A HamRadioNow Report to the Audience...

The HRN audience is getting younger (according to YouTube).

Demographics for the Field Day Tour, HRN 334

This chart shows the age/gender range for the Field Day Tour show after the first 450 or so viewers watched the program.

Note that the biggest 'spike' is in the 35-44 group. And we're getting some in the 18-34 range. This time last year, the older categories got the big numbers. (Sadly, notice that the number of women is pretty near zero.)

Why the change? Well, you tell me... obviously we've had a bunch of younger hams on the show. Maybe not being stuffy old hams helps (I'm old, but I don't think I'm stuffy). But really, you tell me in the comments.

Audience numbers (view counts) are erratic, but trending up a little. The audio audience is growing a lot, from a couple hundred downloads last year to averaging around 800 so far this year. I don't have audio numbers for previous years - only since we started really 'podcasting' using Libsyn.

I don't know if we're chasing some old-timers away or not. I don't deliberately want to do that. I do want to deliberately attract the next generation. Can you do both?

Audience Retention for the Field Day Tour HRN 334

The second chart is the Audience Retention graph for the show. It's the data that shows you shouldn't pay much attention to the "view count" of this or any longer form show on YouTube.

Notice that about half the audience is gone by the 4-minute mark. That's typical.

What's unusual about this show is that the audience stays well above the 25% line until the very end. That's because this is a documentary type show (and a very visual one at that), and things change about every 10 minutes. Our talk shows hover at or just below the 25% line after the first 10 minutes.

That tells me that you like, and are engaged by, the documentaries more than the talk shows. No surprise there.

Unfortunately, the ham radio community isn't willing to pay for them. That show took the weekend to shoot (and a few hundred $ in travel expenses), and about 60 hours to edit (spread over two weeks, with a couple of 'talk' shows produced in between). A typical 'talk show' takes a couple hours to record, another few hours to edit (mostly adding titles), and a couple more to upload and promote on the web site, Facebook, Twitter, Patreon, Yahoo (a mailing list - are you on it?), Reddit and QRZ.com. So 6-8 hours vs. 60. And no out-of-pocket expenses.

Of course, we do have some very dedicated and generous fans who support the show financially ‒ some dramatically (several hundred dollars a year!). PBS would be jealous of our ratio, if they knew we existed. And frankly you (all the contributors) are what keep the show alive. Well, that and my ego. The 'view counts' - especially coupled with 'audience retention' - wouldn't make it worth the effort.

That's my effort. If you've been watching carefully (and are in the 25%), you may have noticed that David Goldenberg W0DHG is gearing up to produce some shows on his own. If I feel that this pond is a little too small and getting crowded, he's going to splash around and have fun. I'm looking forward to it.

That will happen sooner than later, as I'll be away from the show for a good part of September (and lapping into August and October). That will include going to St. Louis to record the 2017 DCC, and that means being busy for the next few months after that producing those shows. If all goes well (and when does that ever happen?), David will be able to keep new shows going in that big gap.

Ham Radio 8.0

[I originally wrote this for a column in the AmateurRadio.com blog]

What will Amateur Radio – and radio in general – look like in the future? And maybe not that far in the future. Say 5 or 10 years?

At this year’s ARRL & TAPR Digital Communications Conference, two well-known hams in satellite and microwave circles made that question the focus of their Sunday Seminar talk. The Sunday Seminar at the DCC is a four hour ‘deep dive’ into a single topic, from 8 AM to noon on the final day of the three-day conference. The Friday and Saturday sessions are all 45-minute talks, and while they can get pretty technical, they’re still more overviews of their subject matter. This year’s conference was in September 2016 in St. Petersburg FL.

The two hams are Michelle Thompson W5NYV and Dr. Bob McGwier N4YH. It’s hard to reduce their session to a short summary, but I’ll try. If you want more, I recorded the whole thing on video for HamRadioNow Episode 276and there’s an 11-minute synopsis video on YouTube. I actually recorded the whole conference, as I have since 2008, and I’m releasing each talk as a HamRadioNow episode as I get them produced.

By the way, Ham Radio 8.0 is my title, not theirs. The official title of the Sunday Seminar is Spectrum: It’s the Frequency Crunch for Real. And that gets closer to the heart of their subject.

