My belly's aching now to say

1426 words written by dylan
Posted April 22, 2005 @ 05:39 PM
22 comments , 5 TrackBacks

This was going to be an odds 'n' ends post, but then I check Anita's report on Wednesday's weblogger meetup.

Some quick background: The Seattle Webloggers Meetup (Weblogger Meetup No. 1) has been around for a number of years. (I want to say 2001, but I'm probably wrong.) We've used Meetup to handle the monthly announcements of meetings as well as attracting new members. We have a fairly core group of regular attendees that include older adults (sorry Chas) all the way down to a one year old (aka my daughter).

All has been well... until Meetup announced that they would begin charging the organizer, Anita Rowland, a fee for putting our group up on Meetup -- $9/month through 2005, $19/month thereafter.

This is something new. I mean, how do we pay for it? Is paying for Meetup worth it? Can we build our own and do better, but if we do, will we lose the promotion Meetup gives us?

On Wednesday, the Seattle Weblogger Meetup attendees discussed the new charges and whether we wanted to pay them. A number of people were ticked off. OK, almost everyone. But the point of the discussion was whether Meetup was worth the hundreds of dollars in annual cost over the next few years, or if an alternative could provide us with what Meetup provided.

Of course, being the egotistical loudmouth I am, I stated that we have three options:

  1. Stay with Meetup and pay up
  2. Move to another organizing service (Yahoo being one example)
  3. Roll our own "meeting up" system

Anita reminded us that the payments to Meetup wouldn't commence until her service ran out at the end of May, so we still had a month to discuss. After some brief deliberation, by consent the group agreed to remain with Meetup for the time being. As a show of our commitment to Meetup, Anita, and the group, a few of us gave her money to defray the impending costs. Others in the group are investigating what it would take to create our own meeting up system, and I'm sure they will report to the group later.

Apparently, though, our polite, everyone-has-their-turn, let's-work-towards-consensus discussion (and after all, we're all Seattleites here, so consensus uber alles) didn't sit too well with someone in the Meetup PR department. This is the verbatim quote from their blog:

Belly-Achin' Bloggers in Seattle

According to a fun image on Make You Go Hmmm, seems that some of the good folks at the Seattle Blogger Meetup chipped in a few bucks and helped Anita Rowland with the nominal fee for the Seattle Blogger Meetup Group.

Guess this Meetup was worth their time-- at least $2 bucks worth!

Y'all had a good Meetup and you supported your local group! Sounds like everyone should be happy.

We work hard to make it easy for you pull this together.

So really, folks, what's the belly-achin' all about?


Added to The Meetup Wire by Myles on Thursday, April 21, 2005 at 02:08 PM.

Belly-achin'? What the?

Look, I've lived in Seattle for ten years now. I know what belly-achin' is. If belly-achin' were baseball, Seattle would be the Dominican Republic and the Yankees all in one. We were having a discussion. Yes, there were compliants about Meetup. Plenty of them. But we're staying with Meetup for the moment because, well, it's a good product that satisfies our needs.

To a Meetup employee to say that we, the customers of Meetup, the members of Weblogger Meetup No. 1, are a bunch of belly-achers is not only ludicrious, it's insulting. For their PR person to snark about us like that on a public blog is unreal, and it minimizes the real questions and concerns all Meetup groups are dealing with right now over the decision to charge monthly fees. Whomever this Myles is, his PR skills are on the same level as, well, my mad skillz at skateboarding. (Non-existent.)

So, personally, dear Meetup people, here's what I suggest you do as recompense:

  1. Apologize to the members of Webloggers Meetup Group No. 1 in writing for calling us belly-achers.
  2. Throw this Myles on a plane out here to Seattle (We have JetBlue now, you know) for next month's Meetup (May 18, 7pm, Ralph's Deli, kitty-corner from the Cinerama on 4th) and have him personally deliver this apology orally. And hey, I'll even buy him a sandwich if he dare show his face. We won't bite, we promise. We're good people out here in the upper left hand corner.
  3. Throw in some compensation. Give us free Meetup through the end of the year. Or the end of next year. Optionally, throw in some swag. Whatever.

We've been loyal customers. To insult us like this makes us want to, well, belly-ache. Ball's in your court, Meetup.

SUPER ADDED BONUS! Just discovered our offending Meetup employee is one Myles Weissleder.

Myles Weissleder, VP/Communications
Myles keeps the voice of Meetup in tune, keeps the media in the loop, evangelizes the Meetup story, has his ear to the ground for opportunities as the Meetup groundswell builds—and more-or-less sends and receives an unthinkable amount of email.

The VP of Communications is calling us names. What sort of things are they teaching at university departments of communication nowadays? Did he get his degree paid for by the George Steinbrenner Scholarship?

