How well is your amateur radio club’s website working?

When I stepped down as our club’s president a couple of years ago, I also gave up responsibility for the club website. At that time, it was decided to move the website from the web hosting company I was using to a server connected to the network at a local community college, where one of our members taught part-time. The rationale was that since there would be no web hosting fees, the club would save money.

Unfortunately, this has proven to be a case of being “penny wise, but pound foolish.” About every six months, the site seems to go down for a week or so. The first time this happened, there was a problem was with the community college’s network, and because this use of the network wasn’t a high priority for the college’s IT staff, the site was down for quite a while.

The most recent outage was due to memory failure. The failure was first reported a week ago, and as I’m writing this, the site has yet to be fully restored. The timing of this was unfortunate, as our monthly meeting was held on Wednesday, March 13, and since the website was down, there was really no way for anyone to get details.

My intent here is not to disparage the volunteers running the website. Having done it myself for a couple of years, I know it’s a thankless job, and I thank them for their service. Even so, I think website hosting is one of those things best not left volunteers, especially when suitable web hosting services can be had for less than $100/year.

The website is, after all, your club’s biggest PR piece, and if it’s not working, or if the information is out of date, or if the design is lousy, you’re not making a very good good case for your club. Seriously, would you consider patronizing a business whose website was out of date or that you couldn’t access at all?

Several members got their hackles up over this last outage, and it’s looking like we’ll be moving the site back to a web hosting service again. Not only that, several members, including me, have offered to help out in some way with the website. So, over all, I think this latest outage has proven to be a good thing. If we do it right, we might even have several people submitting content.

I’ll update this post in about six months and keep you apprised of our progress. Of course, you could just go to the website and see for yourself.

HamRadioWebsites.Net
Coincidentally, a fellow posted a link to HamRadioWebsites.Net in a message to the AmateurRadioLeadership Yahoo Group. This looks like a relatively new service that helps clubs set up websites and produces e-mail newsletters for clubs.

While I think this is an interesting idea, I have several questions about taking this approach:

  1. Can a service like this really be effective if those that are creating the website and newsletter are not part of the club? After all, someone still has to come up with the club-related content.
  2. If there aren’t some members engaged enough to do these kinds of things (we call them “club service” in Rotary), are they going to be engaged enough to do anything at all?

What do you think? Will HamRadioWebsites.Net be successful? How does your club handle its website and newsletter needs?

Comments

  1. mike whatley wa4d says:

    “After all, someone still has to come up with the club-related content.”

    That about sums it up Dan. It’s really ALL about the content. Readers / Viewers are often forgiving when they are presented with interesting, substantive, creatively produced content.

    Videos don’t need special EFX to be engaging, and Blog posts don’t need specific structure or graphic. If messages are compelling, people will want to read/view. No matter whether it is HD or SD. In Color or Mono. As a former Network News Cameraman, I have spoken to many student groups. They often ask,” what is the most important thing about visual storytelling?”

    My Response: “Take this down” And when they have dutifully placed fingers at their keyboard or pen in hand, I say:

    #1 It’s the Writing
    #2 It’s the Writing
    #3 It’s the Writing.

    Without harmony between the written word and the visuals, you don’t have much. Then I show a Bob Simon of CBS News/ VideoPiece from the Middle East. The best American War Correspondent of his generation. (In my opinion) A writer FIRST. And a World Class Visual Story teller.

    And (as you know) Writing is hard! If it were easy, we’d all be wealthy having written great novels.

    Hams (are not) good communicators as a group. This fact is so easily supported one need not even cite examples. Even the Oracle of Newington, K1ZZ has written about how unimaginative Ham discourse is.

    That said, Club oriented communication mediums, be they web site, stream or paper newsletter can be enhanced and made more engaging. But the emphasis is not on whether there is enough memory or the server is stable. It’s about creative expression.

    Ham Radio Websites and others like them are a waste of money. Free Sites (Google’s Blogger or even G+) are more than adequate platforms. Even Tumblr as a vehicle for conveying information to a group. But Tumblr / Instagram and other new models are moving too fast for most in the Ham Radio community.. As for “training” in these app’s use– there are munificent sources to master these tools.

