#108 – Mike Auteri on Using GatherPress to Organise WordPress Events

Transcript

[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the Jukebox podcast from WP Tavern. My name is Nathan Wrigley.

Jukebox is a podcast which is dedicated to all things WordPress, the people, the events, the plugins, the blocks, the themes, and in this case, using the GatherPress plugin for WordPress event organization.

If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast, you can do that by searching for WP Tavern in your podcast player of choice, or by going to WPTavern.com forward slash feed forward slash podcast. And you can copy that URL into most podcast players.

If you have a topic that you’d like us to feature on the podcast, I’m keen to hear from you, and hopefully get you, or your idea featured on the show. Head to WPTavern.com forward slash contact forward slash jukebox and use the form there.

So on the podcast today, we have Mike Auteri. Mike is an Associate Director of Engineering at Penske Media Corporation, as well as the founder and engineering lead of the GatherPress project. He’s contributed to WordPress Core and Gutenberg, is a WordPress community team supporter, has written plugins, presented at meetups and WordCamps, and is a co-organiser of the WordPress Monclair meetup in New Jersey.

If you’ve attended a WordPress meetup event, it’s quite likely that you registered for that via the meetup.com platform. It’s become the defacto way for organisers of events to plan their meetups, send out invites, subscribe users, and promote future events.

A few years ago, Mike decided that it was time for WordPress events to have a WordPress based solution for event management. And so he set to work creating GatherPress, which is the focus of the podcast today.

Mike talks about the way events are currently managed, and why he thinks it’s time to transition to something more home grown. He thinks that GatherPress represents a significant leap forward in enhancing the event planning and participation experience.

We talk about the development journey of GatherPress, discussing its current features, and the advantages he feels it offers to the WordPress community.

We also examine GatherPress’ capacity to enable event coordination, and foster meaningful community engagement. He’s envisioning a future where event management built on top of WordPress is a hallmark of the WordPress event experience.

We get into the roadmap features that are just around the corner, as well as chatting about the community which has grown up around the plugin, and how that community is looking for people to help out.

If you’re a WordPress event organizer, or have attended a meetup in the past and are curious about how this could be handled by a freely available plugin, this episode is for you.

If you’re interested in finding out more, you can find all the links in the show notes by heading to WP Tavern.com forward slash podcast, where you’ll find all the other episodes as well.

And so, without further delay, I bring you Mike Auteri.

I am joined on the podcast today by Mike Auteri. How are you doing, Mike?

[00:03:35] Mike Auteri: Hey, how’s it going, Nathan? How are you today?

[00:03:37] Nathan Wrigley: Very well, thank you. Thank you for joining us on the podcast today, really appreciate it. We are going to be talking a little bit today about a plugin, possibly a community, possibly the replacement of a service. Let’s find out.

We are recording it at the end of January, 2024. In fact, on January the 23rd. This is a significant date, as you’ll hear a little bit later in the podcast. We’re going to be talking about meetups, and WordPress events, and the organisation thereof.

Mike, before we begin, just to give some context to who you are. You don’t have to go into the weeds of the plugin that we’re going to be talking about, but if you just want to give us a little bit of backstory, tell us your relationship with WordPress.

[00:04:17] Mike Auteri: Sure. Currently I work for a company called Penske Media. I’ve been there for almost nine years, I’m an associate director of engineering there. I got into WordPress years and years and years ago. Maybe not as long as some folks, but I would say around 2008, is when I started dabbling with WordPress, mostly building some people’s sites in WordPress.

At that time, I was more of a front end developer. And I would say in like 2012, I think, I switched over to working in WordPress professionally, for media companies.

[00:04:51] Nathan Wrigley: Thank you very much. Okay, so the topic under discussion today is something called GatherPress. Now it may be a good idea, right at the top of the show, to ask you to pause, and go to GatherPress.org. It’s exactly as you’d expect it to be spelled, but I’ll do it at anyway. G-A-T-H-E-R-P-R-E-S-S.org GatherPress.org.

There you will find most of the things that we’re going to talk about today. It is, if you like, it’s a possible replacement for something called Meetup, which is a SaaS service. You can find that at meetup.com. And if you’ve ever attended a WordPress, let’s say not WordCamp necessarily, but a more local meetup event, something like that. It’s quite likely that you have collided with the Meetup platform, because it’s typically how things are organised.

Now Meetup, coincidentally I think, came into the news over the last few weeks, because they have been acquired by a company. And at the point of acquisition of a company, I think users often question, what’s going on there? What will the future look like for that? But I’m guessing, I have a suspicion, more than a suspicion, that you’ve been thinking about stepping away from Meetup as a solution for organising events for a time, because GatherPress has a history much longer than just the last few weeks.