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! A search on Myles Weissleder in Google turns up this page. The first thing he says about himself?

"I'm a consumate communicator."

I would say that isn't true 100% of the time. 97%, I could give you. But 100%, nah.

But then, I'm just a whiny web designer and Meetup member with a BA in environmental studies, thread-bare social skills, and a year-old daughter I expose monthly to a bunch of obnoxious belly-achers. What do I know about communication compared to the WISE AND MIGHTY MYLES?


UPDATE (4/24): Anita's summary from last night is a good place to start. As we stand, we have apologies from Hilary Moon Murphy (Meetup Community Manager), Matt Meeker (Co-Founder), and, after a false start, Myles himself. All are in the comments below.

For the record, we're smack in the middle of Pesach, and Myles was off celebrating the holiday. So, cut him some slack for that.

The other two points of resolution (send Myles to our next Meetup to apologize, throw in some compensation) remain out there. For the sake of trying to salvage the relationship, Meetup should try to act on them. However, I am happy that we were able to get their attention and with the response they've given us... even Myles' first attempt at an apology.

Like I said in the comments below, my feelings about this can be summarized by Mr. Costello: "I used to be disgusted/Now I try to be amused." I'm not angry. I think this is pretty funny. I think there are three lessons one can take away from this:

  1. Never, ever insult your customers, even in jest.
  2. Think before you blog, especially if you're a corporate blogger.
  3. Bloggers are the worst people in the world to insult, because they will tell the whole world about it.

And one last thing: Why hasn't anyone at Sloan or Haas or HBS (or even our local B-Schools in Seattle [UDub, Seattle U., SPU, etc.]) started offering classes on how to effectively use and manage the Internet? I think this the third time now I've seen an organization jam its foot clear into its epiglottis thanks to Internet-based communication. You have all these people who think corporate blogging is the latest and coolest, but they've never blogged, and they hire non-bloggers to run these blogs that are supposed to be the voice of the company. See, it's one thing if Myles, on his personal site, called us belly-achers. Instead, he does it on a corporate blog hosted on the mothership site.

If I get time, I think I'll write something on what I think corporate blogging should be. Today, though, it's off to the game to hope that the Native Americans don't sweep the Mariners.

And oh... none of us wants Myles' head for this. Mind you, if he were my VP of Communications I'd strongly consider firing him, but hey, that's my opinion. What I want is for Myles -- and the entire Meetup organization -- to learn from this experience. Be open with your customers about what's going on. Speak with one voice. And never, ever insult your customers if they're webloggers.

Comments

  1. Well, perhaps we could consider Miles' calling us belly-achers in such a public manner (that blog is the online "pulse" of Meetup from what I have seen and gathered) because we are in the number-one spot and our group "may" be considered "primal." If that's true, then dissension from our ranks vice the rest of the Meetup Weblogger groups would be something to "contain."

    I hope our dear colleague Miles realizes his offense and that this type of tactical maneuver doesn't work in politics and it doesn't work as coercion. Just the opposite, in fact. Or perhaps it's a Zen thing and Miles is playing the complete opposite to Anita's conciliation. If this is true it's even more insulting because of the irony.

    BTW - thanks! I'd rather get a "Sorry Chas" any day over a "Sorry Charlie!" - it's okay, I know who I am.

    Posted by: chas Redmond | April 23, 2005 01:03 AM

  2. I think you may have misunderstood the post here. It's open knowledge that Meetup's general audience have been "belly achin" about the new charges. I read Myles' post as meaning "the Seattle group are all chipping in, why is everyone else complaining?". I don't think he was calling the Seattle group belly achers.

    Posted by: Simon Willison | April 23, 2005 11:22 AM

  3. Simon -- That might have been his intention, but that's not the way it comes across prima facie, at least to me. The title -- "Belly-Achin' Bloggers in Seattle" -- implies that we're the ones needing a rebuke.

    If it had been his intention, he could made it clear that his tongue was in his cheek. Better still, he could have just not posted his snark to a public, searchable site. The best bloggers know when NOT to blog about something.

    Posted by: dw | April 23, 2005 12:48 PM

  4. Dylan --

    This is Hilary Moon Murphy from Meetup. If you click on the URL I gave, you will see the apology I gave to Anita.

    I am terribly sorry that Myles said this about your group's earnest discussion of the fees process. It was uncalled for.

    Hmm
    PS Rather than have Meetup fly out Myles, why not ask for me? I love Seattle!

    Posted by: Hilary Moon Murphy | April 23, 2005 03:37 PM

  5. Wow, this is amazing. Greetings from Toronto, over on the right side of the land mass. So, let's see if I've got this straight. A company does what they do and charges for something. Some customers don't like it and voice said opinion. The Vice President of communications takes a swipe at the customers. Said VP doesn't back off rather some poor non-VP dives on land mine and takes one for the team while said VP stays silent.

