Just doodlin’ around

Arranging a meeting with only a few participants is hard enough but it starts becoming very difficult as the numbers increase.

I’m not a corporate or bureaucratic type, thankfully, but I have often been involved when it comes to setting up events where numbers of people from various walks of life have to meet for one reason or another. The first two people in the arrangement can generally agree on a suitable time to meet but then you start running into problems.

The third person will invariably say that they could make that day of the week and time, if only it was a week later. You agree on an amended date but it turns out that the first person can’t make it next week and will be away on leave thereafter, until the middle of the following April.

There are some heavy-duty users whose electronic calendars can talk to other people’s calendars, and decide on suitable meeting times between themselves. For the rest us, however, there seemed to be no choice but to battle on using e-mail and phone to arrive at the best meeting time.

My informant Andre DuToit recently let me know of a free web-based service which you can use to streamline the process of setting up any sort of meeting and event. The site, called Doodle, is the brainchild of a Swiss company and can be found at www.doodle.ch.

It is not your typical website loaded with bells and whistles and it actually looks pretty plain, until you get used to it. This is good from a performance point of view because, being entirely text based, it is not weighed down with bandwidth-hungry sound, animated graphics or video.

The concept behind Doodle is very simple and, once you’ve signed up, you can initiate two different types of poll. The first type is a date and time poll where you get the opportunity to enter a choice of possible dates and times when your event can take place.

The system then generates a web page with the list of dates and times on it, and gives it a unique web address. You send this to all the people who are going to take part in the event and they all visit the page and vote for the dates and times that suit them best.

You then go to the page, where you will be able to see what choices each person has made, and can then quickly decide when to hold the event. The other type of poll that you can have is a simple choice between a number of items.

That’s one that the family can use to choose which DVD to hire on Friday night, or which the church group can use to vote on where to go on the annual outing. The Help feature is quite brief but I shouldn’t think that anyone would have a problem getting Doodle to work.

It is very simple to use because it is only designed to do one thing and is not loaded down with lots of features that need to be learnt. I think Doodle could be a very useful time saver but, of course, it won’t help with people who forget all about the meeting. [Been there often enough 🙂 ]

Doodle is called Doodle because it’s a short word, easy to remember and sounds like fun. I can imagine that there might be some problems for you if you’re incautious enough to tell your friends and workmates that you’re going to be doodling later; it might be misconstrued an invitation or, even worse, as harassment!

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