Leaving this here for now....

Hi friends and supporters of HamRadioNow.tv it's David W0DHG... I'm taking over now, as Gary is off to new horizon's.  I'm leaving his blog here for now as an homage to our Host Emeritus. Gary did great things here at HamRadioNow.tv, and I hope that I can continue to educate and entertain the HRN audience...  I might add another page in the future and try my hand at BLOGGING myself, but for now this stuff stays! 


David Goldenberg W0DHG


The Last BIG... Documentary

I just posted Digital Voice for Amateur Radio, the documentary I produced in 2008, as Episode 381 on HamRadioNow. It's one of three extensive, very traditionally produced Amateur Radio documentaries that I created under the ARVN banner and released on DVD between 2005 and 2011, before starting HamRadioNow in 2012. (The other two are The Last BIG Field Day and ARDF [Fox Hunting], and both are already on YouTube as HamRadioNow episodes.)

By 'traditionally produced', I mean that I traveled extensively (Alabama, Dallas, Chicago, St. Louis, Washington DC), recorded interviews and 'B-Roll', and spent weeks editing the programs. I appear only briefly to introduce and wrap the segments, and I recorded the narration. Everything else is from 'the field', and there are long segments that have no narration at all.

All three programs get good reviews from hams who have seen them, and even some non-hams who were forced to watch. And they draw the question: Why don't you make more?

The answer is 'eyeballs' and money.

The DVDs didn't sell well enough. My initial duplication run was 300 copies of each show. After several years, I eventually sold all the Digital Voice and Last BIG Field Day DVDs, but it was a trickle at the end — three or four a year. I still have a pile of ARDF DVDs on a shelf. Even online for free, Field Day has about 3000 views, and I'll call that pathetic for a program of that quality and evergreen, general interest. Everybody does Field Day. ARDF is closing 10,000 views, a number I consider 'just barely enough' to be worthwhile. A kid unboxing a BaoFeng can get 10,000 views.

Next question: Why is the audience so small? These aren't the long, talking-head shows of HamRadioNow. They're relatively fast-paced, edited programs that run under 45 minutes (club meeting program length).

My best answer is discovery, or lack of it. The programs got blurbs in QST and CQ, pitches on QRZ.com, and I did some online advertising. No full-page ads, obviously. But either hams didn't learn about them, or if they did, they weren't motivated to buy them, even for their radio club meetings. Once they went online for free the 'buy' hurdle was gone, so more hams did see them, but not in the numbers I hoped to get. ARDF and Field Day have been online for a few years now. Isn't that long enough for 'discovery'? Apparently not, or maybe they're not as good as some of you and I think they are. One other thought is that online, these shows are buried in other HamRadioNow content. They don't stand out.

There are a few other documentary producers out there. How are they doing?

TX Factor does all their programs in magazine format, which means they're also shot in the field and highly edited. Their shows typically have three segments, so three mini-docs in each program. Their YouTube numbers average around 10,000 to 15,000. They're really good, well-produced programs, fairly rare (only a few a year), and they don't 'compete with themselves'. 

James Brooks 9V1YC produced the WRTC 2014 Documentary, a real documentary of that event. It got rave reviews, and just under 20,000 views. James George N3BB wrote a book about it, Contact Sport. I interviewed him at Dayton in 2016. We've talked some since, and he told me that book sales were 'OK', but failed to break out of the ham market.

The major DXpeditions usually produce a documentary of their operation as part of fundraising and promotion. Initially those are DVD-only, but some are now online (go to YouTube and search 'Amateur Radio DXpedition'). I can't get detailed about the DVD sales I know about (I edited and narrated the K1N Navassa Island DXpedition DVD), but I can say that they don't knock anything out of the ballpark. They do somewhat better than the DVDs I've sold. The YouTube versions range from a few thousand to the 10-20,000 view count. I'm seeing a trend here.

As I mentioned in the previous QLOG post, CQ editor Rich Moseson W2VU discouraged me from getting into the Ham Radio video business, based on his experience with the video series that CQ produced (on VHS) in the early 90's. He hasn't revealed sales numbers, but he's told me it wasn't great, and of course they never made a second series, even though the cost of production has come way down. I was going to say that they're still available, but I just looked at the CQ Store and they're listed as Out of Stock. They may be available from other distributors. 

My conclusion is that Ham Radio isn't a big enough video market... for me, and apparently anyone who wants to make it more than a 'pays expenses' hobby-business (or pure hobby). I cut back the effort of making most HamRadioNow shows to a few hours of recording and minimal editing (talking-head shows), and that cut the audience down to between one and three thousand for most shows. That's actually pretty good for most 'vanity' podcasts, but not good enough to keep me in the game.

