I have been asking ARRL members that question when I meet them and found a telling trend. If you ask the average ARRL member, they very rarely know the name of their Division Director; even worse, most know little or nothing about what a Division Director is supposed to do. (I’ve asked members from several Divisions and found the same results.)
While it’s easy to wrongly blame the members for not being informed about the ARRL, the reality is that most feel more like magazine subscribers than members of an organization. When someone feels like an outsider to a group, it is usually because that group’s behaviour sends those signals. If there is blame to be placed, it is with the Division Directors that do not communicate with their members.
It’s hard to feel like a part of an organization when your money is solicited, but not your ideas and opinions…
The path that led me to make the decision to run for Division Director is not any different from the experiences of the overwhelming number of other members I have spoken with. I have watched as the League made decisions that I questioned, decisions made without soliciting the input of anyone I know. I have looked at the cost of League publications, especially those aimed at aspiring or new amateurs, and been disappointed by the high costs. I’ve opened the numerous letters constantly trying to sell me something or get me to donate money, not soliciting my ideas or opinions. All of this adds together to convey the feeling of being a customer, not a member.
I don’t recall having received any emails from our current Division Director letting me know what is going on within the Division, within the League, or in Washington. There haven’t been any emails or other communications to the members of the Division soliciting input on upcoming ARRL Board of Directors votes.
Is it any wonder that there is a pervasive opinion that the ARRL wants our money, not our input?
As Division Director, I will implement systems within our Division to both keep you informed and receive your input. These include:
- Continuing this blog as a mean of letting you know what is going on, what votes are coming up, how I voted, and why I voted that way
- Sending regular emails to the entire Division and responding to your emails
- Appointing Assistant Directors from every corner of the Division- their job will include attending club meetings and hamfests in their area to be my eyes and ears
- Establishing discussion forums for members and affilliated clubs
- Creating an advisory board of Affiliated Club Presidents
What are your thoughts?
LOTW is a good example of a promising program that appears to have been left to languish. It is another of the areas where members are dissatisfied.
The first thing that catches your attention about Logbook of the World (LOTW) is the paranoid level of security supposedly aimed at ensuring the accuracy of the system. After submitting your DNA sample, witnessed by three notaries, you’ll get access to the program. Well, okay it doesn’t require a DNA sample, but the certificate system is well beyond what any of my banks use for online security.
In real world QSLing, if we have a QSO and you send me a QSL, I’ll look your call up in my logging program. If I accidentally entered wrong information into my log, I’ll find the error, correct it, and send you a return QSL. On LOTW, we wouldn’t get credit for the QSO since we can only see matches. This also creates a problem for users to verify the accuracy of the database matching system- we never know what QSOs were rejected as being close, but not close enough.
For long time amateurs, it is a daunting task to enter thousands of handwritten contacts into a computer logging program so that they can be submitted to LOTW. If they could see a list of callsigns with the month/year for contacts already in LOTW, they could simply find those entries in the handwritten logs, enter them into a computer logging program, and submit them to LOTW for credit.
There are 156,000+ members of the ARRL, I’m certain that there are numerous highly talented software/database developers in the membership that would gladly participate in the development. When you look at some of the complex software available for free in the amateur community such as the N1MM contest logging program and the DX Labs software suite, it is clear that the passion, commitment, and skills are out there. The ARRL needs to leverage this tremendous asset for LOTW and other areas.
Linux is a perfect example of multiple people and groups working together as volunteers to write, perfect, update, and expand software. There’s no reason that LOTW can’t be moved forward in the same manner.
The first step is to determine where the users believe LOTW should be headed. The second step is to analyze where LOTW is already at and determine what needs fixed/changed. These processes could be conducted in a similar manner to the FCC’s rule making procedures. Begin by creating a LOTW committee of stakeholders, including representatives of other award programs (CQ, RSGB, etc.) and then have comment periods and reply periods so that all amateurs have a chance to voice their opinions and suggestions. This input can then be used to set out both the goals and the guidelines for the program so that the developers can begin to transform the code into software that will meet the needs of the amateur community today and in the future.
I will push for bringing LOTW from promise to completed reality, including the refinements that members are asking for. Of course, if elected, I will only be one vote out of 15; I’ll need 7 other votes to be able to push change forward. I will absolutely champion it, but I will need members in other Divisions to lobby their Directors to support the initiative.