So, the short story: out there in the real world, spectrum is in short supply. It’s been that way for a long time, but it’s getting more and more critical, especially in UHF and the microwaves as wireless broadband (4G, 5G, WiFi, etc.) needs more and more space. And yet it’s being used inefficiently. Blocks of spectrum are assigned to services as if they are city blocks of land. Yet those services don’t use every bit of the spectrum they’re given all the time. And as Michelle points out, unlike land, spectrum can be instantly reused. One ham commented on YouTube that spectrum users have expensive infrastructure just like land users, but he missed the point, which comes next....

Starting about now, software defined, cognitive radios can be designed to work together, to cooperate on frequency, mode, bandwidth and spectrum to each get their message through using whatever they need to do it. I’m going to take a paragraph break here because the previous sentence is the heart of the story. So much so that I’m going to repeat it, move it sideways, and turn it bold:

 Starting about now, software defined, cognitive radios can be designed to work together, to cooperate on frequency, mode, bandwidth and spectrum to each get their message through using whatever they need to do it.

That means when my message is done, someone else gets to use the spectrum I was on, probably in some totally different configuration than I had. My radio was smart enough to say "I'm done", and her's was smart enough to move in.

We’ve got the technology. We just need the plan (and the will). The plan part is being spurred on by the DARPA Spectrum Collaboration Challenge. That’s the same DARPA that brought you cool stuff like the Internet. Your tax dollars at work. The will part… well, that probably comes from government and industry running up against a wall and finding they have no other choice.

Where does ham radio come in? Bob N4YH is Chief Scientist at the Hume Center for National Security and Technology at Virginia Tech. He’s way up there in advanced academic circles. And he mixes that up with ham radio as much as he can, encouraging students to become hams because that opens up some unique paths for experimentation. We can do almost anything we want with our allocations across the radio spectrum at will, without asking anyone’s permission. Bob expects (hopes?) that our more technically savvy hams will take on that DARPA challenge and lead the way into this brave new world.

So where does your ham radio come in, assuming you’re not one of our most technically savvy hams ready to lead the way? I think you’ll enjoy hearing Michelle and Bob wind their way around this subject, and this is really just the start, so the discussion begins here. Government and industry need this to keep communications moving forward. Bob’s take is that ham radio needs it to survive into a new generation of hams – hams who are attracted to technical challenges of the future, not legacy operation of the past (and the present). That is not going to sit well with today’s older ham gentry. We like our CW and SSB, and even our PSK 31 (and WSPR – HamRadioNow Episode 277 is on using a Raspberry Pi and a TAPR shield kit as a WSPR beacon). Bob readily admits that this is the End of Amateur Radio As We Know It. And the beginning of an Amateur Radio that we won’t recognize.

Goodbye, Bear...

The Bear, on daddy's leg.

The Bear, on daddy's leg.

The Bear, one of our three blind Tuxedo cats, was a frequent co-host on HamRadioNow. I'd be recording a studio segment and I'd feel a paw (or a claw) tugging at my pants leg. It could be either the Mouse or the Bear, and they wanted attention. I'd interrupt whatever was going on to pick them up.

We lost the Mouse in May. Renny, the third of the Three Blind Cats, died while I was on the way back from the 2014 DCC in Seattle. And now the Bear's time was up while I was at the DCC in St. Petersburg FL. Our non-tux - but 3-legged - cat, Popoki, died suddenly a few weeks ago. This has not been a good year for our cats, and apparently the DCC isn't a good omen, either.

I found out that a lot of you at the DCC watch all the shows and were big fans of the Bear. Many of you asked how he was doing. I knew there was a pretty good chance that Cyndi was going to have to take him to the vet to let him go on the Saturday of the DCC. I asked her not to tell me until I called at the end of the day, because I didn't want to be crying behind the camera. I saved that for the hotel room. 

I prefer to celebrate the lives of people and pets who have left us, and not mourn their passing quite so much. The Mouse was the World's Smartest Cat, and The Bear was the World's Friendliest Cat. Bear would greet everyone at the door. We called him our Wal-Mart Greeter. He even loved going to the vet (and they all loved him - he owned the place). About his only character flaw was that he liked to torment poor Popoki, who didn't realize that she could find sanctuary at the top of the cat tree that she could climb, but he couldn't (or wouldn't - the Mouse could, so it wasn't a blind thing).

