Distributed Scheduling vs Centralized Scheduling for Calendars

Discussions about the Calendar Tool at lds.org. Questions about the calendar on the classic site should be posted in the LUWS forum.
lmemmott
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Distributed Scheduling vs Centralized Scheduling for Calendars

Postby lmemmott » Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:25 pm

I've read the help and understand the new paradigm that shifts the scheduling of resources from building schedulers to calendar owners which basically moves from a centralized scheduling model to a distributed scheduling model. I understand that there are certain advantages of doing this, however, there are some disadvantages. For example, in our stake the building schedules help ensure that the buildings are being used for the right purposes (e.g. no team sports, etc) and they help resolve scheduling conflicts and sets priority for different activities (e.g. stake youth activity vs a family gathering). They also ensure that individuals who wish to use the building understand that setup time and take-down should be scheduling in as well and they ensure groups clean up accordingly if they have a Saturday afternoon or evening activity so the building is ready for services on Sunday morning. With the new distributed scheduling model more training would need to happen for all calendar owners and it would be more of a challenge to enforce. We haven't made a final decision in our stake but we're exploring the options.

...So suppose a stake wishes to stick with the old paradigm (i.e. centralized scheduling) how would they make it work using the new calendaring system? Currently stake schedulers can't create new items on any of the public calendars unless they are calendar editors, which can't be done for ward calendars outside their ward. Here are some options I've come up with. Anyone else have any other suggestions?

1) The software developers change the calendaring system on lds.org so that building schedulers can add items to any public calendar in the stake. Then block all resources so only the building scheduler can schedule them.
Pros: Quick and relatively easy for building schedulers to add new items.
Cons:
- As currently implemented, it may be confusing for building schedulers to know which ward calendar to put events on since there could be many. The user interface would also have to allow them to search by ward to find individual calendars.
- Calendar owners may be frustrated because they could add items to their own calendar only if they don't assign a resource. To get a resource they'd have to call a building scheduler.
- Requires the church's development team to change the way it works and this may be out of scope of their goals.

2) Block all resources in the stake and create one calendar for each of the resources that the building schedulers have access to. When individuals want to calendar something they can put it on their calendar, but to get the resource they'd have to call the building scheduler to ask for it. The Resource calendar would show that it has been reserved for them, but on their own calendar it would not.
Pros: Requires no changes to the existing system.
Cons:
- All items requiring a resource would have to be on two calendars: One at the stake level to schedule the resource and another at the ward level to schedule the time.
- Could be confusing to some users since this use is counter the design of the new calendaring system.
- Users may be confused because it wouldn't show the resource in their ward calendars. They could use the "Other Location" option on their calendar and type in the location free-form.

Any other ideas?

Thanks,
Lester

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Postby jdlessley » Wed Nov 02, 2011 9:13 pm

lmemmott wrote: I understand that there are certain advantages of doing this, however, there are some disadvantages. For example, in our stake the building schedules help ensure that the buildings are being used for the right purposes (e.g. no team sports, etc)...
While there can be an unlimited number of calendars with an unlimited number of editors for each calendar, both can be limited. Not every calendar created needs to be approved. Any time after a calendar is approved it can be deactivated or deleted. In other words calendars can be managed. It is not as though once a calendar is submitted the "hounds are let loose".

The paradigm for having multiple calendars and multiple editors for each calendar is so that each auxiliary presidency and each organization presidency that normally use the locations for the programs under their responsibility can do so without the excruciatingly painful and frustrating process of locating the one building scheduler and coordinating for weeks on end to get a simple event scheduled.

I doubt that auxiliary and organization presidencies are going to abuse the trust of their position to inappropriately schedule resources for such things as team sports or family events. When the guidelines for resource use are provided and adequate instruction given, people will do what is right. The building scheduler can always review those scheduled events for appropriate and fair use of resources. Reservations can be used when there is a need to evenly distribute resource availability in multi-unit meetinghouses. Maintaining a close-hold on resource scheduling, in my opinion, sends the signal that unit auxiliary and organization leaders are not trustworthy.

lmemmott wrote: For example, in our stake the building schedules ... help resolve scheduling conflicts and sets priority for different activities (e.g. stake youth activity vs a family gathering).
Scheduling conflict resolution is built into the calendaring system. If there is a priority for one activity over another the building scheduler can be contacted and step in to resolve the priority. As a stake building scheduler for four and a half years I found that those auxiliaries and organizations that planned in advance had little conflict with others. Advance planning uncovers potential conflicts and provides adequate time for all involved to work out alternatives.

