idea that maybe many of our photos shouldn’t be private at all, but that we and others might have a richer, better experience by sharing them. I think many of us will find this holds true for calendaring as well.

Update: 30boxes into Outlook | A Mountain Top A Mountain Top is reporting on a Remote Calendar project over at Sourceforge that seems to allow you to import your 30 Boxes calendar into outlook. This would be useful for me as my phone uses Outlook’s calendar and if it worked then I could use 30Boxes as my main calendar and then import the 30Boxes data into Outlook where it would synch with my phone.

Will have to check this out and report back.

Update: So far so good with the calendar. It’s now my new everyday one and has replaced Yahoo! calendar for me. Yesterday 30 Boxes released their developer API. If you are a developer and want to write for the program you can check out the API site here.


192 Replies to “30 Boxes, Best… Calender… EVER!”

  1. Is there any particular reason why Ajax-enabled web apps are starting to take naming tips from emo and “punk” bands?

  2. Looks very cool. I have been waiting for something like this to come around. Thanks for the heads up!

    BTW, I really enjoy your photography.

  3. It works well in the major browsers today and will be available for public download this coming Sunday.

    Download??? As in download the app? Or did you just mean available for public access?

  4. This isn’t public enough for me, actually. I shouldn’t have to shill for them in order for people to see what I consider “public”. That’s one of the things I like best about both Flickr and del.icio.us, I can share even with non-subscribers.

  5. Good point Ryan. Grrrr, I hate it when I misspell in headlines because you can’t change it or it screws up your link in blogger. I suppose I really should have spelt it Calendr

  6. looks weak. Websites like Planzo.com and Kiko have been doing ajax calendars for a while already. Welcome to 6 months ago!

  7. say “social networking” one more time and I get sick.

    Sharing calendars is a standard calendar feature for enaythin like business use. It’s expected, dammit.

  8. It looks good, if basic, and I can picture it being similar to where Airset was six months ago. An open API can’t help but improve the engine, though. I can see it following a Flickr trajectory, in that case. For right now, though, I’m all set with Airset.

  9. what about syncincg to my bluetooth phone? Do I need to wait for somebody to write that app?

  10. If this would sync with Outlook it would be really really useful.

    (Maybe there is already something out there that does?)

  11. Wow! This better be true, because it almost sounds too good! Just the other day I was grumbling about the lack of a nice, AJAXy calendar to organize my random thoughts. Thanks for the tip.

  12. *yawn* It may well be that I will use this calendar 10 times as much as my current one, but that will still equal… zero.

    Outside of business (in which case it’d be silly to use anything other than Exchange), there are two types of people: those who go through their entire life never bothering with any kind of calendar/datebook (90% of the world), and those who have one attached to their hip.

    For people who don’t use calendaring, this is non-news. For those that rely on one every day, they’re much better off with a PDA than having to be at a internet-connected computer to access it.

    As for the “social-networking” aspect of it, I hope they ride that buzzword-wave as long as they can, because this sounds absolutely useless.

    And speaking of buzzwords, I am so damn sick and tired of hearing everyone drop buzzwords. AJAX, tagging, social “blank”ing. People were AJAX-ing and tagging and social “blank”ing long before these terms were ever invented. This madness is out of control and WAY WAY worse than during the dotcom days.

    Just because a site makes use of any of these things does NOT automatically make it cool, so tell me why a site is original and compelling rather than drop a bunch of buzzwords on me. This is like writing a review of a book and going on about how it’s printed on the highest-quality paper with the latest bookbinding process.

  13. could be useful. What i’m really looking though is a site that does online nested to do lists. There are lots of sites that have to do lists but none of them allow you to easily nest items.

  14. I’m not sure the idea of a social calendar thrills me much as yet. I’ve checked out other web apps on similar lines and they’re not much use to me until everyone (or atleast a few) of my friends and family go the geek way to start using Beta apps. This is not to deny the fact that 30 boxes has some unique concepts (tag-based filtering of events is a master-stroke), but maybe my world is not there yet.

