The Rise of GatherPress

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GatherPress pilot program, our proposal on Make Community.

We’re talking about the proposal we, the GatherPress team, have just published on the Make Community site – something that we think could really change a lot for WordPress users in the way we can make WordPress even more community-friendly, especially for event organisers and attendees.

How it started for me

On 7 December 2023, I wanted to publish our local meetup group event and I hit a wall with Meetup.com. I took to the Community Slack channel. I found myself in full-on rant mode. My friend Hari Shanker had mentioned GatherPress to me a few weeks earlier, so I thought about “tagging” one of the project leads, Mike Auteri, in the Slack thread in order for him to get a notification. Mike joined the conversation on 8 December and invited us to participate to GatherPress weekly meetings. The next being 90 minutes later!

Here are my first 2 comments in that thread:

[rant mode="on"]
I’m sorry for ranting!!! For those who know me, yes! you have never seen me angry and might be surprised 😅😂😈
Meetup . com doesn’t even let me save/publish my event. It says there is an error (what error? tell me at least!! maybe a too long description but no way to know the max number of chars!

I constantly have issues with that site. Sometimes I enter a group and it redirects to my main page (where all the groups I belong to are listed), unless I click very fast (before being redirected) on their events!
Often I click on a member and it says this member doesn’t exist (but when I reload, it’s OK)
Very bad UX, very shitty place for conversations. If I send a newsletter to the members of our group, and click on “also publish as a discussion”, it goes to their old forums, and isn’t even UTF, so all our accentuated chars are bad until I edit the entry!
Looking forward for the community to move out of meetup com, one day! and have all our events on an OS tool, that’s the least we can expect for our community! (and save 💰)
[rant mode="off"]

Have a lovely day 😁

and

Ok the error was mine (activated the questions but didn’t select one), not a too long description, but it doesn’t change the fact that the error was not mentioned “the form contains an error”, happy to know!!
And all the other points I mentioned are still pain points!

I also mentioned an issue about encoded characters.

You can read the full thread on the WordPress Make Slack in the Community Team channel, or download a screen capture (617kb) of the conversation. Even though the WordPress Make Slack workspace is a pretty public space, I blurred all people’s names and avatars besides myself and Mike Auteri.

About meetup.com and the need for an alternative

First off, the user interface. It’s just not cutting it. It’s clunky, to say the least. It feels like every click is a gamble on whether I’ll actually get where I want to go and I’m constantly thinking at people visiting that site with assistive technologies, it must be a nightmare!

Then there’s the cost. Meetup.com isn’t cheap, and for the ~ 215’000 USD that WPCS (WordPress Community Support) paid in 2023, I’m not seeing the value. It’s about all of us in the community. That money could be invested into something that actually serves us better. Read 2022 financial information here.

That’s why we’re all in for an open-source alternative. Imagine having a platform that we can tweak, improve, and mold to our needs—without being at the mercy of a proprietary system.

Here, on my site, I can also share an unfiltered vision and add my personal opinion that could not be included in the official proposal. The recent acquisition of Meetup.com by Bending Spoons (the company which also acquired Evernote at the end of 2022) is a red flag for me. These shifts can mean changes in contracts, policies, and not usually in our favor. I say it’s high time we explore new territories.

This is also important for the data integrity! For now, we are leaving our members data, about 540’000 persons as per events.wordpress.org, to a proprietary system which, by the way, lost 2 years of statistical data for all groups in the WordPress Pro account (or maybe even all existing groups on their platform).

And here’s the thing—we’re a WordPress bunch. We thrive on open source. Why are we settling for a platform that stands apart from the tools we use every day? We can do better, and I believe we will with GatherPress. We need open source, we need the control on user’s data. That’s what led to the proposal for GatherPress pilot program, a community-driven, open source event platform that can grow with us, the WordPress community, adapt to our needs, and integrates in the wordpress.org network.

I know Mobilizon was mentioned early last year on Slack, and I participated to that discussion by mentioning the main concern that some people still have today “can WordPress local events be discovered without meetup.com?”. I think it was great to be on Meetup in the early years for that reason. But today? We have to weigh up all the disadvantages of staying on Meetup, with all the points mentioned above.

Joining the GatherPress team

I’ve attended every GatherPress video meeting since 8 December, the day after “my rant” that was followed by an invitation from Mike Auteri. I met a friendly group of people and felt immediately welcome!

