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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.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.