Recently, my Google Calendar alerted me to one of its newest features: an appointment calendar. The idea is simple: Make a list of all the times you are available, make this list available to others, and have them sign up to meet with you whenever they want. It sounded so great, I had to try it immediately. I had even had a conversation with someone earlier in the week about how there should be something exactly like this.
So I set up some appointments. This process is straight-forward enough, though in practice it is a lot of work and fairly time consuming. My goal was to take the days where I have lots of time and break it up in to one hour meetings spaced half an hour apart. Simple enough. But actually accomplishing this is a lot of work… They require you to first create an event, select appointment slot, then change it from the default “offer as slots of 30 minutes” to offer as a single appointment slot. The slots would make sense, but there is no way to use them to space the meetings out. Unless you are in the same building meeting with people with zero downtime between, this is not useful. I could, in theory, select “offer as slots of 90 minutes,” but this would then be confusing to people looking to sign up for an appointment slot. They don’t want to meet for an hour and a half.
So in the end, I had to select all of those options for all 20 slots I might have for a given week. It was repetitive and boring, and it makes me sad to know that if I want to do this in the future I will have to do it all over again. You would think there would be a way to clone the events over and over, but there isn’t. Additionally, if you don’t name each one then a big, ugly “(no title)” appears as the main piece of information for each slot. Why would you name them to begin with? You don’t know for sure what the event is going to be, thats the whole point…
I finished setting that all up. Now all that was left was to send potential meet-ees the worlds longest link to my own appointment calendar. First off, you might want to use a URL shortener for this one, because it is seriously long. It looks like this: https://www.google.com/calendar/selfsched?sstoken=UU1lenJiclp3cFp6fGRlZmF1bHR8ZTE4NDk3NzAwYLk4NDczNTNiZTAzMWM4ODBjZmNkJDQ (Not a real link). It is anything but pretty. The emails went out fine, and I figured I would just wait.
Within an hour or two, I got many emails back. And this is where I learned the true failure of the appointment calendar. Of the eight or so people who responded, only one had actually gotten through to my calendar. Just one. Why? Because Google did perhaps the most asinine thing they could possibly have done to the system: They require you to log in to your own Google calendar before you can even LOOK at this appointment calendar. Are you kidding me?
So lets walk through what happens when somebody wants to select a time to meet with me. They click the link. What it takes them to is not a page explaining whats going on, where they are, or any relevant piece of information. No. Instead, they are faced with a log-in screen. Most people give up instantly at this point, probably even if they HAVE a Google calendar. It looks like it didn’t work… As if only the owner of that particular calendar can see it. Maybe this would be a good idea if every person on the planet had and was logged in to their own Google calendar. But they don’t and never will. The pragmatic approach would be to let anyone see the calendar without logging in, and even letting people sign up for appointment slots.
The final irony of all this is that when the one person made it through and selected an appointment slot, it showed up as a new event on my calendar, leaving the appointment slot free. Meaning that as far as everyone else is concerned, that time is still available for me. What the heck is the point then? I might get 10 people signing up for the same time, thanks a lot Google. And in a telling twist of fate, the only person who made it through is the owner and sole-employee of an IT services and support company. And even she sounded a little confused.
I can only hope that Google will continue to develop this feature to make it usable… It is a great idea that has been laughably implemented. Stick to emails and phone calls for now, everyone.