    And the bonus? The original blog/post is still up from Myles with no changes and/or oops sorry or whatever. It just sits allowing everybody to add the name Myles Weissleder to company "no hire" list the world over.

    Let's see who the board of directors is for this company: Yowsa. This has to be a case study for the internet on bad PR taking on a major life of it's own.

    Wow. Nicely done MeetUp.

    Posted by: Rick Segal | April 23, 2005 04:11 PM

  6. ... or not. I just noticed that the title of the post on the Meetup blog was "Belly-Achin' Bloggers in Seattle".

    Posted by: Simon Willison | April 23, 2005 04:14 PM

  7. Hilary - Thanks for the apology. I've been very impressed with how you've handled the vitriol on the Meetup message boards with grace and honesty. If they don't give you Myles' job :), they should definitely give you more money. Or a medal.

    And while I'd rather have Myles out here, you're more than welcome. Myles needs a bodyguard to protect himself from us rage-filled belly-achers, right? Sell it to management that way. :)

    Posted by: dw | April 23, 2005 05:27 PM

  8. Dylan,
    I wrote up this episode, as I think I understand it, on my blog. As I VC, I love finding stories like this to pass onto companies that are spending my money. Hope I got the jist of it right.
    http://ricksegal.typepad.com/pmv/2005/04/meetupcom_shut_.html

    Posted by: Rick Segal | April 23, 2005 05:54 PM

  9. They might have a point, they might not. One thing, though, is for certain:

    This is *not* how to do public relations on a weblog.

    Posted by: Michael Moncur | April 23, 2005 06:23 PM

  10. Seattle Bloggers!

    I'm sorry if y'all took that post the wrong way.

    It wasn't meant to put you down ... not in the least. (Simon Willison got it right...)

    We love you guys. We really do!

    "Belly Achin'" was merely a reference to the annotated photo #3 (http://www.makeyougohmm.com/20050421/1742/) where, if you ask me, it really comes across that y'all were, well, belly achin'...

    "Meetup? Yeah, they suck"
    "I could use the power of print to produce fliers that say Meetup Sucks"
    "Meetup? Yeah, sounds kinda greedy"

    Harsh!

    Now, please tell me -- are these comments constructive? Or was just a little bit of belly achin'?

    Again, sorry if the tounge-and-cheek reference to the photo didn't translate in that post on Meetup Watch.

    Myles

    Posted by: Myles | April 23, 2005 06:45 PM

  11. Myles, I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but you are a prick. Just shut up, ok?

    Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2005 07:40 PM

  12. Hey Seattle Bloggers,

    As you noted, Hilary is fantastic and shouldn't be the only one offering an apology. So allow me to...

    I'm very sorry about the belly achin' comments. They may have been made in jest, but in any case, should have never been said. I'm sorry they were.

    We appreciate you all using Meetup, and if we can make it better at all, don't hesitate to let us know how.

    Sorry again everyone,

    -matt

    Matt Meeker, Co-founder
    Meetup.com

    Posted by: Matt M | April 23, 2005 08:15 PM

  13. OK, sick daughter down for bed (finally), M's continue their sucking ways (sigh), and now I can finally get back to this.

    Myles, I'm confused. Are you apologizing, rationalizing, or just typing whatever comes into your head? Because, honestly, I feel more insulted than I did before.

    You see, if you stopped at line four, that would have been fine. Instead, it's on about TDavid's site.

    Let me be clear about this: I don't speak for the Meetup group. TDavid doesn't speak for the Meetup group. Anita doesn't speak for the Meetup group. And neither does any of the other 300 or so members of this group. We all have our opinions and our own sites where we express our own views about things.

    TDavid took some of his pictures from the Meetup and marked them up to capture the conversation the group had. These weren't recorded minutes according to Robert's Rules, but (damn funny) hyperbole. And they're his opinion about what happened at the Meetup. Everyone has their own take on the meetup and then blogs about it. (Yeah, real original for bloggers to give their opinions about events.)

    Do I have a problem with the VILE and SLANDEROUS images on his report? Absolutely. Annabel doesn't hurl, she SPITS UP.

    Myles, read Hilary's apology. Read Matt's apology. Do you see what they did that you didn't? They actually apologized, admitted a wrong, asked for forgiveness, and made no excuses. What I get from you is that it's our fault for leading you down the wrong path, and that we should tell our naughty group member to stop misleading you with his hyperbole.

    Let me remind you: You called us, your company's customers, belly-achers for having a frank and honest discussion about whether we want to pay for your company's services.