What are your thoughts?
Take a close look at the ARRL’s website and try to find any financial information aside from the minimal information contained in the Annual Reports. Try to find a copy of the operating budget- if you do please let me know the link as it hasn’t shown up in the searches I have run.
I’ve picked up a small bit of information through conversations with different people that have some limited knowledge of what goes on in the inner sanctum- an area off limits to all but a handful of the members. I can’t substantiate what I’ve learned, as the information is probably contained in the Operating Budget and other documents not available to we mere members. I’ll gladly update this posting if someone from the League wants to provide documentation as to the facts.
It appears that each Director receives an annual budget to spend on such things as mailings to the membership and travel reimbursement. Unfortunately for the Vice Director, they have no independent budget and must rely on the Director to reimburse them- or not…
The Directors’ and Vice Directors’ travel to the two Board meetings per year is paid for out of the HQ budget, not the Director’s budget; that’s one of the few facts that can be determined by reviewing the arrl.org content.
I’ve heard that the Southeastern Division Director’s annual budget is in the vicinity of $13,000. I can’t recall receiving any mailings from the incumbant Southeastern Director, so I don’t believe he has been spending his budget – OUR MONEY – that way. So what has he been spending it on? Frankly, I have absolutely no idea!
I asked ARRL HQ to provide me with the information on the incumbent Director’s expenditures, but was told that they were not available. The next logical step was to ask the Director himself to provide the information in the interest of open governance and transparency. He told me that, “As a (sic) ARRL Director, I have a fiduciary duty to protect ARRL financial records that are not publicly available.” Huh???
I didn’t ask for super secret financial records of the corporation , all I wanted to know is how he is spending our money- I really don’t think that’s such an unreasonable request. It also seems to me that since these records pertain to how hehas spent the approximately $40,000 available to him the past three years, hiding the records doesn’t really protect the ARRL. So does the incumbent Director need to protect himself?
For that matter, I’m not even sure the ARRL should have any super secret financial records; after all, the League isn’t a for profit corporation.
I’m going to preface the rest of this posting by saying that I don’t know how all of the Division Directors feel about the secrecy. It is however pretty obvious that at least 8 of the 15 must be in favor of it since the majority prevails.
While there are summaries prepared of Board and Committee meetings, how complete are they? I know that when a committee adopted a set of standards for ARES clothing, the committee report didn’t even mention it! What else happens that isn’t reported? We will likely never know, especially as to the Board meetings; they are secret, closed gatherings and we mere members are not welcome.
I understand limiting physical attendance at meetings, but what’s wrong with making them available to the membership via streaming video? In Florida we have Sunshine Laws that require the meetings of public officials to be open to the people; many other states have similar laws. The politicians seem to still be able to transact business, while the citizens have the opportunity to hear what their representatives say and see how they vote. While the ARRL is a private entity, why can’t it behave in an open manner like our governments are forced to? It is far too easy to escape accountability for your actions and decisions when there is no review of them possible.
Do the League elite have something to hide? Their actions certainly suggest that they do. At a minimum, it’s a whole lot easier to represent yourself and what’s in your own best interest if you can hide your activities- especially when you’re supposed to be representing the members in your Division.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant. It’s time that each and every secret that the League elite keep from we mere members be examined to find out why does it need to be secret- what is it protecting or what is it hiding…
My pledge is that as your Division Director, my budget and how I spend it will be openly available to you on my website. I will champion a fight, and yes I believe it will be a fight, to remove the cloak of secrecy that the current League elite operate behind.
Regardless of what Division you live in, ask your Division Director for details of his budget and expenditures. If he won’t provide it, ask him why he thinks he should make a secret of how he is spending your money- then fire him by voting for someone else!
In testing session after testing session, new Technician licenses are earned. The newly minted amateurs are given a CSCE to show they passed and sent on their way. Talk about a missed opportunity for the ARRL!
