Monthly Archive for August, 2010

Page 4 of 5

How to Grow Ham Radio

Thanks to Bob, VE3MPG for this posting on 26 ways how to attract more people into the amateur radio hobby.

  1. Have brochures designed and written and approved by RAC members in the know – find target mailing list and mail the brochure out regularly through the year with updates – keep them in the loop. Should be published in both official languages. Make sure they are copy-edited.
  2. Distribute these information pamphlets at various locations – tech high schools, Scout of Canada headquarters, Boys and Girls Clubs, CEGEPs etc. (both official languages)
  3. Place ads in local computer magazines – yes, hams do use computers for various functions – psk modes, logging, low signal work, aprs – yes, it’s still a young person’s hobby if they apply it to computers and the internet. Show how the internet is used for logging and call sign servers, remote operation of stations and all other manner of amateur use. Have an advertising committee to work up some copy.
  4. Skywarn and weather spotting activities appeal to the younger hams. (see WorldRadio Online, August 2010 issue)
  5. Emphasize the public service aspect, emergency comms, antenna building, alternative power solutions like solar; low power can yield DX – good antennas are the solution.
  6. Emphasize youth in other countries – it may seem like an old man’s hobby but there are large youth groups involved in amateur radio. See the attached WRO PDF file, turn to page 12 for a story on the Youth Forum at Dayton this year – impressive! Also see page 42 of this issue – “The Power of Demonstration: Our Top Recruiting Tool” – we must get more RAC members to demo different aspects of our hobby – once new hams are recruited get them to subscribe to a Canadian Amateur Radio magazine with articles written by their peers.
  7. Kit building can be a money saving solution to expensive commercial radios. Solicit more easy to build kit articles in TCA and provide clear stick-on RAC logos to put on the finished kit. Let’s be more visible – with the stickers.
  8. Emphasize high-tech comms with satellites, the International Space Station etc. – all accomplished with hand held low powered dual band radios and computers.
  9. Set up easy to understand amateur activities at the Museum or in schools and high schools.
  10. Provide schools and youth clubs and Scouting Canada a free subscription to RAC’s publications. Target new groups on a regular basis. Provide NRC library with subscription. Don’t rely on the Science and Tech museum to adequately distribute out of date publications.
  11. Find new hams to write as guest bloggers on the RAC blog.
  12. Keep this momentum going – organize a task force with new ham emphasis and to target youth.
  13. Provide universities with promo pamphlet. (see VA3STL’s efforts at Carleton University!)
  14. Provide timely relevant information to new and prospective amateurs on the RAC blog – have proof-readers and copy-editors to go over any text for spelling and grammatical errors! Let’s make the right first impression. Yes, even bloggers need help with the English language.
  15. Have non-hams look at our efforts for relevancy – they may have some unique perspective in attracting new amateurs.
  16. Don’t discount or ignore any complaints or suggestions about RAC’s operations at all levels. Someone should be keeping a to-do list with recommendations and actionable items to be completed. This should be an on-going process – not something to be looked at only during the AGM.
  17. Find qualified persons (yes, it takes more than one web person!) to bring the RAC web site up to modern standards – it is arcane and difficult to navigate and poorly designed. It’s not attractive and internet users stay away from it.
  18. Encourage a local Youth Net.
  19. Leave brochure material or give presentation with the Canadian Forces Reserve Barracks at Dows Lake. Established in 1943, this military emplacement is home to HMCS Carleton (Canadian Naval Reserve), 30th Field Regiment(RCA) (Canadian Army Reserve), as well as 3 cadet corps.
  20. Assure that current copies of TCA are available at all local school libraries.
  21. Find a young ham to write a column for future issues of TCA.
  22. Assure that the local public libraries have copies of TCA and RAC brochures.
  23. Answer ALL emails to RAC in a timely fashion. Don’t let any email go unanswered. RAC must act like a legitimate business. Have an action list and log of responded to emails.
  24. Solicit donations of better and more computer equipment for use by volunteers at RAC headquarters. Have an attractive volunteer work area at RAC headquarters. Encourage in-office help as well as online work for volunteers. Set up a ‘jobs to do’ area on the RAC website.
  25. Find people that represent the culture RAC wants and hopes to create.
  26. RAC magazine should feature new young hams – interview (and a photo) should reflect why they became hams and how they studied to become hams – new column should be Youth oriented. RAC website should have a youth page/new hams page, with photos of new hams.

