This story started with a friend who is working as a consultant on a large project for a company. The project team includes people from the company as well as outside vendors and consultants. These people use different emails programs and Internet Service Providers. (ISPs).
My friend was upset over missing a project kickoff meeting. His absence also created a trust issue with the project manager. The project manager printed a copy of the meeting request and showed my friend that his email address was in the distribution list. He said he felt like he was on trial.
My friend was perplexed, as he had been getting emails from the project manager. He asked if I would look at his system to see if there was a problem. He thought his spam settings might be the problem. The good news is his spam filters were fine. However, the solution to this problem was mostly out of his control.
Like many organizations, his client used Microsoft Outlook. One nice feature of Outlook is when you plan a meeting you can see the availability of co-workers. This reduces the amount of time it takes someone to find a suitable meeting time. This feature also allows you to invite people from your address book or type in their email address.
Many group calendaring programs like Microsoft Outlook use a version of the iCalendar format called iCal to send meeting requests and details. The email includes an attached file with the extension .ISC. If the recipients email or calendar program understands the iCalendar information, the meeting details are shown. For example, other Outlook users might see an email with buttons to Accept or Decline the meeting request. If they accept, the meeting is added to their calendar and the sender is notified of their acceptance.
Although this system is effective for organizations, problems may arise based on the recipients ISP or if they use an email program that doesn't understand the iCalendar version. For example, recipients viewing the meeting request with an email program that doesn't understand vCalendar would see a text message with lines such as:
PRODID:-//Microsoft Corporation//Outlook 10.0 MIMEDIR//EN
LOCATION:123 Fremont Room 212
DESCRIPTION:When: Friday, February 11, 2005 3:30 PM-4:00 PM
Although the above text is difficult to read, you could find out the relevant facts.
While I knew not all email programs handled vCal or iCal, I did not expect ISPs to be a factor. This was my friends problem. After running a series of tests, the tech support department confirmed they don't process any read notify notifications. In this case, the meeting organizer never received any notification of meeting acceptance, nor did they get any bounce back message from the ISP. And my friend got nothing.
My suggestion to meeting organizers, who use a meeting planner function with external parties, is to send a test meeting request and ask people to decline. If you don't get a response back from someone on the distribution list, give him or her a phone call.
As a result of this incident, the company decided to send a separate email to people outside the company with the meeting details. It turns out several other people had email programs that couldn't interpret their vCal version.
Last Updated (Thursday, 13 July 2006 06:34)