    For now I use, love and recommend HipCal as the best personal planning solution yet!

  15. *Sigh* just when I thought I had job security again, now there’s going to be another .com bubble burst due to people pumping VC money into things like this.

  16. Critical to my use of Yahoo Calendar is how well it integrates with my Palm. No mention of that here…

  17. No offense, but the last thing I need is to turn my calendar into an ugly cluttered myspace page. The new “ajaxian” Yahoo! Mail Beta does 90% of this app and syncs easily with Outlook Exchange. I personally need my email and calendar to exist in the same app. But, at 39 I’m considered a dinosaur in the web/dev world and perhaps the “kids” will love it. I hope they do. Good luck.

  18. I personally believe that they should add some synching features (mail clients, mobile devices).

    I’m excited nevertheless to see what they have come up with 🙂

  19. Awesome, now my friends can see when I need to take my garbage out and when my bills are due. Why the hell would anyone use this?

  20. >>Is there any particular reason why Ajax-enabled web apps are starting to take naming tips from emo and “punk” bands?

    Yes, because the current (past 5 years) crop of lame, wannabe “punk” and emo bands steal all their names from independent cinema and ’80’s movies, and so do software developers.

  21. Jason said: Awesome, now my friends can see when I need to take my garbage out and when my bills are due. Why the hell would anyone use this?

    Move to a city thriving with activities like SF — where all your friends are constantly busy with some crazy thing or another and you’ll understand.

  22. Sheesh, a lot of people are really grumpy! Thanks for giving us this info. Thanks to those who provided other sites that do similar stuff. What’s wrong with being excited about a tool that does something useful for someone and looks good? Just because other tools do similar things doesn’t invalidate it. And just because you have no use for certain features doesn’t mean plenty of people don’t. I can see not being interested because of that, but it seems like people are almost mocking certain things just because they don’t have a use for them. I doubt I’ll use the tags much, and probably not even the social networking stuff that much, but there are other things I’m sure that will be very useful, and the fact that there will be an open API I find the most interesting because it means that the service could be infinitely expandable to fill every little need that a user might have out there. That, I think, is the true promise of this. If other such sites/services out there have open API’s as well, that’s great too, that should be one of the prerquisites for new web services…

  23. for an online calendar, the killer app for me would be the ability to sync between Outlook (or any PC desktop app), Entourage/Ical, and Blackberry

  24. I’ve been craving a good calendar app ever since the upgrade to Firefox 1.5 no longer supported Mozilla Calendar. I’ve been limping along on the bug-ridden HipCal ever since. It was good to see what applications others are using, as noted in the above comments. I’ve just tried a few of them: Airset, Panzo, Kiko, and Spongecell. I definitely like Airset the best of those for my purposes, though I could see the appeal of a natural language parser like Spongecell. While my wife is watching Steelers vs. Seahawks tomorrow, I’ll be watching Airset vs. 30 Boxes. May the best app win!

  25. Count me in as another who prefers http://www.Airset/com — it’s the only free calendar I’ve seen that allows you to create multiple calendars for different roles, family members, co-workers, etc. You can view calendars combined or separately. It’s really a free PIM –each calendar has a blog space, lists function, Web links, contacts — so you can view lists, blogs, contacts, etc. according to role (e.g., home, work).

  26. If the screen shot is any indication, a big advantage of 30 Boxes may be the lack of stuff cluttering up the margins (makes iframing frustrating). Calendars like Planzo are very guilty of this. The screen shot shows just some small, discreet controls at the top. Very nice.

  27. Gen Kanai said…

    Thomas- did they show any non-Roman language input? I.e. is the site UTF-8 compatible?

    HipCal is useless because not support non-english. support for language other than english is must feature of calender app.

    yahoo calender, outlook, pda, ical for mac, all integrated one place and can freely importing and exporting is must characteristic of calender app.

  28. This is something that wesync previously did, before it was bought and killed off.

    To the people that are saying what’s it for? Then it’s not for you.

