Wanted: a different kind of event scheduling tool for personal life

I was flipping through Allan Cooper’s classic “The Inmates are Running the Asylum” just the other day, and I noticed how in one section he has a little rant about how calendaring software is broken.

“Many calendar programs are available […], yet every one of them ignores the most simple and obvious ways that people want to use calendars. Simply put, a calendar should reflect how people use time to manage their lives.” (Allan Cooper, 1998; longer excerpt here. )

Calendar software (like Google calendar & 30 boxes) has come a long way since he wrote that back in ’98, but the event scheduling features seem to be focussed entirely on your work life. Also, although there’s lot of dedicated event promotion tools available (eventful, meetup, etc), they are very rigid and autocratic. The organizer says “The event’s on this date. Come, or don’t come”.

This works perfectly for big events, but what about small get-togethers? When a group of friends try and arrange a mutually suitable time and date for a get-together, the activity tends to involve a process of discussion and negotiation. This can require quite a lot of email / SMS/ phone call to-ing and fro-ing. What’s notable here is:

  • Availability in your calendar is not the same as being free. Many people don’t want to keep their personal calendars up to date in the anally retentive manner we do at work.
  • If you have a family, you often need to speak to them, and refer to their calendars first.
  • We often need to be able to give “white lies” to get out of things. Tools that are too transparent will causes problems here.
  • And above all, most people don’t want to run their personal social lives like they would their Outlook calendar at work.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but there seems to be a gap in the market here. I’m sure it could make a great Facebook app…