Support of Holi^h^h^^hDAZE, in Outlook (aka Situations when competition might help customers)

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/05/08 03:01 -04:00, original URI:

Before I forget, here is what the top of the day looks like in Outlook right now:

Now I am not going to try and tell anyone that holidays are easy.

Because they aren't.

And anyone who tries to tell you that they are is probably trying to sell you something.

Interestingly, I remember being in a meeting many years and several product versions ago where some folks in Office (including one PM who used to be in Office) wanted NLS to start supporting holidays as part of the locale data in Windows.

(It was not this meeting I mentioned before, but a very similar one in terms of if not the ask then the answer).

They even pointed out how the Outlook team could give us a great running start by providing their holiday data which had been around for several versions.

I recall how disappointed they were that we told them we couldn't really be allocating the additional resources that we estimated were necessary for this task. And how surprised they were that we believed the Outlook support to not be anything close to a starting point, as we believed there were many flaws in that implementation.

If you are a regular reader you may have seem some of the problems that are due to one or more of those flaws:

And there are lots more.

I have a lot of respect for when people take on difficult challenges, mind you. And holidays are indeed a hugely difficult challenge, trying to balance all of the following:

and more. Any team that works to architect, design, develop, test, document, ship, and support a good solution to this problem is a pretty damn impressive team.

However, the implementation of all of this in Outlook (compared to the scope of the actual problem) comes off as a shoddy effort that has not been visibly improved in any subsequent version ever shipped.

That is an epically disappointing and non-impressive fact that continues to haunt users to this day, with no sign of a solution in sight.

Thus my use of the tem HoliDAZE. Since that is what this is...

Now by looking at the above list of items (some of which the NLS team supports some well, some partially, and some not at all), the fact that the Outlook solution that tends to cheat users most of them depending on how closely they pay attention combined with the fact that they have left this static situation substantively unimproved for more years than I have been on the Microsoft campus makes me want to tear out my fingernails.

Or, if I were thinking more clearly and less peacefully, it would make me want to tear out the fingernails of the people who are not doing anything to improve the situation.

If you know what I mean.

But how to improve the situation?

I have become convinced that Outlook was, is, and will continue to be the wrong place to try to solve the problem.

Perhaps the reason they were looking for someone else to own the solution was they they know theirs has so many problems, and in the end they wanted the group that had to be thinking about most of the issues anyway (and who technically owned some of the underlying technical problems/limitations such as those with calendars and locales) to be the actual owners.

In other words, maybe they had the right idea -- they might have just failed to package it right, and (unintentionally?) tried to sell a bill of goods -- not telling the house buyer that the cellar and roof won't pass inspection, or failing to tag second base. Which of course usually works against the people who try to sell the house, or reach home plate.

Assuming the above is true and reasonable to take on in some future version (by which I mean some version after the next one since this one is really way too big to be a bolt-on feature that can be plugged in now), one would still have to convince the PTB (powers that be) to give the project the resources it would need. Which is probably unlikely unless the Office folks give them some of the resources in the ownership transfer (which is unlikely since it is "done enough" for Office in its current form and thus they are expending minimal resources on it now -- none to transfer!), then new resources are less likely to be allocated.

By the way, this is the exact kind of logic that has kept the Windows font folder and the common control font picker from being updated version after version, since the are "done enough" for the team that owns them now and the team who would make the best owners have the very hard job of convincing everyone to allocate new resources to get it all done.

To be perfectly honest, it is times like this that I am tempted to see what the hell OpenOffice, Evolution, and Thunderbird/Lightning bring to the mix here. To see if they are any better, or at least if there are people thinking about improving it.

I am thinking that this is a case where it is only by having the competition get the job done better that will likely ever motivate people inside Microsoft to be willing to allocate resources to solve the problem, which at this point is maintained as it is. Only due to an accident of architecture.


This blog brought to you by 𐤹 (U+10939, aka LYDIAN LETTER C -- member of a script that Microsoft does not currently provides fonts for is therefore very sympathetic to the cause here!)

# John Cowan on 8 May 2008 10:18 AM:

You're right.  Alas, your employer has done its level best to make sure there *is* no competition for Office (except its own previous releases).

# Michael S. Kaplan on 8 May 2008 11:06 AM:

Hmmmm... fair enough.

Kind of like your employer is doing for search (which still isn't handling canonical equivalence right, despite having hired the president of Unicode!). :-)

Just kidding. Though when you talk to Office folks they still center on their competition -- in this case the products I named would be quite prominent. So maybe a breakthrough here would spur the group to do the work?

referenced by

2010/11/16 "Crap, I didn't start Schedule+", [some of] why I still don't love Outlook, and other nostalgias

2008/05/14 We'd have been better able to give a Whit if we hadn't been in such a HoliDAZE

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