Why conferences don’t allow kids…

I’m hearing from a bunch of conference planners that most conferences don’t allow kids cause it costs extra to hire more security guards if you allow them (that’s Moscone’s policy, one conference planner just told me, which matches other feedback I’ve heard). Microsoft’s PDC had the same policy. Turns out the conference venues are afraid of being sued so they ban kids unless you take additional measures, which cost money, so most conference planners don’t do it.

Funny aside: one year a 12-year-old showed up at our VBITS (Visual Basic Insiders’ Technical Summit) with his dad. Turned out he had already scored a perfect 1600 on the SAT, had already been accepted to college, and had been programming since he was four years old. I wonder what he’s doing today?

Sorry for picking on LinuxWorld, but they could have made a funnier sign and demonstrated some humor. Expect such things to get on Flickr in the future.

Richard tells me to explain my view on Google Calendar

Richard Brownell had a good point in my comments a few minutes ago:

“Robert. Maybe I’m being greedy, but could you let us loyal readers know what is missing from Google Calendar? I don’t use it (though I have toyed with it), but I’d like to know what Outlook does better. If I just wanted to hear somebody say they “hate hate hate” something, I’d read a livejournal or a myspace blog ;)

Someone on the Google Calendar team just wrote me and asked the same thing.

Sometimes I forget that people are actually reading my ranting and expect more than just “I hate it.”

So, let’s dig in. First, I have to explain my biases. I’ve been using Microsoft Outlook since it was Microsoft Mail and Schedule Plus. Funny story, if you work inside Microsoft and you want to schedule someone for a meeting you say “I’ll S+ you” not “I’ll Outlook you.” Now you know where the “S+” lingo came from.

That, alone, demonstrates the problem that the Google Calendar team is up against: human behavior. We hate changing, particularly something that is used so often as a calendar app (I use it CONSTANTLY).

That’s another bias. My calendar has to be available and trustworthy. Everywhere. Not just when I’m hooked up to the Internet. Outlook is. If my computer stops working my SmartPhone still has my calendar. If my computer isn’t on wifi or I’m too lazy to plug in my Verizon card Outlook still has my calendar.

So, I’m biased against Google from the start. Sorry, but I am. And most normal non-geek people will be too. I watch how people use computers in airports and Outlook is the most used app that I see.

OK, now that you know my bias, there’s a few other things I’ve found.

1) In Outlook my email and my calendar are integrated. Here’s something I learned long ago. If you send me an email saying “can we meet for breakfast tomorrow at 9 a.m. at the Ritz in Half Moon Bay” I can just drag that email to my calendar button in Outlook and it’ll add a calendar item automatically. In Google’s system? I haven’t figured out how to do something like that, so I’ll need to copy the email from Gmail or from Outlook and then paste it into Google Calendar. Outlook is simpler.

2) Enterprise Contact management. When I got to Microsoft every single employee was autoloaded into Outlook thanks to Exchange. I just typed “Bill Gates” into Outlook, hit Alt-K to parse it into an email address (if he no longer worked there it wouldn’t parse, so I’d know whether or not it’d work), and away we went.

3) Scheduling coworkers for a meeting. OK, I want to meet with John Furrier on Monday at 10 a.m. So, I add john@podtech.net into Google Calendar’s “create event” page (I clicked on “create event” to get there). But where the hell is his calendar? Oh, I have to click on a separate “manage calendar” and look up his calendar separately. In Outlook it just shows me under scheduling tab whether or not he’s available for a meeting or not (again, need Exchange for this to work, but most companies have that, all three of my prior companies had it).

4) Google tries to be too smart. I accidentaly click on the calendar somewhere and it assumes I want to create an event so it pops up a dialog. Aarrgghh. On the other hand, when you get used to this it makes it easier to create an event than the Outlook model of click, drag, right-click and choose “New Appointment.”

I’ll do some more thinking about this as I use it more over the next weeks (this was really my first full-time week using it) and see how my opinion changes.

One thing that’ll dramatically change it? When my Mac arrives (I’ve bought it, but it hasn’t arrived yet). Working cross-platform will probably frustrate me greatly which will swing me back to Google since that should work the same on both Mac and Windows.

Another thing that is great about Google Calendar? It’s free and usable by anyone. Outlook and Exchange are not things you get for free.

What about you? What do you like or hate about Google Calendar?

What would you like to see in future Google Calendars?

Microsoft still clueless with Zune?

Paul Colligan says that Zune (Microsoft’s unreleased new portable media player to compete with Apple’s iPod) has no podcasting features and points that out to me.

Sad that Microsoft still isn’t getting that big-company power will come from letting your customers participate, not just consume. It’s funny, cause some parts of Microsoft are getting it (the Windows Live Writer editor demonstrates that).

What’s funny is that Paul says this makes Zune great for kids. Hmmm, you should have seen what Patrick listened to all week long on our off-the-grid thing last week — Podcasts.

I hope that Microsoft is holding back some podcasting stuff for announcing at launch. But, I won’t be suprised if they don’t get it, either. At least Apple got on the podcasting consumption bus more than a year ago. It’ll be interesting to see which company gets on the podcasting creation bus first.

More learning from Kiko

It’s interesting, when we did our off the grid camp last week Richard White, who worked on the UI of Kiko, showed up. Clearly a very smart guy (and his new timing app already had other customers who didn’t even know Richard before last week).

But I had no idea that Kiko was going to be such an interesting story this week. Just goes to show you that I don’t recognize interesting stories that are sitting in front of me.

Anyway, I found his post on the failure of Kiko one of the most interesting I’ve ever read. Highly recommended reading for any entrepreneur (or, really, any employee of any company, since we’re all responsible for keeping our companies running).

Oh, and James Robertson says he likes Google Calendar but admits that he doesn’t work in a corporate office.

I like some of it too. So, now that I’ve bashed it I’ll write something soon about what I like about it.

But, it still isn’t there for most companies to use. But that shouldn’t make Microsoft celebrate and rest on its laurels. It’s pretty clear that Google is going after the general Office worker with a range of apps. The next few years should be interesting to watch the big boys duke it out.

It’ll also be interesting to see what entrepreneurs, like 37Signals (we use their stuff at PodTech too) do to change the game under the feet of the big elephants.

I note that competitor 30Boxes founder participated on the comments on Richard’s post. AirSet also emailed me and told me that its calendar works on mobile phones (but, not, alas, my SmartPhone).

Maybe I should get together with Scott Mace who keeps the Calendar Swamp blog and do a whole show on calendars so we can show you what the do well and what they don’t do well.

Thank you Dave Winer: now I can read TechCrunch on my cell phone!

I was having breakfast with Guy Kawasaki when Dave Winer called. I hit ignore cause it’s rude to talk on the phone when you’re having breakfast. Anyway, when the breakfast was done I listened to the voice mail where Dave told me about a little experiment of his http://techcrunch.scripting.com (try it on your mobile phone, compare to the original TechCrunch).

Now, a little bit about that first. A few days ago I was complaining to Dave about various bloggers who make their blogs impossible to read on cell phones. TechCrunch was one of the worst. It takes two minutes to load and even then it isn’t really usable due to having to scroll around the navigation stuff.

So, what did Dave do? He said that he could give me a server-side-RSS version.

This rocks. Rocks. Rocks. Now I can read TechCrunch while walking around tonight’s TechCrunch party.

I hope Dave wraps up this server-side aggregator and gets every blogger to implement it so I can read every blog on my phone.

Thanks Dave for scratching my itch.