Listing all details for meetups in one convenient place February 15, 2010 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Need a structure to unambiguously post venue details for meetups once decided

Meetup process:
  • Someone suggests a meetup.
  • Thread hashes out details of venue and time.
  • Venue and/or time may be separately agreed upon, often implicitly.
  • Thread continues, often with dozens of total comments.
  • Everyone is just expected to piece together time, date, place, and directions from the foregoing.
This system needs improvement.

In the recent past I have been collecting all the details for Toronto meetups into separate MetaTalk posts (example). I did this again recently and mathowie deleted it. This was a mistake. His stated reason (“Stick with the existing thread, please”) is actually a restatement of the problem.

Once date and venue are decided, there has to be a specific structure (i.e., form) the OP can fill out with all details, including transportation. This then would go in some obvious place, like just below the OP’s post in a box, not dissimilar to reasons for deleted posts. Possible hed: “Meetup details:”

I am of course prepared for the barrage of retorts that of course absolutely nobody has trouble fishing through 50 comments in a post to figure out exactly when and where they should show up. These retorts have no foundation. Lots of people have trouble, even people who have been on MeFi the full ten years.
posted by joeclark to Feature Requests at 10:11 AM (50 comments total)

Have you seen that you can link your meetup to a specific comment within the thread that has the meetup details? For example, the top of the list right now is Dania, FL which links to this comment in the thread. That comment is highlighted as well. So you don't need to fish through 50 comments. Once the details are set it's fairly clear which comment has the info.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:16 AM on February 15, 2010


I feel that this is something the site already has. What about the way the current system works does not work for you?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:19 AM on February 15, 2010


Everyone is just expected to piece together time, date, place, and directions from the foregoing.

False. We have direct permalinks to the exact comment that mentions where and when a meetup will occur, and not only that, we also highlight it with an offset background color so it's completely and totally obvious.

We created the six month window for meetup threads so there could be one single thread for meetups, from planning, to the scheduling, to the aftermath. In the past, we had people doing what you did, which is posting reminder after reminder and then new threads for followups to a meetup, and when you're not in the 10-15 people that went to a meetup, it really clogs MetaTalk up.

The key to this feature is following the instructions on the Meetup sidebar posting page and linking directly to the permalinked comment with the event details. I believe this is where the problem lies for your Toronto threads -- someone just linked to the main thread instead of the exact item, which I fixed for you in the past.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:29 AM on February 15, 2010


That Florida meetup has the ideal setup: one definitive post that has date, time, and venue.

But, to be honest, most of the time it's really not that good. The hyperlinked comment will be missing the time, or will be noncommital: "Feb 15th at 9? OK?"

It sounds like you guys see zero problems with the current setup, but it does kind of seem like a hack.
posted by smackfu at 10:49 AM on February 15, 2010


Flexibility is a feature, not a bug. If you don't want to hyperlink to a comment with question marks in it, don't. Some more metadata in the meetup sidebar (specific place and time) might be helpful, though, and maybe make it easier to change the link or the metadata once it's up there. (Use the same mutual-contact rule as retagging!)
posted by Plutor at 10:56 AM on February 15, 2010


It sounds like you guys see zero problems with the current setup, but it does kind of seem like a hack.

The current system does depend in part on someone in the thread being willing to post a comment definitively saying "okay, here is the plan". If no one does that, it's a problem, yeah, but that goes for any approach to highlighting a definitive plan: fundamentally, the folks involved in organizing a meetup do need to get their shit together enough to decide where and when and etc and say so. Reaching a consensus and stating it is a human problem, not a tech problem.

If there are specific, simple ways to streamline the trip from Consensus Is Stated to Instructions Are Visible, that's totally worth talking about. But I feel like this metatalk thread says "feature x does not exist" when, no, in fact, it very much does exist.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:00 AM on February 15, 2010


My brilliant suggestion is to provide required fields for location and time on the "add a meetup" page, even if you don't do anything with them. That could prompt people to say "hey, I shouldn't post this yet since those aren't decided".
posted by smackfu at 11:08 AM on February 15, 2010


I think this could be improved. I don't think that having extra MetaTalk threads is necessarily the solution. One thing that could help is if, when a comment is linked, that it could have some sort of callout at the top of the thread page, not just a different color and a link from the sidebar. I don't think everyone knows to look at the sidebar.
posted by grouse at 11:24 AM on February 15, 2010


Also, I thought the wording of this post was needlessly aggressive.
posted by grouse at 11:25 AM on February 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


Slightly off topic, but still relevant...