So firstly, if, like me, you are not an organiser of events, but you’ve collided with Meetup just as somebody that signs up, so that you can actually register for events, tell us a little bit about it, and why you feel that maybe a plugin for the WordPress ecosystem is possibly a preferred solution to SaaS product.

[00:06:30] Mike Auteri: So that’s a funny question. I’ve been a meetup organiser since 2017, and I really got my foot in the door, and there’s a whole other story of when I changed my career. If you look me up on YouTube, you could probably find a whole talk on that. But Meetup is the reason why I am where I am today, by the networking and finding very, very talented folks, that kind of became cheerleaders for me as I tried to make it in as a software engineer.

But years ago when I was an organiser, one of the folks that attended said, why don’t we just build something on WordPress? And at that time I thought it was blasphemy, I’m like, that would never work. We need discoverability for a meetup, no one would ever find us, that just can’t work.

Couple years later, a little thing called the dashboard widget appeared in WordPress, which started promoting meetups and WordCamps. And I’ll tell you like, once that hit WordPress, our numbers went through the roof. People were finding us left and right through the dashboard widget.

So one of the reasons why I think, for the last couple years, we could have been able to move off of Meetup, or at least been less reliant on it, is because of that dashboard widget. Most of the folks that I speak to, that attend to our meetups, find us through the dashboard widget. Less of them find us through meetup.com.

I know that’s anecdotal, and I’m sure there is data to back this up that I don’t have, but I’ve spoken to other organisers, and I hear similar stories, that I think we get higher quality folks. And what I mean by that is people that actually show up, that sign up and show up to a meetup from the dashboard widget, than we do from the discoverability of meetup.com.

[00:08:07] Nathan Wrigley: That’s a really credible answer. I don’t know if you’ve got anything more you want to add, but certainly that does help.

[00:08:12] Mike Auteri: Yeah. I’ll stay with that.

[00:08:13] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, so I guess we should paint some context around that. So Meetup is in no way connected with WordPress, other than the fact that it is used by the WordPress community. You don’t have to have a WordPress event in order to use Meetup. It could be for literally any kind of event. You can sign up as anybody out there, and set up any kind of event. So your local history council, or something like that could be using Meetup.

And I suppose, back in the day, there was almost like this SEO piece, where you wanted discoverability, you wanted the fact that your local meetup was going to be taking place this Tuesday to be announced globally. And shouting into the void was very hard, and so having people come through a platform where they’ve already signed up, and they’ve already got themselves an account, and the platform knew more about where they lived and all that was quite useful.

But it sounds like what you are saying is, that because it’s a generic platform, and you could be signed up for all sorts of reasons, people might have signed up to the actual event on Tuesday, or Thursday, or whatever, you know, next month, that actual real world event. But then didn’t kind of follow through, because they really weren’t in the WordPress ecosystem, they just collided with it by accident.

And then this dashboard widget comes along. Every single instance of WordPress has it, whether it’s visible or not is up to you. But it says, you know, it tells you what’s going on and where. And maybe there’s more of a hot lead feel to those people, because they’re actually interacting with WordPress, not just the platform. Have I encapsulated that about right?

[00:09:39] Mike Auteri: Yeah. I mean, I kind of get in the head of someone that would see the dashboard widget. You think about someone that just started their business, and put up their WordPress site and they’re like, now what? And they’re sitting in the admin, not sure what to do next. And the first thing they see is a meetup that is meeting next week, that’s like a mile away from their house.

That is powerful. Thinking like, wow, I can get help, because I don’t know what I’m doing here. And we see a lot of folks like that. They come to, especially our help desks, a lot of DIY people. People that are starting businesses. They’re not sure how to get started, but they see that dashboard widget. And that was an incredible addition to WordPress, and to expanding our community.

[00:10:22] Nathan Wrigley: So the Meetup platform has really great uses. You know, this is not an exercise in taking Meetup apart. It’s more an exercise in, well, given that there’s a bunch of software engineers behind the WordPress project, and there’s a plugin architecture, why not explore the options to create it inside of WordPress?

And so that really is what GatherPress is aiming to do. It’s aiming to give you, dear listener, the opportunity to download a plugin, and organise your meeting within your WordPress admin. And now obviously you could set up a, you know, a unique domain, or you could set up something in a website that you already have.

But, do you just want to run through, maybe the more philosophical position, the open source position? Why do you feel it’s a good idea to have this as a plugin? What is it that you feel it brings as a plugin, as opposed to the service which we’ve been using until now?

