How We’d RATHER Spend Three Hundred Bucks
Phew, what a week. Meetup is back on our feet, and we feel like celebrating. So we’re doing what we love to do most: diving into the stories of local Meetup Groups.
Hundreds of Meetup Organizers and Members reached out to tell us about the difficulties they encountered during our recent service outage. Meetup’s Community Team is on the case, providing support and coaching. But we also decided to get creative and ask ourselves, what could we do with $300?
Why $300? In case you hadn’t heard, last week Meetup received an email demanding $300 ransom, or our servers would be overwhelmed with fake traffic, knocking us offline. Meetup refused to negotiate with criminals, and we faced intermittent downtime over a period of 4-5 days.
It was a rough few days for us, but we know that local Meetup Groups had to absorb the real impact. Here are three Meetup Group stories that stood out to us, and what we’re doing about it:
The Organizer of Women in the Wind - Georgia Peaches Chapter cancelled a long distance motorcycle ride due to bad weather, but the attendees didn’t get the email. Some were traveling hundreds of miles -yup, through that bad weather- creating all kinds of hassles for the Organizer and her Members. When we heard about this one, we knew we wanted to do something special for their next Meetup.
The Women in the Wind has “a passion for giving back to the entire state of Georgia,” and next week they’re riding in a St. Patrick’s Day parade for charity, with proceeds going to a local animal shelter. Meetup will be making a $300 donation to the Homeward Bound Pet Rescue, which we’re told will buy a whole lot of dog chow.
The Burlington Writers Workshop provides as many as five workshops each week in Burlington, Vermont and also hosts occasional panel discussions, readings, and networking opportunities with experienced, professional writers. In addition to their Meetup Events, the Burlington Writers Workshop also publishes an anthology every year, featuring stories, essays, poems, and photography by some of the 540+ members of the Meetup.
Last week, the Organizer was attending an event for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs and couldn’t share information about his Meetup Group with colleagues because the site was down. To make up for the inconvenience, we’ll be making a $300 donation towards the promotion of the upcoming anthology and to help throw a party celebrating its launch on April 11.
The New Moms of South OC had a big moms night out planned last Saturday, but some of the moms couldn’t find the Event location, and had to miss the Meetup (even though they had arranged childcare). The next time these moms have a night out, we want to make sure it’s extra special- so we’ll be picking up their tab from a wine bar. You guessed it… with $300.
This isn’t all that we’ve got planned- we’ll be working on more of these $300 donations and sponsorships behind the scenes. Once again, thanks to the whole Meetup community for rallying together this past week, and thanks in particular to the people who took the time to tell us their stories.
FAQs about Meetup’s Recent Service Outage
We know our recent service outage has impacted many of you and made it tough for your Meetup Groups to actually Meetup. Please know that we’re listening to your questions and concerns and that YOU CAN COUNT ON MEETUP to be stable and reliable, to restore all features back to normal, and to minimize the effects of the service outages.
Updated 3/7/14 at 4 pm EST
1) Is my data secure?
Organizer and Member data is secure, including credit card information. No data has been accessed or stolen. For more detail on the denial of service (DDoS) attack, read this account from Scott Heiferman, Meetup’s Co-Founder and CEO.
2) Will I get credit for the time I wasn’t able to use Meetup?
As a result of this attack on Meetup, the site and apps were largely unavailable for nearly five days. To show our gratitude for your patience during this outage, all Organizers were credited with an additional 7 days.
This extension was added to Organizers’ current Organizer Dues cycle and was automatically applied to Organizers’ accounts. We processed the change, and we emailed Organizers to alert them. It’s reflected on the Organizers’ account page, and there’s nothing further you need to do.
If you are a Meetup Organizer whose Group faced an extraordinary challenge and there is something else we can do to help you out, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We know this was frustrating for you (for us, too!). We also know in many cases, the outage created real problems for your Meetups. It’s critical to us that Meetup Organizers know how much we value your efforts to build community.
3) Why isn’t email working? When will messages be delivered to my members? Will all emails eventually be sent?