Family gatherings normally can only be scheduled through the building scheduler since unit calendars are created for auxiliaries and organizations. There is no other way to schedule family gatherings through these calendars. This is a complaint others have voiced in these forums - that family events and other non-church related events can not be easily scheduled. To do so requires contacting the building scheduler. Which in my opinion is how it should be done.

lmemmott wrote:They also ensure that individuals who wish to use the building understand that setup time and take-down should be scheduling in as well and they ensure groups clean up accordingly if they have a Saturday afternoon or evening activity so the building is ready for services on Sunday morning. With the new distributed scheduling model more training would need to happen for all calendar owners and it would be more of a challenge to enforce.
I find the rationalization that people will not clean up after an event, that more training would be required, or that cleanup enforcement would be more of a challenge is hunting for reasons to maintain tight resource control. It also shows little trust in the willingness of members to do what is right. It also says that leaders are not willing to provide necessary training.

Actually I am confused as to how maintaining tight control of resources ensures cleanup is accomplished. How exactly will maintaining tight single person control of resources throughout the stake ensure cleanup after events? Conversely how will having distributed scheduling cause the cleanup of resources after events to get out of control any more than is happening now?

There has been a suggested compromise between the overly restrictive and archaic one person in control scheduling method and the distributed scheduling method. Some have suggested in other threads to have one calendar for each ward and one for the stake with a very limited number of editors for each calendar. All auxiliaries and organizations must then contact one of those editors to schedule an event.
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Postby russellhltn » Wed Nov 02, 2011 9:30 pm

jdlessley wrote:I doubt that auxiliary and organization presidencies are going to abuse the trust of their position to inappropriately schedule resources for such things as team sports or family events.


Even if they have the authority, they still need the (building) key.


jdlessley wrote:Some have suggested in other threads to have one calendar for each ward and one for the stake with a very limited number of editors for each calendar. All auxiliaries and organizations must then contact one of those editors to schedule an event.


One big problem with that idea is that the members don't have much control over what events get synced to their personal calendars. As a result, many will not subscribe at all and may result in lower attended to non-block meetings.


The thing I miss the most is the ability to take a stake assignment and "push" it down to the appropriate wards. Things like Ward Conference, Youth Temple Baptisms, Ward Service Projects, etc. That way the stake could see when it was, that it's spread out, ect. The closest I can get under the new system is to create a stake calendar for each ward. That seems rather clunky.
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Postby dshep2020 » Wed Nov 02, 2011 10:48 pm

RussellHltn wrote:The thing I miss the most is the ability to take a stake assignment and "push" it down to the appropriate wards. Things like Ward Conference, Youth Temple Baptisms, Ward Service Projects, etc. That way the stake could see when it was, that it's spread out, ect. The closest I can get under the new system is to create a stake calendar for each ward. That seems rather clunky.


+1 here! One event for multiple calendars is a much needed feature. Definately in my top 5 enhancement desires.

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Postby aebrown » Thu Nov 03, 2011 4:18 am

jdlessley wrote:Family gatherings normally can only be scheduled through the building scheduler since unit calendars are created for auxiliaries and organizations. There is no other way to schedule family gatherings through these calendars. This is a complaint others have voiced in these forums - that family events and other non-church related events can not be easily scheduled. To do so requires contacting the building scheduler. Which in my opinion is how it should be done.


An alternate viewpoint on this issue is that any editor in the ward can schedule such events -- there is no reason they have to go through the building scheduler. In our stake we require that each ward has a calendar coordinator who is the point person for calendar issues. That gives the stake and building schedulers a single point of contact. The ward coordinator is often in a better position than the building scheduler to work with the requester for training because they are more likely to know each other.