Is there a way to change the link to the sidebarred meetup thread, once it's been posted in the sidebar and the actual location has been figured out? The reason I ask is that I'm trying to plan three UK meetups concurrently, and I'd like to get them in the sidebar for visibility and participation in helping me figure it all out (they've waaay fallen off the front page), but the exact locations aren't decided yet...it's kind of chicken-and/or-egg at this point. Not a big deal, but just curious what the best way to go with this is. (All three meetups are in the same thread, so it'd be real confusing to post the three meetups in the sidebar linking to the same thread and make people figure out which location/comment pertains to them.)

Maybe I should repost three separate meetup threads, now that dates are decided...and then direct the original thread over there(s)? I don't want to clutter the front page of MeTa either. I also don't want to overthink this, geez...
posted by iamkimiam at 11:48 AM on February 15, 2010


the exact locations aren't decided yet

This is really an edge case situation. You can have multiple meetups sidebarred with links pointing to one thread, but the sidebar is for meetups that are planned, not in process. You could, I guess post another MeTa saying "still planning!" but that really seems like overkill to me.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:01 PM on February 15, 2010


What of the 10th anniversary section? Could that code be reused?
posted by sleslie at 12:02 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I figured it was. Thanks for the suggestions!
posted by iamkimiam at 12:04 PM on February 15, 2010


What of the 10th anniversary section? Could that code be reused?

Potentially. If we want to go that route. The 10th anniversary site was much more formal than the current Meetup system, and there are positives and negatives associated with moving to that system. At the 10th site each meetup had an "organizer" which was necessary because we were sending money. Lots of people balked at the idea of organizing something, but they were happy to suggest something. Each meetup required a venue with a verified address. Behind the scenes, we had technical and social problems with mapping venues. Addresses were often difficult to verify for a variety of reasons. Maybe a park wasn't in the Yahoo database. Or maybe someone put in the name of a city when the venue was located in a suburb, and the mapping system couldn't find it. That doesn't mean we can't fix the problems we had, but the 10th site was built for a limited purpose, and it's not just a matter of copy/paste to integrate it with MetaTalk. And there are some site culture issues we need to think about before moving to something more formal.
posted by pb (staff) at 12:13 PM on February 15, 2010


What of the 10th anniversary section? Could that code be reused?

We're chatting about that a bit on email right now, actually. It be nice to use some that for the more sparkly featuredness of the whole thing, and I think in general we'd like to try to do some of that, but some of what came with the Ten stuff was (a) a much more explicit and sort of commitment-oriented There Is An Organizer expectation when starting up a meetup and (b) some potentially hair-tearing fiddliness with the geolocation stuff (with pb as I recall hand-fixing a lot of stuff on that front, which was okay-ish as a one-off thing but not something that feels acceptable as a general-purpose solution).

So, kind of a qualified yes. That we'd like to work some of that stuff in is a given, but the question of what to keep and what to change and how to incorporate into a tool that remains still kind of casual enough not to create more headaches for both users and mods is not yet settled.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:14 PM on February 15, 2010


Or what he said.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:14 PM on February 15, 2010


I liked the "yes/maybe/no" attendee list functionality from the 10th anniversary site, and would like to see that come back. We've been trying to compile that kind of list manually for the last couple of Toronto meet-ups, and it's sometimes difficult to interpret people's comments in the threads.

It would also be nice if, over time, we could correlate those attendee lists with the actual list of people who showed up. When making reservations or grabbing tables in busy places is required, it would be a whole lot less stressful on the organizer1 if we could say something like, on average, 75% of the "yes" people show up, 50% of the "maybe" people, and 10% of the "no" people.

1: ok, I am talking about myself here. I have no idea if other people find this as stress-inducing as I do to not be sure if we're really going to need than 2nd huge table or not.
posted by FishBike at 12:24 PM on February 15, 2010


Any system is broken if users insist on finding ways to screw it up or resist learning how to use it properly.

That said, I wouldn't pass on some of the more sparkly features - especially as it would relate to number of attendees and map linkage.
posted by greekphilosophy at 12:40 PM on February 15, 2010


It's an intelligence test.

Back before this much easier system you used to have to take an egg inscribed with an MD5 hashcode to a map point that was usually hidden in a disused lavatory with no stairs guarded by a sign reading "Beware of the Leopard", which if you found successfully you were presented with a flashlight with half dead batteries, a dark underground maze and a request to solve the Riemann hypothesis while being chased by a pack of baby-eating dingos. At the end of the maze you were expected to compete in a panel-judged drag fashion show, bake a vegan chocolate lava cake and roast a bacon wrapped turducken and then weld a working robot submarine out of the bullet-ridden carcass of a Unimog, including writing your own bootstrap firmware, ending with creating a new internet meme that was actually funny without resorting to using found images or Photoshop.

