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How meetup fucked up, but then fixed it

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meetup-bad-bad-hosts.md
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Update: Meetup had revived the group and are welcoming us back again. At the end, no data was lost, even though interim communications suggested it was.
We are happy that things had finally taken a positive turn and are happy to stay at meetup and grow our community to our next event and next next event. We are a little bit sorry that things went soar for awhile but what's important is that at the end both us and meetup had learned how to make things better for the next time.

Original post below....

Meetup, you've been bad, bad hosts!

TL;DR: Meetup had deleted my group, for what I beleive to be their mistake, yet they did not admit the mistake nor can they restore the data. I am deeply dissapointed from meetup and I've lost my trust in them.

Longer:

In the past few months my co-organizer Ori Lahav and myself, Ran Tavory had been hard at work organizing a software developer focused event dubbed the Reversim Summit (it sounds better in hebrew).
This summit, or shal I say - conference, is a not-for-profit two days event hosted by Google in Israel and provided as a service by us to the local software developer community (and is a continuation to our four+ years software developer podcast reversim).

After months of preperation, with the help of a team of moderators, selecting the 30+ speakers, panelists, lab instructors, we finally were ready to open registration.
We chose to use meetup.com. The status quo was that this is the best platform for event registration and we were happy to pay money (or as a matter of fact, use Ori's alrady paid account) to open up the event's registration using meetup's platform.
And so we did, and less than 24h after publicly opening the regisration we had about 200 attendees and almost a full house, until last night (Jan 17th 2013), suddenly the group (broken link) is gone!
I was surprised so I asked Ori - did you, by any chance, or by mistake, delete this group or changed it's name?! Where's our group, then? Is meetup experiencing service issues?

Not long after, Ori gets a laconic email saying that our group had been shut down!

Quoting:

Your Meetup Group, Reversim Summit, was brought to our attention as specifically using the platform primarily as a lead generator or listing service, so we conducted a limited inquiry into the content.

We've determined that it's in violation of our Group Community Guidelines and Terms of Service. As a result of our inquiry, we've closed your Meetup Group.

WTF?

Lead generator? Listing service? WTF? You can't be serious!...

We figured - this must be a mistake. Probably an algorithm found an anormaly and decided to blacklist the group. All we have to do is get in touch with a person, a human, and set this thing straight.

And so we did. We got in touch with meetup's support and their reply was even more dissapointing.

Quoting:

It's important that your Meetup Group's intentions be clearly stated in the Group description, especially during the initial start up phase. Your intentions were unclear, which is why we took action on your Group. [...] Once a Meetup Group has been removed from the site, it's final. However, if you would like to start a new Meetup Group, try answering the following questions in your description: [...]

So here's what I get from this reply:

  1. The description of the group was not clear enough. Clearly my fault, I take this blame.
  2. Because the description was not clear enough, meetup took action and deleted the group. Unrecoverable. Deleted permanently. Isn't that a bit out of proportion, meetup? And without a single word of apology.
  3. The team at meetup did not contact us before taking the group off and did not ask for clarification, which we'd happly provided if asked, we have nothing to hide.
  4. The group had been permanently deleted. There's no recovery for the 200+ members. Meetup decided to take an ireversible action based on 'unclear' description. Permanently deleted? Really? Don't you have engineers that know anything about bits in the database that are set to hide 'mutted' or 'hidden' or 'disabled' rows or something? (I still hope that the data is there somewhere, and the support team just doesn't know that). Developers don't just delete data, just like that, I know, I'm a developer too.
  5. Initially meetup accused us of Lead Generration and being a Listing Service. Then, they simply say that the description is not clear enough. No single word of apology.

Really? Meetup, I expect higher stardards of you. I trusted you.
I've been 12+ years in the internet business as a developer and I realize you have to protect your users and assets from illegitimate usage, but while doing so, you also have to preotect your legit users, and not throw them out the door like that.
Registration is gone, unrecoverable, and I'm thiking - How can I trust you again? How do I know you're not going to play that trick again on me, without a word of pre-notice, just because my description was not clear enough, or maybe I misspelled my title what have you?

I am deeply dissapointed both from your draconic policy and your customer service and I hope my case will serve as a red flag and a turning point to you in the future to come.

However, if you would like to start a new Meetup Group, try answering the following questions in your description [...]`

  • yeah, right... with this level of trust I have no other choice but taking my business elsewhere.

