Vain hope, no. 36.

OK, I could be wrong about this, because I’m not an encyclopedia of knowledge about groupware. But to the best of my knowledge, throughout 20+ years of group calendaring software I’ve only been allowed to choose to accept a meeting, mark it tentative, or decline. To the best of my knowledge — again, not the best knowledge admittedly — there hasn’t been a single system that lets me set “depth of commitment” to an appointment, or lets a meeting organizer estimate my importance as an attendee (again, beyond a single setting of “optional”).

In a perfect world of flying rainbow-colored ponies, I’d like to be able to show my commitment to a meeting in a more granular way for appointments where I’m not a key attendee. So for instance, for 1×1 meetings with my manager, or a meeting I’m running, I’d set my commitment at the highest setting. The default commitment for what we currently call “tentative” would be much lower, and perhaps the default commitment for “accepted” would be somewhere in between, or represented differently.

With said ponies clogging the skyways, a meeting organizer would also have the option to set how important they believe it is for me to attend the meeting. Then using some algorithm, the calendaring system could, instead of just sending me a dumb invitation, make a suggestion to me on how to handle the conflict as an attendee. Some weight would be given to appointments whose organizer bothers to set these request levels. For bonus points, the calendaring system might even record some sort of relationship between me and other users of the system, so that certain people (my manager, other trusted users) find it easier to kick other, lower-commitment appointments when needed.

I’ve often found people’s availability changes when I talk to them in person. (“I’ll move this other meeting around to make room for the time you’re proposing, this sounds important for me to attend.”) Yet reaching out to everyone individually is precisely what group calendaring systems are supposedly designed to avoid.

Perhaps it’s too much to ask for a system to do all this work for me. This might be a pipe dream. But it’s been on my mind a couple times over the last few months and I wanted to get it off my chest and onto the intarwebz. I’m sure it can be ignored silently without a problem if it’s unworthy. 😉

3 Comments

  1. Pieter

    Interesting observation and I have to concur. In the last 20 years or so I have neither seen the ability to set the depth of my commitment. But have no fear, the source of the Open Source Zarafa Collaboration Platform is near (zarafa.com). So you could scratch that itch and submit a patch 🙂 Bonus points for not breaking compatibility with various versions of Exchange.

  2. Jon Stanley

    Yeah, good observation., I have a coworker that I frequently schedule meetings with who got sick of me asking him and gave me read-only access to his calendar – that’s one solution (and sadly, I have to say that I know Exchange 2007 makes this easy). Obviously you might not have access to your coworkers calendar, but that’s one way of solving the problem…..

  3. Moritz Barsnick

    True. I’ve had department managers where I didn’t consider them really busy at any particular time if they didn’t have three appointments in parallel. 😉 Alas, I would only know that it was three if I looked over their shoulders. (They swore that some of them were just in there as placeholders, so that they knew what was taking place.

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