The Bear was one of the main reasons I have a backlog of programs to edit. Instead of working long into the night as a good entrepreneur should, most evenings I'd sprawl on the couch, and the Bear would sprawl on me (see the picture). The Mouse was more demure, and she'd cuddle on my arm. We'd watch some Netflix... and some more, until bed time.

Tonight, it's 11:30 PM, and I'm writing this as Episode 268 is cooking in the encoder. I've been fighting the technology all day, and right now it just might be letting me think I'm going to win. If you see a video, you'll know.

But I'm thinking about the Bear. 

PokéHAM GOta? Really?

When I first thought of using the click-bait title PokéHAM GOta for Episode 259, I thought I'd put it at the top of the show, but I wouldn't use it on the web (QRZ.com), Facebook, YouTube, etc. I figured the humor, the parody of using a hyper-popular phenomenon to attract attention to an important but dry subject was a little too disconnected. People might take it at face value only, real click-bait. 

But I changed my mind and decided to do it anyway. I copped out a bit by putting "(or... Parity, Amended)" in the title, too. A hedge against complaints from the too literal minded, I guess.

I haven't seen much feedback yet. One guy who does security and is tired of chasing people away who are trying to capture pinkachu on private property in the middle of the night didn't think it was funny (on the HamRadioNow Facebook Group). I expect it to be misunderstood, but mostly I expect it to be ignored.

I do think it would be cool if PokéMON GO (or it's predecessor, Ingress), had some kind of ham radio component. That's fun to talk about, but it's never going to happen.

Field of Beams

I wanted to title Episode 258 Field of Beams, but I was afraid too many people wouldn't make the Field Day connection. Hmmm, when did I get so timid? When did I start underestimating the audience? It won't happen again until next time it happens.

My local club, the Raleigh Amateur Radio Society, hosts a big field day, somewhere between 7A and 9A most years, though this year they were 6A. Once in a while they (W4DW) land in the Top Ten Box. Most years they're at least in the top 20. They don't try to be a blood & guts, pedal to the metal operation, but they usually get a few seasoned contest-grade operators that score well enough on the 'money bands' to bring the whole operation up a notch.

The W4EZ gang down the road is 'the competition,' and for the past few years their 5 Watt operation has been cleaning the RARS clock pretty well. I know some of the guys there, so this year I decided to stop by and see how they did it. As you'll see in the interviews, one key is the Field of Beams. They work! I added a stop at the next group to the west on I-40, K4EG in Alamance County. 

I did the shooting on Saturday, and began editing on Sunday. I figured I'd get most of it knocked out Sunday, and polish up the rest on Monday. Ha! I got the studio segments recorded on Sunday, but I got nowhere near finished editing. I had some freelance work on Monday, and various interruptions that kept my editing time down to two or three hours a day Monday... Tuesday... Wednesday..... I finally finished today - Thursday. It's rendering as I type. I haven't even watched it all the way through, and that already bit me. The audio version came out first, and I was listening to that as I prepped the video render when it just went silent for about 30 seconds. Without getting into the arcane details, I'd made changes to one part of the program that affected another part (something about a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil...). It took another hour to debug that, re-render the audio, and start the video over. About 20 lucky listeners will hear that 30-second gap because they were early downloaders, before I replaced the file.

So now I'm way behind on remaining stuff from Dayton, and every day brings a new story that I'd like to cover promptly, but I can't because there's older stuff to do. I have to think hard about whether to keep piling up shows at hamfests like Dayton and Orlando that take me weeks to clear out, or just treat them lightly and get back to covering more topical issues. Or hire an editing staff.

iTunes!

HamRadioNow finally appeared in the iTunes 'store'. Seems like every 12-year-old podcaster has accomplished that task, but it took me forever (more than 4 years) to get it done. I still can't say I understand the process, or that I know how to make changes, but I think I can follow the breadcrumb trail back when I have to. So now you should be able to find it just by entering 'HamRadioNow' in your podcast app. It works in my Podcast Republic app, and it works in the iTunes store. Let me know if it does or doesn't work for you. And if it doesn't, the RSS page has a manual link.

