"You Crazy Bastards. What Have You Done? Now I Have To Rebuild!"
June 3, 2014 10:32 AM   Subscribe

In 2003, Andy "waxpancake" Baio created Upcoming, "a collaborative event calendar focused on interesting arts and tech events around the world, curated by its community. It surfaced weird and wonderful events that usually fell under the radar of traditional event listings from newspapers and local weeklies." In 2005, it was acquired by Yahoo!, who killed the site last April with little warning, and no way to back up events. Fortunately, the complete site was saved by the Internet Archive. But Upcoming isn't dead yet! Two months ago, Yahoo! offered to sell the domain back to Baio. And now, with a fully-funded kickstarter, he's planning on "rebuilding it for the modern era using tools and platforms that weren't available when it was first designed." Welcome to the brilliant life, stupid death, and improbable return of Upcoming.org.

Upcoming's launch and Yahoo! acquisition announcements, previously on MeFi.
posted by zarq (22 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Metafilter's own! Happy to answer any questions.
posted by waxpancake at 10:38 AM on June 3, 2014 [27 favorites]

Always curious with replatforming projects like this--what decisions made with the original design (concepts, tasks, features) would you want to revisit for the new one? What stays and what goes?

Also, how was the launch party at the Green Dragon? Sad to have missed it!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:48 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Among the guests sitting around the table were Matt Haughey, the creator of Metafilter; Jason Kottke, whose eponymous blog defined and brought prestige to the form; and Andre Torrez, who would go on to build the image-sharing platform MLKSHK.

So your Thursday nights were like the Vienna Circle of cool websites?
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:50 AM on June 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

At this point Yahoo is basically a deranged guy wandering around on a beach, passing out hundred-dollar bills in order to stomp on particularly attractive sandcastles.

They're just rich enough to still be 'eccentric' rather than 'crazy'.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:03 AM on June 3, 2014 [12 favorites]

*waves to waxpancake*

I've wanted to post this for a little under a month but had to wait until the kickstarter was finished.

Additional links:
Medium: Diary of a Corporate Sellout.
The kickstarter was funded in 90 minutes.
Founder: "I Won't Sell Out Again"
posted by zarq at 11:09 AM on June 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I remember it being kind of useless back in the day (all the knitting circles I had no interest in, none of the awesome events I heard about through word of mouth) but I'm interested in seeing if it can be more relevant in 2014.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:10 AM on June 3, 2014

posted by growabrain at 11:34 AM on June 3, 2014

This gives me a little thrill. I had just started using Upcoming when Yahoo! bought it, and kind of did the mental equivalent of deliberately kicking that ball over the neighbor's fence. I look forward to trying it out again.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:35 AM on June 3, 2014

Boom, done.

What? What?
posted by wenestvedt at 11:35 AM on June 3, 2014

Serious question: on this second trip around, are you going to gather existing listings (e.g., by an API or scraping the link, above), or will you count on Real Live People populating the listings by hand? Love your blog and list of links at waxy.org, and wishing you the best of luck!
posted by wenestvedt at 11:39 AM on June 3, 2014

Wait what's this about a Green Dragon meetup? That is the best place to play the "I spent 10 minutes deciding on a beer but you're actually out" game. Bonus points if your second and third choices fail as well.
posted by curious nu at 11:59 AM on June 3, 2014

schnitzengruben: I think there were three fundamentals that made Upcoming tick:
  1. Community-driven. Upcoming was made for people that go to events, not for promoters or venues. Inspired by Metafilter, self-promotion was banned from Upcoming for the whole first year and a half, and I think that informed its ethos. Nearly all the events were added by the community, for better or worse. That meant measly coverage in some areas or, as Juliet Banana noted, for some types of events. But if you were in an area with other people with similar taste, the results got pretty good quickly.
  2. Social. I've always felt like social discovery was critical to surfacing interesting events, but most events sites tried the friends-and-family approach like Facebook, when Upcoming's was much more interest-based like Twitter. I was more interested in stuff that people with similar interests as me were going to than people that I knew in real-life.
  3. Public. Unlike Facebook, Upcoming was public. You didn't need to know anyone in a city to find value in Upcoming, though it helped. Hell, you didn't even need to have an account. I used Upcoming when traveling to new cities, and if I knew anyone there, the results were that much better.
But then there was a tremendous amount of friction, some common to all social sites back then and some unique to Upcoming. Creating an account and profile, and then reconstructing your entire social graph, was a tedious process that killed adoption for all but the most dedicated geeks. Every single venue was created manually by the community, along with the entire placename database of cities, states and countries. It was madness, but the resources simply didn't exist then.

