Meeting scheduling system idea

Everyone is aware of the sad state of affairs of modern calendar software. While there is a robust standard called Webcal for publishing and subscribing to online calendars, there is no existing federated protocol that makes it easy to schedule meetings with other people on independent platforms.

As a result, what people typically do is share a link to a when2meet/doodle/ scheduling poll. The problem with this approach is the amount of time it takes everyone for every meeting. The owner of the poll must spend time creating it, setting all the dates and times, then each participant must look at their calendar and carve out blocks on the poll, and finally the poll owner must evaluate the results and they still have to ask everyone if a particular time is okay.

I propose a new system for scheduling meetings with arbitrary sets of people within the collaboration, where each person only inputs their typical availability once, and where the meeting organizer can passively determine a good meeting time before ever contacting the desired attendees. Moreover, it is not an all-or-nothing system; the more people that opt-in and maintain their availability calendar, the more effective it will be.

Here is the proposal:

  1. Each collaborator creates a dedicated calendar to reflect their typical availability. This calendar should only need to be updated as often as your periodic meeting schedules change.


  2. You share your availability calendar subscription link in a compiled list accessible only within the collaboration. Something like
    /MUSES Collaboration/Availability_Calendars.csv


  3. When someone wants to schedule a meeting with someone, they can open the compiled list and copy the subscription link for the person they want to schedule a meeting with. Then they create a new calendar from this link as shown below. Edit the name of the new subscribed calendar to the name of the person who owns it.




  4. Once you subscribe to someone’s calendar, you will not need to do so again, and you will receive any updates they make automatically. To avoid cluttering your calendar interface, you can toggle visibility of these calendars by simply clicking on them in the sidebar.

  5. To schedule a meeting with an arbitrary set of collaborators, toggle visibility of each of their availability calendars and find an available time for everyone.

Good morning! Just another quick idea to throw out there that might help with this issue: I believe everyone can hook their individual calendars into it and make them available for everyone to see availability - I think there’s another setting everyone can make too that would allow people to request a meeting through calendly based on open availability. I believe this tool is used a lot around the college for instructors to make their calendars accessible to students for any one-on-one meetings.

Calendly might be an option. I almost included it in my original post, but it’s not clear if Calendly’s pricing is compatible with MUSES. Maybe UIUC has a license or something, but we could run into the same licensing obstacle within multi-institution collaborations like ours, where some institutions support one commercial service but the others do not. I see that the ability to “Create group events” is not included in the free plan.

Assuming that Calendly was a feasible option in our context, I am curious in practice how much less manual work is involved. For example, you have to connect your calendar(s) to Calendly by granting them permission, which implies you have to generate some kind of subscription link or enable some option in your existing calendar software. If you limit the detail level for privacy reasons, for example only showing busy/free for events, this requires some additional configuration.

Calendly would definitely be better for availability info of course, because everyone’s calendar would be accurately represented when scheduling a meeting, as opposed to my idea where it is at best “typical availability”.

In any case, it’s an academic discussion because I guarantee that no one other than Mauricio will try it anyway :slight_smile:

Yes, sorry, I was thinking it might be a good solution for mostly checking availability (that should be part of the free service), with one person still being the driving force for getting the meeting set. I’m assuming this is for ad hoc meetings? Otherwise, if you’re looking for rough times to set a specific recurring meeting for a semester for example, then when2meet or doodle are still probably the tools of choice to find common availabilities for set recurring meetings.

I’m not sure how group meetings work within MUSES specifically, but generally speaking, I have found when I want to have a meeting, as long as I can see their availability, then I’m happy to shoot out one email with a few times offered where most people can join to see if we can narrow from there, with my top choice listed saying if I don’t hear from anyone that’s when I’ll send the invite by the end of the day. I think if you send a meeting invite from Outlook, it can go to everyone in such a format as to be added to any kind of calendar (or at least Outlook offers multiple links for the different formats - .ics seems to be fairly universal at least for Outlook and Google).

But I suppose it could be said that my approach to scheduling meetings is too forward for some people. :slight_smile:

Yes, this is for ad-hoc meetings. The periodic meetings are more rarely scheduled and so it is not as obnoxious to go through the general polling process for those. If I’m understanding you correctly, then perhaps Calendly does still offer some advantages with the free plan over my idea.

This is really what it all boils down to, and the role of the organizer to do this work is really unavoidable without everyone agreeing to a single centralized system (which will not happen). The best you can do is minimize iterations.

That does remind me, though, that people do not need to use our Nextcloud calendars for this scheduling idea. For example, the UIUC Outlook calendar lets you share a subscription link to a busy/free-only version of your calendar, and you could copy this link into the Availability_Calendars.csv file as I describe above. Moreover, most calendar platforms allow you to subscribe to external calendars (at least I know Outlook, Google, and Nextcloud do), so the organizer can use their existing calendar platform to consume the shared links in order to schedule a meeting.

Another relatively simple solution is to use the native Nextcloud availability to denote when you are typically available.

As long as people schedule meetings using the Nextcloud web app interface, it will be useful.