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TimeBridge: No place to hide from our meetings

New features nag laggards to show up for the meetings they've agreed to attend.

The meeting scheduler utility TimeBridge is growing up and expanding its mission. No longer just a schedule helper, the service is getting more tools to keep meetings that have already started running on time.

The company is still selling an online meeting product, based on DimDim. It's adding now a tool to let attendees collaborate on the agenda beforehand (I doubt it will ever get used, people are too lazy), and more importantly, it's getting a nag feature that will let a meeting organizer set the service to ping people via SMS or e-mail right before a meeting starts. Once a meeting is underway, there's also a new option to nag laggards to show up, again via SMS or e-mail.

The TimeBridge Web and e-mail UIs are cleaned up a little. TimeBridge

The ping features have a feedback mechanism as well. Messages come with short URLs that direct to response page that includes quick-reply options such as "Be there in 5 minutes" or "Sorry I can't make it." Unfortunately, "Sorry but I have to vacuum my cat" is not in the quick list, but you can type whatever you want as a reply instead. The ping feature will eventually be part of the paid TimeBridge Plus service for $8.95 a month, but it's free at the moment.

The iPhone and other mobile interfaces for TimeBridge let you gracefully (or not) bow out of a meeting. TimeBridge

There's also a very interesting new iPhone app for TimeBridge currently pending approval at Apple. It lets you scan your agenda (with a time line for your meeting), or ping the late people. You can also use the iPhone app to dial in to a TimeBridge conference call directly.

The service gets a cleaned-up user interface overall, which should help reduce the annoyance that people may feel when they get TimeBridge invitations but aren't familiar with the service. And there's an improved way for people to set up one-on-one meetings; it appropriately allows a little more schedule sharing than many-person meetings.

CEO Yori Neklin told me these changes reflect his belief that "TimeBridge solved scheduling, but meetings themselves are still screwed up." I'm not so sure scheduling is indeed solved, but I do agree that most meetings are awful. I believe the new features will help more meetings start on time, and might just make a tiny dent in the content of meetings themselves. But that's fine. Every little bit helps.

See also Tungle launches non-annoying scheduling service and Beyond freemium: The Timebridge business model works.