[00:11:11] Mike Auteri: Sure. You know, we’re kind of alluding to it. You know, WordPress is an open source community, and has some incredibly talented folks. And this isn’t really breaking new ground in a lot of ways. There are event management plugins out there, there are plenty of them, and some of them have whole businesses around their event management plugin.

What I am after though, is one that stays true to the WordPress community’s roadmap of what they would want to see for an event management plugin. Meetup is the odd one out, when you think of the infrastructure that is of the WordPress community. If you look at wordpress.org, wordcamp.org, wordpress.tv, even wordpress.com, they’re all powered by WordPress. They’re all services. They’re all supporting the community using the software that we work on.

The odd one out is meetup.com, and there was a reason for it originally. And there is still a reason to have it there now, but I think we could start exploring the idea of, what if meetups were powered by WordPress? What are the advantages? And I feel like there are lots of advantages. Think about, you mentioned with meetup.com before is, it’s very general.

If we’re being more specific with say, a community run multi-site, if you think of like how WordCamps function, a large WordPress multi-site, that.org stands up. If we did the same thing for Meetup, we could promote other meetups within meetups. We can promote WordCamps within meetups, say in sidebars. We can promote learning materials. We have full control over the content, and how it’s placed, and where it’s placed, in order to best educate and help the folks that are landing on this type of meetup page that’s powered by WordPress, and what they know is available.

I think we’d be able to really draw people into the WordPress community a lot sooner, by using something that’s powered by WordPress, as opposed to something on meetup.com, where they think, maybe, the WordPress community goes as far as their local meetup. They won’t know that like, right off the bat, that WordPress is global, that WordCamps are huge.

If you’ve ever been to like WordCamp US or WordCamp Europe, these are very, very large. Like especially when people only have a local view, and they’re like, oh yeah, WordCamp US, that’s three hours from my house, I think I’ll go. People are amazed at how large, and how extensive the community is. By being able to do something that’s powered by WordPress, we’d be able to do that a lot sooner for those folks.

[00:13:43] Nathan Wrigley: Has your North Star, whilst you’ve been creating this, been more or less direct replacement for the feature set that Meetup offers? I guess what I’m introducing here is, tell us a little bit about the functionality that you have shipped thus far. We can get onto roadmap features and things like that in the future. I was curious if the intention of the GatherPress plugin and project, is to literally have a replacement for meetups.

In other words, is the WordPress meetup format the North Star? You know, the intention is it’ll achieve all of those things. But it’s not intended to be a more general plugin for anybody else. You know, it’s specifically created to replicate live events for WordPress. What you’re thinking there, really.

[00:14:26] Mike Auteri: Yeah. I absolutely used meetup.com as an example. They’ve been doing this for years, so I want to make sure that we had the features, especially the important features that matter to the WordPress community as far as I could tell. Because, like I said, I’ve been a WordPress meetup organiser since 2017. Making sure that all those features are there.

So when I think of myself as a WordPress organiser, I’m like, okay, if I was to do something powered by WordPress, what would this thing need to do, in order for me to be like, yeah, I could use this instead of meetup.com? So I kind of use that as my starting place. And as I mentioned before, like, we started working on this in 2019. And it’s kind of evolved since then. It’s not really the same thing it was when it started. I would say it probably became stable about two years ago of like, okay, this is exactly what we’re building.

But I’ve had other folks that have jumped onto the project, and giving their insights as well. Some as, you know, people that attended meetups, some people that were also organisers, and trying to build the feature set that we would expect.

When we started this, blocks were pretty new. Like I said, 2019, so blocks were still pretty new at that point. And I wanted to build this to be very forward thinking, and be like, this is going to leverage all the great stuff that has been coming out of core around blocks, making it easy for folks to come in and use the GatherPress blocks in order to RSVP, see a list of people that have RSVP’d. Add to calendar block, a specific date block for scheduling. All these features.

I also looked at the event manager plugin, as another idea of that’s a popular, not quite exactly what I was looking at, but still an event management plugin. And seeing the ways they translated these things into WordPress, and took what I thought would be a good user interface. And, you know, between the two of those, started building GatherPress.

[00:16:24] Nathan Wrigley: So you mentioned there, blocks. So, is that the primary interface for interacting? You set up a post, or a page, or whatever it may be, and you’re dragging blocks in, which I guess are adjacent to certain features. So you may drag one in that is a GatherPress block, and it asks you for, you know, when do you want to put this event on? Where exactly is it located? And all that kind of stuff. And then it will present that data on the front end. Have I got that roughly correct?

