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Farhad Manjoo has the same problem with calendars we all do

Manjoo begs for calendar relief in Will Someone Please Make a Better Online Calendar? buried in a review of a very-early beta of Magneto (I hope to get a demo next week). He writes,

[…] even if it’s far from perfect, I want to shower Magneto with praise for one of its most terrific features, an idea that addresses — though does not yet completely solve — my biggest frustration with digital calendars.

That frustration: Scheduling meetings between two or more people is too difficult. It’s the biggest flaw in online calendars. And someone needs to fix it, please.

Two or three times a day, often over email, I endure a tedious back-and-forth negotiation over when and where I’m going to meet a friend or colleague.

He details an agonizing call-and-response scenario — How about Wed or Thu am, Ok let’s meet at my office at 9am Wed, oh you meant your office I can’t get there then, ok how about… —  and then summarizes:

But if you’re often setting up meetings with new people — people whose calendars you don’t know — and in a variety of locations, there’s a good chance you go through this sort of thing, too. The process requires too many steps and too much cognitive work, and because you’ve got to account for information like location and travel time, it’s difficult to automate.

This piece reminded me of my recent begging for the same thing, more or less, although I was sketching out a possible implementation:

Stowe Boyd, Solving an age-old problem, Acompli integrates calendar with email

I was talking about this by email yesterday with the Michael Galpert, the CEO of Super.cc, and I suggested this scenario:

[Super.cc could] Come up with a better way to schedule meetings with multiple people, or multiple meetings in the same timeframe. As just one use case: imagine I would like to schedule meetings for a several day trip to SF, and I would like to set up meetings on (let’s say) Tu, We, and Th for companies X, Y, Z, A, B, and C. I’d like a system where I could hand this over to a bot that would do the following:

  1. Would read the emails I create suggesting possible meetings, and note that there is possible contention. 2. Would read emails proposing times, and would ‘pencil’ them into the calendar (perhaps a ¿ and ? at the start and end).
  2. As I start to accept proposed dates/times, it would convert penciled to ink, and send emails under my name to others who had not yet responded updating them on now-unavailable times. 4. If two or more parties request the same time, I could pick one, and the others would be informed that the time was no longer available, along with information about other available/unavailable times.

Sounds like Magneto’s solution is something like that of Acompli, that I discussed in the above post. Their approach is to share a rendering of your Thursday, or the next three days, that the recipient(s) can see, and they send back some suggested times, captured as boxes on the calendar rendering. You then pick a convenient time. Sounds good.

This is an example of us passing over a critical inflection point: when we are sharing calendar possibilities with more people that we don’t share a common calendaring server with, we need a better way to coordinate. And that seems to be coming to the fore right now, which could explain all of these new calendaring apps coming out of the woodwork.