Youth@HamRadio.Fun: Fall Magic
Social Networking and Ham Radio -- Part 1
Since the dawn of the Internet, hams have been using the pipes that we now rely on to push their passion for a time-tested hobby. As computers became cheaper, smaller, faster and easier to access the group of those creating and consuming content has grown significantly and continues to grow. With more than 6 billion plugged in worldwide, the Internet has become a vehicle for pushing special interests and reaching a base of interested users.
If there is one thing we have learned since the dawn of Internet, it is that access is more important than interest. For a company or organization to succeed, it is more important to get the name out than it is to create a good product or support a good cause. Publicity equals success; making your company or organization more accessible generates the interest. Many hams have embraced the Internet because of this. I believe it fair to say that the Internet has made our hobby more accessible and generated more interest; however, we continue to scratch our heads about why youth aren't flocking to ham radio.
One look at the young people in ham radio today can throw the idea that we aren't interested "out the window." You have to look at where hams have been pushing our hobby: It's mainly through content on personal Web sites, clubs and organizations -- the list goes on. But what we don't see a lot of is ham radio on social networking sites, such as Facebook.
Before I go much further, let's define "content." On the Internet, anytime you post a picture or write a comment on a blog, you are creating content. If you sign up for your local club's Internet forum and make a post, you just created content and that makes you a producer. Anytime you read something online or view a picture, you are consuming content. You are a consumer as you read this article.
There are a large number of consumers who are ham radio operators, but a small number of producers who are ham radio operators. The publicity that a group or cause gets on the Internet isn't determined by its consumers, but rather the producers. In other words, say chess has 100,000 producers and 400,000 consumers, while Amateur Radio has 50,000 producers and 600,000 consumers. Based on this, chess would be the more public, more accessible hobby.
Another popular Web site, Twitter, is a great example of this. On a Saturday afternoon, "football" is a very popular word. There are many people producing content that has to do with football (usually in the form of short comments), and thus it attracts attention. From there it snowballs; as content is produced and becomes more available, the number of consumers increases. But the number of producers increases as well, because more people thinking about football and making comments about football.
What we as hams can do is sign up for these social networking sites. Join Facebook and Twitter and produce content that has to do with Amateur Radio. The easier it is for someone to accidentally stumble across Amateur Radio, the better chance we have at increasing the number of people that consume Amateur Radio content.
Some hams do this exceptionally well: My editor, ARRL News Editor S. Khrystyne Keane, K1SFA, seems to be on Facebook a lot; in fact, it's the best way I know of to get a hold of her (the chat function works really well and is quicker than e-mail). She says she uses it for socializing and ham radio -- most of her Facebook friends are hams, with a few friends from high school and college, as well as sorority sisters and former camp counseling buddies thrown in.
Instructor of the Year Award
In early October, Brian Short KC0BS, was presented with the Herb S. Brier Instructor of the Year Award. This prestigious award is given to those who have done much for Amateur Radio through elmering and recruiting. Brian not only started a ham class licensing with friends Matt May, KC4WCG, and Carolyn Wells, KD0CJW, helping more than 500 people earn their Technician class license, but he is an awesome elmer (and to be fair, Brian is also my cousin).
Brian gave a short speech at the award ceremony, held at a local hamfest. He presented a challenge: With approximately 722, 330 hams in the United States, he challenged each and every one of us to recruit one ham in this upcoming year. The younger the better, with the ultimate goal being 1 million hams in the US. Spread the word of this "million ham march" and do your part to continue the tradition of Amateur Radio.
CQ WW SSB 2009
I'm sorry to say that due to other commitments, I had to sit out this awesome contest for the first time ever. I did, however, make a quick journey to the KU Amateur Radio Club to see some club members making contacts. Early in the morning, 15 meters had opened wide to Europe from the Midwest, and by afternoon we were hearing many Europeans on 20 meters. Later in the day, as the Kansas vs Oklahoma football game came to an end, a small group of kids and parents wandered by the station and we were able to show them the magic of Amateur Radio. Although KU had lost the game, these people left smiling after making some contacts.
Conditions were by no means what they should be by now, but hearing Asia roll in later in the day proved that even with low sunspots, you can still have fun on HF.
ARRL November Sweepstakes -- the CW Side
November has been equally busy, and this was another one I had to sit out. Reid Crowe, N0RC, opened up the KU Club station for Bill Henderson, K0VBU, and Russ Woirhaye, K0VXU. Bill and Russ weren't just there to have fun -- they were celebrating the 50th anniversary since their very first Sweepstakes.
CQWW CW: 0000 UTC, November 28 to 2359 UTC, November 29. This is an awesome DX contest for those of you with good CW proficiency. If you're not as proficient as you'd like to be, try working the contest on 10 or 15 meters -- these bands are definitely starting to open up more.
ARRL Sweepstakes (Phone): 2100 UTC Saturday, November 21 to 0300 UTC Monday, November 23. The object of the November Sweepstakes is to work all 80 ARRL and RAC Sections, but no one says you have to do so! Sweepstakes is a good time to get on the air for a couple of hours and see what you can do. Read more about this exciting event here.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
--Duncan MacLachlan, KU0DM
Duncan P MacLachlan, KU0DM
ARRL Youth Editor