No, not our Tuesday night meetup, that went without a hitch as always – in attendance were me, Alithia, lytteltonwitch, non-fiction, natecull, Cathietay, daveytay, and awhina, I released several books (The Case of the Cottingley Fairies by Joe Cooper, Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella, Cats are Better Than Men by Beverly Guhl, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling, Gump & Co. by Winston Groom, and The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare by Lilian Jackson Braun), and caught one (A Rhinestone Button by Gail Anderson-Dragatz). No, where the drama came was the next morning, when I awoke to find this email from Meetup.com:
Subject: An important announcement from Meetup.com
Hi Meetup Organizer —
We have some important news to share with you about new features and required monthly Group Fees.
To learn more and get your special discounted rate, click here:
~The Team at Meetup.com
Required monthly Group Fees? First I’ve heard of that. I click on the link, and discover that we’re going to have to pay US$19 a month just for the priviledge of using the meetup.com website (but it’s ok, because they’re giving us a discount for the rest of the year, so it’ll cost us only US$9 a month). Now at first sight, that’s not too bad. US$9 is about NZ$15, but split between the 10 people we’ve been getting at the average meetup, that’s only a couple of dollars each a month, which sounds affordable. But then I think about it a bit more (and spend some time reading the reaction on meetup.com’s forums (warning, that thread is incredibly long (55 pages at last count), but interesting – worth reading if you’ve got a spare hour or two!)), and realise that the way they’ve set the system up, I’ll be the one (as organiser) who has to pay the fee each month, and then try and get the money back from the rest of the group. And the more I think about that, the less I like it – I hate being responsible for other people’s money at the best of times, so I’d have to set up some sort of elaborate system of accounts just to reassure myself I wasn’t cheating anyone (and anyway, why should I do meetup.com’s bill collection for them?), and what happens if people don’t want to pay, or we have a slow month when only a couple of people turn up to the meetup – does that mean I have to pay the difference myself? And what about my struggling to get off the ground cross-stitch meetup? That’s only got 7 members, and so far only lytteltonwitch and I have actually turned up to meetups – will we have to carry the cost of that between us until we get more members? (and what are new members going to think when they turn up to a meetup and the first thing I do is ask them for money?).
Anyway, the upshot is I decided to step down as organiser for both my groups on 1 May (which is when we have to start paying). I sent all the members emails explaining what was happening, why I didn’t want to be organiser (at least through meetup.com) anymore, and saying that if someone else wanted to take over as organiser, I’d happily support them, or that if the group wanted, I’d keep organising meetups, but through the Bookcrossing forums or the bcnz yahoo group, not through meetup.com. So far all of the responses to my email have been of the “Don’t blame you for stepping down, we should move to yahoo” type, so that’s what we’re doing – we’ll use the yahoo group for planning and announcements, and just live without meetup.com’s RSVP feature (which wasn’t that useful anyway, because not everyone would remember to RSVP).
I did get one victory out of meetup.com though – I complained about the fact that I’d paid a membership fee to meetup.com for “M+” membership (which gave you things like the ability to email other members), and they’d automatically converted that to a group membership without asking me – the first I knew about it was when I clicked on the link about charges and saw a note at the bottom that said:
As an Organizer with M+ membership:
Your M+ membership has provided financial support for all Meetups. Thank you! In recognition of your support we want to give you something special. We’ve automatically upgraded your account to cover Group Fees for the groups you currently organize until your M+ membership expires on September 2, 2005. After that, you can access a special 2005 rate of $9 (over half off!) currently available to non-M+ Organizers.
Now I objected greatly to that – it wasn’t so much the fact of my membership being credited to the group (if the group had wanted to stay with meetup.com I would have happily donated towards the costs), but that I had paid for one thing (a personal membership, with benefits for me), and meetup.com had supplied something completely different. I pointed out the injustice of it, and said I would have liked to have been offered the choice of either having my membership transferred or getting the pro-rata portion of my membership fee refunded. I seriously expected to get ignored, but no, I got an email from one of the staff apologising, and offering a refund! (I’ve replied to him, saying that yes please, I will take the refund (by this time, it was clear the group wouldn’t be staying with meetup.com), but I haven’t heard back yet… I suppose they’re busy dealing with a lot of complaints right now!) Of course, I made sure as many people as possible heard about the offer of a refund – I’d hate to be unfairly advantaged by being the only person who thought to ask 😉
Oh, and another cool thing – Bookcrossing used to have a very prominent link to Meetup.com on one of the side-bars, with a blurb about how Bookcrossing groups were meeting up each month all over the world. I say “used to”, because I posted a request on the Features Requests forum, asking for it to be removed, because I predicted not many groups would be using meetup.com after this. I really only posted it because I was angry (although I did think up some constructive suggestions while I was typing it, so added them as well), and didn’t expect anything to happen. Within a couple of days it had 70-odd replies (first time I’ve ever got a thread on the Hot Threads sidebar!!!), almost all agreeing with me, and yesterday Ron removed the link and replaced it with a link to the yahoo groups!
So, changes all round!
Hmm, I’ve just thought – I posted a “meeting report” on our messageboard on meetup.com, after a request from one of the members that couldn’t make it to the metup. Seeing as the group will probably be deleted from the site after I step down (because meetup.com have said they’ll start deleting any groups without organisers, and I can’t see anyone else volunteering), I might just repost it here:
One of the people who couldn’t make it tonight asked if we could let her/him know what we discussed at the meetup tonight.
Well, there was the proper talking about books and bookcrossing stuff: we shared our opinions of all sorts of books and authors – from DH Lawrence (would you give Lady Chatterley’s Lover to your mother to read?), to JK Rowling (pronounced “rolling in it”), to the trashy science fiction of EE “Doc” Smith and Edgar Rice Burroughs, to joke books (which don’t do it for NateCull); Alithia shared the excitement of a recent catch; we all admired from afar Skyring’s Monopoly board releases in London; the geocachers amongst us shared navigation techniques (aparently, geocaching really does count as Bookcrossing-related, because you can release books into geocaches); there was some discussion about potential sites in Addington for a second OCZ; a few of us made plans to go and see mothercat in a play at the end of the month; and we all agreed with Awhina’s suggestion that we have the next meetup at La Porchetta in Riccarton (as long as she books it!).
And then there was the gossip, which I’m not allowed to tell you about. So I can’t tell you about Cathietay’s wedding and the entrapment her husband; I’m not allowed to tell you about the problem with Lytteltonwitch’s breast or her self-fulfilling lovelife (when it comes to men she can please herself); I certainly can’t tell you about Awhina’s relationship with schoolboys, or that she’s requesting birthday presents for the 10th of November (apparently Douglas Adams has the answer to the ultimate question of just how old she’ll be); and as for the relative merits of men from Stewart Island and Middlemarch, well the less said about that the better!
And of course, there were books all over the table free for the taking (although they weren’t being snatched up quite so quickly as they usually are – I think we’re all still suffering from towering TBR piles after the convention!)
In other words, just a normal meetup – no particular agenda, just wide-ranging chat on any topic under the sun, from spam to school sports (and how to avoid both).
In other news (yes, there is some), I got another catch from the convention: Numbers of Things by Helen Oxenbury, plus a catch for a book (Skeleton Crew by Stephen King) I released at the Hoyts on Moorehouse Ave nearly two years ago, and which resurfaced this week at the University! I wonder what adventures that book has been on in the meantime?