Sunday, February 21, 2010

Meetup or Meetbook?

I am the first to admit I hate change. I don't like anything to rock the boat or disrupt my routine. But I also begrudgingly admit change is inevitable and there are times when it turns out to be a good thing. But other times, it simply doesn't make sense.

I organize a group through for young widows and widowers. And, as I have mentioned several times, am an active member in another group. (A big part of the reason why I haven't blogged much lately is that I have been too busy with the "fun" group).

Every member of Meetup has their own homepage they see when they log into the site. A few months ago, they added a live activity feed to our homepages, similar to Facebook. This was done to promote the groups so we can see how active they are. So, when I log in, I get to see who RSVP'd yes or maybe to an event (but not no-for some reason, that doesn't represent a member's activity in the group), who changed their RSVP to an event (including changes to no), who posted photos to the site for one of the events and who commented on them, and who joined the group (but not who left as again, that is not an indicator of how active the group is).

I pretty much ignore that. I don't really care if a bunch of people I have yet to meet RSVP'd for an event today that isn't happening until the end of next month. By the time the event rolls around, half of them are probably going to change their RSVP anyway. If I want to know who's going to be at an event I am attending, I go to the details for that event and look at the RSVP list. (Although I do admit the activity feed is a handy way to stalk other members of the group without having to go to their profiles to see what events they are attending, which would be really convenient if I was a stalker). I pretty much just use my homepage to access the group homepages for the groups I am in or to pull up the calendar to see what I have RSVP'd for or what new events have been posted since the last time I checked that I might want to attend. While I was not initially a fan of the activity feed being added, I have gotten used to it being there.

Now the homepages for the groups are being changed and as organizers (who pay for their groups), we have no say over the change. Not only do I hate the new look, I hate that they are refusing to listen to their customers. That they are saying "we know what is best for your groups-trust us." How does a group of people in NY who have never met me and probably couldn't pick me out of a lineup know what is best for the group I have been organizing (successfully, according to their standards) since July 2008?

But beyond being angry that they aren't listening is the change itself. Currently, the layout of the group homepage is such that the next event is listed in the middle of the page. Below that in a column on the left is a list of several upcoming events and how many members are signed up for each event. (The "fun" group is currently showing 7 upcoming events between this evening and Thursday-slow week for the group!). To the right of that is a list of the most recent past events and how many people attended them. This gives members-both potential and existing-a great snapshot of how active the group is. Along the right side of the page is a column showing who joined the group and who posted pictures of an event.

With the new layout, member activity takes up the majority of the center of the screen. The focal point will now be who joined the group, (but not who left, since again that isn't a factor in how successful a group is), who RSVP'd "yes" or "maybe" to an event, who changed their RSVP to an event, who posted pictures, who commented on pictures AND greetings members leave for each other, which currently the entire group does not see. You only see that if you go to someone's profile, provided that member chose to make that information public. So, now members will see the same activity on the group homepage as they see on their own homepage when they log in. At least organizers can turn this feature off on the group homepage. If we do, however, we will have a huge blank spot in the middle of the screen.

Events will now be off to the right side and much smaller. There will be one featured event, which may or may not be the next event and only up to 5 upcoming events will be listed. The calendar feature is now hidden under a button that it does not make sense to click on to find it. 98% of organizers who have weighed in hate it. The Beta test group members who have chimed in have reported that if they indicated they didn't like it, they were given instructions on how to leave the test group. This is a change that quite simply doesn't make sense: the point of Meetup is to have a place where people can go to find other people with similar interests and MEET UP with them. The point is not supposed to be Dick told Jane he thought she looked pretty last night and he hopes to see her again soon. (Sad thing is, Dick is probably not even going to know the whole group is going to see that when he posts it). Or that Jane changed her RSVP to "no" to a bunch of events because Dick RSVP'd "yes" to them and she thinks he's creepy.

The new format looks as close to Facebook as Meetup could make it without actually becoming Facebook. The only real difference is Meetup organizers have to pay for their groups and Facebook groups are free. I am wondering why I should leave my group on Meetup when it comes up for renewal.

The really sad thing about this is that all the majority of the organizers who have spoken up want is the option to choose between the two layouts, which we can currently do-but only for the next two weeks until the change becomes mandatory (although they are now back-tracking a little on that timeline). For a company that needs its customers to survive, you would think that would be an easy request with which to comply.

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