After several days with significant periods of downtime, we have accumulated a significant backlog of emails (everything from system generated emails like Event reminders and new Meetup Group announcements, to the emails Organizers send to their Groups). Due to the steps we’ve taken to stop the attacks, it’s also taking longer than usual to deliver email for some domains, notably hotmail.com and roadrunner. Most other domains are working well.
Restoring email functionality to normal is one of our top priorities right now. We may remove some older emails from the queue for a small number of domains, but most email will make it through. Some of that email is no longer relevant and we want to make sure email you are sending from the site now is received in a timely manner.
We expect all email issues to be resolved soon, now that we’re back online.
4) Why couldn’t you send me the email addresses for my Group members so that I could communicate with my Groups during the outage? Can you send them to me now?
Site downtime is a very rare occurrence (with the past few days being the exception, not the rule).
5) Will new Group announcement emails go out for Groups that should have been announced during the blackout?
Yes, all new Group announcement emails will be sent out. Due to the email backlog issues (see above), it will take time.
6) I was supposed to renew my account and pay my Organizer Dues during the outage. Will I lose Organizer privileges to my Meetup Group?
If you were an Organizer who was supposed to renew your account and pay your Organizer Dues during the site outage, we have automatically extended the renewal period, giving you more time to act. No one will lose ownership or administrative access to their Meetup Group for failure to renew during the site outage. You can find your new deadline date on your Account page.
7) Why can’t I access Meetup yet?
As part of our response to the attack, Meetup changed DNS records last week. These updates were available in most parts of the world after two days. A few Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may be holding onto the old records for too long. We’ve received multiple reports so far regarding a few ISPs in particular, including Rogers and Surewest.
We have been in regular contact with Rogers and Surewest over the past few days to resolve this as quickly as possible. In the meantime, you may want to reach out to your ISP as well, and ask them specifically to update those records.
No doubt, this has been a tough weekend for Meetup. Since Thursday, we faced a massive attack on our servers — a DDoS attack, which is a barrage of traffic intended to make service unavailable. We’ve had many hours of downtime over several days, a first for us in 12 years of growing the world’s largest network of local community groups.
While the site was down, the Meetup community was not. There were over 60,000 Meetups during the outage period- people meeting up about what’s important in their lives- and saw an incredible outpouring of support.
Who does a DDoS on @Meetup? Do they hate kittens, too?— Sean McCann (@mccannst)February 27, 2014
— Alexander Tran (@alexstran)March 2, 2014
Feeling for the @Meetup team. The site is still down. Fight back Meetup, we need you.— Kris Angell (@kangell50)March 2, 2014
We’ve been fighting hard since the attacks began.
A little background: We spend millions of dollars every year keeping the Meetup website and apps secure, stable, and reliable. At Meetup HQ we have an amazing team of systems experts who build and manage our secure data centers — they are on-call 24/7 and have been very successful at making Meetup reliable year after year.
We were prepared for most DDoS attacks, but the nature of these attacks is changing (example here).
Here’s what happened. On Thursday morning, I received this email:
Date: Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 10:26 AM
Subject: DDoS attack, warning
A competitor asked me to perform a DDoS attack on your website. I can stop the attack for $300 USD. Let me know if you are interested in my offer.
Simultaneously, the attack began, our servers were overwhelmed with traffic, and our services went down.
We got to work mitigating the attack, but we remained unavailable for nearly 24 hours. Service was restored Friday at 9.30am EST, but it took many hours for the changes we implemented to defend against the attack to be distributed across the Internet. Many folks did not see us come back up before we were hit again.
On Saturday at 4 pm EST, we received another severe DDoS attack. By midnight EST, the engineering team implemented a new solution, and Meetup’s website and apps were widely accessible again.
On Sunday, at 8:09 pm EST, another strong attack began again, taking Meetup down for a third time. We spent the past several days taking every step to ensure the site and apps are available. While we’re confident that we’re taking all the necessary steps to protect against the threat, it’s possible that we’ll face outages in the days ahead.
