Monday, May 26, 2008

TGIF - May 26, 2008 - Online Scheduling

I'm sure that all of us spend quite a lot of time scheduling meetings, classes, events, and (when we're good) time off. Some of these we can just put on our calendar, PDA, or sticky note and know that the time will work. Others take a bit more planning because we're trying to coordinate with other people. A local pastor was asking me if I knew of any tools to help people set up board meetings and I had happened to have stumbled on something that I thought might help him and you.

I found a few free sites that aim to help a group of people negotiate a time to get together without just doing a lot of back-and-forth e-mailing, text messaging, and calling. If any of you have experience with any of these sites, drop me a line.

These are the sites that I discovered:

  • When 2 meet - a simple site where you click dates on a calendar along with a generic starting and ending time.
  • When Is Good - a more complex site that lets you pick specific times on each date that you are available. An e-mail gets sent to the folks that you're coordinating with. Each person then fills in the grid and you're left with the times that work for all participants. I like the fact that no sign-up is needed, it just uses e-mail addresses. It also will adjust for time zone differences for conference calls. As someone who used to live 4 hours behind the East Coast and hated 6 a.m. conference calls, this appeals to me.
  • Doodle - allows you to create polls to ask any question, or to allow folks to choose from specific times for an event. Supports Yes, No, If Needed logic for those things that aren't ideal, but you'll make it work if it works for everyone else. Also converts for time zones. Supports a free account for management, but you can both create and respond to polls without an account. I really like the fact that you send the e-mail link directly, so you don't have to enter e-mail addresses into their system.
  • Google Calendar - allows you to create an event and then send invitations to participants who can respond if they are going to come or not. If you use Gmail, you probably don't have to retype all the e-mail addresses.
  • Pingg - snazzy site that allows you to design an invitation and send it via e-mail. It doesn't allow flexibility nor does it integrate with existing calendars. It does allow you to send invitations via Web, e-mail, text message, printed message, or social networking site. This might be a good way to promote a big event, but it doesn't strike me as a good way to schedule a youth board meeting!
  • Timebridge - integrates with your Google Calendar or your Outlook calendar and lets others see when you are potentially free. But it requires a Timebridge account and that the others use one of the supported calendar tools. Might be good for executives, but probably not so much for what we're doing. [Laura commented that I was mistaken on this point. She says, "Great post! One clarification--TimeBridge does not require attendees to have a TimeBridge account, nor do your attendees need to use one of the supported calendar tools. Give it a shot!"]
  • Presdo - designed to help people make time to do a certain thing. This is a similar site to Doodle in that it lets people respond to and make suggestions for times for an event. This site has a review of Presdo. I like the fact that you can respond to a meeting without having to create an account. Like Doodle, it supports accounts for those who want them so you can manage your events. It also supports exporting events to electronic calendars (Outlook, iCal, Google Calendar, and Yahoo Calendar). Unlike Doodle, you have to enter in the names and e-mail addresses of the participants to invite them. It does support multiple time zones.

I haven't tried most of these sites other than to look at them. I did try to use Presdo to schedule a teleconference and a meeting with my Sunday School Superintendents. It was down when one of them tried to respond and the other didn't have e-mail for the week, so it didn't work for her at that time. For the conference call, it was somewhat helpful, but people do have to read and respond to their e-mails for it to work! I like the interface of Presdo the best and the way it interprets statements (go here and click on What types of phrases can I type into Presdo?) is ingenious.

Eric Ly, the founder of Presdo, helped me understand how Presdo presents options to guests by explaining it this way.
Presdo allows you to enter in a choice of times that your guests can pick from. If you want to do this, just type, for example, "tue, thu or fri at 2:30". (Dates can be given in place of the days of the week.) This gives guests a choice of three times to choose from. Let's say your best time from this proposal is Tuesday at 2:30. If your best time doesn't work for them, they will get to pick from the other two choices, i.e. Thursday at 2:30 or Friday at 2:30. Because of the way the guest UI works, you can actually suggest up to four different choices for guests. Presdo then "rolls up" all the choices from the guests and shows you the best times from your guests, just like Doodle does.

If you enter into Presdo "lunch in the next couple weeks", this results in 10 possible choices, but Presdo picks three choices in this "time range" for your guests.
I'm going to keep experimenting with Presdo and Doodle and then, depending on how the features grow, I'll end up using one of them most of the time. For things that I just schedule and share, I'll continue to use Google Calendar, as that's where I keep the church calendar anyways.

God's blessings on your daily life and ministry,
Pastor Andy Arnold
ELCA Youth Ministry Network Tech Geek


Laura said...

Great post! One clarification--TimeBridge does not require attendees to have a TimeBridge account, nor do your attendees need to use one of the supported calendar tools. Give it a shot!

y~~ said...

I'd like to introduce you to ScheduleOnce is a dead-simple web 2.0 service that helps you find a time for your meeting with absolute accuracy across all time zones and daylight saving changes.

JimL said...

I'm using SMEScheduler ( which also works directly on my iPhone - great thing about this is that it also is integrated with Twitter so I get instant SMS notifications when people accept meetings.