Shared contacts, the cheap & cheerful way

I’ve been meaning to write more about groupware and collaboration, and hopefully will find the time for a longer post on the topic, but here’s a bit of timely news. Ludovic Marcotte and friends have just released a combination of some of their previous extensions to Thunderbird and Lightning as something they call the SOGo connector: it’s an extension to Thunderbird which, when combined with Lightning, provides features like remote address book through CardDAV (sending vCards through CalDAV, AFAICT), and an informal protocol called GroupDAV. While CardDAV is an extension to CalDAV which is an IETF spec, GroupDAV is currently an ad-hoc, simple protocol built to let clients interoperate with open source groupware servers, which probably explains both why it’s simple and why only a few servers (including SOGo, of course) support it.
I still need some education as to what relevant standards have to say (even in non-final form) about shared contact lists. More on this topic later I’m sure.

Gmail & Thunderbird IMAP Goodness

Is nicely explained by the Lifehacker crew. It’s not the exact setup I use, but the main point is the same.

Upon reflection, one of the fascinating consequences of GMail using IMAP (which, by the way, is a very significant technical achievement, as IMAP, while a very powerful protocol, is also very hard to implement in a scalable way) is that people can now get free email with an IMAP server. This is important not just for power-users like the Lifehackers, but also for people using smartphones (iPhone, Treos, etc.). I wouldn’t be surprised to see the other major webmail providers coming out with IMAP support as well. We may see yet see IMAP get its fair market share.

For many, IMAP support turns GMail into a high-performance mail server with spam filtering, which by the way can be used with a web front-end — as opposed to what it was last week: a webmail system with POP access.

This email world is a lot more fluid than people realize.

Miscellaneous Cool Things

  • The Mozilla Calendar project released version 0.7 of Sunbird and Lightning. Sunbird is a standalone calendar app kinda like Apple’s iCal, and Lightning is the same functionality as an extension for Thunderbird. This version is miles ahead of where the last (0.5) version was. It’s not finished yet, but it’s definitely usable, and I’ve had the privilege of hanging out in IRC channels and phone calls with some of the people involved, and every time I ask about a specific feature or point out an issue, they come back with a bug # and a place on their roadmap. That project is going really well.

    I believe that Lightning is going to be fundamentally important for Thunderbird’s future. There are at least millions, probably tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of people for whom calendaring support in an email client is a sine qua non, and by combining the capabilities of Thunderbird today, Lightning 1.0, and some additional special sauce, I think we’re going to rock.

    I’ll definitely write more about calendaring and collaboration software soon, as I’ve been learning a lot about calendaring, scheduling, and the like, and I’d like to encourage others to join the party.

    Important note to current users of Lightning 0.5: after an upgrade to 0.7 you may need to re-enable the calendars you want to see. Also, if you want access to Google Calendars, you need the 0.3 build of the “Google Provider”.

  • The Mozilla marketing team has come up with a messaging document for Firefox (that’s a standard marketing term, by the way), which identifies three major points: Security, Customization, and my favorite, 100% Organic Software. I’m curious to see how the public at large responds to the notion of organic software. I love creative, gutsy marketing like that. I haven’t thought much about what Thunderbird’s messaging should look like yet — we’ll get to that later.

  • Mozilla Labs launched Prism, which is the new name for the cool “take a web app and make a web app” work Mark Finkle’s been doing. It’s going to be fascinating to see that evolve. I’m keen to see if MailCo can push from the desktop “out” just like Prism is pushing from the webapp “in”. In some ways, that’s what IMAP, CalDAV, CardDAV, LDAP etc. are all about.

Timezone helper?

Dear Lazyweb,

I’m recruiting globally, and that means that I spend a fair bit of time trying to coordinate phone call times involving several timezones. Is there a good website or OS X dashboard widget or … that people have found handy for that? The sites I’ve tried so far have been reasonable at asking the question “when is time X in timezone Y”, but then leave delta computations to me, and those end up error-prone.

Upcoming trip to Paris

I’ll be in Paris, France, from Nov 12 to the 19th. I’ve got a few things scheduled already, but I’d be happy to organize an informal “pot” about Mozilla, MailCo, Thunderbird, or whatever interests.

Oh, and for those of you who don’t know, I’m French (and American (but not Canadian)) and speak French (and English (and am even slowly learning some about the fascinating topic of Quebec profane words)). I don’t think I’m likely to blog in French anytime soon (although I admire people like Loic who manage to blog bilingually) and am only slightly apprehensive at the thought of business negotiations or deep technical talk in my native tongue, given that I’m way behind on the lingo. (In grad school, the idea of giving a scientific talk in French was fairly terrifying). Still, I’ve had a few conversations in French these last few weeks and I think they went ok.

Gmail enables IMAP

It’s nice to see that Gmail now supports (at least for some accounts) IMAP access. It will make talking to it from the iPhone much nicer — as I mentioned last week, IMAP is just a much better protocol.

It seems that they’re mapping labels to IMAP folders, which is an natural but non-trivial idea, as multiple labels can be assigned to a single email, but AFAIK IMAP doesn’t have the concept of a single email message in multiple folders. Also, the labels are per-conversation, not per-email, so the metaphors don’t line up perfectly. I wonder what happens to conversational labels if one uses IMAP to move a single email across folders…