Meta: Meetup Section of the Site

by Spencer_Sleep1 min read12th Apr 201110 comments

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Personal Blog

Recently there has been an explosion in the number of posts about meetups. I think this is a great thing, as it seems to me like one of the best uses of this site would be to facilitate the formation of rationality groups.  The problem with this is that they're starting to take over the main page, to the extent that currently upon going to the main page they are all one sees without scrolling down.

To solve this (perhaps trivial) problem, and more importantly to make the posts themselves more effective, I propose the creation of a section of this site devoted to the creation of and discussion about meetups/meetup groups.  I realize the wiki catalogue of groups exists, but I have 2 problems with it. First of all, it is fairly out of the way.  Fewer people use the wiki than the main site, and not everyone who uses the wiki reads all the links on the right side. I know I don't.  I only found the meetup page because I am one of the organizers of the Toronto group, and I did a Google search of lesswrong looking for posts about meetups. Secondly, the wiki format (compared to the blog post format) is far less conducive to discussion, and gives no priority to newer posts, something we would want for a meetup section to make it easier to start a group.  It also gives no way for people to indicate if they are going to be attending a meeting, something that is useful if the venue requires a reservation.

As an organizer, I want to posting on the main page about each meetup, so that we keep getting new members. That being said, I don't want to clog up the main part of the site with posts that only apply to 10 people, most of whom already know everything the post is going to say.  The only compromise I can think of is a section of the site devoted to meetups.  I am by no means a website designer, so I don't know if this is the best solution or if there is something simpler and more efficient I am overlooking. 

This post is aimed mainly at the moderators, as they are the ones who would have to implement anything we come up with, but input from everyone is appreciated.  Let me know if you think this is the best idea since sliced bread, or if (far more likely) you think it's highly unnecessary.

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This is nice and all, but as Louie said, nothing's going to get done unless someone codes something.

Bluntly, all of this discussion is bikeshedding, and more than likely the format of the eventual Meetup section/thread/sticky will be decided by the first person to start hacking at it and keep going until they have something minimally functional.

What about something big and shiny that can get people to the wiki, but then direct them elsewhere for actual discussions? In fact, it seems that this is already what's going on. The wiki page for meetups provides links that seem to go to either Google Groups or email lists of some sort. In other words, the wiki is doing what it does best (providing a more-or-less static source of information that can be easily updated), and other tools are doing what they do best (allowing for planning and discussion).[1]

My vote would be:

  • To integrate this idea (aiding meetup awareness/communication) into some sort of home page idea. As in, make it apparent at the homepage that these exist and how to get involved.
  • To have some sort of "sticky", perhaps, that would allow stumblers to the site to see that meetups exist (and it would redirect to the wiki list of local area meetups). Or perhaps instead of redirecting, organizers post to a "scrapable" place and in a scrapable format and the "sticky" constantly gets regenerated with this sort of thing (from HERE).

If any of these were in place, we could actually vote on whether any meetup announcements occur on LW proper -- if you get people to a mailing list... then they'll be getting the emails, which seems better than relying on them to visit LW or their news reader in a timely fashion anyway (I think I'm safe in betting that people check their email more than LW).

This seems to be a win-win, though I may have missed pitfalls.[2] In other words, the hoopla about the top-level site cluttered with meetup announcements gets resolved, but new visitors aren't left clueless about the existence of meetups.

Let me know if you think this is the best idea since sliced bread, or if (far more likely) you think it's highly unnecessary.

I think the ideas contained are quite good (we need a way to a) reach newcomers, b) communicate/plan meetups, and c) keep things clean on the site), but I think actually implementing all three in LW proper might be re-inventing the wheel a bit. I think we can definitely do a & c, while b is the bullet that primarily requires new functionality and is done well by solutions mentioned below, IMO. Thus, I think getting something low-hanging going which does a & c while directing people to tools that do b might be a better approach.


(1) And there are other tools as well. While meeup.com is great and full-featured, it costs money. I checked out Group-O-Matic and it looked like it would work well enough for my attempt at a Minnesota meetup. Google groups is working for 8 of us planning two separate virtual meetups right now. Anyway, there's options is the point.

(2) One, for example, might be that a new person doesn't want to sign up for a mailing list because it seems bothersome to get auto-emails, but they would check a website because they are still left in control over whether or not they visit. Thus, a truly new person who didn't know if they wanted to stick with LW for the med-long haul might randomly check the site and see an announcement, but wouldn't have joined the mailing list for his/her area to be informed. Then again... with something like google groups, they can check the group if it's public without getting the emails anyway. Just trying to think outside the box and think of ways that this isn't a good suggestion.

The challenge is to have a meet-up listing which is extremely easy to notice without having it take over the main page.

I don't know whether I'm typical, but I was reading (and, I think, commenting to) LW for quite a while before I noticed the right-hand column or those ghostly tabs at the top.

It's also important for it to be effortless for people to notice meet-up announcements for their area.

I suggest a permanent top of the main page post that just lists locations and dates for meet-ups, only a few lines long (more than one meet-up link per line). When necessary, it has a "more meet-ups" link at the bottom.

This is an excellent suggestion, and a really important point, which I for one had completely managed to miss until it was pointed out to me: when Nancy first made this comment in response to something I said about meet-ups I had a real moment of realisation that I'd been missing something important, important enough that I think it deserves bold font.

No-one will bother checking a "meet-up" section on the off-chance that there's a meet-up in their area, the meet-ups need to be viewable as part of the normal reading experience.

If an organizer were to make a post titled "Watch this post for notification of any meetups in West Egg, New York," then even after many moons have passed, when the organizer announces a meetup in a comment on the post, anyone subscribed to the post's RSS feed would see it.

I have been testing the RSS feeds of individual posts over the last 12 months, and all indications are that they work reliably.

ADDED. Tonight, as an additional test, I made a comment on an old post whose feed I subscribed to 7 months ago. After about half an hour, the test comment showed up in my RSS reader, as expected.

An easy interim fix would be to create a Google Calendar, either add all the current organizers and add contact info on how to be added to the "How to start a meetup" page, or publicly distribute a LW account's login info, and then embed the calender in the sidebar, presumably somewhere between the info on your account and the recent comments segment; clicking on the embed can bring you to the actual calender. Google Calendars can be publicly viewable, so the details for each event can then include a link to the relevant Google group, where discussions can occur until the final solution is decided on and implemented.

My idea was to have some sort of calendar, where users can add events for one-shot meetups, or recurring events for the regular meetups. The events could then link to the appropriate post and/or mailing list.

Integration with Google Calendar / Apple iCal would also be awesome.

My suggestion would be to keep the meetup links on the front page, but make them only take up one "line".

If that makes them too invisible, highlight them some other way, e.g. adding an icon or highlighting the name of the city in a different color.

This would make sure everyone sees them without taking much screen space away from the juicy posts people came here to read.

This requires some coding.

I want this. I do not have the website skills or mod priveliges to do it.

Perhaps an easy way of doing it would be to add a link up at the top with "wiki," "discussion," "sequences," and "about." Call it "meetups," and have it link to the wiki's meetup page.