Such events really need to be placed on a calendar (I know the building scheduler can put such events on a reservation, but I'm not a fan of that option for reasons I have articulated many times previously). The calendar coordinator is in a better position than a building scheduler to put such events on a ward calendar created for this purpose.
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Postby warddp » Thu Nov 03, 2011 11:07 am

I am a stake building scheduler that schedules 3 buildings exclusively. There has to be some happy medium here. I understand why the calendar development team is pushing everyone to a “distributed” scheduling model. It clearly is the most efficient way to coordinate reserving resources. I also understand that if you leave the tools in place to “allow” people to stick with the centralized scheduler that they will not branch out and try a distributed model and see its usefulness. However, even with moving to the new distributed model, I don’t think that all the necessary tools have been implemented to help building schedulers or members of the stake. I live in a stake that is having a hard time getting away from having a centralized building scheduler. We have come a long way from a couple of years ago. However, even with calendar v1 we locked down every day except for Tuesdays and Wednesdays so that YW/YM organizations could schedule the building as needed on their night, but everyone else would have to contact me to reserve a building. Thankfully the bug fix rolled out yesterday allows me to still function that way in v2. I personally would like to open it up and encourage the stake to use the new calendar as the developers are intending, but the problem is my stake is not prepared for that at this point in time.

So, here is my suggestion to help find that middle ground. I think that Personal Events need to be treated as a separate object. When a member of the stake adds an event to ANY calendar, the option or link for “Personal Event” shows up on the New Event pop up window. When a member clicks on the “Personal Event” it then triggers a form change to a “Personal Event” form. The personal event form would contain the same fields as the normal ‘Add event details & location’ form, but would also include a way for each stake to list (and edit at will) its building policies to make sure that people are aware of priorities (may get bumped for a funeral, etc) or whatever else the stake would like to communicate regarding scheduling the building for personal events. The member would then be able to submit the event based on building availability and whether or not the stake enables/disables an option that requires approval. It could flow as follows:
a. Approval required – After the event is submitted, it shows up on the personal events default calendar as normal, but with a “Awaiting Approval” flag (in red of course) next to it. The building scheduler gets an email alerting of the need of approval. If it is really snazzy, the email to the scheduler would contain a link that will take them directly to the event details form (after logging in) with an “Approve” or “Reject” option that is visible only to a scheduler. The scheduler clicks on the appropriate link and the requestor is alerted via email as to the outcome and the flag on the event in the calendar is changed to “Approved” (in green) or “Rejected” and removed from the calendar. To go a step further, it would be nice to have a filter option on the calendar to show awaiting approval events in case the scheduler misses an email, etc.
b. No approval required- After the event is submitted it simply shows up on the designated personal events calendar and the building scheduler is notified via email of the event just in case they would like to review it. In this case the snazzy factor would be that the email contains the details of the event. That way, the scheduler can quickly see if it is something that needs to be addressed or not without having to login to the website.

This logic would allow the stake to operate as it desires. Open it up, or lock it down. I realize that is partially going back to the functionality of the legacy calendar, but I’m not convinced that is a bad thing. Obviously the calendar team wants to get away from the approval model, but I don’t think that everyone is ready for that. I say why not give people the option since there is a demand for it? Why not take the “We heavily suggest using the calendar this way, for this reason” approach, but still allow for other methods? I do like the new calendar. I think the calendar team has done a good job. I just ask that they please not automatically eliminate or not implement an option just because people’s thinking is based on “old school” methods. Again, I’m not entirely convinced that is a bad thing anyway.

Thanks,
Dan

lmemmott
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Postby lmemmott » Thu Nov 03, 2011 12:42 pm

warddp wrote:This logic would allow the stake to operate as it desires. Open it up, or lock it down. I realize that is partially going back to the functionality of the legacy calendar, but I’m not convinced that is a bad thing. Obviously the calendar team wants to get away from the approval model, but I don’t think that everyone is ready for that. I say why not give people the option since there is a demand for it? Why not take the “We heavily suggest using the calendar this way, for this reason” approach, but still allow for other methods? I do like the new calendar. I think the calendar team has done a good job. I just ask that they please not automatically eliminate or not implement an option just because people’s thinking is based on “old school” methods. Again, I’m not entirely convinced that is a bad thing anyway.