The League needs to create a FREE booklet to be given to all newly licensed amateurs immediately after they pass their exam. The booklet should begin with a section welcoming them to the hobby and outlining what’s available to them with their new license (VHF/UHF FM, 10 meter SSB, APRS, weak signal work, contesting, video, data, etc.). The next section should be on operating etiquette and ham lingo. The third section would give some basic guidance on the selection of a first radio. The next section would discuss the benefits of belonging to your local club. The final section would give an overview of the ARRL, the member benefits, and the important services it performs for the amateur community.
To encourage membership in the League, a coupon for a highly discounted first year of membership ($20?) should be included in the booklet.
Publication and distribution expenses could be defrayed by selling advertising to the amateur equipment manufacturers and retailers. They could even be encouraged to include coupons for a discount for the new amateur’s first radio purchase, valid only for a new licensee within 30 days of receiving their license.
Given the excitement of most new amateurs, especially the day they pass the test, the booklet will get taken home and read from cover to cover at least once.
What are your thoughts?
Since 1963, the Lake Amateur Radio Association has owned a little more than an acre of land with a clubhouse on it. Our insurance was recently non-renewed, not because of a history of insurance claims, but simply because the insurer is reducing their risk portfolio in Florida. Our insurance agent spent quite a bit of time trying to find another carrier to place us with. The only one that they could find would charge us about $400 more per year than we were previously paying and the new policy was for less coverage.
Being a club of about 80 members, the property insurance was already at the edge of what we could afford; a $400 increase puts it well outside our budget. It looks like we will have to drop the property coverage, but we need to protect the club with liability insurance.
I’ve always heard that the ARRL Affiliated Club liability insurance is very inexpensive, so I sent in a quotation request. I received a very quick response from the insurance agency; unfortunately I was told that the policy is not available to clubs that own real estate. Fortunately, I’ve got a quote of a couple hundred dollars from our existing insurance agency for liability coverage.
I’ve emailed the League and asked that a note be placed under the club liability insurance section of the benefits web page to let other clubs that own real property know so they don’t waste their time filling out the insurance application.
I’m not sure anyone has an accurate count of the clubs owning real estate, but that would be an interesting number to know.
This is a very good example of why the ARRL needs to have member/affiliated club forums available on the website. A thread could be created on club liability insurance that would alert other real estate owning clubs to their ineligibility for the ARRL program. The thread could contain names and contact information for insurance agents that clubs have had good results from, as well as the names of the actual insurance companies willing to underwrite amateur clubs owning real estate.
By restricting access to these forums to ARRL members and affiliated clubs, a new and valuable benefit could be created.
What are your thoughts?
I have emailed the Hamfest Chairs for the Melbourne, FL and Stone Mountain, GA Hamfests and asked them to set aside a time and location for a candidate forum. (I didn’t include the Montgomery, AL Hamfest as it is being held on 11/13, just days before the ballots will be counted. In addition, the Hamfest is limited to Saturday from 9 AM to 3 PM, with forums already scheduled.)
It doesn’t appear that candidate forums are generally held in ARRL elections; what better way is there to meet the candidates, hear what they have to say, and how they answer your questions though?
If this is something you’d like to attend, please contact the Hamfest Chairs and let them know. UPDATE: The Melbourne Hamfest Co-Chairs have offered to host a “Meet and Greet and Ask Questions of the Candidates” forum- I’ll keep you posted. UPDATE #2: Thus far, the following candidates have confirmed being at the forum in Melbourne: W4STB and K4AC (me) for Director; WA4AW for Vice Director. UPDATE #3: The Stone Mountain Hamfest is going to host a Candidate Forum, so there will be two opportunities to meet the candidates with plenty of time to mail your ballot in. UPDATE #4: W4OZK has advised that he will be manning the ARRL booth at the Melbourne Hamfest during the candidate forum.
Any candidate that is unable to attend either Hamfest forum can send a representative to speak on their behalf.
Thanks go to the Chairs of the Melbourne and Stone Mountain Hamfests for setting aside valuable time to provide this service to the members in the Southeastern Division.
The format will be to give each candidate something like three to five minutes to introduce themselves, followed by questions from the audience for the remainder of the forum.
If elected to lead our Division, I will ask our ARRL Division, State, and Section Conventions to provide me with a time and location for a town hall style meeting. The meeting will begin with a briefing on what is going on within our Division and at the national level. That will be followed with a question and answer session where you can voice your opinions and ask questions.
What are your thoughts?
