Metcalfe's column: No need to waltz around scheduling

You could just trust me. You could stop reading and go try some new scheduling software now available at www.timedance.com.

Or, you could read on about why TimeDance will probably start another Web epidemic, and then try it.

Remember AnyDay.com? (See www.infoworld.com/printlinks.) There you found free Web-based calendar-, contact-, task-, and event-management services. Even if you hadn't become a regular user, you saw the advantages of keeping your calendar alive on the Web instead of dead on your disk.

But you didn't see AnyDay.com e-mail or scheduling services. Because, they said, you can get e-mail free elsewhere and scheduling software isn't worth bothering with.

Scheduling software loses for three simple reasons. First, everyone with whom you might want to make meetings has to be using the same software -- which will never happen. Second, everyone has to enter and update all their appointments all the time -- which will never happen. And third, nobody really wants people to see where the free time is on their calendars -- which will never happen.

Well, TimeDance is a free Web service for the "scheduling of gatherings, from business meetings to social events". And it has, by remarkable coincidence, three features that finesse these three never-happens.

First, you can use TimeDance to schedule meetings with anyone on the Web, whether or not they use the same calendar software you do. One never-happen down, two to go.

Second, to use TimeDance, you don't have to keep all your appointments carefully updated anywhere, let alone inside TimeDance. Two never-happens down, one to go.

And third, people with whom you might like to make meetings do not have to let you see their free times. All three never-happens down.

But wait, that's not all. In addition, TimeDance is well-designed to exploit Internet Epidemiology (see www.infoworld.com/printlinks).

Go to the TimeDance site and register by providing your e-mail address and a password. Thereafter, whenever you want to initiate a meeting, just enter the e-mail addresses of the people with whom you want to meet. After you get comfortable investing some time in TimeDance, you can keep an address book at the service.

Next, check the boxes to indicate when you would be available for the proposed meeting. People you want invited receive e-mails directing them to a TimeDance URL through which they can find notes about the proposed meeting, proposed attendees, and proposed times. They can indicate when they might be available among the proposed times or suggest others.

When all invitees have responded and a good time has been found, the initiator is informed, the meeting is scheduled, and confirmations and reminders are sent.

It's easy to imagine how TimeDance works through various contingencies, but it's easier still just to go there and try to organise a meeting.

Which is why I say TimeDance has great Epidemiology. First, it's free. Second, you don't have to download software. And third, you don't need anybody else's calendaring system. You can propose meetings with people who are not already TimeDance users. After they join you in scheduling a meeting, your friends can easily, within a few minutes, register and start initiating their own meetings.

There is only one thing I can think of that might keep TimeDance from infecting most of the Web within a few months: performance.

If people take my advice and flock to TimeDance, and if the service proves catching, you will almost certainly find it too slow. I predict they are going to have that problem of success for a while, until they ramp up new servers.

So, brighten your day by trying something new. Go to www.timedance.com. Help make my overload prediction come true.

Internet pundit Bob Metcalfe invented Ethernet in 1973 and founded 3Com in 1979. Send e-mail to metcalfe@idg.net or visit www.idg.net/metcalfe

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