[00:16:49] Mike Auteri: Yeah, roughly, like we make it a little bit easier with block templates, for the event itself. So, I mean, granted you can, you know, move the blocks around all you want, but it’ll start you off with a block placement that makes sense. So someone that is a little less savvy, will know where to start.

We also have, in addition to events, we also have the ability to add and create venues, and tie those venues to the events. All of those are post types, venues actually, a mixture of a post type and a taxonomy. I won’t get into the technical aspect of that, but it’s pretty neat.

We also have various settings within the GatherPress plugin to customise how you want your event to look. And I have to hand it to Patricia, she played a huge role in this, because I came at this from a very American point of view. And she was mentioning to me, I want to change the date format. I’m like, okay.

So we start building settings for changing date formats and, you know, exploring all the different ways we need to translate the plugin. And we actually translated into a few languages already, which is pretty cool. And a lot of it was helped from her and Javier.

[00:17:56] Nathan Wrigley: So the intention really is for non-technical users to be able to download the plugin, follow some basic data entry, you know, dates, times, map locations, that kind of thing. Perhaps internationalise it in some way, and then click publish and you’re off to the races. You’ll have something on the front end that people can see.

And I guess you’ve got two markets for this. You’ve got to be thinking about how the people wishing to attend the event are going to be interacting, and what you’ll do with that data. But you’ve also got to make sure it’s nice and straightforward for the people who are organising the event.

Okay, so let’s talk about those two different roles a little bit. What features do you bring, let’s begin with the, I’m an event organiser. What features do you bring to enable me to do that? You know, you mentioned these blocks, and that you can say what the title of the event is, and bind it to a location, and all of that kind of stuff.

But does it offer me functionality to, for example, see a list of who’s signed up for this particular event, see a list of who’s cancelled? I don’t know, in some way communicate with them, email the people who have responded, but haven’t got involved in that event yet. All those kind of things that we might see in a dedicated SaaS app.

[00:19:03] Mike Auteri: Sure, yeah. So a few of those features are in their infancy. Like, one of our big things was, what do we need for a minimum viable product for this plugin? So we’ve been focusing on that. So some of this stuff isn’t quite there yet, but a lot of it is.

We have, so for instance, an RSVP response block. So if you go to the event, and you are logged in, you can click on the RSVP button, and say you’re attending. Once you click on that attending, in real time, it shows you that you are now in the attendance list. Kind of like how Meetup functions, in a lot of ways. So if you go to meetup.com, a new event is there, you say, yeah, I’m going to go, and you click attend, now you’re on the list.

So everybody can see that you are now attending. You would also change it to be not attending, and you will then be in a list of folks that are not attending, if you change your mind and such.

Everybody’s able to see that. These are all different blocks that are within the event post type. They also tie in with some, getting a little bit more technical, tie into database tables and such, in order to store that data. So they’re not stored in the block, they’re stored in the database, and are represented in that block.

We have not added a feature yet to it, but this is in our next release. We’re currently at 0.27. In 0.28, we are working on an admin interface, for an administrator to be able to remove or add people to a list, like automatically from that block. We have not finished that yet, but that is in progress.

Also adding a feature, so if people can list themselves anonymously that they’re attending. So if they don’t want their name or profile photo to show up, they can be anonymous. They’ll be anonymous to everybody other than administrators, administrators will know who’s showing up.

That’s not a feature of meetup.com, but that is a feature that folks that I’ve heard from in the WordPress community, actually I think Courtney was one of the ones that mentioned it. Some people want to just show up and not, you know, people to know who they are. And we do have that feature also in WordCamps, for folks that don’t want to be shown as listed, that they’re attending a WordCamp for privacy reasons.

[00:21:06] Nathan Wrigley: When you attend a WordCamp, like WordCamp US, one of the options at the point of purchasing the ticket is to, I guess it’s the same thing. It’s not really anonymous in the same way, but you just don’t appear on the website. You just decline to be on the website.

[00:21:18] Mike Auteri: Yeah. So in GatherPress, and it’s kind of the same way, instead of a display name, it’ll say anonymous. And instead of a photo, it’ll show like a, you know, the generic avatar listed. So it will show that someone is attending, but it won’t show who.

[00:21:30] Nathan Wrigley: Okay. You’re able as the administrator of the event, the organiser of the event, to communicate with these people? Is there a fairly straight forward way?

[00:21:37] Mike Auteri: Yeah. So we do have, and this is, again, still in its infancy, we have the ability to compose messages, and send to people in the community. You can have a couple of check boxes that say, contact all members, people that are attending, people that are on the wait list, we do have a wait list feature, and people that are not attending.

