Why the calendar doesn’t belong with email and should be decoupled post haste
Have you ever noticed that historically calendar apps are inextricably tied to email apps? I’ve come to the realization that they don’t belong to be joined at the hip and are currently much worse as a result.
Reason 1: primary contact method
Once upon a time the lowly email address was THE contact method for all things online for the majority of ‘online people’. In those dinosaur days, AOL and Compuserve shoveled an impressive portion of the population into the interwebs and their email address was the passport to the joys of banner ads and chain letters. Would it have made sense at that time to use your IRC handle instead? Probably not.
Now though, things are different. Most people in your contact list are probably identified by their texting/sms number or accounts in things like Facebook, WhatsApp, Slack, LinkedIn, or Instagram.
Email is become like physical addresses: something you have to ask for when sending holiday cards or invitations to events. You most often don’t have it and or need to check if the one you have is still current. It’s really not a useful mechanism for people to pay attention to anymore.
Reason 2: flexibility
So about inviting people to things… why on earth should you still need to ask for someone’s email to add them to a calendar event? It’s kind of ludicrous now. We should be able to invite people with any digital point of contact we have with them.
A while after writing about this to Evite (along with, I’m sure, many other people) they announced support for adding guests via text message. They got the message. Why hasn’t Google, Apple, Microsoft, and others?
Reason 3: mobile use
We increasingly need to work with calendars on our phones. A lot of time when I’m creating a calendar event I need to refer to a message. If that message is an email and email is the same app as the calendar, there’s no way to do that. In Outlook for instance, once I start creating an event I can’t back out of it without deleting the event. No way to refer unless the info I need is in a different app that I can toggle between.
A partial answer to this can be using Teams, since that’s becoming a thing. But then when creating an event there, you can’t refer to anything ELSE in Teams… same problem. So the answer really is to always have general calendars separate, in their own app.
The only place it makes sense to integrate a calendar is if it’s a just a view to complement related information. The calendar view in Trello is a good example: you can see due dates and move them but that’s basically it. Because of this simplicity, it works well.
Reason 4: clutter
Another thing about calendars needing email is all the crazy amount of clutter it creates. For every calendar event, an email is created. Every time the event is changed, another email. Someone is added, another email. The time is changed, another email. Oops, forgot to add conferencing, another email. The meeting gets cancelled, another email!
At work, emails related to calendar events usually dwarf all the ones people have actually written to one another. What do we need all this clutter for? The answer is, we don’t.
Reason 5: email needs to die
Having worked in different professional settings using various forms of communication — I can safely say that for 99% of professional communication — email is a terrible method and should be abandoned for this purpose.
What other purpose can it serve? Well it still seems fine as a dumping ground for receipts and newsletters. It works for less important and non-urgent messages from computers systems. But for people talking to one another or sharing files? Terrible.
So having this old tired dog of a communication mechanism as a mandatory basis for calendars to exist is a painful dependency that we should not persist. Calendars deserve to utilize whatever communication paths work best.
So please, for the love of all that is good in the world, free calendars from email. Free them from everything that would otherwise bind and ruin them. Allow them to work with better forms of communication.