We have no choice but to change the name of Wales Outdoors on Meetup. Meetup.com is an extremely poor platform and Wales Outdoors is effectively being shadow banned by the platform because the platform is… crap…

Not to say that people haven’t made friends through attendance of events on meetup, but that is the work of the organisers of groups, not meetup staff, indeed, the staff at meetup HQ seem to be doing all that they can to undermine the hard work of the organisers who pay for a service what they most5 certainly are not receiving.

Here is my most recent communication with meetup and following this is the email from meetup.com that I was responding to. This email thread is a month long with other threads going back two years and more.

FROM WALES OUTDOORS

Please don’t say to me Rome wasn’t built in a day… Every organiser of meetup pays for a service and collectively you get a huge income and that is not reflected in the software that you deliver… That is a patronising thing to say. 

  1. Why can’t you just set your search results to deliver in person meetups as a priority, so all in person results show before online, unless someone specifies online? That’s a real simple fix and is in line with the aims of meetup. 
  2. So what you are saying is that getting my events visible using keywords in event titles and in content description is basically a waste of time and I’d be better off removing event locations from my events and changing the name of my group from Wales Outdoors to Wales Outdoors Cardiff South Wales Brecon North Wales Snowdonia Swansea West wales Haverfordwest… or similar… Your explanation also does not explain why events in Ireland show ahead of mine – they are in a different country!!! Not only are you not able to explain what is going on you are really frustrating me. I can’t hope that meetup will end what is effectively a shadow ban any time soon and I honestly see little hope of improvement. For years the payments system did not always function and I was told I’d better keep manual records, the image uploads did not work, my members who left were still receiving my updates, to their frustration with me but of course that was your poor software and database maintenance etc.  It’s a really poor show, isn’t it… Then I get kicked off chat because your staff didn’t want to answer my questions. I get kicked off even though I am paying for a service!!!
  3. All of my comment and feedback has been fair. Manipulating the address of activities will not work. People could end up going to the wrong location. A hack is not appropriate. You need to invest and sort out the issues and pronto!
  4. So you are refusing to compensate me further for loss of promotion and visibility subsequent to me changing the name of the group from Adventure Activity South Wales to Wales Outdoors. So be it. Not fair at all but you hold the power here. I must say I really don’t know how staff at meetup hq sleep at night. If I were able, if I lived in the US, I’d be taking meetup to court for compensation for loses based upon the appalling level of paid for service, the lack of clarity or guidance and the seemingly shadowbanning of me and promotion of others who are wholly inappropriate for the searches entered. 

Your system is NOT recognising event location. If it did it would be returning my groups events. I mean Life Drawing Wales NOT being returned under ‘art’ for drawing classes in Cardiff… Shocking. 

  1. I see Large Outdoors are Pro and so have groups in all regions of the UK. This is a scam as are many of your pro groups. I already complained about a life drawing group that set up multiple groups, in each city in the UK despite NOT having people on the ground and not having life drawing taking place in my location, Cardiff. Now, Large Outdoors have multiple groups and are listing events not in the group’s areas, so https://www.meetup.com/Large-Outdoors-Walking-Weekends-Adventures-South-Wales/events/ of the 22 events listed from now through to the end of March ONLY 5 are in Wales and ALL OF THOSE are in NORTH WALES. This is a scam to gain more exposure on your platform and you know it as I have pointed this out before. Further, the organisers for the events are the same across all of the groups… They are not local or ‘on the ground’. They likely work in Large Outdoors head office. I demand that you either have Large Outdoors remove all of their groups except one or you remove all events that are not relevant to the group name, So, https://www.meetup.com/Large-Outdoors-Walking-Weekends-Adventures-South-Wales/ would have no events. 

You also need to take a long hard look at Pro which is making a sham of your systems aim of being for the meetup members. 

You also need to look at all pro subscribers and ensure that they are not abusing the pro services.

