Thursday, March 18, 2010
As you can imagine, those of us on the Google Calendar team spend a lot of time thinking about scheduling. We regularly talk to people who schedule and reschedule a lot of meetings: administrative assistants. Talking to them, we understand just how much time they spend looking at schedules, investigating other people's calendars, finding replacement conference rooms and rescheduling conflicts. And then some manager's travel plans change and everything starts over again.
If you're searching for something on the web, you don't just start randomly visiting pages looking for relevant content, you use a search engine. So we decided to apply some of Google's search experience to the problem of scheduling. We experimented with using ranking algorithms to return the most relevant meeting times based on specified criteria like attendees, schedule complexity, conference rooms, and time zones. Just like Google search ranks the web, our scheduling search algorithm returns a ranked set of the best candidate dates and times.
Today we're launching the result of that experiment, a gadget called Smart Rescheduler, in Google Calendar Labs. Once you turn it on, just select an event you'd like to reschedule, then click "Find a new time...":
You'll see ranked list of possible times for your meeting. By investigating the calendars others have shared with you, Google Calendar can make some educated guesses about how easy it might be to reschedule a conflicting meeting and even find you a replacement conference room nearby. This process is 100% automated — no Google employees are doing any work behind the scenes. You can refine the results by marking people as optional, changing the meeting duration, ignoring certain conflicts, or specifying the earliest and latest times you'll accept. The results will immediately update to reflect your new requirements.
This feature is still experimental, so we'd love your ideas and feedback. Of course, we can't make meetings more interesting, but we can try to save you frustration leading up to them.