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Unreasonable Expectations for my Calendar

Credit: dane_au /

At the moment I’m trying to work out where I’m going to be for the next two months. A trip to New York is fixed, but a trip to Europe is not. And then there’s the maybe on Utah… too many dependencies!

I find scheduling things stressful – the CompSci in me wants to find the optimal solution, but in reality it’s tough to do better than a greedy algorithm.

Some things are fixed – events, for example.

Some things are flexible – like the gym.

Some things have dependencies:

  • Location – schedule things in similar places together.
  • People – need to find a time that works for both people. And pick a location (who goes to who? Meet in the middle?)

When scheduling stuff with other people, location based services could be helpful to determine a good place for both people. I.e. mostly person A checks in at places in the West, and person B in the East, but on Tuesday afternoons they both tend to be North – so how about coffee at 6? We can determine that A likes Tim Hortons, and B likes Timothy’s, but at a push Starbucks will work for both.

Phones have GPS trackers, and I don’t want to call or text whilst driving. But what if my phone could ask me, “it seems you are moving at less than 5mph, would you like me to text <person I’m meeting> and say you are stuck in traffic and expect to be 5-10 minutes late?” and I could respond – “yes” or “no”. Going further, because with cellphones everyone always seems to be late, I want to ask the other person’s phone – based on their ETA and my ETA, do I have time to drop off my dry cleaning?

What about flexible appointments like the gym? (I wrote about this here) Can my phone notice that I’m leaving the office at 1730 and say “you can either go to body pump at 6:30, or kickboxing at 7?” – and even “based on how much cardio you’ve done this week you should think about adding 30 mins on the x-trainer to your workout if you opt for body pump”.

Flights – this is something that I think my calendar (Google calendar, of course) could really do a lot better with.

  • I should be able to put in a flight number and a day to and from and it should adjust the time difference in between. I find myself calculating time differences when I schedule events in the UK before I leave. That is bonkers!
  • Monitor delays. Recently I was sprinting through Toronto airport without shoes, or belt. My flight was delayed and I made it with 15 minutes to spare – this is the kind of thing I’d like my phone to tell me!
  • Picking up. I’d like my phone to tell me where to leave, based on calculations including – traffic, immigration, baggage collection, and – of course – flight delays.

I realize that some people might find this creepy. But personally, I’d love it if some smart programmers could take this scheduling problem off my hands! I’m OK with a company I trust (i.e. not Facebook) having this kind of information about where I am and what I’m doing, if it makes my life easier.

2 replies on “Unreasonable Expectations for my Calendar”

Some of these already exist:
-Google calendar does handle multiple timezones (
-TripIt’s premium service is supposed to handle flight delay notifications and the like. (I’ve only used their free service, so I don’t know how well it works)
-Pre-release advertising for the Palm Pre claimed that it would have dynamic appointment reminders based on projected travel time from your current location and be able to automatically send “I’m running late” messages. No idea if these made it to the final product.

The rest of it sounds like it would be AI-hard.

– GCal can show multiple timezones, but will only let me show Canadian ones (not helpful to me as I usually want a EU). If it would do EU that would be pretty neat.
– Cool RE tripit.
– Pre – that would be awesome, but I have an iPhone. I didn’t know they were making them still, even! Good to know someone is doing it, others will follow.

Yeah, definitely hard. But possible! 🙂

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