Meetup.com: Yet Another Disappointing Update

A Typical MeetingI’m a member of a writing group that uses Meetup to promote our group and organize our meetings. I have come to the general conclusion that the folks at Meetup are totally clueless about the business they’re in.

Despite the fact that people are paying to promote and manage their groups on Meetup, the company seems determined to take away existing features and continually devolve the product into something of use only to photo-sharing teenagers (for which there are probably also better sites).

Last year, they took away the Files feature. So, you can run your meetings, but you can’t share things like hand-outs, agendas, course materials, etc. As a writing group, we shared chapters weekly to be critiqued, a capability that they took away. When I complained, their answer was 1) they felt other sites like Google Drive did filesharing better, and 2) most of their customers were using Meetup on their phones. So, you can’t share files, but, hey, you can share photos.

Thanks to this feature removal, our members have to join Meetup. And then they have to join Google. And then we have to do extra work to set up access for new members so we can share files with them. No more one-stop shopping. More headaches, and more work, for the organizers. And each group on Meetup that has this same problem, has to figure out how to solve it themselves.

In their latest update, Meetup is rolling out a new user interface. Well, really, they’ve unified their codebase so the same interface is being used for both their web presence and smartphones. Theoretically, they get a single more maintainable user interface, and paying customers get:

  • An inconsistent interface, with different parts of the site in varying stages of makeover.
  • An airy design that uses screen real estate inefficiently and makes features harder to get to for web users.
  • Out of sync information between screens. For example, while on a Meeting page, if you click “Attend” and then go to the All Meetings page, the attendance numbers will be out of sync. Are you scheduled to attend or not? This is important…our writing group meetings have a cap on attendance.
  • An invalid count of the number of meetings attended (for some users). This has been a reported bug now for a year; still not fixed.

I could go on with my list. As an IT worker (in my day job), I consider it a half-assed, unprofessional update that adds nothing for paying users. It’s a shockingly bad release for a company that has seventy or so people.

All I’ve got to say is…we’re actively looking at alternatives. Facebook might be a viable alternative for us, and they’re free, too.

Posted in Tools for Writers | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Meetup Removes Critical Feature

Meetup.comI am singularly unimpressed with the announcement today from Meetup that they are removing the File Storage capability from their web site. I belong to two writing groups, both of which are hosted on Meetup. Removing this feature makes the site virtually useless for writing groups.

With both my writing groups, a selected number of people submit documents each week at least three days before the meeting so that they can be critiqued at the meeting. Guess what? No File Storage capability means no documents to be shared. And this isn’t just my writing group…most writing groups work like this.

Oh, yes, of course, we can find someplace else to store our documents for each week’s meeting, like Dropbox or some other service. But then it’s not really INTEGRATED into the group experience, is it?

I mean, each new member will have to learn TWO systems instead of one. And we’ll have to worry separately about giving people access to our file storage solution or not, because it won’t be built into the site anymore. So, everything will be much less convenient…for EVERYBODY in each writing group.

But never fear, anybody that wants to store photos is fine because that’s apparently still cool.

Let’s think about this whole situation a little deeper. The point of Meetup is to arrange meetings. Duh. Thinking beyond writing groups, isn’t it reasonable to make meeting agendas available before a meeting? What about meeting notes after a meeting? What about class materials for people who use Meetup to organize any sort of educational sessions or seminars?

Removing this critical feature is just about the most boneheaded thing I’ve heard of a company doing, at least one that operates in the social media realm. Or, hey, let’s examine this from another perspective. You don’t hear Facebook saying: “Hey, we don’t want you to store your photos, videos or notes on our site anymore.”

Now Meetup might be a relatively small Internet startup. But there’s a LOT of meetings out there, and Meetup is a paid service. If the hosting for files is difficult, then partner with somebody that does it already. If it’s a matter of cost, charge $20 extra each year to have the File Storage capability (it could be Meetup’s second upwell option, after Meetup Pro). Put some kind of reasonable size cap on storage to prevent abuse.

If my writing groups are paying for something that doesn’t meet our needs any longer because Meetup removed a critical feature, then we have to look at alternatives. Heck, Meetup is already forcing us (with absolutely no advance notice) to figure out how we’re going to make files available to members for our next meeting. At the end of the day, here’s what Meetup needs to remember. The competition is only a click away.

Posted in Tools for Writers | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment