I’m constantly annoyed with how difficult it is to schedule a meeting time with people outside of work. At a company or organization with a decent IT backbone, there’s usually Exchange or Google Apps or some other servers set up so that you can easily see other peoples’ busy/free schedules. However, outside of that company or organization, scheduling becomes a huge chore, especially if you have many people to invite. Sure, it’s possible to share busy/free information with Google Calendar, but that quickly overflows your “Other Calendars” section, and is annoying to navigate because many people tend to use the same generic calendar names–“committments,” “schedule,” “classes,” etc.
There are three solutions to this that I have come to use regularly.
The first is perhaps the most popular, and for most people, is easy enough to set up, and with enough options. This is, of course, the ever-popular Doodle scheduler. The pros to Doodle is that it is relatively intuitive to use, relative quick to set up, sports a rich feature set, and chances are the recipients of your invite will have used Doodle before. However, as we move on to our next two solutions, you’ll see that Doodle is not the easiest to use, nor is it the most convenient to set up.
The second is a cute little startup called Congregar. The thing with this is that there are no time options, but dead simple to setup and spread and track. So, if you have an event where all you’re worried about is the date, Congregar’s the one to beat.
The third is my personal favorite, and one that most people have not heard of. This one’s called when2meet. It looks like it was taken out of an HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) textbook. All you need to do is to give the event a name, then drag through the times when you’re available. Then, send the page link to everyone else, and they can easily drag. Available times are instantly available in the color-coded chart off to the side. This is so easy and convenient that I now use when2meet over 80% of the time I need to schedule something. The only real downside is that there is no way of directly inviting from the page, nor a way to keep track of people who have not responded, but typically, with a meeting of fewer than 5-6 people–most of my meetings–it doesn’t really matter.