Would you Use a Hammer to Cut Wood?

By: Gary Hayduk

Why email is a poor way to coordinate & schedule group calendar information online.

We all know the wisdom of 'use the right tool for the job' - to do otherwise is to invite mistakes, accidents and sometimes unintended damage. It's no different with the many choices of online Internet-based tools: pick the right one and you job will be sped along to successful conclusion.

Email is the #1 Internet application. Free mail services such as Yahoo Mail, Microsoft Hotmail and Google GMail are perennial favorites because they provide powerful mail capabilities, work from any browser or computer, and are free. Many of us still use PC-based mail programs such as Microsoft Outlook.

However, no matter what mail program you use, you are bound to have used it at times to schedule events or do calendaring coordination. Mail is a great way to ask a question and get an answer, and it's just fine for specific single event scheduling questions and answers.

But using mail to communicate a schedule of multiple events - in other words, a calendar - can get you in trouble. Here's why: the whole nature of mail is that a copy of your message is sent to each recipient and sits in their inbox. After reading it and perhaps replying, they may file that email message in folder, or just leave it in the inbox... right along with the next email on the same topic, and the next. Before you know it, mail system has multiple copies of various emails, each varying slightly from the other. Later on, when they want to find the correct, latest version of the schedule, they may, or they may not, access the correct version. All too often - and this happens to all of us - they consult an out-of-date version of the email. I call this 'email mania'.

To make this clear, here's a simple example. Samantha Goodwin emails out a proposed schedule for the next 6 months of club meetings to her friends, and a flurry of emails in the next few days back an forth clarify who can make which dates. Samantha Goodwin revises the proposed schedule several times. After a while, things settle down, but when the meetings do occur, inevitably some members miss the meeting because they consulted an out-of-date version of the schedule from one of the emails lurking in their inbox.

There's a better way to share group shared electronic caldendar schedules than posting them via email - post them online, in a single place, that all group members can access. That way, members always access the latest, most current version of the shared electronic caldendar. You can still use email to help on the scheduling dialogue, if you want, but have everyone refer to an online shared electronic caldendar from the beginning and everyone will always be accessing the most current version.

There are a variety of excellent online shared electronic caldendar solutions for groups. The best provide various levels of support for groups to set privacy levels so the shared electronic caldendar can only be accessed by group members. Here are three good choices:

1. Google Calendars at

2. Yahoo Calendars at

3. KeepandShare Calendars at

Of the three, the first two provide 'events' - that is, every entry is separate little object that you can drag and drop on the screen that you create, you can control its duration, you can make it a 'repeating event' (e.g., birthday). The third, from www.KeepandShare.com , is a simpler shared electronic caldendar to use and, in some ways, is more flexible, because every calendar box is 'free-text' - you can type in any kind of text for the day you like, just as with a wall calendar. Switch to day-view and you can view 1000's of characters of text - perfect for diary-like information recording. Lastly, KeepandShare also offers group file and document sharing with the same password-protection as the shared electronic caldendar. You can also do file sharing at Google and Yahoo, but you have to switch to different applications and group lists, so it's not seamless solution for sharing several kinds of information with a single group.

On a final note, two more good sources of calendar information are these websites:



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