image of meet up iPhone screen

screenshot of Meetup iPhone app

I have a love-hate relationship with Meetup.com. I love it because it’s allowed me to meet a lot of interesting people discussing a lot of interesting topics. I hate it because, more often than not, it fills my inbox with a lot of new groups that I have no interest in joining. I really blame myself because every time I join a new Meetup group, the sign-up process gives you some topics that might interest you. I always find one or two new topics. But then, the program grabs one of these words and uses it as part of the algorithm to find stuff that might interest me.

I have little interest in meeting with “Entrepreneurs Under 30”. Somewhere deep in the bowels of the Meetup’s servers are my interests in “technology startups”. The busy little taxonomy engine equates “start up” with “entrepreneur” and that leads to the email I get based on some relationship of those words. I’m afraid to go back and edit my profile to eliminate some of this stuff because I just might miss some weirdly interesting group or person. How else would I have met a woman whose family has lived in Russia for generations but were originally from Korea?

One of the things I will be doing on the site is checking how closely mobile apps adhere to accessibility specifications. I’ve been happy with the web version of Meetup though navigating around the site is helped enormously by what little vision I have left. There are a lot of thumbnail photos of members of each group but they’re easily ignored and my screen reader has no problem informing me of the next meet up, comments or discussions.

Not such good fortune with the mobile version. I can’t tell whether the mobile app was rewritten to adhere to the iOS specs or merely ported over from the web version. But there are some accessibility issues if you’re a voiceover user.

The major problem, for me, is the thumbnail photos. They are tagged on the website, but on the iPhone they are just labeled as buttons. Unlabeled buttons are the bane of my existence and that of anyone else who is blind or has low vision. What happens when you press the button? Does clicking it take you to the website so you can view the photo? Is it asking you to download the photos from the web? Or, is it something completely different? If you belong to a popular meet up there could be dozens of thumbnails on the home page, reflecting those members who have signed up for the next event.

In this digital age, the Meetup folks clearly fill a void for people to still get together face-to-face. Ironically, the service hosts meet ups around the world focusing on accessibility. It would be nice if the iPhone app was equally accessible.

Another issue, which has nothing to do with being sighted or not, is the apparent lack of synchronization between the app version and the web version. I have about 10 groups on the website and my calendar is updated automatically. So I get a quick overview of all upcoming meet ups. The iPhone app indicates that I belong to no groups. It would seem there is some disconnect between the two versions or maybe it’s just a setting. In either case, I can’t find a simple way to reconcile the two. Meetup support suggested that I delete the app, turn off my phone, turn the phone back on and reinstall the Meetup app.

Been there, done that, it didn’t work. Repeat. Same result.

I know it’s something really simple and I’m gonna feel really stupid when I get the answer. In the meantime, I export all the event details as an Outlook calendar appointment and then sync my iPhone. I’d like to be able to eliminate steps, not add more when, frankly, the app should do it for me. I tried to get answers to some of these questions from Meetup. The PR spokesperson emailed me to say that no one from Meetup was available to speak with me.image ofMeetup logo

In the meantime, as of this writing, I have three Meetups this week. One of them is about accessibility.