An Open letter on the RAC Transformation Discussion

Many [I hope all of you] will have read the recent blogs posted by VE1OZ/HK3OZ, John Bartlett, VE3HG, Peter West and myself.

My three blogs were drafted from the comfort of my dorm at Mt. St. Vincent University in Halifax during the course of our Annual General Meeting and the Maritime DX Forum. The forum was sponsored by the Halifax Amateur Radio Club.

The purpose of the recent blogs is to encourage membership engagement and debate on the future of the RAC.

I am completely convinced that the RAC has an important role in amateur radio and will be around for many years to come. I am also convinced that we need to encourage membership to enter into the debate so as to better inform the discussions of your directors and executive now and at our planning meeting in late October.

RAC will be vibrant and relevant in the 21st Century because your directors and executive, in concert with the rest of the members are facing the future. We are facing the future with imagination, partnership and intelligence. We need to address issues: both real and perceived. Perception is often reality.

Some questions for you to consider and provide feedback to your directors:

  • What do you want from your national organization?
  • What services do you value?
  • Are you prepared to be involved? Run for office? Volunteer?
  • How do you think that the RAC can be made more open to members?
  • How should the RAC communicate with and engage its members?

There are numerous other questions that I could pose but the stimulus provided by the blogs is intended to initiate a dialogue with hams across this country. I believe that it was Oscar Wilde that said “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”. The Radio Amateurs of Canada is on the move … help chart the course.

Geoff Bawden   VE4BAW

President and Chair

Field Services Gets Involved

Want to notice and thank Doug Mercer, V01DTM, Vice President of Field Services for RAC, for sending out a notice to the ARES national e-mail reflector inviting them to reading the Transformation documents. It’s vital to involve everyone in this debate and the Field Services folks are as involved as you can get.

While we’re on the topic of ARES, there was a very interesting article in last weekend’s Sunday New York Times about Weather Extremes and Climate Change (In Weather Chaos, a Case for Global Warming) referenced here in a New York Times Blog post by Justin Gilllis.

So what’s this got to do with ARES?

Well some parts of this country could see significant weather pattern changes creating wide-spread weather related problems. (Pakistan is currently going through its worst rainy season on record. In one place I saw a report that 30 feet – you read that right – of rain had fallen. Ontario is in the middle of the hottest summer I can remember with over six weeks of 30 degree days. Wild fires in B.C. have been burning all summer and the list goes on.

Amateur Radio will have a more prominent and vital role to play if Global Warming really is happening. Go join your local ARES group and get training now.

Comments from ARRL CEO

When Dave Sumner, K1ZZ, speaks even I listen. I’ve met Dave down in Dayton and read his editorials in QST every month. Dave is the ARRL’s Chief Executive Officer and he sent me the following email and has given me permission to reprint them here:

Peter, someone called my attention to your RAC blog post today in response to Keith Baker. While I don’t want to inject myself into your domestic debate I must comment on your statement, “IMHO and in the opinion of some U.S. hams in high places in the ARRL, they don’t want us.”

Perhaps you just offered the comment to be provocative, but I haven’t heard that opinion expressed in the entire time since the Canadian Radio Relay League became a separate national organization, on January 1, 1988, after 67 years as a division of the ARRL. Then, as now, it wasn’t a matter of the ARRL not wanting Canada. It was a matter of how the interests of amateur radio could be best represented in Canada. That was and is a responsibility best shouldered by Canadians.

