Social Calendaring

The current generation of social networks are based on an assumption that giving you reams of data about what other people are doing and have done really puts you in touch with other people. As a user, I do get the impression that I am in touch with people, even though I may not actually be communicating with them. So we don't always bother to make stuff happens.

There are social networks that tell you where friends have been, some that tell you where they are, some that tell you what they are doing right now and some that tell you where they will be. But very few, it seems, that tell you where to be.

Taking Facebook as an example (as it's the only social network I'm using heavily at the moment), it does not make it easy to set up things to do. Creating events is a very laboured process. It takes perhaps 15 minutes to set up an event. It's an individual rather than a collaborative task. Invitations to events get ignored because of the way they are delivered. People get blanketed with invitations that they don't want. And I can't even set up an event until I've set up a group to arrange the event.

Social calendaring is not a new concept as the promise of electronic calendars has always included ease of scheduling, via e-mail invitations of some sort. Google Calendar and 30 Boxes represent the state of the art in this regard, which is simply calendar sharing and event invitations.

The thing social calendars really should address is scheduling of events, because I'm lazy and also busy and I always say things like "we really should ..." but it never happens.

My ideal social calendar could fulfil these user stories:

  • Find me something to join in with on any given day.
  • Schedule things with the knowledge of when I'm most likely to be free or busy, even when nothing is scheduled.
  • Arrange online games with my brother in Australia (7 hours ahead in summer or 9 hours in the winter).
  • Pick a date and time to do a thing I want to do, with friends who want to and who may have to travel to do it.
  • Remind me to book the venue for an event.
  • Book out an event I'm hosting.
  • Nail down the fuzziness inherent in saying something like "Let's have dinner on Thursday evening" so that we can say "Dinner at 8pm, and Alice will be joining us at around 10pm for drinks".
  • Suggest when to actually go to bed so that I can get up next morning.
  • Pin-point exactly where an event is so that I can work out how to get there.
  • Don't keep trying to schedule things my skint friends can't afford to do.
  • Suggest things I might like to do.
  • Mildly favour a schedule where I can watch my favourite TV programmes.
  • Create entirely new groups of local people with similar tastes (say Buffy, or Linux) in such a way as to be actually kind of fun and neither awkward or annoying.

As is perhaps evident, I'm a strong believer in heuristic tools that do really innovative stuff. What are the chances that all of the above are possible in a calendar application that doesn't automatically book me to go pole-dancing in Alaska moments before it has me watching Mork and Mindy with total strangers in my home on a Friday night? Hmm.


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