IRL Griping November 10, 2010 8:53 PM   Subscribe

IRL Venue Address should not be mandatory in all cases

A few weeks ago I was in the UAE and tried to get a meetup organized. All of us agreed on a venue and things seemed to be going well for actually having the meetup. When I tried to set the Event Category to 'Meetup - Confirmed' I found that I couldn't because there is not a coherent street addressing system in Abu Dhabu.
Would it be possible to make Venue Address not required for the UAE or certain time zones or...?
posted by Confess, Fletch to Feature Requests at 8:53 PM (21 comments total)

I'm sorry you ran into problems. Without an address, we can't provide a map. And without the address requirement, people won't be as likely provide one and it'll be difficult for others to figure out where to go exactly. It's a hassle to look up an address and enter it into a website. We make it a requirement so people do that extra work as a courtesy for everyone else coming to the event.

If this happens again, contact us! We can work with you for special cases like meetups in places where there's no coherent address system. If we're going to have meetups every week in Abu Dhabu it might be worth creating an automated system to handle it. But we are very human-powered around here and can work with special situations. Did you meet up anyway?
posted by pb (staff) at 9:03 PM on November 10, 2010

Perhaps you could allow latitude/longitude with some number of significant digits as an address?
posted by kaibutsu at 9:09 PM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Yeah, latitude/longitude might be an ok alternative. But I'm guessing if Google Maps can't find a particular address, it's going to be difficult to find the lat/lon unless you're standing there with a GPS. Would lat/lon have been an acceptable alternative in this case, Confess, Fletch?
posted by pb (staff) at 9:23 PM on November 10, 2010

Thanks for the quick response. Ok, I'll just bug 'the mods' directly next time.

Yes, lat/long would be ok in principle, but as the stranger in Abu Dhabi I'd never been to the venue and had no real idea where it was so it might not have worked even then.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:35 PM on November 10, 2010

Yeah Abu Dhabi venues are hard to map, but not impossible. I was thinking about marking the location, then realized that I had to be the poster to do that, and settled for street directions.

And yes, as long as you sort of know where the place is, eventually it's lat/long that you need to use to mark it.

No, this has not been a major source of frustration and lost time while trying to get places this past year, not at all. /rant
posted by bardophile at 10:20 PM on November 10, 2010

Oh and the meetup fell apart for non-Google-Map related reasons. sigh. Confess, Fletch, please come again soon!
posted by bardophile at 10:22 PM on November 10, 2010

Yeah, Abu Dhabi is pretty comprehensively covered by google maps, so we could use that to get lat/long. Unfortunately the street addressing system is both idiosyncratic and used by no-one.
posted by atrazine at 10:46 PM on November 10, 2010

What about having the user either provide an address, or drag a marker to the meeting location on the map?
posted by zsazsa at 11:33 PM on November 10, 2010

Yeah, dragging a marker is slick but I think it could lead to some misleading locations and I'm not sure that would have solved the problem in this particular case. You could put in any address and then move the location to somewhere else. Having Google Maps double check the address acts as a check against typos and simply having a wrong address from some other source.

I'm not sure there's a good technical solution for the problem posed here. Confess, Fletch was fuzzy on where the meetup was going to be held. In a case like this where addresses are sketchy it might make sense for someone to propose a meetup for the place they're visiting and then hand the reins over to someone local who knows where the venue is.

I'm not sold on lon/lat because displaying "45.678,-123.4567" isn't nearly as helpful as "123 Some Street". And displaying "123 Some Street" yet showing coordinates for some other location could be terribly misleading. Having a verified address is handy because it gives humans help navigating and the coordinates give humans' devices help navigating. When you just have one or the other you only have half of what you need to get there.
posted by pb (staff) at 2:17 AM on November 11, 2010

it might make sense for someone to propose a meetup for the place they're visiting and then hand the reins over to someone local who knows where the venue is.