Meetup, you've been bad, bad hosts, I am so sorry to say that.

Btw, http://www.eventbrite.com/ are better for these type of events (in terms of feature set) and I guess 'customer service' ;)

I'm building a SaaS app at the moment and have been pondering the issue of "abuse of service". My thinking is that any automated algorithms should only alert the team to any suspected abuse, and no account should ever be disabled, shut down or have any kind of action taken without reasonable attempts to contact the customer first. And deleting data without contact? That's unthinkable, in my book of good customer relations.

Hey, I updated the markup to use > quotes for readability. Code has no word wrap. See: https://gist.github.com/4579032. Merge it if you like.

"However, if you would like to start a new Meetup Group, try answering the following questions in your .." -->
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyQca1cwe54

The issue is simple: If you're meetup.com, you don't want to sink costs into support personnel. It's easier to automatically delete groups than to flag them for review by a big staff. I don't work for meetup.com but I imagine that's their justification. It's easy for a customer to say "manually review everything!" but the business may not support that.

@NathanAlden
Well, that would work as a justification for themselves, but not as an acceptable justification for a paying customer that just lost access to his data and was met with unsympathetic/uncooperative support.

It does nothing to refute the point that for that customer they, indeed, have been "bad, bad hosts".

Obviously it's their issue to weigh whether the cost of unhappy customers (that would most likely turn to not-customers-any-more) and the cost of potential customers that are lost because of the negative publicity outweighs the cost that you referred to.

Just as it is the potential customer's issue to weigh the risk of finding himself in a similar situation and explore other possible alternatives.

Sharing experiences like this is good because it helps us make better informed choices.

Hey, maybe you should switch to joining.com, which we recently launched in the Netherlands. We also offer partner accounts ;)...soon we will open up to other countries. Where are you currently based?

I'm a developer at Ticketbud—I hope you'll check us out. We're the only truly flat-rate ticketing provider I'm aware of ($99 for paid events, nothing for free or cancer-related events), and we would never delete a paying customer's data that way! If you'll contact me (keith@ticketbud.com) I'd be glad to help you import your existing data into our platform and get your conference back on track!

It seems that Meetup.com has a major UX issue, as it may not be easy for new users to figure that their service is meant to be used by groups that meet recurrently, and not by groups that may meet just once.

Having said that, I've been using Meetup.com for over four years now and I can only say but great things about the service. I used it to create the two largest meetups in Bogota: BogoTech http://www.meetup.com/bogotech/ and BogoDev http://www.bogodev.org/

I work at Meetup.

Meetup does review every new group and we discourage using the service for one off events. That said its not our policy to reject them out of hand and there should have been contact from a person on our community team prior to the decision to remove the group. In this case 'remove' most certainly doesn't mean delete. There's plenty of developers at Meetup that understand the value of not deleting data. The Meetup Group has been flipped back to approved and is accesible on site.

We are sorry when this happens, still, review of new groups is important to us -- there's a lot of new Meetups proposed every day that we really don't want to host on our platform. We have technology in place to help us with automatic classification, but while improving, its imperfect and in this case our safeguard of manual review was too quick to reject the group.

Meanwhile - The group has been RESURRECTED!
Internet economy, Automation, ..., it all fine and true, BUT, with a paying customer, why not send an automated notice 3 days before deletion?

Experienced the same shit with them. Sorry to hear this for you.

Here is what happened to me and how they closed my group, without a notification before they closed it to ask me about the intention of the group:
http://www.facebook.com/beyondtellerrand/posts/466727566699029

I definitely will never use them again.

You are a fucking idiot.
Meetup is for real events, social events, ongoing events NOT a one time event. They make it clear

You can have a group that attends festivals or concerts.....but you can't have a group to advertise ONE particular festival or concert. I hope they close your shit up again cause it is not a meetup. Pretty dumb of you to choose them
Meetup has not worked very well for most "business" or "software" type groups. It works fine for socials, singles,
game playing, festivals, concerts, hobbies etc.

Get a life

And while you are at it "meetup" worker guy...how about keeping NON Americans out of our groups??

I run local events...no interest in the "new" members from India, Nigeria, with their rambling "oh dear goddess, wonderful one my heart is searching, God Bless" blah blah
or the cute young Ukrainian women looking for "generous older American men"

Can't you block the IP's of these countries?? I only want local members

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