The phrase third rail is a metaphor in politics to denote an idea or topic that is so “charged” and “untouchable” that any politician or public official who dares to broach the subject would invariably suffer politically. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_rail_(metaphor) It derives from the third rail used in electric railways which carries high voltage; contact with it usually results in electrocution.
D-Star, like most new technologies, has a following of devotees; there are also those that despise it. I’ve talked to people in both camps and made some observations.
D-Star is sort of a blend of voice communications, packet data, APRS, and EchoLink/IRLP. The D-Star supporters cite its ability to carry low speed data in the same channel as the voice as a major step forward in amateur communications abilities. This low speed data can include GPS data, thereby allowing the receiving station to know the exact location of the transmitting station. Through Internet connections, one D-Star user can connect to another without needing to know the other’s location; much as a cellular phone network works, the D-Star call is routed to the repeater that the other user is currently on. The D-Star radios can also operate as data radios, communicate with text messages, and more; Icom has a good overview at http://www.icomamerica.com/en/products/amateur/dstar/dstar/default.aspx.
I found an informative blog posting addressing some of the pluses and minuses of D-Star at http://www.sdpearl.com/?p=42.
Interestingly, the vast majority of anti-D-Star people I’ve talked with aren’t against the technology itself, rather they feel that D-Star evangelists are attempting to force D-Star on other amateurs. This sentiment is especially prevalent when the discussion centers on Emergency Communications (EmComm). The anti-D-Star people feel the evangelists have been pushing VERY hard for the adoption of D-Star as a standard communications mode for EmComm groups.
Making matters worse, there is a sentiment that the ARRL is complicit in this perceived forcing of D-Star on the masses. An oft heard accusation is that ARRL officials have been given free or highly discounted D-Star equipment, leading to their becoming evangelists. I have no way of knowing whether there is any basis in truth for these rumors; however, it’s very likely that the rumors are erroneously drawn from the observation that, at least in the Southeast, many ARRL officials are D-Star supporters.
Regardless, the fact remains that this perception exists and has not been addressed by the League. If, as I believe and hope, there was no seeding of the ARRL field with D-Star, the ARRL needs to get in front of this rumor and publicly address it. If there is a basis in truth behind it, the League needs to publicly admit that it has happened, take appropriate measures with those that accepted the radios, and put rules/procedures in place to keep it from happening again. (Note: A Director or Vice-Director taking a D-Star radio, or anything else of value could be a violation of the ARRL ethics By-Laws; the conflict of interests rules do not apply to Section Managers or their appointees. See: http://www.arrl.org/arrl-by-laws.)
As to EmComm, I can see the utility of the various D-Star capabilities. The ability to transfer files, the ability to know where a station is located, and the ability to send pictures or video are all highly useful EmComm capabilities of D-Star. D-Star’s Internet linking ability could prove very useful in facilitating communications between State and Local EOC’s, as well as responders, outside of the impacted area.
The benefit of long distance Internet linking D-Star features as an EmComm tool are more subjective within an impacted area though. It is exceedingly likely that the Internet links will be lost in the aftermath of a major event such as a powerful hurricane. While satellite Internet connections might be available, squandering the limited bandwidth for linking repeaters would be a poor choice in light of amateur radio having a great variety of bands available for communications. I realize that this is a regional issue though, as not every emergency/disaster involves the widespread damage that those of us in hurricane alley face.
The are two inescapable issues with adopting D-Star as a primary tool for the bulk of EmComm operations. First, amateur EmComm volunteers must buy their own equipment. Even in the best of financial times, the additional cost of buying a D-Star radio over a similar analog radio puts them out of many budgets; likewise, there is comparatively little D-Star equipment available in the used market. The average amateur who already has analog radios may not perceive a personal need to buy new equipment for D-Star access. Second, the radios are more complicated to setup for a new area than are analog radios.
Despite whatever growth the future holds for D-Star, I suspect that analog FM will continue to carry the day in EmComm for quite a while. I certainly expect to see D-Star make notable inroads into specialty parts of EmComm such as Damage Assessment and Search and Rescue.
I spent some time at the Shelby Hamfest watching the Icom booth. The young amateurs (age 10-25) that went into the booth always went to the D-Star equipment display. The questions that they asked were about D-Star. It’s clear that D-Star is a very attractive technology for our youth.
