Sunday, May 06, 2007

What I'd Like To See in Electronic Calendars

Like many people I use an electronic medium for my calendar. I use a
program to keep track of my days. I use the Palm Desktop (pictured), which
synchronizes with my PDA, the Palm Treo. But it's problematic, like all calendars I've seen, paper included.

I would like to put things on there and somehow be able to see that I do not plan to do them. For example, sometimes there will be a talk I'd like to go to, but I can't go because I have a meeting. I want to be able to put it in my calendar anyway because the meeting might be
cancelled. As it is now, I have to look and remember which one is more
important to me, or else not put it in my calendar at all (and miss it
when the meeting cancels).

I'd also like to put in there other people's schedules. If a good
friend is at a conference, I want to know it, but I don't want it as
prominent in the display as the things I'm doing. As it is now, I
usually put in a note on the date of return that the friend is
returning, but I can't look at an arbitrary day and know instantly if
my friend is around.

Finally, I want to be able to put in my half-hour by half-hour
plans. I break up my day into half-hour chunks, and I do it on paper
because it would positively clog up my calendar if I put it in
there. Every day I break up my day into half-hour long project
sessions, but if I put them in the calendar, when I'd search for
something, if it happened to use a keyword from something I do daily,
ALL those would return as search results, which would be
overwhelming. I'd never find what I was looking for.

How could these needs be implemented? I'm not an HCI (Human-Computer
Interaction) but what I imagine is you can have calendar events that
are hazy, behind yours, and different colors. You can focus on these,
but they are not intrusive most of the time. Daily grind stuff,
described in the last paragraph, might only be foregrounded on the
current day.


Katharine said...

I like the idea of alternate appointments in the calendar. Maybe you could do something where the primary appointment is at the forefront, but the alternate option(s) are accessible by pressing a colored/shaded bar on the right of the appointment with a stylus? Just brainstorming.

Anthony said...

If you use a HTML calendar like Google Calendar you could use text labels like "Alternate:" and "DailyGrind:" and use a Greasemonkey plugin to make them fade away.

If you're really ambitious, add buttons to the calendar display so you can label something as an Alternate or Grind easily.

Or, maintain two calendars in Google Calendar, one for you and one for alternate events, which will automatically get displayed in different colors. For example, in Google Calendar under Calendars > My Calendars click the "+" button and add a calendar for "Optional Events" and another one for "Daily Grind". They'll naturally show up in different colors, and you can easily turn them on/off with a click.

Daniel said...

In my PDA (which used to be yours) if I have an event I don't know if I want to go to (a "maybe" event) I add it to a day with no time, so it appears at the top. I prefix it with "ii". That both identifies it as a maybe event, and makes it so that I can just do a search for "ii" and instantly have a list of all the things going on in town in the future that I know about (every week I take off the "ii" from entries of the past week - it's fast)

That's how I solve at least part of that problem.