What's not working is having HamRadioNow show up in a generic search for 'ham radio' or 'amateur radio'. I think I have the keywords all in the right places, but maybe not. If that doesn't start happening in a week or three, I'll go follow those breadcrumbs and see what I can find.

Meanwhile, Cyndi and I are back from Europe. See the raw video appearing on the KN4AQ2 YouTube Channel. There are two videos up as I type this. I say 'raw' but they are slightly edited to balance audio levels and remove (most) inadvertent shots of my feet, camera shakes and such. For vacation footage, I learned to 'edit in the camera', taking (mostly) short shots and not (way) too many of them. I still managed to get an average of 45 minutes a day, so releasing one day's worth of video at a time isn't too big a bite to chew. And if you missed it, Cyndi and I recorded an audio podcast as we were on the high-speed train between Paris and London (Episode 252). I edited video to it when we got home. That's here on the site under the Episodes tab. We still have the London stuff to do.

I also just got back from Dayton with another ton of stuff — forums, interviews, and random video. Coming first will be another 'on the road' show — the DAYTONa 500 (because it's about 500 miles from my house in North Carolina to the Hamvention®). That's almost done. I used the new headset-mic suggested, and partially funded, by show fan Mark Cartwright for the road video and the Hamvention interviews. Very convenient, though it rolls off the low end of my basso profundo voice. Maybe this will prompt me to buy a real pro headset mic. First I need some good studio lights. Arvin, how's the bank account?

Speaking of Arvin, a bunch of you approached me at Dayton to say how much you liked the show. I interviewed several of you, so you will appear in an upcoming episode. And many of you 'fed the pig' (by proxy, since I didn't bring Arvin with me). Hamfests are a huge ego-boost!

So yay, lots of editing to do. And you all know how much I like editing.

Welcome to HamRadioNow.tv (really)

It's about time.

HamRadioNow has been riding on the www.ARVideoNews.com URL for its whole 4-year life, buried in the 'hrn' folder. Oh, I could just tell people to go to HamRadioNow dot TV and they'd get to the site through something called a redirect, but their browser would show ARVideoNews.com, and  anyone out there in the 'media' who wanted to link to the site would scrape all that ARVideoNews stuff from that browser line. Even QST did that to us most of the time! So today I finally pulled the plug on the old ARVN/ARVideoNews site and pointed everything at this one. I guess we're committed!

All the old domains point here (we've got HamRadioNow.com, and ARVN.tv in addition to the ARVideoNews.com). I finally let the very original URL - ARVidNews.com - expire. What a stupid name that was! I claim not to be an engineer, but that name had all the earmarks of engineer-think. Let's shorten the name to its most basic elements... and make something nobody could remember or even write down correctly! ARVideoNews wasn't much better, but at least it had more of the name. ARVN.tv was good, I suppose, but by the time I figured that out, HamRadioNow was about to be launched. One of those URL-vultures latched onto ARVidNews.com as soon as it expired and tried to sell it back to me for $1000! Hahahahaha.

There's more to do here, when I get a chance. Add links to old episodes (not all of them, but a "Best-Of" list). Links to other podcasts, stuff like that. It all cluttered up the old web site, but maybe I can do something more elegant here. 

Oh, and I broke the audio RSS link again. I'd hoped I'd be able to figure out a way to keep the old RSS address working, but I'm not web-savvy enough. The good news is that in a few days, the new service should be registred on iTunes, so any podcast app will find it just by searching on HamRadioNow (or, I hope, "Ham Radio"). We'll see. Meanwhile, the RSS page has the direct link to paste in.

Finally, where are the new episodes? 

Well, I'm hoping to squeeze one out this weekend. If I can't to a real one, I'll do a placeholder. But then I'm out of town for a couple of weeks. Normally I don't advertise when I'm gone, but the house will be fully occupied by a family minding the Mouse, Bear and Popoki (you've never seen Popoki on the show, but maybe), and Salazar, our foster-cat (you won't see him, either). 

