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Monday, March 13, 2006

RSS your family: Rapidly Synchronize Sanity




OK. The verdict is in, my husband and I both rate the Airset calendaring service a 10! We have used its powerful features and RSS to Rapidly Synchronize our Sanity! Everyone loves it, from the 9 year old to the 39 year old!

We have three children, ourselves, a plethora of community activities, and an extended family to keep up with. I was updating calendars and reprinting them every second and they were still outdated.

Three weeks a go, I'd had it! My sitter is moving to greener (or saner) pastures and I was so overwhelmed! I spent about three hours researching family planning tools and looked at Trumba, Remember the Milk, 30 boxes, MyHomePoint, and Airset. I tried and set up calendars in a few. Here is what got me excited about Airset:

RSS feeds -
All of them have this ability. I have my children starting up on a simple Google start up page which shows them their g-mail account and blogs of note (some I write just for them). Using RSS, my children now see their calendar for the week and their list of things to do.

Synch with Palm -
This is one feature that totally sold me! I have been using a Palm pilot since the early/mid 90's and had one of the first palms.

When I boot up the laptop, it reminds me to synch my palm. It doesn't synchronize my list (what a shame) but the calendar is worth it. When I add something to my calendar in the Palm, it goes onto the Net where my husband and children see it. They can schedule things for me to do and it downloads into my Palm pilot! This is incredible and I could only find one that does this right now. (The others promise it soon!)

Airset can also synchronize with Outlook!

Cell phone and e-mail reminders (Skype too!)

Daily I have airset do two things for me and my husband:
At 4 pm each day it e-mails and text messages us tomorrow's calendar! That way we still have time to make phone calls, arrange things, and plan if needed!
I can also set reminders of either type for events on the calendar. If my husband needs to leave work early to pick up the kids, I can set the reminder to text him or e-mail him 5 minutes before it is time to leave. He can do the same for me! This lets the computer nag and not me!

I use Google desktop so the e-mails pop up in the bottom right hand corner of my screen as they come into my gmail account. (My special high-priority account). The reminders automatically pop up on my screen! This is a great reminder to get up and go! (If you use Skype, it will Skype you.)

Individual and Group Calendars
I have an individual calendar as do the others in my family. This allows me to put private things on the calendar that the others do not need to worry with. I also have the family calendar show on my personal calendar since I'm madame chauffeur most of the time!

Although I'm using RSS calendar now, I may change to airset over the summer for the school calendar feed!

Editing
Anyone can add to the calendars that is part of the group. That includes my children, my husband, and I. This is great because it puts the children in the driver's seat. I've also set up an RSS to notify me of changes to the calendar so I see the moment that someone schedules something (in case it is not going to happen like a trip to the beach on Saturday afternoon!)

They can log in and access the family calendar from any computer. This is great for my husband because he travels a lot and likes to check the calendar before scheduling business trips.

Central Communications Panel
This allows me to text or e-mail anyone directly from within airset. I just click on their name and enter the message. This is much easier than getting thumbitis and trying to text from my phone to my husband's.

I can also do group family e-mails and it does it in one swipe! (You can also group family text everyone at the same time too!)

Airset has potential for school Calendaring.

I may switch from RSS calendar for school calendaring for several reasons. (See my post, Save time webmaster, use RSS feeds.) This doesn't have to do with RSS calendar as much as Feedblitz.

I use Feedblitz to automatically e-mail all of the parents who want calendar and news updates for the school and it is great with one exception: the calendars get sent out THE DAY AFTER it happens. It is simply driving us crazy. I got permission to pay the extra money per month to get a "turbo feed" and went to activate it using the school credit card.

Feedblitz only takes PayPal right now. Someone in the dark past used the school credit card with paypal and now PayPal won't let us set up another account. When I contacted Feedblitz, here is what they told me:
I do appreciate your frustration but hundreds of people use PayPal for FeedBlitz fine. PayPal isn’t perfect by any means, but it works. I don’t have an alternative way of accepting credit cards, and it seems that your issues relate to problems within your school bureaucracy, not FeedBlitz or PayPal per se.
Give me a break! I'm still steamed since we are a small school with 35 teachers K-12th. If any place has no bureaucracy its us! I told them that educators like to use PO's and that was their answer. Both PayPal and Feedblitz have been no help! Oh well, lose sight of the customer's needs, lose the customer. (I have also learned that when people blame the customer rather than help the customer, that they won't be around long. I like feedblitz but they obviously don't want to deal with educators if they don't take PO's.)

Anyway, I hope to switch the school to Airset since it has reminders built in and will import into calendars for many people. The reminders are part of Airset and it does it quite efficiently! I'd rather have a one stop shop anyway and it doesn't cost extra!

Another feature schools may like:
Airset has a built in blog. This will let you do the school calendar and the school blog, both with RSS feeds to your website. This is great and easy!

How do I get started with Airset?

1 - Go to https://www.airset.com/Reg/Registration.jsp?p=home
2 - Click I'm ready to register.
3 - When you register it will ask for an e-mail, a password, and mobile phone. The mobile phone is optional but allows you to do so many things.
4 - You will need to go to your e-mail to confirm it, although Airset will let you get started without this step.
5 - If you have cell phone confirmation, you'll need to enter the text into a confirmation box in Airset.


Next steps
A - Set up a group and invite your family members. (Go to Group --> Create new Group)
B - When your group is set up, you can invite your family (Go to Group --> Add members)
C - You go to Group --> Administration to set the settings for each person.
D - To enable RSS feeds for your group. (Group --> Change Settings --> Publishing)
E- Then you can go to Group --> RSS feeds and copy the RSS into your bloglines account or Google startup page.
F - To set reminders go to Tools --> Airset Preferences and tell it how to remind you!


The instructions and helps in Airset are as good as I've ever seen! I trust Airset to guide you, but if you have trouble, just comment and I'll help you through!

Planning is a hobby of mine! I have read many books on organizing, calendaring, etc. I rarely change the system because what I have done works. This is the first change in 10 years and it has improved our lives! I love it! (We're on week 3!)

Don't ever get so set in your ways that you can't change. As teachers we must model innovation and improvement when it works!

What Airset doesn't do!
  • Sad to say, they only provide cell phone reminders in North America right now, sorry my growing group of friends in the UK!
  • It does recurring calendar appointments but not recurring list items! (I wanted to use this to divy up housekeeping tasks among the family.)
  • Airset doesn't synch tasks with my Palm
In Conclusion
When you're looking at the plethora of web apps out there, don't get distracted. Use what works for you NOW not a vapor-app that may materialize in the future. Lots may happen in the meantime.

Don't waste a lot of time setting it up. That is what I like about Airset. I synchronized it with my Palm to enter all of the activities, I didn't have to spend three hours setting it up. Remember, keep ONE calendar! If it synchronizes that counts as one as long as you can synchronize. If you can't, perhaps you should keep what you already have!

Good luck! I'd like to know what other folks use!


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