    The very concept of the “newsletter” is an anachronism. Storytelling/Reporting is now moving to the emerging “Transmedia” model. Further, social media’s invasion of the info sphere has become the dominant model of group communications,

    At the end of it all….Ham radio is left to flounder in it’s analog past.

    mike whatley
    wa4d HamQTH

    • Dan KB6NU says:

      <sarcasm>You’re such an upbeat guy, Mike. That’s what I like about you.</sarcasm> Seriously, you seem so down on the hobby and amateur radio operators, in general, why do you even have a ham radio license?

      And weren’t you the one trying to get me to try D-Star a couple of days ago? Isn’t D-Star digital enough for you?

      Having said that, I really disagree that ham radio club websites are a waste of money. Blogger and Tumblr are OK as far as they go, but I don’t think you can sell things via Blogger and Tumblr, and our club does collect dues and payments for our bus trip to Dayton via the website.

      I do agree that enhancing them with video is a good idea, though. I have a video camera that I bought to document some of my amateur radio activities. I’m going to have to actually start using it.

      • Mike Whatley says:

        Amusing Dan If only I saw the world as you do!

        Characterize me as you wish. I enjoy stripping the facade off of Ham radio and it’s propagandists. It is fun.

        Buy a tripod. way too much ham video is handheld and distracting — I can suggest if you like

    • Wayne AB3RY says:

      @Mike:
      One reason not to rely on sites like Tumblr, Blogger and Facebook is that an increasing number of organizations are blocking social networking sites from their networks. Like many a good “information worker”, I have some free time to surf in my day, but not those sites. Will I remember about something vaguely compelling when I get home to my wide open connection? Maybe, maybe not.

      Recruiting is a huge deal, and problem, for any special interest group. I am a long time member of a historical reenactment group and the average when I joined in college was +- 5 years of my age (then 19). The average is still +- 5 years of my age (now 46). This is a problem we are trying hard to deal with. Our solution has been a mixed media approach: social networking sites pointing into our regular web site. More public demos and displays. Social media is needed, but it can’t be the only platform.

      It seems amatuer radio is in a similar boat.

      The bottom line is all these platforms means the job of getting the word out and advertising is a lot more time and energy intensive then the “old” days where a print newsletter sufficed.

  2. Dave, N8SBE says:

    The club website (at long last) is back up, but with data from 2010. I’ve been told that the historical information is avaialable and will be restored over the next several days.

    My opinion — ‘club service’ suffers mostly from volunteerism (or the lack thereof). There are usually a handful (or one) of ‘sparkplugs’ that over-commit, feel unappreciated (but entitled), and end up hacking everyone else off (including themselves) when things go wrong. In the limit, there is a lot of bad blood, and folks making statements like “I’ll take my baseball and go home.” It literally tears clubs apart with this nonsense. Sigh.

    I finally found the abliity a couple of years ago to say, “No”, when asked to volunteer for various club offices/jobs. I’m simply too busy, and even though I’d like to help out, it doesn’t help myself or the club I’m involved with to take on anything if I simply cannot put any time into it.

    The best thing for those that find themselves over-committed is to gracefully let go, and let someone else pick up the ball. The newbies may not be able to do the same job at first the previous folks could, but if the previous ‘old men’ of the club can recall, at one time they were newbies and had to learn the ropes by doing themselves.

    73,

    – Dave, N8SBE

  3. Frank WA8WHP says:

    We have a very busy editor and past president of our club. Check out our website http://www.w8lky.org and our Facebook page Alliance Amateur Radio Club. These will show how we do it. Our webmaster is the IT director for a local school system where we hold our classes due to the computer access for instruction on the interactive display screen.

    73, Frank WA8WHP

  4. I recently set up our club site on Blogger…. I was familiar with it and for $10 a year you get a domain. I think it has evolved pretty well but it has it limitations… like limited additional page content, your extra pages are basically a one page post but I think it works for us, for now ! Check it out at http://www.sekarc.net !
    Jeff KDØSEG and 73′s

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