And just to set the record straight, Keith’s conjecture about ARRL membership in Canada is incorrect. We are pleased that many Canadian amateurs choose to be ARRL members, but the number is well below RAC’s membership – as it should be. There’s no substitute for supporting one’s own national organization.


Dave Sumner, K1ZZ

Keith Baker comments again

I hesitate to point everyone to Keith’s second comment because everyone else’s comments are just as valid and heartfelt but Keith has taken my counterpoints to his first comment and expanded upon them and he makes a lot of sense.

Here’s the link to Keith’s second comment.

And after you’ve read Keith’s missive go read everyone’s comments abut RAC and where we need to go and then add your own thoughts. The RAC Blog is open to everyone and that includes members and non-members and not just the RAC executive team or the VP of PR.

This is your blog.

Blog Notes From The Moderator

Over the last 24 hours I’ve (VE3HG) received scores of comments to the blog which I must okay (only to limit spam and ads for Viagra) before posting. On top of that my email inbox is overflowing with comments. It’s going to take me the better part of the day to approve the comments and get permission to post the emails. I’m working as fast as I can :)

Now some folks have asked why is it that my name that appears on all the postings. I guess this is an important question for some reason but it comes down to I’m the guy who posts the vast majority of what you read and since it comes from my computer it gets imprinted with my name. No conspiracy here or power grab folks. That’s just how it works.

Any of the RAC executive team can post directly to the blog. They just need to get authorized by me to do so. Since the conception of the RAC Blog back in March 2009 none has done so although President Geoff and our change consultant John Bartlett both were issued posting privileges.

To date, neither has posted directly on the blog. That’s not a surprise. I’m the guy with the background in journalism (I was among other things a community newspaper editor and group national magazine editor and I write 500 words before coffee every morning on my own blogs VE3HG and Social Media Made REALLY Easy and Peter West Photography. Now if I could only figure out a way to make money at all this :) The other guys in RAC come from a variety of backgrounds and not all of them are as comfortable with this open form of communications as I am. That’s why I got the VP of PR title. (FYI I was a public relations type for the Canadian Red Cross at the Ontario Divisional and National levels; I was a real VP of PR (They paid me!) for a national PR firm and I was a media relations officer (civilian) for the Ontario Provincial Police for seven interesting years.)

By the way the reason I moderate comments is merely to filter out spam. So long as your comment is about amateur radio and is not libellous, slanderous, defames someone else’s character or is lewd or profane I simply okay it. If for any reason you don’t see your comment posted within 24 hours send me an email. If it’s none of the above reasons then the reason you don’t see it is because I didn’t get it or misplaced it.

Now standby for an important posting from RAC President Geoff Bawden who sent me a posting by email for inclusion here (and thus my name will show at the top but it will clearly be marked as coming from Geoff). I’m just going to put a second pot of coffee on and then get back to typing :)

And keep those comments and postings coming in. Real change is coming to RAC and the Canadian Amateur Radio community will be the beneficiaries.

73 – Peter, VE3HG

Ham Radio Dying?

Keith Baker, VA3KSF/KB1SF has sent us a lengthy comment that deserves to be read by every ham in Canada who is interested in the evolution of Radio Amateurs of Canada. Keith is a former president of AMSAT – NA and as such is a knowledgeable and respected commentator on Amateur Radio and we should pay attention to the wisdom of his words.

I only have two places where Keith and I part company. It’s his opinion that “my hunch is that most have to do with the fact that the active ham population in our country is shrinking and that what new hams we are getting are simply not “joiners”.”

I believe hams are joiners. I’ve been an active member of the Skywide ARC, the Peel ARC, the Oakville ARC and Contest Club Ontario as well as RAC and the ARRL and I wasn’t alone at hundreds of wonderful club meetings (and some that weren’t so wonderful too).

Also the United States Amateur Radio population with 30,000 new licensees last year is growing faster than anytime in the history of ham radio. So why is Canada not experiencing the same phenomenal growth? It’s because we aren’t getting into the schools and reaching young people in the numbers that is happening in the U.S.

