Have you ever tried to organize a meeting or a gathering of some sort, whether it be for business, a birthday party or something like that? Well, if you have, you have certainly experienced the pain of finding the right moment when everyone is available at the same time. When one is available, another one is not, and vice versa, and then people change their mind. Really painful.
Fortunately for us, there are solutions on the web. One of them, and the one I use all the time, is called Doodle. Basically, what Doodle allows you to do is to set up some sort of a quick poll, saying “I want to organize such event and I propose a few time slots”. When your poll is created, you send an email to all the people you want to invite, with a link to your online poll. Invitees go there, check boxes to say if they are available or not on each slot, and once everyone has answered, you can determine which slot is the best option. All good, right?
Well, this solution is better than nothing, but it still has 2 major shortcomings. First off, it’s not integrated with anything like your mailbox, your address book or your agenda, which means you have to enter all the information manually, and invitees have to check their agenda manually too. Second, it’s on the web, which means that you can only organize meetings or check your availabilities when you are connected. Those shortcomings have a very important consequence: it can take an awful amount of time to get everyone to reply and send the final invitation, which means that the first invitee to answer might not be available anymore by the time your send him the final date… and we’re back where we started.
I use Doodle a lot, for business meetings, for Poker games with friends, and so on, and I’ve seen that happen a lot. And boy it’s frustrating. Then a couple of months ago, I was playing with my iPhone and I thought “Wait a minute! I have my calendar, my emails and my address book in there. Wouldn’t it be nice to integrate all of that to make it easier to set up gatherings?” Guess what! That’s what MooPlan does now!
So let’s see what it does. It’s a simple 3-step process:
- The organizer sets up a meeting, gives it a title, a description, invites a few people from his address book and proposes a few time slots. Then he sends all of that to MooPlan which dispatches invitation emails to everyone.
- Every invitee gets an email with a link inside. If they are reading the email on an iPhone, they can click a link to install MooPlan application from the App Store, if they have not already done so. If they have, they can just click the other link to open the invitation directly into MooPlan. They click on the slots on which they are available, and they reply.
- Back to the organizer, who sees how many people have already replied. And when enough people have, he just chooses a time slot, clicks “Send Final Invitation”, and BOOM! All the invitees get another email with the final date, location, and all the details of the event.
Now I know what you’re thinking. How is that better than Doodle? Well first, it works on your phone, natively, without any weird web interface, so it’s very easy to use, and you can organize meetings and reply to invitations on the go. Second, it’s already integrated with your address book and your emails. Now of course it still misses integration with the most important part: your calendar. Wouldn’t it be awesome if MooPlan could automatically check your availabilities, or create events in your calendar? Sure it would, and the good news is that MooPlan will do just that… once those capabilities are available for iPhone native applications. And with all the fuzz going around concerning the next version of iPhone internal software, good stuff is coming, that’s all I can say for now. This is just a first version.
When is it going to be available? Well, not tomorrow. I’ve just completed the first full cycle, but there are still a few things to fix, and a lot of testing to do. I don’t think I will be adding any new features in this release, even if I have plenty of ideas. Hopefully, I’ll be able to send it to Apple by mid-April. So stay tuned…