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Surfin': A New Twist on the Social Net


By Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU
Contributing Editor
April 2, 2010

This week, Surfin' checks into a ham radio multimedia social net.

What makes one net stand apart from the pack might just surprise you. Jeff Sadler, AC2X, has started to merge the social net of the Raritan Valley Radio Club (RVRC) with the Internet.

The RVRC's social net in Central New Jersey has been on the W2QW repeater for the past four years. The net control operator, AC2X, runs this successful net every Sunday night at 8, attracting about 20 check-ins each week. This one hour roundtable offers expert advice and interesting ham radio commentary. Topics cover ARRL news, what's new around the shack, club information, technology and more.

After successfully using IRLP nodes to connect the Central New Jersey ham community with repeaters in Florida, Delaware and Indiana, Jeff began including EchoLink stations. This networking expanded the social net's coverage and attracted many new contacts.

In the fourth year, Jeff added a fourth dimension to the net: Ustream, allowing the net to stream live on the Web. Archiving the social net permits you to listen to previous nets at your convenience anytime anywhere.

This augmented access allows members on vacation or away from home on business to check in via the Web. Many of the RVRC members use iPhone technology and portable devices to access the Sunday nets.

Ustream technology allows you to view the control point and operator, as well as video information feeds or PowerPoint presentations. This addition to the social net allows users to play videos and show specific items discussed on the screen.

The most popular feature for many is the chat room that opens with the net. It allows the viewers to communicate with the net control and others check-ins. Users can post URLs to quickly redirect the group to specified Web sites for comments. This feature helps to move the discussion along.

Jeff Sadler, AC2X, also runs the local ham class at the Middlesex County Fire Academy in Sayreville, New Jersey. Students must listen to the social net prior to completing their technician class license. The instructors encourage the students to check into the chat room on Ustream to view educational spots that cover course-related topics. The RVRC's social net provides many of the volunteer instructors and examiners for the class.

Many hams call the RVRC social net a "multimedia net" and the name has stuck. AC2X, who is a Certified ARRL Instructor and Volunteer Examiner (he also serves as the ARRL Northern New Jersey Assistant Section Manager for Education) recently said, "As we move forward, we need to explore new ways to incorporate emerging technology into our hobby."

Until next time, keep on surfin'!

Editor's note: Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU, recalls net controlling during the Blizzard of '78. To contact Stan, send him e-mail or add comments to his blog.



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