So between these check boxes, you can click on a button that pulls up a modal in the admin, write your message, hit send, and that’ll send out an email to the designated folks.

[00:22:07] Nathan Wrigley: If you don’t mind me sort of interrupting that point, how are you handling email? Do you have connections with certain SMTP services, or is that just something else you have to handle elsewhere, possibly with a plugin? And do you queue the emails so they go in batches, or, what’s the intention there?

[00:22:21] Mike Auteri: So it’s using wp_mail, which is the, you know, underneath the layer of everything is kind of a generic email. By default you will use PHP mail. You can use the WP SMTP plugin, which we are using on gatherpress.org, to set it up with a certain service in order to have deliverability, what you want it.

One of the things that I am always thinking about, with this plugin in particular, it’s like we don’t want to do too much. There’s plenty of plugins that do a thing better than we would do it. And we should use those plugins, verses trying to duplicate a feature.

For instance, one of my other thoughts is like, say BuddyPress. BuddyPress has a lot of community features to it. It would be great to use GatherPress and BuddyPress, and making sure the two play nice together, and integrate well together. And not have things in GatherPress do things that BuddyPress could do better.

In the same instance, we just want to send emails. And whatever service you want to use, a plugin to handle your service, that’s what you should do. And we’re not going to be too opinionated about that. We will just make sure that we send it through WP Mail.

[00:23:29] Nathan Wrigley: Okay, yeah. But in terms of the administration of the event, do you have options to, I don’t know, recycle events? So you’ve run a very successful event, everything that you’d set up on a previous event checked out, you’re really happy with the way it was. Have you got options to, more or less, duplicate that event, and carry on from there?

[00:23:44] Mike Auteri: Currently that’s on the roadmap. Being able to have a recurring event is, we do have a ticket in our backlog that did not make it into the MVP, because that, as you can imagine, is a bit more complicated. I do have a plan for it. So I do have an architecture and plan that I’m putting together. But it is not in the core plugin yet. Currently, like, for say, our current GatherPress events, I think it’s called Duplicate.

[00:24:09] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Duplicate Post, yeah.

[00:24:11] Mike Auteri: Duplicate Post, yeah. I just use that, because we have the same weekly huddle. Every week I just clone it, put in the new date, and publish. So it’s one more step than having something that would be recurring. But it’s not that bad, and that kind of works for now. And that’s kind of what we’re using until that feature is built. And that is definitely on our roadmap though.

[00:24:32] Nathan Wrigley: Lovely. And of course, we know what happened during the last four years or so. Covid came, all the events went away, and we were forced into Zoom and online events. And some of those are still happening, some of the events haven’t come back in the real world. Is there any options in there to, you know, not use the map and to, I don’t know, bind it to a Zoom link and an online event, something along those lines?

[00:24:51] Mike Auteri: Absolutely. So that was absolutely in our MVP, because we were building this during Covid, so that was front and center of our thinking. And a lot of time went into that.

In our venue options, so if you’re creating an event, an online event is automatically there, since an online event is just an online event, and it doesn’t require a map, it doesn’t require any specifics, it’s just online.

If you select that, it gives you an option to add, say, a Zoom link, or Google Meet, or Teams, or whatever you’re hosting your online meetup at. A recent feature we put into this is that the online link, or the Zoom link, or whatever it is, will not be available until five minutes before the event starts. So you don’t have people like jumping in there when they’re not supposed to be, and such.

So that was a feature we added, that’s actually not on Meetup. Meetup, you see that online link. But we added a feature that will kind of hide the event link. And when I mean hide, I mean hide hide, like it’s not in APIs and any of that fun stuff. So it’s pretty well, behind closed doors at that point. But it becomes available once you’re logged in, and five minutes before the event. That’s kind of how we set it for now.

[00:26:09] Nathan Wrigley: So as an admin, all of that makes perfect sense. It sounds really straightforward and simple. There are some videos, by the way, on the GatherPress website. So you can go and check out the UI, and everything we’ve just described is there, visible for you to see, there’s a nice run through.

And so, from the end user’s point of view, the person who’s attending the event, I guess it’s just a case of discovering the website, going there, entering an email address, and confirming a link, or something like that. And of course, given that your block is showing data, I guess you can, as the admin, you can modify where that’s displayed. And you can pad it with other content with different blocks, you know, if you want to add something before it and after it, you can do all of that.

But is that basically it? I show up to your website, I enter an email address, and from that point on, I’m expecting email to arrive, and then to attend the event itself. Can that happen online, if it is an online event? Do you have the option to do that? Or, have you got to go your own way there?