Needless to say anyone who passed all those tests was too cool and too busy to actually attend a meetup, thus we lowered the bar a bit because drinking alone is boring.
posted by loquacious at 12:49 PM on February 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


No-one's said 'beanplate' in this thread yet. I think that's an oversight.
posted by pompomtom at 3:56 PM on February 15, 2010


Oof, I hope you don't plan meetups with this sort of militant demanding and then wonder why no-one wants to play.
posted by desuetude at 5:53 PM on February 15, 2010


Have any of you seen meetup.com? I wish we just used their system, since it's so much better.
posted by smackfu at 6:14 PM on February 15, 2010


Oops, I meant to include why.

1) Sends optional reminder emails to people who said they would attend.
2) Sends followup emails to comment on the meetup.
3) Tracks yes/no/maybes (with comments), and you can have limits on the attendance.
4) Has Google maps support for the venues.
5) Can update the details of a meetup as it solidifies.
posted by smackfu at 6:17 PM on February 15, 2010


I like the casual nature of the meetup system we have now. It just seems nicer.
posted by The Whelk at 6:34 PM on February 15, 2010


So, hey, anyone wanna meet up in West LA soon at the Indian restaurant near my house? It's really good.
posted by klangklangston at 7:12 PM on February 15, 2010


The meetups now are cool because sometimes we have to use spreadsheets to pick a bar and it is awesome because it's like a big long nerdy dance sequence that ends in a hug
posted by kathrineg at 7:18 PM on February 15, 2010


Jesus, smackfu -- could you be any more aggressive in your complaining about the current way that MetaFilter meetups are organized?

Let me be the first to say that nothing is stopping you from using Meetup.com to plan your next meetup.
posted by delfuego at 7:35 PM on February 15, 2010


he could be more aggressive, his name has smack in it

think about it

think about it
posted by kathrineg at 7:49 PM on February 15, 2010


also I'll be good god damned if you use meetup.com, smackfu, they still email me about some beer guitar meetup that I NEVER EVEN WENT TO
posted by kathrineg at 7:50 PM on February 15, 2010


Have any of you seen meetup.com? I wish we just used their system, since it's so much better.

For $12 a month, it should bloody ought to be.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:56 PM on February 15, 2010


could you be any more aggressive in your complaining about the current way that MetaFilter meetups are organized?

Ha! I could be the guy who posted this thread saying mathowie was mistaken for deleting his reposting. But he never even came back, so I'm all you got.
posted by smackfu at 10:08 PM on February 15, 2010


Let me be the first to say that nothing is stopping you from using Meetup.com to plan your next meetup.

And my god, could you imagine if someone tried to do a MeFi meetup that required you to sign up on another site? It would be pandemonium. People would lose their shit, even if they weren't in the same state. Drama!
posted by smackfu at 10:12 PM on February 15, 2010


And my god, could you imagine if someone tried to do a MeFi meetup that required you to sign up on another site? It would be pandemonium. People would lose their shit, even if they weren't in the same state. Drama!

Can we arrange it so it requires installing Silverlight?
posted by FishBike at 5:52 AM on February 16, 2010


Meh. Put all the details in a particular comment and post that one to the sidebar. If you have multiple events, add multiple items to the sidebar. Chicago has held several dozen meetups using the current convention and I can't think of a single time where things went horribly wrong because people couldn't find the right info.
posted by eamondaly at 8:14 AM on February 16, 2010


I was going to jump in and say that the Chicago meetup, which takes place at (almost) the same time, same place, and same day of every month, has no trouble with this system. But I realize that not everyone has the same devotion we do to ritualistic tiny beer consumption.

That said: There is room for improvement, but this is one of those things where every meetup only needs ONE PERSON to be like OKAY HERE'S THE INFO and that's that. I know that's a personality trait most of us (myself very much included) don't posses, but if every meetup has ONE, it works swimmingly.

Hi Eamon!
posted by SpiffyRob at 8:46 AM on February 16, 2010


Wow, three of the admins, including the site founder, immediately chime in to tell me I’m full of shit. I’m not.

It is highly atypical for one comment to list all the details of a meetup. Someone will vaguely suggest a venue, somebody else will offer something better, that will be half agreed upon, then somebody else comes up with a good reason to go to yet another venue. Amid this discussion somebody decided it should be on a specific day and time. So now you’ve got four data items, two of which had been discredited, distributed over a thread that can have (I checked) up to 50 comments in typical cases.

Meanwhile, when somebody does it my way and mathowie deigns not to delete it, it’s one-stop shopping and nobody is confused.

Set up a structure for this information, and don’t bury it in a thread, and voilà: You’ll find people suddenly fill out the information, which then automatically gets put in a dependable and visible place. Explain to me how this is not better.

