Currently one of our engineers manages a page on Meetup. It’s great for several reasons:
- Discovery — Many developers already have accounts on the site.
- RSVPs — The site tells us how many developers will attend so we know how much food to order.
- Notifications — Subscribed users receive an email notifying them of new events.
- Feedback — Group members can leave feedback in comments so we know what to improve.
The problem with Meetup is the cost.
Organizers pay at least $10 per month. If the group has more than 50 members, the cost increases to $15 per month. As I write this, Elixir Lunch has 171 members. Meetup invites you to “chip in” to contribute to the group’s subscription.
To be fair, $180 per year isn’t a ton. Our subscribed users could cover the subscription cost with $1 per year each. But we aren’t the only ones trying to organize a group. A small study group of 25 kids would still pay $10 a month for Meetup. A nonprofit teaching people to code with 100 members would be looking at $15.
Other tools exist for group management. My church group uses both Twitter and Facebook for management. Members who use neither suffer as a result. Some groups use Eventbrite, but they aren’t well designed for recurring events. And none of these applications are open source, so I can’t host them myself.
Sir Alex will start as a simple group notification tool. Users will be able to sign up and create a group. Other users will be able to join the group. When the organizer creates an event, all members will receive a notification.
An RSVP tool will follow. Members will be able to say whether they will be attending an event.
Finally, we will add a commenting tool. Users will be able to ask questions to the organizers and leave feedback after an event.
The discovery side of Meetup will be hard to replicate. At some point a discover page would be great to have, but it seems like a secondary concern.
Sir Alex will be ready for use with the first three phases complete. Then users will have to tell us what to add next.
My hope is that Sir Alex be useful for other types of groups too. For college kids who are wanting to find friends with similar interests. For recovering addicts to find support groups. Groups of all shapes and sizes can have tools like those provided by Meetup.
I can run the site for a while on a single $8 per month server, even with hundreds of groups subscribed. The donation of one person each month can cover all costs. I intend to be completely transparent about both costs and revenue as I work on the project.
Want to help?
Hit me up on Twitter if you’d like to join me. You’re more than welcome to make pull requests or file issues on Sir Alex on GitHub. I would especially love help with design. I’ve seen the difference that a skilled designer can make.
And of course, I would also love help with spreading the word. Sir Alex won’t mean much without users. Talk to me if you organize a meetup group, especially if you’re interested in helping to test the product. If you’d like to donate, I would love that as well. I don’t expect server costs to be very high, but it would be nice to have them be nonexistent.