The team has been developping GatherPress for about 2 years and it’s an amazing plugin. It integrates perfectly to the WordPress admin, uses standards and is built to be simple, but extendable and configurable. The developers explain it better than I do 😆, but I know it doesn’t add anything unnecessary, and does things “the core-way”…

I created the internationalisation (i18n) .pot file with WP-CLI and translated to French*. I identified and reported where i18n was missing. We couldn’t publish the proposal to the community team before it was fully internationalised due to the world wide nature of the WordPress community. It is great to see things constantly getting better! More friends are joining (Thanks to Javier Casares for Spanish and Catalan) … and you all can join too!

In the process, I learnt that besides the .po/.mo translation files, text strings in blocks have to be in .json translation files, and that there are WP-CLI commands for that!

I also helped creating basic documentation pages/readme and a demo video. This is a work in progress of course!

With that friendly team, we’ve even ended some meetings on personal notes, and talked about Bryant Park, which I loved when I visited New York last August after the Community Summit/WordCamp US, or about (American) football: Jeff Marx for the Buffalo Bills and me for the New York Jets (just because I’m a fan of Gary Vee, who wants to buy the team). I also met team members from India such as Prashant Bellad and Prayag Mankar. If I had heard of GatherPress before, I could even have met and talk with Mervin Hernandez, the other project-lead, at WordCamp US, but well…

Now, you must know that it’s a big deal for me to have joined a team of developers. I contribute a lot to WordPress, but usually as an event organiser, I do not code! and I’ve never done anything on GitHub until now other than upload a simple file. I’m getting more and more comfortable with forks and pull requests. This may seem basic to some, but not to me. In the past, I would have thought that I had no value to bring to such a team. This has proved me wrong. It feels so good to be doing all this! It’s a big thing for me to be part of such a team, to write such a proposal, which can have so much impact.

Feeling more at ease on GitHub will also help me to contribute to the DEIB Working Group Project and the Sustainability Team!

* I want to thank Bruno Tritsch, a seasoned translator from the French Polyglots Team. He helped me to correct text strings to follow the French glossary guidelines (For example, “Save Settings” => “Enregistrer les réglages”, and not “Sauvegarder les paramètres”, now I know 😉 )

What’s next?

We’re proposing this to the Make Community Team, and other involved teams with high hopes and a ton of enthusiasm. We believe this could be the start of something really special for the WordPress community. We already got amazing feedback and comments on the draft before the proposal was published, even from people in key positions, such as at the WordPress Foundation or the “Holders of the Meta Keys” (as I call them 😆 ). Thank you very much everyone, we listed you at the bottom of the proposal!

We would love to get a lot of feedback on the proposal, please comment! And may people join the team!

Stay tuned, and let’s keep pushing the boundaries together!


Fun fact: the proposal is written in American English, whereas British English is used here (and it’s not my native language). Organizers there, organisers here 🙂


Follow up: 23 January 2024. I commented on the proposal, and wanted to add it here:

Commenting now with my personal opinion, not on behalf of the GatherPress team.

I saw some statistics Similarweb, Semrush that around 60% of the global traffic to meetup. com is from the USA. So I can understand that people in the US feel that a good proportion of their new members discovered their group via this platform.

But we are a global community, that spend USD 200’000+ of sponsor money that could be spent for more outreach (if leaving meetup at the end, and slowly 🙂 ).

Here are some facts for the group I’m a co-org for (Geneva- Switzerland).

  • When I write a newsletter (“Contact all members”), there is almost zero traction. Most of the people in the group registered years ago and never showed up (or once in 201X). Our time is limited, and as a co-org, I feel that it is so pointless
  • The new people at our events often ask “What is that meetup thing I had to register to in order to attend?” (one more account!)
  • When I ask them how they found out about our group, they often mention the WordPress dashboard widget in their site.
  • WPCS pays $24.50 per month per group, taking into account the 3 points above = no value! (and that price could go up with the recent acquisition of Meetup, who knows)

It’s important to understand that this is a proposal for a pilot program, and if accepted to be run on the WordPress network, it would be for opt-in groups only, and that meetup. com could be used in parallel (even should, during the pilot program). Then, we’ll see, that’s the goal of a pilot!


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