The meeting time broker TimeDriver, which has been in closed testing since I covered it back in January, will finally enter its public beta period on Monday. I had a chance to play with the product Thursday. For a lot of people, this service could be a great help.
TimeDriver is designed to help people who need to schedule a lot of one-on-one meetings. If you're interviewing job candidates, for example, or taking appointments with customers, you can set up either one-time or recurring blocks of time, and send people links that let them grab appointment times in those blocks that remain unclaimed.
You can also just put a link on your Web page or in your e-mails and take appointments from anyone. Yikes.
TimeDriver can link to Google or Outlook calendars if you want to make sure you're not booking appointments on top of your one-off meetings, and the system will then write appointments back into your calendar when people claim times. There are advanced options that can prevent people from scheduling last-minute meetings or from seeing more than a few time slots; you wouldn't want to look unbusy, would you? But there's no way to automatically enforce buffer times between meetings, which might matter if you make house calls.
The service has tools to send out blast e-mails to people (for example, job candidates you want to interview) and will track all their responses. Coming soon is a new Outlook plug-in that will let you send meeting requests from within your Outlook client itself; in the current version you can only manage mass meeting invitations from within TimeDriver.
TimeDriver is a different beast than a meeting negotiation product like TimeBridge, which allows for multi-person meetings and encourages a form of voting on best times to meet. That kind of solution is better for people like me who treat each meeting separately; TimeDriver is better for people who see one meeting as much like the next.
The basic TimeDriver service is free. Paid and enterprise versions will get additional features, such as calendar pooling--so multiple people can service appointment requests--analytics tools, and custom branding options.
Future versions may include variable privacy, so specific people or groups can see more detail of your calendar, or so some users need confirmation from you before a meeting is booked, but others don't.
I look forward to seeing this tool integrated into other online customer management solutions, like Salesforce.com. Or better yet, adopted by my dentist.