Is it possible to hand the reins over? As I said, I wasn't able to mark the location on the proposed meetup page, because Confess, Fletch was the one proposing the meetup. Or am I missing something?
posted by bardophile at 2:42 AM on November 11, 2010

You could simply start a new thread and link everything up in comments at the old thread. It'd take some coordination with the OP, but that's what comments are for.
posted by pb (staff) at 3:07 AM on November 11, 2010

Ok, fair enough. I was just wondering if there was some way to do it without two posts, but this works too. Thanks.
posted by bardophile at 3:20 AM on November 11, 2010

You could always just put in a rough address, and then tell people it's not quite right in the description. Data integrity, blah blah, but sometimes close is good enough.
posted by smackfu at 6:40 AM on November 11, 2010

It seems like the real problem is not that it's hard to correctly position a Google Maps flag in areas with poor/unassimilated address systems, it's that it should be possible to have a valid, confirmable meetup that does not take place in a location that can be pinpointed on any map. Why shouldn't someone be able to call a meetup on a particular deck of a moving cruise ship, or in a chat room or Minecraft server ("RL" is subjective)? Couldn't "Venue Address" have a freeform text or "see thread" option in addition to Google Maps? Even for remote geographic locations, text directions are probably going to be more useful than a map flag anyway.
posted by contraption at 4:39 PM on November 11, 2010

I think you could definitely build a general, generic meetup service that could include any theoretical place people gather, but that's not what we're trying to do. The Real Life part of the site is not subjective, and we're trying to solve a very specific problem: getting people together in the same physical space. Yes, text-only directions could work. But we feel like our core audience is made up of busy people who like to use maps to help them get where they're going. This system isn't going to handle every potential meeting place, and that's ok. If there's an occasional meetup that doesn't fit quite right with the site, we can work with that. We're aiming for a site that works for most places people want to meet and we're pretty close to that.

When you set out to host to a Meetup, you're asking real people to take time out of their lives to get together with you somewhere. We're helping facilitate that, and we don't want those real people wandering around lost. I know it's a drag to make something that should be a casual, free-form "hey, let's get together" and make it more formal. But IRL is trying to make things formal so everyone has a chance to attend. There's always the option to use a different service to plan/host a meetup if IRL isn't quite right for a certain event. That's completely understandable, not everything needs the IRL level of formality.
posted by pb (staff) at 4:50 PM on November 11, 2010

I'm not really feeling this approach to the maps on IRL. Trusting the users to do the right thing is a large part of what makes MeFi good, right?
posted by zsazsa at 5:21 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not really feeling this approach to the maps on IRL.

Me neither. If I had my way, the requirement would be dropped.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:08 PM on November 11, 2010

ok, I hear you. I'm probably too close to the technical side and our reasons for building them. The bottom line is that we want IRL to help people meet and support each other in the real world. If the map requirement is hurting that goal more than helping we can absolutely drop it. Nothing is set is stone, and the site is still new. We're still finding our way there.
posted by pb (staff) at 7:25 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

This could also be a problem for "Meet in the Park" sorts of meetups. Whereas virtually any New Yorker is going to know where the Great Lawn at Central Park is, I doubt anybody would recognize it by its street address (or that the organizer would even be able to figure out what that address is!)
posted by schmod at 7:23 AM on November 12, 2010

If you type in "Great Lawn at Central Park" as the address, Google knows where that is. It's not going to work for every park in the world, but Google does know many places like that by name.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:22 AM on November 12, 2010

Yeah. I think dropping the mapped requirement would be a much better way to go. At first I thought it was a rather neat feature, but it now seems more hassle than it's worth.

I do, think, though, that it should be required that people list the address or the meeting place so it appears at the top like the maps do now, and then there should be a section beneath it that says "Directions" or "Special Directions" in the event the location is vague or is difficult to find.

This way directions can be provided by people who do know the location and know how to get there. Parking information can also be included under that section, like, for instance, in much of the Boston area, finding parking is a bitch. So if an event were to happen at x-location, it'd be great if right beneath that, the OP could post, "No parking available on the street x-location is on, but go down two blocks and around the corner." or "Metered only parking until 6," or "This place has parking."
posted by zizzle at 8:30 AM on November 15, 2010

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