So my plan is to stick with the fundamentals, toss everything that made it frustrating, and see what happens. No promises, it may be a complete failure. It's very hard to create an environment where network effects take off. But I'm hopeful.
posted by waxpancake at 12:17 PM on June 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

posted by kate blank at 1:30 PM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's awesome that Upcoming was founded by one of MeFi's own, and even more awesome that it's coming back!

I used it for 100% of my public-facing socializing for years, maybe until 2007? and spent a whole bunch of hours every other week or so tracking down and adding new events (= indie rock shows, basically) to the local listings for Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago, and anywhere I was traveling that didn't already have the to-be-attended event listed. It soothed my obsessive listmaking needs like nobody's business.

The unique Flickr tag for each event was AMAZING, because you could automatically see a collection of photos that had been taken at a given time/place whenever you looked back through your 'attended' calendar. I met more than a couple of people through the site, just by gradually observing that we were at all the same shows. Man, I wish I had all of that data and those photos saved somewhere, it would give me such a brilliant look back at the haze of my early 20s.

Many kudos and congratulations on your site's triumphant return, waxpancake!
posted by divined by radio at 1:31 PM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have enough residual Semantic-Web-hangover skepticism to be pessimistic about sites that operate on the premise that masses of people will manually enter a bunch of high-quality, reliable, structured information out of the goodness of their hearts but I want so badly for this to take off and be awesome, there are so many great things happening in Chicago that I hear about after the fact but whenever I go look at the Reader listings or anything it's 99% filler (and improv, always with the improv in this fucking town).
posted by enn at 1:51 PM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Once again proving that Yahoo is basically "the kiss of death". If Yahoo ever offers to buy anything you build, RUN!

(Oh and welcome back, Upcoming, used to use this many moons ago)
posted by greenhornet at 1:51 PM on June 3, 2014

Given the recent struggles at MeFi (and the unfortunate financials truth that underpins even strong online communities), what sort of commitment are you making to sustain the service over a longer period? Do you intend to own it directly, or have you looked into other options -- I know it's not easy (or at least cheap) to sustain alternate structures, but given the cautionary tale you present with the last iteration, are you looking to innovate ways to maintain the business end of it?
posted by 99_ at 2:41 PM on June 3, 2014

In its last life, and/or in the expected 2.0 version, did it/will it likely show a significant number of events for a city that's in the top 200 or so, or it likely to only have a lot of data for major cities?

Funny/sad that the comments on the Verge got dominated by some shitbird carping about how fast it could/should be stood back up.

/I'll hang up and listen to your reply.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:09 PM on June 3, 2014

So spin up a few calgator instances with a quality theme, and start kicking back mojitos at noon?
posted by pwnguin at 11:22 PM on June 3, 2014

It's awesome that Upcoming was founded by one of MeFi's own, and even more awesome that it's coming back!

Name something that is good on the internet, and the chances are very high indeed that someone who has a Metafilter account (even if it's dormant) was involved in creating it, or at the very most is one degree away.

Good luck on the new Upcoming, Andy!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:26 AM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

[this is good]
posted by nadawi at 6:10 AM on June 4, 2014

wenestvedt: At least to start, I'm going to focus on events added by the community, and making that process as simple and rewarding as possible. I'm going to write about this soon.

99_: I'm planning a sponsorship model similar to the two high reward levels on the Kickstarter project, letting people or companies sponsor a city or site-wide. If that doesn't take off, it costs me very little to keep Upcoming running. I have side projects that I've run for years with virtually no expense.

randomkeystrike: It varied wildly, it only took a small handful of people in a metro to make the listings surprisingly good.
posted by waxpancake at 10:21 PM on June 4, 2014

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