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Tempo is a very smart calendar appliance

It’s clear that calendar software suffers from a skeuomorphic adherence to the paper agendas that people used for centuries before the computer was invented. 30 little boxes with text, times and dates. Minimal metadata, and absolutely no smarts about what a calendar entry means.

The perfect proof of that state of affairs is the meeting. When I am about to attend a meeting — either face-to-face or online — there is a predictable series of activities. I pull up emails related to the meeting, and review documents attached. I often need to send a message out to the meeting attendees saying that I will be a few minutes late.

Until recently it seemed that calendar app developers simply disregarded these use cases. Recently, however, the designers behind Apple’s Siri at SRI, finally attacked the problem head on, and the result is Tempo, a new iPhone app.

At first glance — after associating my email and calendar accounts — the app looks like other calendars. Here you see the Agenda and Month views.

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However, when you drill down into a specific event, like the meeting I am having tomorrow (on matters related to the Beacon Bike Loop project here in Beacon NY), you can see the capabilities of the tool. Along with the event’s time, place (which we haven’t settled yet), the contacts, and any recent emails from the contacts, Tempo allows me a simple way to send a message to all the attendees or to signal them that I will be late.

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Here you see the screen after clicking on ‘Message’, arranged so I can email all the contacts, or just one.

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Tempo is still processing my email, but when that is finished it will also fetch attachments in emails that might be related, as well, at least in principle. And it acts as a robotic assistant, working silently in the background, so that I don’t have to manually dig up the contacts, search for emails, etc. Tools like Meetin.gs work the opposite way, putting the burden of being organized on the user. Me, I want ‘bots to organize my mess for me, instead.

Tempo looks like a really smart tool, especially on a mobile device, but an appliance that I see myself using prior to almost any meeting. I wish there was a web version so I could use it on my Mac.

This is another great example of a small and simple social tool, one designed to attack a narrow set of related use cases without trying to boil the entire ocean of all event-related activities.