The current mood is to disparage social networks. They’re addictive. They’re polarizing. And they often expose our data to nefarious actors. Fair enough. But it’s not the whole story. If we lump all social networks into this category, we miss some of the most exciting technological developments of the last decade.
Better to think of social networks as a continuum. At one end are those we participate in for entertainment (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok) and on the other end are a set of high value, utilitarian social networks that help us accomplish a task more efficiently—think Venmo, DocuSign, and DropBox. Scheduling networks fall on the utilitarian end of this spectrum.
There are three key features of utilitarian social networks. The first is that the more people join, the more friction is removed from formerly onerous tasks. If I join DocuSign but my investors don’t, I still have to print, sign, scan, and email term sheets. If we all have accounts, signing and sending a term sheet is effectively simultaneous.
This is true of scheduling as well. Say I use Amy @ x.ai to set up a marketing meeting to review our small teams strategy with some colleagues, a consultant, and our agency. If none of the others are part of the network, the meeting participants would have to let us know their availability (via a link or even listing out open slots in an email). Then I’d have to find the overlap in available slots. This is the typical and painful group scheduling process. And naturally, the more people in the meeting, the harder it is to find a time that everyone is free within a week or two (if you had months to schedule the meeting, no problem!).
But if we’re all part of the network, the AI knows everyone’s availability and perhaps as important, our preferences—how I only like to meet up after 9:00am, how I never meet on Fridays at 5:30pm when we have demo day—as well as all of the other attendees’ scheduling parameters. This enables the AI engine to immediately identify a free and suitable, if not perfect, time that works for everyone in the meeting. Which is to say, if everyone in a meeting is part of the network, then the meeting gets scheduled instantly.
The second key feature is that passive users benefit as much as active ones. My daughters might Venmo cash to their friends twice a week, while I only use it twice a year, when I have to pay my cat sitter on the 16th floor. And yet, I’ll never delete Venmo because I know that for those few times a year, it’s the fastest, easiest way to transfer cash with friends.
Similarly, I need not be an active user of a scheduling network. As long as I’m a member of the network, the AI can see my free/busy slots and can automatically schedule with any other network member, even if I personally prefer to set up meetings the old fashioned way (email ping pong) or by using some other system.
Finally, utilitarian social networks let you maintain total control of your data; their default mode is private, and your data is hidden by design unless you explicitly desire to share specific pieces of it. Because these networks make money by selling premium services or through transaction fees, they do not need to and are uninterested in monetizing your data, using it only to improve service. Venmo doesn’t share my bank account information ever, and they don’t publicly share any payments I make to friends unless I explicitly allow them to. DocuSign never shares the history of documents I’ve signed in the last six months. Rather, Venmo knows enough about me to guess well when I want to add a new contact. DocuSign remembers my contact information so that when I receive a new document, it takes even less time to sign it.
Same goes with the x.ai scheduling network. You share your calendar with our AI, not with other users, and this data feeds into our algorithms as we identify the best time for a meeting for all participants. At your discretion, you may share some limited open slots with your contacts, but that’s entirely up to you.
In this way, utilitarian social networks function more like a fleet of planes networked into air traffic control. By knowing where each plane is, air traffic control can adjust flight paths as conditions change, having a plane circle for 15 minutes when JFK gets backed up or shifting another plane’s route around rough weather. The network intelligence serves each interaction. Participants reap the rewards of the network brain without knowing its contents.
What this means for our scheduling network is that, in the not too distant future, x.ai will be able to optimize for all meeting participants in a way that not even a professional human assistant might.
For instance, if you’re trying to set up three meetings with clients in Midtown next week, the likely outcome is that you’ll end up going to Midtown on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. You’re at the mercy of your clients’ availability, and you have little or zero insight into their calendars beyond the one or two slots they offer you. This is true whether you schedule the meetings yourself or have a human assistant do so.
x.ai and its scheduling network will soon be able to book these three Midtown meetings in a continuous block on a single day, saving you hours of commute time while still meeting the same people in the requested time period. Our system will simply seamlessly shift the schedules of the other participants, if need be. How awesome is that? And wouldn’t you want to join such a network!?
x.ai represents the future of high-value, utilitarian social networks. You may not be a daily user of these services. Still, you sign up for the convenience and ease of use. Now if you tell me, “I don’t want to click your stupid link or talk to your silly bot,” my answer is simple: I hear you mate, and you shouldn’t. You should just join the scheduling network and be done with it!