In January, the meetings industry got two new Google Groups discussion forums--MiForum and MeCo--but online meetings chat still isn't up to the volume of the old MIMlist, the meeting industry's dominant listserv since 1999. Boasting about 4,000 members at its peak, the MIMlist changed its name and format in early December, evolving into a bulletin board discussion group called the Meeting Industry Forum, or MiForum.
The MiForum bulletin board, however, needed improvements. Posters expressed frustration with the speed of the system, not being able to reply "off-list," and other aspects of the format. In late January, just eight weeks after its launch, MiForum, owned by media company VNU, migrated to Google Groups while the bulletin board technology gets an upgrade. MiForum had 288 members as of yesterday. Long-time MIMlist/MiForum moderator Joan Eisenstodt, chief strategist at Eisenstodt Associates, Washington, D.C., says she expects the group to move from Google Groups to the improved VNU technology soon.
Meanwhile, January 6 was the launch date of The Meetings Community, MeCo for short. This Google Group was organized by four meeting professionals who had a common interest in developing a meeting industry networking space, unaligned with any company or association.
Theleaders include James Louis, CIO at Best Meetings Inc., Bloomington, Minn., who says he's been working 15 to 20 hours a week to get the discussion group off the ground (not including moderating the site, which he does over the weekends). "We're taking this very slowly," says Louis. Membership reached 416 yesterday.
Other MeCo founders, who also serve as moderators one day a week, include Loretta Lowe, CMP, aevent manager based in San Francisco; Dan Parks, president and creative director, Corporate Planners Unlimited Inc., Dana Point, Calif.; and William Youngs, CMP, meeting manager at Forest Laboratories USA, Jersey City, N.J. The other volunteer moderators are Jean Travers, Apex, N.C., and Sue Walton, Chicago.
"I think there'll be a slightly different identity than some of the other groups where the postings become the property of the association or company [that owns the site]," says Louis. The costs of running MeCo--primarily Web site hosting and conference calls among organizers--are currently underwritten by Best Meetings. Moderators' time and public relations services have been donated. Louis says they're not looking for advertisers but do hope to grow the site. "I'd love to be in the thousands [of members] but we're very happy with what we have."