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And The Meetup.Com Fiasco Continues…

Note: Once again, there’s a great, insightful post about this issue over at Green Tech Girl that’s much more well-written and informative than this one. ;)

The insanity regarding the recent changes to the functionality of Meetup.Com continues today, and despite the fact that both organizers and members everywhere are up in arms about the changes, and those who have organized groups (in some cases, for nearly a decade) simply want back control of the groups they’ve built from the ground up and paid to maintain, is strangely silent.

The number to Meetup HQ’s customer support line has been replaced with a recording, and all inquiries via e-mail are met with a canned response to the effect that Meetup is not planning on making any changes. In effect, they’re issuing a huge “Screw You!” to the people responsible for their success, and who keep them afloat, both financially and in terms of time invested.

Not only is Meetup.Com determined to be silent on the issue, they’re taking steps to silence others. Multiple organizers have had their accounts deleted for infractions such as posting the Meetup HQ phone number so members can make complaints or advocating the organization of a mass walkout on the site. Threads detailing complaints about the new layout have been deleted, even though they’re being replaced almost as fast as they are being deleted, and any discussion of the merits of competitors’ websites are very quickly silenced. They’ve even gone so far as to pull their App from Facebook, since thousands of people were using the page as a forum to discuss their dissatisfaction.

For an organization that’s decided to force the idea of “community without leadership, whether you like it or not” and everyone working together to make events happen, the attitude of the company is remarkably dictatorial.

Users are not just upset about the changes at this point. Meetup is behaving like the arrogant man who divorces the wife who supports him for years while he builds himself up, only to walk away and leave her with nothing so he can take up with a 21-year-old trophy wife. (see: Kelsey Grammer). The Organizers that have invested years of time, effort, and financial involvement in the site aren’t content to be left out in the cold or slowly edged out of what they’ve built, but unfortunately, Meetup is offering few alternatives. Like many that alienate those responsible for their success, Meetup will likely very quickly realise it isn’t upgrading or moving toward a brighter future, but heading toward its’ demise.

For those who care about such things, or are current Meetup Organizers, there is an ongoing list of the changes to the Meetup system that affect you. It seems to be growing daily:

1) Google Maps image on main page
2) “Helped Plan” instead of Organized by
3) No way to insert an image without knowing the HTML code
4) The new place for “We should do this because”
5) There are a lot of places text are to small & color contrasts make it hard to read (really hard for people with bad sight) example “paid”
6) Videos on the main page are gone
7) Pictures on the main page are gone
8) What’s new did not have all the changes, just the main screen change
9) Comments on the main site
10) You can’t really tell it’s a featured Meetup anymore
11) The top phrase “Lets Meetup and…”
12) About Us is no longer a main part of the site
13) Change from RSVP to Count me in
14) Change from Ideas to New Meetups
15) Small icons now for members
16) When you make a change the Meetup Description, it posts a comment and you cant deleted it.
17) The new “Like” link
18) Allowing members to create their own meetups (this can be disabled)
19) Nudge: if the organizer does not have a event posted
20) Removed the announcement to the group feature
21) Changing RSVP’s – You can now search by typing in the name
22) New Members – Get an email that tells them “you’re expected to participate and “don’t flake”
23) Layout in which: new members, new posts, new pictures, etc.. are at the bottom and members have to scroll down to see if you have a few events.
24) The Reminder Emails changed with new layout and subjects
25) Many options have been moved to the “Tools” menu when in an event
26) You lose all your event pictures (the small ones we used to pick from album)
27) When searching for a group, your description may not fully show (happened to me), need to edit it
28) If you had HTML in your description, when searching for a group your HTML code shows
29) Welcome email has “Our Sponsors” & “Perks”
30) Welcome email has “Follow Us” with all your social networking links
31) You can not archive sponsors. It’s either delete or edit
32) Check out our sponsors are at the bottom of the group description page if a non-member views the group.
33) Sponsor and Perks program are combined. Should be a way to distinguish them.
34) Calendar only shows one month at a time
35) About tab turned into pages
36) Selecting a place > Find a place > you can only search name & it’s only local searching. – Major Issue, possibly a bug.
37) Recent places is limited to showing 4 at a time
38) Unable to post an event unless you can find it in the event list. – Major Issue, possibly a bug.
39) There is no concept if ideas that you can monitor and choose from. Ideas turned to a Pre-Meetup and Organizers get an email that says within a day if you don’t cancel it, it turns into a Meetup. So if you don’t want this then you have to shut off the entire “Idea” concept.
40) Members can create Meeutps – This can be turned off. Found under the leadership team link on the main page.
41) Custom Titles that you give members now doesn’t show up when they RSVP.
42) RSVP turned to: “Count me in” & “No Thanks”
43) How to find the organizer has been removed
44) Calendar Notes no longer show on the calendar
45) Members cannot add notes with the “No response”
46) When members change from Yes to No, they don’t get a chance to write why
47) When an event has past, you cannot view members answer
48) On the left it used to say Organizer and Assistant Organizer, now it just says “Organizers”
49) Your group picture is what is now used when you click “Find” Meetup under the Trending/Upcoming/New
50) The mobile site on my BlackBerry,opera’s mobile browser, IE Mobile, Palm OS doesn’t come up anymore. It goes to the full site
51) Reports on: After the switch, waiting lists accidentally turned into “Yes”, so a limit of 10 with 5 on a waiting list now may have 15 people attending.Major Issue, possibly a bug.
52) This is SPAM link on top of the event
53) Recent Activity is pushed to the bottom of the page
54) All existing event descriptions now re-formatted to left-hand justification and there’s now no option to center text in an event listing.
55) Adding colors to the event description has been removed
56) Star rating for the group is gone
57) I just got multiple emails that said “Help complete XXXX” where XXXX is the name of a NOTE on the meetup calendar. possibly a bug
58)”Schedule a Meetup Event: no longer has a link to connect to the discussion board. Connection to discussion board can be added if you edit the event after it is scheduled.
59) Meetup iPad app not working (1 reported)
60) Emails announcing new events are no longer listed in the Mail Archive
61) Announcement emails can no longer be set to respond directly to the organizer, instead, like the old post feature, responses go to the whole group.
62) Sometimes Google shows the wrong thumbnail map
63) Can not save edits to a draft
64) Cannot navigate from one event (whether active or draft) to another event without going back to the home page
65) No More “Check-in” feature
66) RSVP’s (or “Count me in’s”) are no longer an option to appear in the activity feed
67) Calendar is no longer on the navigation bar

I’m not sure whether the Meetup fiasco is based on some sort of premeditated, evil plot to get rid of the organizers and move toward a system that makes that leadership role irrelevant—amounting to the company that insists you bring in clients, and then fires you when your base is loyal to that company— or simply the result of an idea gone awry that Meetup isn’t willing to lose face over. One thing is certain, and that’s that this issue isn’t going to go away. Meetup will either sacrifice a number of current customers, opening doors to competitors and development on the part of sites like Facebook, in order to move the company in a different direction, or it will simply realise that the success of any venture is highly dependent upon listening to the concerns of the customers.

I’ve seen this analogy everywhere lately, but it’s a highly appropriate one. If Coca-Cola hadn’t admitted it made a mistake with “New Coke” and brought back what the people wanted, the market share would be 90% Pepsi in the United States today. The powers-that-be at Meetup.Com should really take a lesson from that. If your goal is to unite people and exemplify the value of community, you won’t get there through divisive action, cutting off communication, and putting your profit margin above the needs of your customer base.

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