The natural question I know many of you will ask is why didn’t we pay, especially since the amount of money demanded was ridiculously small ($300 USD).
We chose not to pay because:
1. We made a decision not to negotiate with criminals.
2. The extortion dollar amount suggests this to be the work of amateurs, but the attack is sophisticated. We believe this lowball amount is a trick to see if we are the kind of target who would pay. We believe if we pay, the criminals would simply demand much more.
3. Payment could make us (and all well-meaning organizations like us) a target for further extortion demands as word spreads in the criminal world.
4. We are confident we can protect Meetup from this aggressive attack, even if it will take time.
Please know that while we will not pay the criminals, YOU CAN COUNT ON MEETUP to be stable and reliable soon. We’ll continue to work diligently to restore the site and the apps, to bring back all features, and to minimize the effects of the service outages.
This is an attack on everyone who believes that people are powerful together. We live in a world where criminals can make extortion threats against an organization like ours and temporarily frustrate millions of people. But we also live in a world where organizers start new Meetup Groups, members show up, people start talking, and communities form. Our platform is built around a simple idea — that if Meetup helps people to find the others, we will all be more powerful and will create the kind of world we want to live in together.
Co-Founder and CEO, Meetup
Meetup’s Service Outage
Update 3/3/14 at 1:43 pm EST
Meetup is generally stable. Everyone should have access at this time. We’re restoring all functionality and working through the email queue. It’ll take time - we appreciate your patience.
Status 3/3/14 at 11:15 am EST
Over the past several days, Meetup faced a prolonged denial of service (DDoS) attack. Organizer and member data is secure, including credit card information. No data has been accessed or stolen.
While we recover, there will be intermittent errors as a result of the changes we made to ensure Meetup is more stable. Please refresh your browser to try to gain access to the site.
To our Members and Organizers, we know this has been a major inconvenience for many of you, and we’ve been hearing lots of great questions. We will be posting answers to FAQs throughout the day.
Status 3/2/14 at 7:00 am EST
For more details on the DDoS attack and Meetup’s response, read this account from Scott Heiferman, Meetup’s Co-Founder and CEO.
Status 3/2/14 at 8:23 pm EST
We hate to say it, but Meetup is down again as of 8:09 pm EST. We continue to be hit by a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. Organizer and member data is secure, including credit card information. No data has been accessed or stolen.
Our team has not stopped fighting this attack since it began, and we will continue to work hard to bring Meetup back up. Thanks to everyone for their patience.
Status 3/2/14 at 11:52 am EST
Meetup’s website and apps remain widely available. While you can access the site, some features will not work as expected. We thank you again for your patience as we do everything we can to bring site functionality back to normal.
- Email service on the Meetup platform has been restored, but it will take time for the backlog of emails to send and for service to return to normal.
- If your group has a custom domain, that URL should work again
- Photos should now be accessible on the site
Status 3/2/14 at 1:53 am EST
Meetup is up for most people right now. Our website came online at midnight EST, and our apps became available at 1:15 am EST. While this is obviously great news, it’s possible we’ll see intermittent outages in the hours ahead, and we’re still working on restoring full functionality.
We genuinely thank everyone for your patience. Our team is doing everything we can to keep Meetup up and reliable because all of us are in on this mission to create community together.
Status 3/1/14 at 10:54 pm EST
Meetup’s website and apps are still down due to a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. Organizer and member data is secure, including credit card information. No data has been accessed or stolen.
While this has been a major inconvenience for many organizers and members, we’ve been inspired by countless stories of people who keep meeting up. Rest assured, our team will not stop working on this until service is fully restored.
Status 3/1/14 at 5:10 pm EST
Unfortunately, Meetup is under a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack again, resulting in service outage for our website and apps. Our team is hard at work and fighting back.
Status 3/1/14 at 11:55 am EST
Our website and our apps are widely available. (We are aware that there are some places where the site and apps still need to be restored.)