[00:27:01] Mike Auteri: The way it would function, from an end user’s point of view, if you came onto the site and you’re not logged in, it will ask you to either log in or register for the site. So one of the things with a GatherPress site, if it’s something that you’re trying to attract the public to, you’ll have to, you know, check the box that says anybody can register for the site. And there is a notification when you install the plugin to say, hey, you might want to do this, you know, turn this on.

So once that’s turned on, if you, Nathan, were to come to the GatherPress site, you would then register. You know, like I said, we try not to be too opinionated. WordPress allows registration, WordPress allows login, so we’re going to leverage the default behavior of how WordPress functions there.

Granted, we’re going to look to extend on that, if people want a more, a different kind of look and feel for that. But, at the bare bones, we want people to be able to register and log in, like any other WordPress site.

So once you’re logged in, it’ll take you back. You know, once you create an account, you can go back to that event. You click RSVP, then you can say, I’m attending this, and you click the attend button. And now you’re on the list of people that are attending, and you’ll, you know, if the organiser sends out an email to those attending, you’ll receive that email.

[00:28:13] Nathan Wrigley: And should I wish to unsubscribe, is there options there? You know, I’m thinking GDPR, and all those kind of things. If I wish to no longer receive the emails, all of that, that’s taken care of, is it?

[00:28:22] Mike Auteri: So that is not. I need to work on that piece. One of the things we were looking to do with integration with BuddyPress was, BuddyPress has those options to turn off notifications. So leveraging that aspect of BuddyPress, but GatherPress will have to do a bare minimum for that too.

[00:28:38] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. So you have to login to each event’s website. So let’s say, I don’t know, there’s a WordPress meetup in the UK. There might be one in Bristol, there might be one in Brighton, and London, and Manchester, and all these other different places. I would need to go and make an account on each of those websites, should they choose to use GatherPress.

I guess one of the benefits of meetup.com was that you just had this one sign up, which was kind of nice. I’m wondering around there, do you have any intuitions or thoughts on federating that?

[00:29:04] Mike Auteri: So that’s exactly what our proposal was. So our proposal is, if you think of it how WordCamps function, right? That they’re on a multi-site. So multi-sites use the same user database, right? What we would ideally want folks to use in this is, what they would log into wordpress.org with, so their profile, the wordpress.org profile, and utilise that.

So if we have a multi-site powered, you know, with the event management powered by GatherPress, if you went to any of those meetups and they’re on that multi-site, it would be the same login for all of them. So then you’d be able to log into all of those different sites, and be able to say, I’m attending this, and it’s all the same user, it’s your WordPress profile.

[00:29:45] Nathan Wrigley: Is that then something you are hoping to put together in terms of infrastructure and maintenance thereof? A multi-site network where you can sign up as an admin, and bag brighton.gatherpress.com, or whatever it might be. And therefore you can federate that account login, and presumably therefore you could distribute, you could create another dashboard widget, which had all of the events that were in that multi-site network, and so on.

[00:30:08] Mike Auteri: Right. So the idea is like, we’ve been talking and working with the meta team already. So like I’ve had conversations with say like Ian Dunn. He seemed pretty into the idea of setting up another network, kind of how we have with WordCamps, but with meetups.

And setting up that network that would leverage the same sort of infrastructure that we are already kind of used to with wordpress.org and wordcamp.org, and be able to host those meetups in a multi-site, that have opted in to start using this new platform. Then being able to use their WordPress profile to log in.

You know, there was also kind of some, you know, chat and thought about like, maybe someone should explore a single sign on with Meetup credentials, for people that still find it through Meetup. So if they already have Meetup credentials, maybe they can leverage that as well.

But trying to remove a lot of the friction, where we can, is a big thing like, you and I both know like, you don’t want a million logins, and I don’t want a million logins to all different meetups. We want to keep that as simple as possible, and as straightforward as possible. Because the success of a project like this relies on people being able to easily create a, like, you know, have an account, or create one account, and be able to go to all those different WordPress meetups in that multi-site.

[00:31:20] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I think so. I think there’s something more likely to get off the ground, if there’s just one login. And then you can actually see, I don’t know, you could go as far as putting a map of the world up and, put pins in it based upon the events that are happening in the next month.

[00:31:33] Mike Auteri: The events page already, the events.wordpress, I think it’s events.wordpress.org. I’m blanking right now, but that has like all the different events that are happening. That was put together, I guess a couple months ago. But it was one of the reasons I started pushing forward on this, being like, hey, we are starting to use WordPress infrastructure for our events more seriously. This is a project I’ve been leading for the last couple years to help with that initiative.

