cc licensed flickr photo shared by J. Star

This has to be so common an experience I almost don;t have to trot out the narrative I contrived below. Can there be anything more inefficient, annoying, cumbersome, time sucking, exasperating, numb headed than… group scheduling a meeting by e-mail? No, then why the bleeping bleepity bleep does it happen all the D’Arcy Norman fracking time?

I can hear heads nodding in agreement, but how common is this? It’s not for lack of tools, I’m afraid, it’s lack of will.

It’s stupid.

Stop doing it.

Right now.

No?

Then just keep spending your precious time working through exchanges like:

Yeah, that’s the way to get work done.

A solution has to be lightweight and integrate with the time managers we already use. A few clicks ago when Iw as at Maricopa (long before Google Calendars and mobile calendar tools) they rolled out some corporate system that required logins, special software (that did not work on Macs)… it was pretty useless except to a few command line junkies.

It’s all a different game now.

In some work groups, you can share online calendars, so at least you can see when people are available before suggesting something like “schedule in the next month” — in other places, it might work to let people place appointments on your calendar- but that feels a bit invasive.

I’ve liked the simplicity of Doodle where you slot out a range of days times ti meet, enter emails of people to send it to, and they indicate their availability in a few web clicks (and dont need to log into anything). That is about as easy to get, and its visual to see the best time. Using doodle you should be able to cut it down to 2 emails (one to invite your group to mark their times and a second to announce the final meeting date/time).

Doodle is free and perfect for group meetings or deciding when to go bowling or a trip to the zoo,

But I’ve seen something even better, and more suited to helping people who want to meet/all with you. I saw it by just curiosity in the footer of a contact who emailed me Tungle:

Tungle actual does not do any scheduling; its like the middle man/woman/person between your calendar and people who may want to schedule a meeting with you. When you create an account in Tungle, it connects to your flavor of calendar– Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple iCal, Entourage for Mac and Lotus Notes.

When someone wants to mee with you or schedule a call, you send them your Tungle.me URL, and they can see just the windows of your availability (you get to put bounds on the workday, like being available 9-5… who works those crazy hours any more??). They then can request a meeting by selecting a range within your blocks, and enter a preference for the duration of the meeting.

You then get an email or whatever notice method your calendar works, with a meeting request, that you can accept, reject, adjust in your calendar, and can trigger a message back as a confirmation, with other details like a phone number to call.

It works deftly with your calendar. It handles time zone differences transparently.

I’ve used it a few times, and it saves me from having to look at my calendar, type in a bunch of days time I am available. I’ve not used it for group scheduling meetings:

Outgoing Meetings
Send invitations proposing multiple times to one or many people. Tungle handles replies, automatically adjusts for different time zones, and prevents double bookings.

Once booked,it’s automatically added to your calendar and all invitees receive email confirmations.

It makes sense, and it is easy to use. There’s an iPhone app as well.

I am sure there is a whole Web 2.0 freight car worth of similar apps out there. Yet we still schedule meetings like they did in the stone age in the 1980s.

Why don’t more people use them is a mystery to me.

So I’d like to hold a meeting with you all to talk about this, so I’ll email and ask when you are available in the next decade….

cc licensed flickr photo shared by J. Star

The post "There’s Got to Be… No There Is a Better Way" was originally pulled from under moldy cheese at the back of the fridge at CogDogBlog (http://cogdogblog.com/2010/04/better-way/) on April 22, 2010.

6 Comments

  • Stephen Downes downes.ca

    I get your point, really, but it’s a much more complex problem than is solved by Doodle.

    The problem is, Doodle doesn’t know what my calendar is. So I have to declare times manually.

    Worse, once I’ve declared times in Doodle, I now have a block of time I’ve said I’m free. But this might not be the case for very long. So the free time I thought I had no longer exists.

    I need a better way to share my calendar – that’s what would address the problem. But calendar standards and sharing applications still linger in the medieval world of proprietary applications and conflicting standards.

    • Alan Levine aka CogDog cogdogblog.com

      I’m guessing your internet cut out before you got to the bottom of my post. I never suggested doodle as the answer- its suitable for quick “are you busy” queries and for groups where other people may not to online calendaring.

      The site I talked about, Tungle.me does exactly what you describe (or close).

      But you are on target– what ought to be easily structured data (time+events+people) is a meta mess.

  • Stephen Downes downes.ca

    > I’m guessing your internet cut out before you got to the bottom of my post.

    That’s very diplomatic, which I appreciate.

    I have just reread the post – I honestly cannot remember reading about Tungle the first time through. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t there, I’m very sure it was. But I obviously skipped right over it, & it didn’t even register with me.

    That will teach me to slow down. And Tungle does look quite useful -off to look at it now…

    • Alan Levine aka CogDog cogdogblog.com

      Okay you are superman. I don’t know how you read all the content you do, produce all the content you do, and still track comments and replies.

      I want some of your carrot juice ;-)

  • Stephen Downes downes.ca

    Wake up early, stay up late… ;)

  • I’ve been using Tungle at my work for a while now. We use it to schedule judicial calls among judges scattered across states. They use it, without difficulty, and it works wonderfully. No offense to judges, but if they’re using it without a problem, then it definitely passes the “easy enough for n00b” threshold.

    Combine it with calendar/contact sync and sharing, and it’s a really awesome tool. Good find!

Leave a Comment

All fields are required. Your email address will not be published.