    But for me, it’s ideal and here’s why.

    There are three or four people who I’d like to know where I am and what I’m doing on any given day.

    There’s about 20 people who I meet up regularly with who it would be much easier to organise a meet with (and that’s as in go for dinner and go for beers type meeting rather than sit down and discuss sales type meeting.)

    Now this looks like exchange scheduling for the masses.

    Which would and should be cool.

    I’d be concerned over how it’s going to work on trying to make appointments with a buddy, if you can’t see all the info, but if it works like exchange on a busy basis it would be cool.

    Not having import from Outlook and Ical however from Day 1, seems like a really big oversight to anyone who’s likely to use it, actually starting to use it.

    I mean, I’m not going to type in 400 upcoming appointments!

    I’m looking at Airset now, and I’d be interested to see a comparison of Airset vs 30boxes vs the rest.

  29. Can someone tell me the point of a calendar/appointment manager that I cannot take with me? (IE: Sync to my PDA?). Until that day, Outlook and Palm Desktop are supreme, albeit limited and weak looking. If find you really like using a calendar that you cannot take with you (be it a PDA or a n organizer), you simply have a week memory for the 2 appts. a week you need to write down. If you needed a calendar you’d never be at a desk to look at one…

  30. It is a great calendar.I think that it very useful,especially for organizations and groups.

    Thanks to everyone who involved!!!

  31. Thanks for the enlightened heads-up! I got an account yesterday, and it looks great. I like that I can just type in a few words and have everything in place. The syndication to iCal works well, too. Thanks again!

  32. Seems like a pretty sweet deal. But one of the big things I look for in a calendaring application is its ability to remind me what I need to do without specifically asking it. For example, Outlook gives me a reminder that pops up, but in order for 30Boxes to do the same I would have to go to their site…Active, I want it to be passive.

  33. Er, 30 boxes, by 83 degrees, 43 things, 37 signals?

    Lawl. Everyone can’t be rockstars. Better names please kkthxbai.

  34. Thanks for the list of all the other online calendars, people.

    I’m writing a calendar of political and activist events or my home town. This is meant to be a public calendar, and I will be promoting it heavily in RL.

    I started trying google calendar, and realised how hard it was to share events.

    30Boxes was the second most commonly mentioned one, so I tried it. Pretty sweet, especially the shared list of events that others don’t need to subscribe to see.

    But the address for the public calendar is http://30boxes.com/public/62359/DavidJackmanson/fe6af2aeef4d8d6712b517660bb0b622/0/politics

    Slightly not-catchy.

    Also, 30Boxes repeat function does not let you say “last friday of every month”.

    Lots of political and community groups plan their meetings like that, so I won’t be able to use the repeat function properly in 30Boxes.

    So I had a quick look at all the suggestions above. Kiko looks the best for me – it solves both these problems.

    Public calendar address is:


    (nothing there yet as of June 15 2006)

    and I can choose ‘last friday of the month’ ‘second monday of the month’, as repeat options.


  35. Thomas, I have written up 30 Boxes in my blog. Please take a look and post a link, if u wish, as I am not a Blogger blogger…:)
    This IS the Best…Calendar…EVER!

  36. Thomas, I have written up 30 Boxes in my blog. Please take a look and post a link, if u wish, as I am not a Blogger blogger…:)
    This IS the Best…Calendar…EVER!

  37. Hey, this is a great calendar with one of the most user friendly interfaces. Just got an account.

    Also, just saw another app, SyncMyCal 30Boxes which is now synchronizing Outlook with 30Boxes calendars. Tried it and found it great too. Bought it 🙂

    Feels on CLOUD 9, lucky day.


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  39. Thomas, I have written up 30 Boxes in my blog. Please take a look and post a link, if u wish, as I am not a Blogger blogger…:)
    This IS the Best…Calendar…EVER!

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  45. Yes, because the current (past 5 years) crop of lame, wannabe “punk” and emo bands steal all their names from independent cinema and ’80’s movies, and so do software developers.

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