[00:32:01] Nathan Wrigley: I’m looking at the documentation page, and helpfully there’s, obviously the documentation on the page itself, but you’ve got some links for users, you know, poeple who just wish to try out the plugin. But also developers, presumably if they wish to extend it.

There’s also a GitHub repository. All of this will be linked to in the show notes for this podcast. So if you go to wptavern.com, and look for the podcast episode associated with this, you’ll be able to find all of that there.

But also at the bottom, you’ve got a list of upcoming features. Now, I know that you’ve touched on a few of these, but if you just want list out what’s not been mentioned so far, if you can remember. And yeah, what’s in the roadmap for the near future, I guess?

[00:32:36] Mike Auteri: One of the big things that people, you know, I’ve thought of and people have confirmed, especially moving something like this is like, well, what about all the events I have on meetup.com? Like, how can I migrate those?

One of the thoughts, like I mentioned, I’m very thoughtful about what goes into the core plugin for GatherPress. And anything that is kind of like, well, that’s specific to this, right? Say, if you’re migrating from meetup.com to GatherPress, you’d want some functionality to be able to do that easily and seamlessly.

That’s not everybody using GatherPress, so I don’t see that as a core feature of the plugin, but I do see that as a companion plugin. So that’s going to be our first, what we call companion plugin, called GatherPress Meetup Importer. And what that will do is take an API key from meetup.com, and be able to import the meetups that you’ve had already, on Meetup.

And since, like I mentioned, a lot of the features from meetup.com to GatherPress were close to apples to apples, we’d be able to take that data, and put it in the right spot for GatherPress. And then maybe running an ongoing job, so if you were, say, I want to be able to still use meetup.com to first publish, and have GatherPress ingest it as I go through, like kind of a trial and transition. We want to be able to have folks be able to do that too. And maybe like direct traffic to their GatherPress site, while still maintaining, for at least the time being, their presence on meetup.com.

That’s one of our first plugins that, you know, we’ve started on. I’ve been testing it, works great. There’s another plugin that does this already, and we’re kind of using that as a model, for building one that’s very specific and very, all the features are specific to GatherPress is kind of what we’re after.

[00:34:21] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, that’s great. I’ll just list off a couple of other things that are mentioned here. So I’ve got the ability for attendees to be listed anonymously, you mentioned that. Allow attendees to add guests. That’s nice. Import events, that’s the one you’ve just mentioned. Recurring events, so rather than duplicating the posts, there’ll be something built in, different functionality. A calendar block, presumably to show the events in a way that you might look at your Google calendar or something, you see it by date. And this is nice, probably underestimated how important it is, the email notification when the events start. I think that’s really crucial, especially if it’s a live event.

[00:34:52] Mike Auteri: Right now I just compose, and say starting five minutes.

[00:34:54] Nathan Wrigley: Easy to forget though. And you never know how many people you are sort of leaving behind, if that notification fails to go out. So that’s really nice. But also, the bit that I alluded to at the beginning, right at the beginning when I said that the date was the 23rd of January, comes now because, Patricia, that you mentioned, and I’ll link to this in the show notes.

There is a pilot program, which you launched by pure coincidence, yesterday. So 22nd of Jan 2024. What is the community pilot program? What’s its intention? Who are you trying to get on board? Just tell us a little bit about that.

[00:35:25] Mike Auteri: Sure, yeah. So that is the project that I mentioned about, building something into the wordpress.org infrastructure that powers meetups. So much like, you know, the meta team is behind the wordcamp.org, or wordpress.tv, or just wordpress.org. We want to have another multi-site in that network, for meetup events.

And we’re pushing for GatherPress to be the community plugin, that does the event management for that particular infrastructure. We have some meetups, and some more that have even responded to the proposal saying like, yeah, we’d love to be part of that pilot program too.

We have a couple that are in the US, I think five that are in Switzerland, and some in Spain, that would love to be part of this pilot program, where we put this multi-site together. Each site on that multi-site is a meetup group. And then they start using that in tandem with meetup.com, in order to start driving more events around, within this WordPress powered event system. And starting to slowly move off meetup.com, and seeing how it goes. You know, see if something like that would be successful.

[00:36:37] Nathan Wrigley: So you’re after community members. And just before we end the podcast, in a moment, I’ll ask for your contact details, and what have you. If you go to gatherpress.org, the way that I’m seeing about the community program, is because it is the most recent blog post, I’m guessing.