So I’ll be changing my group names now and hopefully, we’ll see improvement in search results as it would appear that it is only by group name that meetup shares events in search results… 

FROM MEETUP

Gwynn (Meetup) 

Feb 4, 2022, 11:36 AM EST Hi Andy, 
Thank you very much for your response and I understand the frustration you feel. I am taking your questions back to the team and pushing for more understanding and hopefully solutions on how we can use your experience to improve the intuitive functionality of search. As they say, “rome wasn’t built in a day” but your questions are helping us identify some areas of confusion and dissonance in how the logic works and what people should be able to reasonably expect. Specifically,

Why does it appear that online meetups are being prioritised over in person? 
I agree that this is unintuitive and a poor experience. As I said in my last response, I have shared with the data team that having online events results dilute the results for searches that involve keywords that intuitively imply in person event preferences (like “walking” “outdoors” “hiking”) is problematic. I will continue to advocate for some sort of accounting of this, however this will take some time. I hope this helps explain why you are seeing the results you were seeing and demonstrate that we are not intentionally suppressing your events. One note, filtering to “in person” events does change the results substantially and if a person has a desire to search for in person events specifically and are sure to use the “in person” filter, they will see relevant in person events.

How is it that my event for this Saturday titled ‘Andy’s Amazing Eight Waterfalls! Walking Hiking Cardiff Swansea Brecon Newport’ does not show up…
This is confusing but the event results are not contingent on keywords in the same way that the group results are – so when I shared that it’s important to include words like “walking” and “cardiff” in your group name and description- this was guidance to optimize the group search results. For event search the 2 main factors on how event results come up are when that event is happening and how far the event is from the member’s location.  Yes, keywords are taken into account as well but location and when the event are happening are the defining factors of relevancy.  

Now, as to the question of why the Gin and Walking Weekend event was surfaced ahead of your event in results – I have surfaced this with the data team but my best guess is that it has something to do with the fact that the event itself does not actually have a location listed (see screenshot). My understanding (and I have asked the data team to confirm) is that when there is no event location designated, our search will pull from the group’s location. This doesn’t explain why the event shows up ahead of your event which is much closer to Cardiff though, since the group’s location is in Sheffield. I have an open question to the data team around this.  

NO ONE WILL SEARCH FOR ME USING GLYNNEATH AS A LOCATION. People live in cities not at the locations where these activities are taking place
This is fair feedback, full stop. The fact is, searching “walking” and location: Glynneath with the postal code you added in as the event location (SA11 5NR) surfaces your events beautifully (see screenshot). My suggestion would to add Cardiff as the event location and put a note in the description that the event will start in Glynneath. Yes this is hacky but I believe this will ensure that you are targeting people who list Cardiff as their location of intent. I’ve created a test group and test event to see how this works. It takes a bit of time for our database to catch up but I’ll show you the results once the test group is up. I’ll use this example as a way to bring up to our data team how unintuitive it is. 

I respectfully request a further refund covering the monies paid to meetup for the period subsequent to me changing the name of the group from Adventure Activity South Wales to Wales Outdoors. 

Like I said, the issue is not about changing the name or description of your group, it’s about how our data base is pulling relevancy from event locations. I have given you a refund of your last subscription as well as a full discount on your next renewal. 

Thanks Andy. I wish I had better answers…and I agree we have work to do on making our search work more intuitively. That said i validate your concerns and am working with data team to elevate them. I don’t expect them to be fixed immediately but your feedback will go towards improving the experience as we iterate the functionality.

HOW UTTERLY FRUSTRATING

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Author

Walk leader @ Wales Outdoors, life model @ Cardiff Life Models and poet @ Self Published I opened the first mountain bike hire business in the Brecon Beacons National Park in 1995. Since then my business, Wales Outdoors, has grown and morphed and is now the most active and most popular guided walks and adventure travel provider in Wales. Andy has been a volunteer co-ordinator, guided walks programme organiser and part time central area warden for the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, chair of Brecon Beacons Tourism, a Duke of Edinburghs area co-ordinator, a Princes Trust social inclusion manager, the catalyst for the Brecon Beacons National Park Environment Charter and a key motivator for the inception of the outdoor activity peer group, SWOAPG. Join Me! for a walk or two :)