The calendar paradox

AJAX -- the term, not the concepts behind it -- turned out to be an enzyme that catalyzed a powerful reaction. JavaScript, dynamic HTML, the document object model, and XML parsers had been there all along. It was our perception of them that suddenly made these ingredients crystallize into something shiny and new.

In that vein, here's another verbal enzyme that I hope will have a similar effect: the tolerance continuum. It's being used, in SOA circles, to break through the conceptual logjam we explored in our cover story back in September. How do you harness the advantages of REST (Representational State Transfer) and RSS, on the one hand, and XML Schema and WS-* on the other?

Tolerance, in this context, means broadly accessible services, open-ended data formats, and diverse communication protocols. The continuum ranges from our transactional mainframes, which can't and shouldn't allow much of this kind of tolerance, to our human touch points, which can and should. [Full story at]
This week's column spotlights a loosely-coupled conversation among a group of SOA experts I know and respect. Thanks to the flexibility of email and RSS, I became aware of that conversation more quickly and more deeply than I otherwise would have. That's a classic illustration of the benefits of operating toward the tolerant end of the continuum.

Since then, I've been revisiting a bunch of calendar-related things: iCal, structured blogging, microformats. This might be a useful counter-example. Time's a complex and unforgiving data type. It requires a kind of precision that email, RSS, and social bookmarking don't. And after all these years -- RFC 2445 dates back to 1998 -- our various calendar clients still don't deal with time in reliably interoperable ways.

That said, we also do need to accommodate the fuzziness and subtle negotation that characterize real-world scheduling. In my last calendar-related column I noted that the gone-but-not-forgotten TimeDance, a dot-com casualty, got that part right.

Maybe calendaring needs to move towards both ends of the tolerance continuum.

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