Getting the work-life balance right is a challenge for most people. One small aid to this is having a single diary which includes all work and all personnel events. This has not been easy up to now as businesses have shared diaries, which can be seen by your colleagues, but you do not want to include Mother's birthday or theatre outings in this diary. Entries have to be put into the business diary and then included in the private diary (on a PDA or similar). It becomes a manual process to ensure that you do not arrange a business dinner that clashes with a pre-arranged private event.
CitronGO! from Globo, which is in beta, has a neat unique solution to the diary problem. CitronGO! provides an intermediary server that collects entries from all relevant diaries and then presents them to the user. The process is bi-directional so you can modify your business or private diary from the single view.
The list of diaries you view could include other peoples diaries (your partners, or at least the bits they are willing to show you, the fixture list for your favourite teams, and even television programmes). You would presumably not be given update permission on these other diaries!
The combining of diaries is only one of the many functions that CitronGO! provides. I mention it first because it is easy to explain but also because it could solve a significant problem in my life.
Besides combining diaries it can combine emails from different service providers into one in-box. Further it can combine messages from different environments including emails, instant messaging (IM), voicemail and social networking sites, such as Facebook.
The intermediary server provides transformation services; for example it ensures that messages coming from different sources are displayed in a consistent and easy to use format. It will also ensure that they are displayed in a format that fits the specification of the device, for instance it may not show pictures on a mobile phone unless specifically requested.
A critical benefit of the transformation is that user can choose the device they wish to use and will not be limited by the services they are connected to. So I can use a Windows Mobile phone, my colleague could use a BlackBerry and my partner a legacy phone. The choice of mobile device should be a personal preference and not be decreed by the business, the transformation service makes this easy.
The transformation service provides some interesting usability and accessibility benefits. Usability is improved because the interface for all messages and diaries look and work the same way; one of the big issues of moving from one email client to another is small differences in the function and location of the controls; these small differences, at a minimum, slow the user down, and at worst cause the user to make mistakes.
Features are provided to enable the personalisation of the interface, in particular being able to change the colour schemes and font types and sizes. Thus providing a more accessible solution for people with certain disabilities.
The flexible architecture of the CitronGO! System means that it would be easy to provide other transformations such as using text-to-speech at the server which could be essential for vision impaired users but would also be a bonus for the road warriors.
This initial release of CitronGO! undoubtedly has enough to make it attractive to many organisations. The accessibility features already built-in will provide considerable help to organisations needing to provide more support for their employees with disabilities. However I am most excited about the architecture because the intermediary server has the potential to plug in transformations to support other accessibility needs.