    Were we mad? No. Peeved, yes. I mean, think about it. We use a free service for years. Suddenly, the company announces they will start charging the group organizer for that service. That's a big paradigm shift. Who will pay? Should we pay? How do we collect it? What about people who don't pay? Are there alternatives? And it was a fairly sudden decision for a group that meets monthly. Of course there are going to be upset people.

    But, unlike other groups I've heard about, this wasn't a giant round of histronics. And, again, I've lived in Seattle long enough to tell you that if this was belly-aching, then this whole damn city is filled with Barry Bondses and European football players feigning injury.

    I mean, compare our reports to the two weeks of screed on the Meetup message board. The spit and bile there is neck-deep. Every group in this country using Meetup is having the exact same discussions we are -- are Meetup's services worth the money they're charging us, and if so, how do we pay for it? Your response says, honestly, stop whining and send us your credit cards.

    I know you were trying to be funny, but it was way off. You're the VP of Communications. You could have highlighted that our large group is staying with Meetup. You could have highlighted the fact that many of us stepped forward with money to pay the monthly charges (with plenty of Better Off Dead references from the peanut gallery). Instead, it was those "belly-achin'" Seattle webloggers. And why are Matt and Hilary having to clean up your mess? That's the saddest thing -- I know you know the right words to say to the media, to the funders, and to the board, but you've stumbled twice with the customers. And I'm afraid for my bandwidth bill now, because this gaffe is spreading through the "blogosphere" (I hate that word) pretty quickly. Worst case scenario, Annabel's meager college fund is about to be slashdotted. (Of course, it's my own damn fault for opening my big mouth about this.)

    And you know, to quote Elvis, "I used to be disgusted/Now I try to be amused." I'm not angry or livid or even all that peeved. It's funny watching you dig your hole deeper.

    If I had any advice for you, Myles, it would be to learn when to shut the hell up. I'm 32, and I have to remind myself of this constantly. My foot has a permanent residence in my mouth. Just ask my mother, who I'm sure will be commenting in this thread at some point.

    And try again at apologizing. Simple is better. If you need any help, I'm sure Hilary or Matt could draft something up for you.

    Posted by: dw | April 23, 2005 11:21 PM

  14. Very well said DW. As a Seattle Weblogger, I stand by your comments.

    Posted by: dayment | April 24, 2005 12:22 AM

  15. Here's Myles' Zoominfo profile:
    http://networking4.zoominfo.com/PeopleSearch/PersonDetail.asp?PersonID=256940329

    Posted by: Chris | April 24, 2005 06:43 AM

  16. Wow, as someone who is making there first visit to this blog,is all I can say.I take it that Meetup didn't give enough warning before going to a paid for service, right?

    Posted by: Robert | April 24, 2005 08:03 AM

  17. Hey folks -

    I'm sorry. You are right -- I am wrong. The photo was wrong. The term belly achin' is plain wrong. I apologize. Sincerely. Can we all be friends now?

    /m

    Posted by: Myles Weissleder | April 24, 2005 08:13 AM

  18. Myles -- Close enough. See, was that so hard?

    Posted by: dw | April 24, 2005 09:38 AM

  19. Apparently it's still kind of hard, Dylan.

    Why does Myles keep factoring blame on 'the photo'? "The photo was wrong." It was the photo's fault! The photo made me do it, people!

    Excuses.

    Now let's hope the Mariners win today and start making their way out of the cellar. Nice segue to/from Myles.

    Posted by: TDavid | April 24, 2005 11:12 AM

  20. TDavid -- Yeah, I know he said "the photo was wrong." But it's close enough. If he wants to be all Marion Berry about it, fine. But it's an apology.

    And on his original post he's done a better job still.
    http://press.meetup.com/watch/archives/000994.html

    And the M's win. Life is good.

    (BTW, that's Marion Berry, the former mayor, not marionberry, the blackberry hybrid that makes a damn fine pie.)

    Posted by: dw | April 24, 2005 05:22 PM

  21. Careful - this episode might emerge as the defining case study in how not to have an online conversation with your customers.

    Myles keeps throwing gas on the fire, and things spread awful fast online.

    Myles offers communications professionals two important lessons here:

    1) Think hard before you blog. Things can be mistranslated on the Web. And;

    2) If you tick off customers in an online communication forum, for heaven's sakes swallow your ego and make it right--fast. Smart-ass responses and empty apologies are not the way to clean up a misunderstanding online--where millions of people can get an instant front row seat to the mess.

    I predict this is going to get worse before it gets better.

    Posted by: Anon | April 25, 2005 06:58 AM

  22. Myles STILL doesn't get it. I'm amazed he still holds a job at Meetup.

    Posted by: Phil | April 25, 2005 08:18 AM