This really makes sense when you think about it. They are accustomed to cell phones that have become all purpose, micro-miniature computers with Internet access. A radio that can only carry the human voice is quite boring and old school to them. A radio with built-in digital capabilities is going to catch their attention and hold their interest.
Although there are other digital radio standards used in the government/military/commercial sectors, D-Star has an ever increasing following and appears to be well ahead numerically in the amateur bands. Certainly it is the only digital standard currently being built into radios specifically aimed at the amateur radio market.
The one thing that I find most disappointing about D-Star repeaters though is that they are digital only. (The D-Star mobiles and portables operate in both modes.) In contrast, we have an APCO P25 digital repeater in our area that does both analog and digital operation. If the input signal is analog FM, the output signal is analog FM; if the input is P25 digital, the output is P25 digital. This allows for taking a good repeater site and using it for both analog and digital. The analog users can use CTCSS to avoid hearing the digital signals. Since the available D-Star repeaters are digital only, the site is lost to analog use in an emergency. If the D-Star repeaters were dual mode, it is likely that more groups would consider installing one since it would provide a transition path from analog to digital, as well as analog capabilities in an emergency. It really doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult for a commercially manufactured dual mode D-Star repeater to be offered.
Please don’t take the preceding as a ringing endorsement for APCO 25 in place of D-Star. APCO 25 is a digital cousin of analog FM aimed at the public safety market, whereas D-Star is digital communications with a rich feature set aim at the amateur market.
The other downside to D-Star is that Icom is currently the only manufacturer selling it in the US. Many amateurs object to a “sole-source” technology. Perhaps we’ll see an inexpensive Chinese D-Star radio in the future; that would certainly cause a rapid increase in the adoption of D-Star.
There are quite a few amateurs working hard at developing everything from ways to expand the interconnectivity of D-Star with other amateur communications to converting non-D-Star radios to D-Star.
So where do I fall in the D-Star debate? I am intrigued with the technology and the capabilities; it certainly looks like it would be fun to experiment with. I think it has uses in EmComm today and will have even more tomorrow as the technology develops and expands. Although most of its non-networked features can be performed with existing analog radios (APRS, Packet Data, etc.), the D-Star radio does it more elegantly and adds in automated Internet connectivity. At least in the immediate future, I don’t think it will have a place as the primary communications tool in EmComm- due to the massive number of existing radios, analog FM will remain dominant for a while. I do think that the vast majority of our new radios, especially on VHF/UHF, will be using D-Star or its successor within 5-10 years.
So why don’t I have a D-Star radio? I may very well at some point in the not too far off future. In 10 years, I’m confident that I’ll have multiple radios running D-Star or its successor. At the moment, I’m trying to complete a couple of long standing projects in other areas. One of the greatest aspects of amateur radio is the wide variety of areas to explore- there just never seems to be enough time!
What are your thoughts?
It was originally my intention to create a blog if I win the election. The blog would be used to keep ARRL members in the Southeastern Division informed and to solicit their opinions. After attending the Shelby Hamfest over the Labor Day weekend, I realized that there was so much that needs to be said and discussed before the election that I needed to start the blog now. I’ve already got a long list of topics to write on:
- D-Star: The Third Rail Of Amateur Radio
- Thoughts On Choosing A Vice Director
- What’s The Problem With Spanish?
- The Number Of Amateurs Is Increasing, Why Is ARRL Membership Stagnant?
- Do You Know Who Your Division Director Is?
- Why All The Secrecy In Newington?
- Are Campaign Contributions in Director/Vice Director Elections Necessary? Are They Ethical?
- Is Sitting On Committees Really An Accomplishment? Should We Expect More From Our Division Director?
- What Are Those ARRL Forums At Hamfests Anyway?
- If The ARRL Ceased To Exist, Who Would Notice?
- Why So Few Candidates For Director/Vice Director?
If you haven’t already, please read over my campaign website, www.k4ac.com for more information about me, why I’m running, my plans, and some thoughts. Together we can return the ARRL to being a member driven organization- first, though, I need your vote and your support.
Why the name Open Circuit for the Blog? It represents the broken communications link between the ARRL and its members.
What are your thoughts?