I do plan to be at Dayton, but I won't have a booth. Plan A is to shoot some seminars like last year, and visit some of the lesser-known folks peddling their wares (I'll let the other guys give you the blah-blah-blah from the Big 3 or 4). So look for me lugging the cameras around. 

Over and out!

Qlog?

de KN4AQ

"Blog" is so generic, so I'm going to call this Qlog. You can pronounce it any way you want. I'm guessing "Q Log" will be what comes to mind, but I'm thinking it ought to be pronounced just like the word clog. Yep, I get it.

This site is not fully operational yet. It will have to be soon. I have until the end of April to get everything off the old host. Getting this site set with www.HamRadioNow.tv looks like it will be easy. Getting the old www.ARVideoNews, and www.ARVN.tv to 'redirect' is also routine. But getting all the old links out there in the world to point to someplace useful may be trouble. You web guys know more than me. I might ask for help.

Episode 250: NTS... D (as in Digital) is bothering me a little. As I was editing it, (mostly to add titles and a few graphic elements - the content is exactly as recorded), I got the impression that I was being pretty aggressive and rough on my guest, Dave W4DNA, but he didn't seem to mind. It hasn't gathered the complaints (or the sniping) I'd expect on YouTube or QRZ.com. And as I've played it back a few times, I'm less concerned. I do stand by the points I was making - that NTS (the National Traffic System) has been resting on its laurels for decades, while making only creeping progress into the kind of technology that's available now, would allow it to fulfill its mission far more efficiently, but might not be as much fun and engaging to the current or even potential participants. I'm talking about the 'D' part - digital.

Obviously, our digital systems can handle much larger volumes of message traffic, faster and mostly error-free. I was a little surprised and disappointed to learn from Dave that digital isn't more deeply integrated into NTS yet. Well, this was just one interview with one STM (Section Traffic Manager). Sooner or later, I expect to hear from others in and out of NTS with more information and different points of view. 

250 woohoo? 250 episodes is a mini-milestone in any show. And I'd encountered a few hams as I was roaming around the RARSfest who began to tell me that they liked the show. So I shoved the camera in their faces and made them tell the world. They seemed happy to do that. That's our Episode 250 celebration. 300 will probably be a bigger deal.

Speaking of all those Episodes... I've been scratching my head about how to handle individual episodes, new ones, and the 250 old ones. I don't have a perfect plan. Individual web pages, like the old days, would be too much work (at least for the old ones). So in the Episodes page, I've created a blog-format where I can just add new episodes, and the site will automatically shuffle them around. But it's not a prefect solution. On the plus side, it allows comments. On the minus, there's no good index, it may be hard to just kind of sift thru titles. I've relegated all the old ones to YouTube - I'm sending you there to browse the old catalog. 

One thing I expect to do is create a page for 'Best of' or evergreen episodes that I think viewers would want to go back and see (OK, that I want viewers to go back and see). 

So that's going to be a work in progress for some time.

Finally, I noticed that even though I did set the allow comments option when I made the first post (A Blog?), the comment option didn't appear. I found another SquareSpace setting (by actually reading the instructions!) that I had to make to turn them on. So... if you've found the Clog... er... Qlog, say something!

Back to work. It's Quarterly Tax Day (also woohoo).

A Blog?

I know how to write. I don't know how to blog. That is, I don't know the technical details of how a blog post gets distributed beyond someone just stumbling across it on my web site. I think that's supposed to happen, and since I'd be one of only a quazillion people posting a blog, I'm sure someone will care.

So here in Blog Post 1, I'll note that I've been a busy boy trying to make SquareSpace do what I want it to do, but frequently capitulating to doing things the way it wants me to do them, to rebuild the HamRadioNow site. I was aiming for a thing of beauty (compared to the previous disaster). I'm now settling for "getting it done."

The really big job is still ahead - getting all the individual show pages in. I'm not sure how to do that, or even how I want it to look. I'm pretty sure it'll end up in the 'quick & easy' bin pretty soon. Maybe even just shuffling you off to YouTube for anything beyond the last half-dozen episodes. It's all the same stuff, anyway, and I really would rather produce shows than web pages.

So now, here's Blog Post 1. In theory, SquareSpace has the technical stuff handled. I see a COMMENTS OFF option below. Let's live dangerously and turn them on.

73, Gary KN4AQ