Scheduling a meeting

Tuesday, Mar 24, 2009 4:26 pm
William Barnes

Ever try to schedule a meeting with a group of people? It is really hard to find a time that works for everybody. I looked around a bit and found two promising services: Tungle and TimeToMeet (there are just no good .com names left).

screenshot-11

Both allow you to mark your availability on a calendar and then send an email to all attendees. The attendees then mark their own availability. Tungle restricts the available times each time an attendee replies and the final person to reply picks the time. TimeToMeet allows each attendee to mark their availability separately and emails the administrator with all overlapping times. I prefer the interface on Tungle—although I chose to include a screenshot of TimeToMeet—but I dislike that the last attendee gets to pick the time. I’m not sure which I will end up using.

Another solution I had thought of: Google Calendar (and others) has the ability to share your calendar with free/busy information so a friend/coworker can see when you are busy and (in theory) not bother you. There are two problems with that. First, you have to share each calendar separately. I have six calendars. Sharing six calendars which five or six people (and presumably adding six from each of them) seems like a lot of work. Second, I don’t necessarily want all these people to always know whether I have plans or not. Solution: create a group availability calendar that merges availability from all the members and just blocks off time whenever any member of the group is busy without saying which one it is. While it wouldn’t be perfect (since it merely says when people aren’t busy which isn’t quite the same as saying they are available for a meeting) it would give a good overview of when people have time to meet. Combined with a bit of knowledge of your group it would be a great help when organizing many meetings with a group of people.

[Update 5:40pm] I sent a message to Tungle using their feedback form regarding the last person gets to choose functionality. 41 minutes later I got a reply: “Thanks for the feedback, and we agree completely with you. We’re making changes over the next couple of months to the whole scheduling process so it’ll allow you (the organizer) the book the meeting based on your participants times.” It’s nice to get such a fast reply. Although, they have only had about 450 requests so far. I remember getting a same-day reply from Twitter and multiple follow-ups when I had an issue a year ago while this year my new problem hasn’t even been assigned to a representative a week later.