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Accessing the CFMeetup site when meetup.com is blocked for you

Note: This blog post is from 2009. Some content may be outdated--though not necessarily. Same with links and subsequent comments from myself or others. Corrections are welcome, in the comments. And I may revise the content as necessary.
Have you found the CFMeetup site blocked for you at work? Here's are a couple of ways to deal with that.

The problem

The ColdFusionMeetup, an online CF user group that I organize, has for years been hosted out of the commercial site, meetup.com. We use that for announcements, feedback, and more. (If you didn't know, meetup.com is a commercially hosted service with thousands of groups that use it for organizing their members.)

But some workplaces regard meetup.com as being a "social networking" site and have therefore blocked it. Popular DNS servers, like OpenDNS, also block it (and many companies that implement it don't give much consideration to what legitimate sites it may choose to block).

If you work (or get internet access) from such a site, you'll find that you can't access the CFMeetup site, and therefore can't get the important meeting information posted there. But here are a few different solutions that may help.

First alternatives: you can follow on twitter or my blog, or just show up

As I've been pointing out on the meetings, there are least some other ways to be notified about the meetings. We are twittering the events (@cfmeetup). I also blog the events, so you could follow my blog. While I hope you'd enjoy all the posts, you could follow just the feed for the meetup events.

While those do at least tell you the least you need to know about each meeting (the topic, speaker name, and date/time), they then offer a link to the very meetup.com event page that you can't access. So I realize they don't give you access to all the details (like the meeting description), nor can you RSVP.

So let me clarify that you don't need to RSVP. That's just a nicety. You can just show up in the meeting room, at experts.acrobat.com/cfmeetup, on the day of the show (it's opened just before each meeting.)

You can also see the feed in our Adobe Group page

Also, I do also push the feed of the CF meetup events into the Adobe Groups page for our group. At least with that, you can see the entire announcement including the description, links to recordings, and other details.

If you may wonder why we don't just abandon the meetup.com site for the Adobe Groups site instead, see the last section of this entry.

Finally, I'll point out also that if it's possible for you to at least obtain an RSS feed from blocked sites, the direct RSS feed for the CF Meetup calendar announcements is this.

A solution that some might think should work: use an anonymous proxy

This problem of blocked sites is not really a new problem. Many sites have been blocked from within various networks, and there have long been solutions proposed to get around this.

Among them are many free web-based "anonymous proxy" tools, which purport to help you easily access blocked sites. Here are just a few alternatives. Some of them even let me offer you a direct link to browse the CFMeetup site, as indicated below:

Unfortunately, these may not work for you. Despite their claims, some have reported that they can't use these sort of tools, either, in their site. Indeed, this was what this blog post was originally all about, but once I learned that they don't really work, I updated the blog post with the info above about how at least you can get notifications of meetings through other then at the meetup.com site.

Still, I'll keep the info there for now, in case it helps some. There was a part of me that doesn't like showing people how to get around such intended workplace limitations, but I felt to consider them in this case. Too many people have been complaining that they can't access the CF Meetup site and its info. I'd never used such a proxy myself, since I've never been in a restricted environment, which is why I didn't know of this as a solution until today.

Cookie support needed if you want to login

It's important to note that if the proxy does work and you want to log into the site you're trying to access (the meetup.com site, in this case, such as to RSVP for a meeting), you need to be sure then to use a proxy tool that supports cookies. (Many of them offer it as a default feature that's turned on, as controlled by an available "advanced options" link they may offer next to the field where you specify the URL to browse.)

Of the options above, Anymouse does not seem to support cookies at all. Still, since some won't care to log into the meetup.com site, and just want the info, I offer it.

(Some proxy alternatives are prone to popping up ads, so I have not listed them here.)

Keep security in mind when logging in via a proxy

Finally, it's also important to remember (when using any such proxy) that if you DO choose to login to a site you're proxying to, you must keep in mind that you are passing that username/password through that proxying server. It would be best to use https when accessing the proxy. Of the tools listed, webwarper doesn't support it at all. Anymouse, Hide-me-now, GoProxing, and Zend2 support SSL but don't offer trusted certificates.

I can't vouch personally for any of these tools, other than to say that they are among the most popular and frequently-referenced ones.

Again, if you're just using the tool to accessing the meetup.com site to get info on the meetings, there's no risk at all.

Why not use Adobe Groups instead of Meetup.com?

I do realize that Adobe Groups is yet another way to go for us to have a site for the group where we could host announcements, feedback, etc., and for now it tends not to be blocked. Our groups site is here.

For the most part, it just points to the "real" site (at meetup.com), though as I mentioned above it does also have a feed for events from the real site.

Some may wonder why I don't just drop using meetup.com and switch entirely and solely to the Adobe Groups site. Some groups have done that. Still, there are some challenges with it that have kept me making that move completely (dropping the meetup.com site entirely).

More important, since our group is known as "The ColdFusion Meetup", I do wonder if we would have a legal problem trying to move the group--while keeping the name--onto something other than the meetup.com site itself.

Anyway, hope all the info above is helpful. Comments welcome.

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Comments
I am one of those "beind the firewall, no social networking allowed here" folks you speak of. Our org uses Websense, fwiw. Anyhow, I suspected any of those anonymous proxies would be blocked, and indeed, every single one of them were. Makes sense, if a filtering tool doesn't keep a list of common anon proxies, what good is it?

So, sadly, I (and I'm sure any other folks working behind such a filter) still can't get there from here.
# Posted By Alan McCollough | 9/8/09 4:19 PM
Wow, what a shame to hear. There was a part of me that wondered about that, but so many of them asserted that they specifically solved the problem, so I took their word. :-( I really should have first found someone who was blocked and asked them to try it. Darn.

Darn, darn, darn. Oh well, while you can't get to the site, I did mention (under the last section) that the Adobe Group can at least be a way to keep an eye on the event details. I'll edit the page to make that stand out better given what you've observed.
# Posted By Charlie Arehart | 9/8/09 5:04 PM
Hello folks!

I've been trying to figure this out I finally GOT IT TO WORK! For those who are still struggling, here's what I did. Well first I tried proxies and most are worthless because I think they got a pretty good filter at work. I got a VPN as suggested here and it's just perfect so far. I got one from <a href="http://www.highspeed..." title="highspeedvpn">http://www.highspeed.../" target="_blank">http://www.highspeed...</a> because I need to download files not just surf so that's exactly what I needed, something that's consistently fast. Check it out y'all
# Posted By Lee Sung | 2/1/13 5:44 AM
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