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CalConnect, the Calendaring and Scheduling Consortium, is a consortium with 32 organizational members who work toward open standards and interoperability among various calendaring and scheduling systems.

As part of this mission, one of the main services the consortium provides is interoperability testing events and technical conferences – such as CalConnect XXII, October 3-7 in Prague, Czech Republic, which is being hosted by Kerio. At these events, members arrive to test the compatibility with their applications and products amongst each other. These testing events give each member a chance to get feedback in real time.

We caught up with Dave Thewlis, executive director at CalConnect for a short Q&A about the upcoming event, and about the goals of the consortium.

Dave Thewlis

Q: First off, why would the average person off the street even care about open standards for calendaring and scheduling?

A: That’s a great question. Our members push the bleeding edge of technology and what we accomplish today will directly affect consumers tomorrow.

A good historical example of what we are trying to accomplish might be email. In the very early years of email, each system had a proprietary way of communication. The interoperability breakthrough was the IETF standard for Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP), which allowed dissimilar computers to exchange email and turn it into what it is today.

You can imagine how inconvenient a closed email system must have been for early users. Our aim is to ease that pain for consumers when it comes to open protocols so all calendaring and scheduling systems can communicate with each other. This will ultimately give folks the freedom to choose the technology they would like to use.

Q: CalConnect has been a primary driver of the CalDAV protocol and testing for both CalDAV and CardDAV. Can you talk a little more about what these are?

A: Sure, CalDAV was the first open standard calendaring protocol, and it means that vendors don’t have to develop their own calendaring protocols. Instead, with the open CalDAV client/server protocol that vendors are able implement into their products, end users are able to access calendar information on the server, and schedule meetings with their colleagues without an issue. So, if I’m using Apple iCal and you are using Kerio Connect, I can send you a meeting invitation and you will receive it in the exact format I intended. To date, we have several dozen client and server products that feature the CalDAV protocol. In the future the iSchedule protocol, which we are working on, will allow users of separate and different calendar servers to easily schedule between them.

Q: Is it different than CardDAV?

A: CardDAV follows the same concept, but is an address book client/server protocol that lets users access and share contact data. CardDAV is based on WebDAV, which is based on HTTP and it uses vCard for contact data.

Q: What are the goals of the consortium?

A: CalConnect was established in 2004 as a tax-exempt non-profit with the purpose of driving open standards and pushing interoperability of calendaring and scheduling systems. We have made a lot of progress over the last five years, but we still continue to work toward our original goal. We work to accomplish this by holding regular interoperability testing events, technical conferences, workshops and symposia focused on calendaring and scheduling.

Q: How much is testing part of the CalConnect agenda?

It’s a huge part of we do. Through rigorous testing at our frequent events, our members work together to verify compatibility with one another and ultimately this means that end users are able to communicate with others no matter what calendaring application or mobile client they choose to use.

Q: This brings us to your upcoming event, CalConnect XXII. What is new that attendees can look forward in Prague?

A: There are a couple exciting new things coming up, one is that this is our first full interoperability test event in Europe. We are very excited about this and are looking forward to getting feedback from our counterparts in Europe. We encourage our European colleagues and all others interested in Calendaring and Scheduling to join us in Prague

The other new portion of CalConnect XXII is special symposia and workshops that will take place Thursday and Friday mornings October 6th and 7th. These sessions are open to all registered participants and should be lively discussions. The symposia presenters and discussion leaders are among the who’s who – if there is such a thing – of calendaring and scheduling.

Q: What are usually the biggest technical challenges at your IOP events?

A: Frankly, Internet connectivity. It sounds funny to say, because we have some of the brightest software developers in the tech industry attend. But, when we move these events around to different locations, the first, and often biggest challenge is getting everyone on the network so testing can begin. Once this issue is squared away, the testing process is surprisingly smooth, and it is very valuable to all who attend.

Q: Lastly, how difficult is it for vendors to join the consortium?

The membership application is on our website. Membership is open to any organization or individual interested in furthering our goals of open standards and interoperable calendaring and scheduling. We currently have leading vendors of calendaring and scheduling applications and products, leading academic institutions and individuals as members.

One unique thing is that there is no waiting period for acceptance to the consortium. Once a prospective member completes the application process, we welcome them in. The application is available on the CalConnect website.

Original article available on our blog.

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