I’m not stupid and neither are you. I’ve been here a long time and so have many of you. Anyone on MetaTalk presumptively is not stupid and has been here a while. If I can’t figure this shit out and I have to resort to hacks just so everybody knows where a meetup is, there’s a problem. I don’t need a majority of admins telling me to shut up and use the already-broken system.
posted by joeclark at 11:20 AM on February 16, 2010


No one said you were full of shit or told you to shut up. We were asking why the "someone makes one comment in the open thread summing up the date/time/location and then links it to the sidebar" process didn't work for you. I am still not clear why it doesn't work, only that you do not like it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:28 AM on February 16, 2010


It is highly atypical for one comment to list all the details of a meetup.

The thing is, it is not highly atypical. People do it on a regular basis, with the explicit intent of (a) nailing down the details with some finality and (b) having a comment to link to from the sidebar.

Again, if there are good, simple ways to make that process work better and more transparently for folks, that seems totally worth talking about. But even in the current casual toolset the facility is very much there to do it and people take advantage of that on a regular basis.

If I can’t figure this shit out and I have to resort to hacks just so everybody knows where a meetup is, there’s a problem.

You are not everyone. I'm not trying to be a jerk about this, at all, it just seems like you've decided that because you don't get or don't like the system that exists it must be utterly broken. (And part of the balking from us is that it really does seem like from what you've said on the subject several times now you just didn't know this know this functionality exists and gets used regularly by a lot of meetup folks.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:33 AM on February 16, 2010


Let me ask this: you know that the link on the sidebar can be changed, right? So if the information is distributed across a couple of comments, create a new comment that does have all the relevant information and ask the admins to swap out the link. We've done that more than once, if memory serves.

pb, could the comment that the sidebar is linking to be highlighted? Perhaps the visual cue would help.
posted by eamondaly at 12:05 PM on February 16, 2010


The comment is already highlighted. Check out the example I linked to.
posted by pb (staff) at 12:12 PM on February 16, 2010


Wow, three of the admins, including the site founder, immediately chime in to tell me I’m full of shit. I’m not.

Well, you ain't full of sunshine and positivity and rainbows and schmoopy.
posted by desuetude at 1:01 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


pb: it is for some but not for others: example. Note that there is a comment earlier in the thread that's highlighted, which is a good example of how a meetup can update the sidebar to point to a more definitive comment after the initial sidebar is made.
posted by eamondaly at 1:04 PM on February 16, 2010


ahh, I see, yeah looks like they had a couple sidebar entries as the date/time evolved. Fixed that up. Great example where it didn't work but I'd like to think that's the exception rather than the norm.
posted by pb (staff) at 1:08 PM on February 16, 2010


Oh, on further review the Portland folks were using a single thread to plan two meetups a couple weeks apart. We aren't really set up for that situation. That's why the earliest meetup details comment was highlighted but not the second. So I do think that's an outlier, and maybe we can think about ways to handle situations where we need to highlight several comments.
posted by pb (staff) at 1:15 PM on February 16, 2010


Well, you ain't full of sunshine and positivity and rainbows and schmoopy.

Is he ever, though? Really?
posted by thisjax at 2:53 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is highly atypical for one comment to list all the details of a meetup.

Meanwhile, when somebody does it my way


See, but nobody would also be confused if, while gathering up all the information in the thread and posting it in one place, you did it in the original thread instead of starting a new thread.

Well, except for the people who can't figure out why all their meetups have magically been moved East of Yonge St.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:17 AM on February 17, 2010


pb: "Oh, on further review the Portland folks were using a single thread to plan two meetups a couple weeks apart."

Leave it to Portland to screw things up on MetaTalk. Time to warm up the mass Ban Hammer.

Hm, on second thought..
posted by Plutor at 4:33 PM on February 17, 2010


*warms up the Jan Hammer*
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:35 PM on February 17, 2010


JAM HAMMER
posted by The Whelk at 4:41 PM on February 17, 2010


When someone does it your way, suddenly there are two meetup threads you have to keep track of. What if someone has the old thread bookmarked and goes there for updates?

If you want structure, use the following "form", paste it into a comment, and have it sidebarred:


<dl>
<dt><strong>Venue</strong></dt><dd><a href="http://www.venue.com">Venue</a></dd>
<dt><strong>Address</strong></dt><dd>Address<br />City[, Region]<br />Country</dd>
<dt><strong>Phone</strong></dt><dd>_________</dd>
<dt><strong>Date</strong></dt><dd>_________</dd>
<dt><strong>Time</strong></dt><dd>_________</dd>
<dt><strong>Instructions & Notes</strong></dt><dd></dd>
</dl>

posted by Deathalicious at 8:37 PM on February 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


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