Our engineers continue to work to bring all functionality back to normal. Email functionality was restored yesterday, but as of now, not all backlogged emails have been successfully delivered. This is a top priority for our team through the weekend.
Status 2/28/14 at 8:14 pm EST
Our website and our apps are widely accessible. Unfortunately Meetup is still not available in all locations. We made substantial changes to our infrastructure in order to end the attack. It takes a while for changes of this size to be distributed across the Internet, and that happens over time.
While most people can access Meetup, some functionality is not available. As of 5 pm EST, email functionality was restored. Please note, it will take hours for backlogged emails to send.
Our team is working urgently to restore full functionality as quickly as possible. We appreciate your support and patience.
Status 2/28/14 at 11:13 am EST
On Thursday morning, Meetup suffered a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, which resulted in a service outage for our website and our apps. Organizer and member data is secure, including credit card information. No data has been accessed or stolen.
In a DDoS attack, a bad actor overwhelms a network with traffic with the explicit goal of making services unavailable. That’s exactly what happened in our case.
Our engineers are working urgently to resolve the issue, and the website and the apps may be intermittently unavailable. We know this is a major inconvenience.
The Meetup community exists because all of you keep showing up. We will continue to work hard behind the scenes to make Meetup a safe and secure platform for organizers and members. We can’t thank you enough for being a part of it.
On a snowy weekend morning, members of A Frenchie in Brooklyn descended on Fort Greene Park armed with heart-shaped balloons, cardboard signs with letters on them, and 15 french bulldogs. In a few minutes time, they would be helping a man propose to his dog-loving girlfriend.
Rob contacted Tiffany Nakamura, the organizer of the Meetup Group, a few weeks earlier and asked for help popping the question. Always happy to assist, Tiffany organized her fellow frenchie-loving members and gave Rob a helping hand.
People Magazine has the full scoop with photos, but since we loved the story so much, we decided to put together a timeline of our own commemorating the moment.
Huge thanks to Anne Hugus and Juan Cespedes for capturing the moment.
January 2014: Find Your People
by Scott Heiferman, Meetup Co-Founder and CEO
January is always a big month for Meetup, and 2014 was no exception.
People started 13,060 new Meetup Groups, and Meetup Groups saw 50,000 new members join every day, on average! This is fantastic growth that hopefully benefits everyone in the Meetup ecosystem.
In January, people always resolve to connect with what’s important to them — and often that means finding and connecting with other people around those priorities. In other words, you want to Find Your People to move your life forward.
There are plenty of apps for finding out what’s up with the people you already know. But if you believe (as I do) that you haven’t already met all the people who will be important in your life, Meetup holds the promise of Finding Your People… finding those friends (& partners, co-conspirators, etc.) yet-to-be-discovered.
So we kicked off 2014 with a symbolic bang, a billboard-sized declaration around the corner from Meetup HQ in NYC:
Find Your People isn’t just an ad. It’s why Meetup exists, and it’s how Meetup works.
When Meetup doesn’t work, when Meetup Groups fail, a big reason is that enough people didn’t join. They didn’t find their people. So a major focus for 2014 is making it easier for members to signal the various topics they want to meetup about — and to better notify them of Meetups they’ll want to find.
As we get this right, we’ll see more people find their people, more meetups thriving, and community rising.
This is the first in a series of posts from Scott Heiferman, Co-Founder and CEO of Meetup. Expect to hear from him on a monthly basis about where Meetup is headed.
We really have a good time, people just get to know each other and we’re cooking and it’s all for a really good cause so it’s a really good feeling
Where do we go from here: Chaos or community? -MLK
After 11 years of building Meetup, I saw a quote that embodies my passion for what we’re doing. It also happens to be the title of MLK’s final book, so on this day, I want to share it.
“Where do we go from here: chaos or community?” - MLK
The words are meaningful because they represent a stark choice, one as relevant today as it was in 1967. It’s a provocative question with (I hope) an obvious answer. Let’s choose community, and let’s go build it together.
Co-founder, CEO of Meetup