Well said! While other responses above challenged the very reason for my original posting, I believe you've hit it on the head. Not everyone should be forced to work in the same way. There should be flexibility that allows local church leaders to direct the affairs of the wards and stakes as they see best. While I realize we can go back to the old pen and paper method, we'd really like to use the new tools as much as they provide benefit to us. ...and, yes, I liked your "Approval Required" and "No approval required" suggestions above.

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Postby aebrown » Thu Nov 03, 2011 12:55 pm

lmemmott wrote:Well said! While other responses above challenged the very reason for my original posting, I believe you've hit it on the head. Not everyone should be forced to work in the same way.


We all have to consider the balance between multiple factors, which are often in conflict:
  1. How the software works now
  2. What changes the Church can make in the software, given its limited resources
  3. The ways our current stakes and wards operate
  4. The ability for our stakes and wards to make changes in how they operate

Factor #2 is not in our control; we can make suggestions, and the development team will consider requests, but we don't know when or if changes will be made.

Some people on the forum will chime in with support for suggestions for changes. That can be helpful in letting you know you are not alone, and may even help the development team understand the magnitude of a problem. It's possible that such comments will help inspire software changes, but in most cases there will be no significant impact on how the software works in the short term. So it's generally unwise to base your stake's calendaring strategy on how you hope the software might work in the future.

Other people will often respond with suggestions along the lines of #4, given that #1 is what it is. That doesn't necessarily mean that they are dismissing your suggestion, but it can be more productive to find ways to change local procedures, rather than holding out hope for changes to the software which may never happen, or may not come in time for important deadlines that local units face. Those suggestions can also be helpful.
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Postby warddp » Thu Nov 03, 2011 6:47 pm

aebrown wrote:Factor #2 is not in our control; we can make suggestions, and the development team will consider requests, but we don't know when or if changes will be made.


Since the new calendar is still an evolving beast, I hope that the development team would listen to ideas that would help make it better. I know they can’t implement every single little idea that comes across the table. However, I have read through enough LDS Tech threads about the new calendar to know that I am not alone in my opinion that the new calendar lacks a clean and clear way to deal with personal events in a self-serve manner. I’m sure the calendar team has spent countless hours in meetings discussing this very topic and for some reason has elected to go the direction that they have. The reality is that some stakes don’t let members use buildings for personal events and some do. Therein rests the issue. Every stake does things just a little differently. Shouldn’t it be possible to provide simple functionality for these two scenarios at least? Looking at the calendar in its current state, is anyone aware of the ideal process for a member to follow when scheduling things such as a wedding or a family party without having to contact a building scheduler directly? In a perfect world, if the new calendar is truly a full self-service application, and we want to stick with the “distributed” model, shouldn’t it basically put a building scheduler out of a job? It would be great if, at the very least, I could do something as simple as assign a stake or ward unit as a security object within a calendar. That way, I could create a “Personal Event” calendar of sorts, allow everyone in the stake add rights to it and then train them to use that calendar for personal events. Members could add and edit their own event, and the building scheduler would still have master edit rights. However, I can’t even do that. As far as I can tell, I would have to modify the calendar security rights by adding and removing individual users. That of course would not work very well on the stake level.

Again, if someone can tell me how the new calendar is designed to handle personal events in a self-service way, please let me know. I will gladly implement it. I’m not trying to change the world here. I’m just simply trying to figure out a way to use the tool as intended all the while making my life easier and the Stake President happy.

Thanks,

Dan

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Postby russellhltn » Thu Nov 03, 2011 7:22 pm

warddp wrote:The reality is that some stakes don’t let members use buildings for personal events and some do.


Our stake requires them to work though their Bishop to get to use the stake center. They do need to work though someone who insures that they understand what can and can't be done and will vouch that the member is responsible. (And in our case, have them read and sign the form outlining the rules, and put down a cleanup deposit)

I have a hard time imagining that any stake would allow just any member to schedule a building just because they can click on a website. Ward leaders would have a better feel for the member involved then any stake leader. Allowing a stake calendar to be editable by ward calling would help.
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