I’m looking at what looks like an archive of blog posts. But I noticed that the archive of blog posts is probably in some way using GatherPress itself, because I’ve got these RSVP buttons, and if I click into the GatherPress weekly huddle, I notice that I’ve got add to calendar links, and I’ve got an RSVP button, which invokes a modal. Is that GatherPress in action?

[00:37:08] Mike Auteri: That is GatherPress in action. Anybody can join. 11:00 am Eastern Standard Time. We have our GatherPress weekly huddle, and that’s when the team gets together. Any folks that are interested in GatherPress, there’s a Zoom link. It’s an online event. And we have that every week on Fridays. So Friday, 11:00 am, Eastern Time, we have those every week.

[00:37:30] Nathan Wrigley: And if you go to gatherpress.org, you’ll be able to see them, well, as the page currently stands you can see them, and obviously the most recent one in this case rises to the top. So you can just scroll down a little way, and click the button to RSVP, and get yourself set up in that community.

[00:37:45] Mike Auteri: You can click through and see more event details. But, yeah, that is another block that we have for pages, called Event List. That will show various events, whether past or upcoming. So that’s another feature of GatherPress as well.

[00:37:57] Nathan Wrigley: You’ve thought of everything. Brilliant. Okay, just before we knock it on the head then, Mike, I think probably some people listening to this will be in tune with what you’re saying, and hopefully will wish to reach out to you, to find out more about the project.

Obviously, they could go to the website, that’s a given. If they want to contact you personally, or in more personal way, do you have a social network handle that you hang out on, or an email address that you’re willing to give out?

[00:38:19] Mike Auteri: Twitter’s a good one. It’s M Auteri, M-A-U-T-E-R-I. So my first initial and my last name, you can find us there. If you send me a DM, and we have a GatherPress Slack. We also have a GatherPress Twitter, which we’re starting to use a little bit more, now that we’ve gone a little bit more public with it. And that is just GatherPress. So if you find GatherPress on Twitter, spelled exactly as it is on the website. You can follow us there. You know, we just started using that Twitter account, so I don’t even know if it has any followers.

[00:38:47] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. There’s also, in the main navigation of the gatherpress.org website, there’s an item entitled Get Involved. And if you click over there, you’ll be able to see a contact form, plus the GatherPress Slack group link is there as well.

[00:38:59] Mike Auteri: Yeah, I think Mervin added that like yesterday, so that all brand new stuff, so.

[00:39:05] Nathan Wrigley: It is all shiny and new, isn’t it? It’s lovely. The feeling that you get from these brand new products is so engaging, and I really hope that you managed to keep the momentum going. It sounds like you’ve got a lot of interest in the community.

[00:39:16] Mike Auteri: Yeah We’ve been keeping that momentum going. Yeah.

[00:39:19] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Thank so much for chatting to us about GatherPress today. I really appreciate it.

[00:39:22] Mike Auteri: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

On the podcast today we have Mike Auteri.

Mike is an Associate Director of Engineering at Penske Media Corporation, as well as the founder and engineering lead of the GatherPress project. He’s contributed code to WordPress Core and Gutenberg, is a WordPress community team supporter, has written plugins, presented at meetups and WordCamps, and is a co-organiser of the WordPress Montclair Meetup in New Jersey.

If you’ve attended a WordPress meetup event, it’s quite likely that you registered for that via the meetup.com platform. It’s become the defacto way for organisers of events to plan their meetups, send out invites, subscribe users, and promote future events.

A few years ago, Mike decided that it was time for WordPress events to have a WordPress based solution for event management, and so he set to work creating GatherPress, which is the focus of the podcast today.

Mike talks about the way events are currently managed and why he thinks it’s time to transition to something more home-grown. He thinks that GatherPress represents a significant leap forward in enhancing the event planning and participation experience.

We talk about the development journey of GatherPress, discussing its current features and the advantages he feels it offers to the WordPress community.

We also examine GatherPress’s capacity to enable event coordination and foster meaningful community engagement. He’s envisioning a future where event management built on top of WordPress is a hallmark of the WordPress event experience.

We get into the roadmap features that are just around the corner, as well as chatting about the community which has grown up around the plugin, and how that community is looking for people to help out.

If you’re a WordPress event organiser, or have attended a meetup in the past and are curious about how this could be handled by a freely available plugin, this episode is for you.

Useful links

Penske Media Corporation

meetup.com

GatherPress plugin website

GatherPress GitHub repository

Proposal: Pilot program to test GatherPress on the WordPress.org network as a Meetup alternative

Mike’s Twitter

GatherPress Slack group

GatherPress Twitter

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