MeetUp and foot-in-mouth disease
So, MeetUp, the social networking portal that facilitates local group meetings and which was popularized by the Howard Dean campaign, started charging for its services this month. This has hacked off a lot of MeetUp groups, and some have already left the organization and found ways to organize themselves. Now the MeetUp VP of communications has poured fuel on the fire by seemingly accusing a Seattle MeetUp group of "belly-achin'' about the new fees. Needless to say, that didn't go over well, even though the PR guy insists he said it in jest.
All of this prompted a response from Toronto VC Rick Segal, who analyzes the incident as an example of what not to do as a company. "This has to be a case study for the internet on bad PR taking on a major life of it's own."
I run three groups. I have yet to have anyone come out to a single meetup besides myself. I am involved with the combined imagery meetups(graphic design, photo, digi photo, etc) and between all of them, we have maybe 10-12 regulars, likely less. These meetups were mismanaged by the previous organizer and it took a long time to get rid of him(meetup feedback? riiiight, that goes to a throw away mail box, right?) and just now we are starting to build them up.
I also am part of the Linux meetup, and the only person I have seen at every one I went to is the current organizer, and a few he and I were the only ones. Now, the point becomes that between these 10 or so meetups, can the three different organizers get enough to cover the $90 USD they want now? How about the $190 USD they'll want in January? I have to agree with the Seattle Bloggers, there just isn't enough offered by Meetup to keep it going. Thanks for the link to my rant on the topic, expect another up on my site soon, covering Meetup and another site.
In fact Matt Mullinwheg, leader of the WordPress project, has already called for volunteers (http://photomatt.net/2005/04/19/meetup-replacement/) to develop an open source replacement and Nat Friedman is driving Hula Server (http://www.hula-project.com/) which could offer similar functionality. The new fee structure is probably necessary but not good for Meetup.com.
The whole episode conforms to the cliche that any press is good press. While we may all have heard of Meetup, we cerrtainly weren't talking about it.
And, $10 to $20 per *month* is a bit of a stretch, dontcha think?
I organize three meetups myself. Right now, the fees aren't that bad, but next year, they'll want $740 a year from me. Sorry, but that's not going to happen.
The really sad thing is they do have a good product - one I think people would be willing to pay for, within reason. $20 - 40 a year is pretty reasonable. $240 a year is not.
Two of the three meetups I organize thrived as offline groups before we joined Meetup. Now, we'll go back to posting flyers and getting listed in the local alterntive magazines. No big deal. As for the third meetup, well, there are a lot of ways we'd rather spend $240.
Thanks for the open source alternative link.
Hi All -
Mistakes were made, apologies given, lessons learned.
A new company has been launched that is intended to replace MeetUp. It will be live in early fall. We are developing in partnership with core activists in Minnesota and in partnership with CivicSpace.
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