My second point of disagreement comes where Keith suggests we join the ARRL as a Canadian branch. IMHO and in the opinion of some U.S. hams in high places in the ARRL, they don’t want us. We are way too small in numbers to contribute anything but problems.

They don’t understand the Canadian perspective and the English/French – two solitudes concept scares them to death. We’re the land of socialist medi-care and multiculturalism and the Americans want nothing to do with us.

If you haven’t read Keith’s comment yet please do so and tell us what you think.

BTW: It’s becoming increasingly interesting to see who is speaking out and who isn’t in this national debate.

Comments running 50-50

Thanks to everyone who has emailed one of the RAC directors or executive members or who have left comments here on the blog.

Right now the comments are running 50-50 and range from let’s shut the door and walk away to let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work fixing RAC.

So let me repeat: How do we know RAC needs fixing? Here’s a short list:

  • RAC is running a deficit
  • Best guess says we’ll be out of money to fund everything in 18 months (Note: That doesn’t mean RAC’s dead. Just broke. Many of us can sympathize I bet.)
  • Membership numbers are declining. (And, this despite a national membership campaign which was been largely ignored.)
  • Criticism that RAC is an “old boy’s club” and secretive in its decision-making process
  • Some of our key infrastructure is being administered by individuals and is vulnerable
  • Complaints that members are being ignored by the leadership group (see comments on the blog)
  • Several high-profile programs in RAC are way over budget and no plans forthcoming for reforming them
  • Concerns voiced that the governance model is too exclusive and is failing to meet members’ needs

Now IMHO most of these items could be fixed in a very short period of time if we had the desire to do so. That’s where you come in.

Do you want a better national organization that’s financially healthy, offering popular programs and engaging in enlightened and inclusive governance? Do you want to support the hard work of volunteers who represent the interests of Amateur Radio in Canada with governments and international decision-making bodies? Do you want to keep your spectrum privileges?

In other words: Do you love the hobby? Well do you?

If you do (and I know hundreds – perhaps thousands – of you do because you’ve taken the time to read the transformational documents on this blog) then take this concern to your clubs and communities.

Tell RAC what you want – and don’t mince your words. The future of your national Amateur Radio association is in your hands.

Huge Groundswell of Hits on RAC Blog

The RAC Blog gets about 50 hits or views daily. That’s pretty good and I appreciate those of you who visit and I love those of you who leave comments but yesterday we hit a new high.

Yesterday over 350 of you came here to read about the RAC Transformation Change process that’s underway. That’s amazing.

I’m going to ask each of you who visits this blog site to do RAC and yourself a favour. Our official list of Canadian club email contacts is filled with errors. Even a list I handcrafted this week has many broken addresses. So if you are able, please alert the hams in your community (members and non-members alike) to this opportunity to help make Radio Amateurs of Canada more  responsive to your needs and needs of all Canadian amateur radio operators and send us your comments.

So far, the only comment has been this one:

“The best thing that can happen to RAC is for it to fold up it’s (sic) tent and fade away. It is like an ‘old’ building…. tear it down and throw it away and then plant flowers, grass and trees to improve the area.”

Is this what you think? Is this what should happen to our national organization? What’s your comment?

RAC Transformational Change

Thanks to the initiative by John Bartlett, VE1OZ/HK3OZ, and RAC President Geoff Bawden, Radio Amateurs of Canada is beginning a nation-wide change process. All amateur radio operators in Canada, whether members of RAC or not, are being asked for their input into this process.

To help create a structure, John has posted seven documents about why change should happen and how RAC could begin this process (links to these pages are also in the column to the right).

But most importantly of all, we need to hear from you.

Please read these documents and then share your thoughts with RAC. This change is a long-time coming and may not come a moment too soon.

Don’t kid yourself. RAC is in serious trouble and must make some substantial and likely painful organizational changes if it is to survive.

This work is too important to be left in the hands of a few. Get involved. RAC needs you!