You probably will see the occasional, well produced Ham Radio documentary in the future. We're getting a few more talented podcasters doing video, and some of them may try to tackle a doc. The ARRL might even try, though not with the retrenching they're doing now. But it's clearly (to me) not something the ham market is very interested in. So do it, if you've got the itch, but set reasonable expectations. And if you really want a big audience, unbox a BaoFeng.


Over and (not quite) Out

If you watched all of HRN 377, BS#11: ARRL, CQ, Happy New Year you saw my most direct statement that I'm going to leave the show in the hands of my co-host (now full host) David Goldenberg W0DHG. Thanks for the many comments about the show so far, and the 'don't go' requests. 

When I finished that show, I felt kind of sad. I'd be sadder if it were really my last show, but I'll be around a while longer. I've committed to go to Orlando in February with a booth in Commercial 3, and I'm planning on a SIB (Studio In a Booth) there. It'll be nicer than tent city in Xenia. I'm also planning on going to Dayton to shoot some forums, but no booth. Maybe a little tour. The 2018 TAPR DCC in September will depend on a pretty expensive KICKSTARTER (I'm guessing $8000) that I'll run in June.*

David is getting close to finishing the 'West Coast Studio' and being able to run shows on his own. Then the show will take his direction entirely. I'll be happy to show up as a co-host now and then, but I'm eager to see how David develops as an 'on-air talent'. It will put him on level ground with most of the other 'HamCasters' out there who didn't come from a professional media background. Only a few did - I'm thinking of Don Wilbanks AE5DW (Ham Nation and Newsline), Valerie Hotzfeld NV9L (Ham Nation), Cale Nelson K4CDN (Ham Radio 360), Neil Rapp WB9VPG (HamTalkLIVE), and some more of the Newsline contributors and anchors who don't do podcasts. I probably missed a few, and OK, that's more than I thought, but there are a lot of shows out there by 'amateur amateurs'.

As I mentioned on the episode, I've got plans for a show that's not ham radio related. My own background started in the 'general media' broadcast biz, with stints on-air at several radio stations. I always preferred doing that, but always made a far better living with my video and audio production talent than my on-air talent. I almost got hired to do a talk show out of WMBD radio in Peoria IL in 1986. I could have been Rush Limbaugh instead of Rush Limbaugh, and the whole political landscape could be different today. So it was my fault. OK, dream on, and Rush started his talk show in Sacramento CA in 1984, so I would have had some catching up to do. I didn't take that job, and it's a longish story. But coulda woulda.

As I dipped my toe into producing some ham radio videos, I didn't appear on-camera much. I did short on-camera intros for The Last Big Field Day and Digital Voice for Amateur Radio DVDs, but the rest was voice-over, with the usual 'invisible producer' interviews. Even my first Hamvention Tour DVDs starting in 2007 used Jeff AC4ZO on camera more than me. It took a while to build the confidence to step into the spotlight completely. 

One of my goals when I started ARVN:Amateur Radio//Video News... a clunky name that became HamRadioNow... was to get more professional video media into ham radio. At the time, ham media was mostly magazines, while video/television was seeping into corporate communications and other non-broadcast interest areas. 

CQ had tried making some videos (professionally produced, and released on VHS) in the early 90's. Video production was extremely expensive back then. A decade later, when I bought a camera and shot The Last Big Field Day, it was DIYish (after spending about $15,000 on my first camera/mic/editing system). I didn't know it, but George W5JDX was starting AmateurLogicTV about the same time, with way cheaper gear and lower production 'values', and putting it on the web instead of DVD. I missed that boat for almost a decade

Before starting, I sought advice from two friends in ham media. Rich Moseson W2VU, who produced the CQ video series and went on to become CQ editor, discouraged me. He considered the CQ videos an expensive and somewhat failed experiment—failed in that they weren't embraced by the ham community enough to be commercially profitable. Let's put it this way: they didn't go on to make a second series. At that time (early 90's), video production was either really bad amateur stuff (badly shot and edited on VHS), or very expensive professional work. CQ opted for pro.

Bill Pasternack WA6ITF (SK), on the other hand, was highly encouraging. Like me, Bill (co-founder of Newsline) had longed to see ham activities documented more professionally. Newsline was a shoestring audio production. It was all volunteer, with just enough financial backing from the audience to keep it limping along year-to-year.

Bill was also part of the team that produced a handful of ham radio films (yes, films), with Roy Neal K6DUE and Dick Van Dyke, and later one with Walter Cronkite, mostly a labor-of-love with modest financial support from the ARRL. As a broadcast video engineer, Bill saw 'pro-sumer' video equipment getting better and cheaper, but he was frustrated that the Amateur Radio Today video he produced with Cronkite had little actual footage covering ham operation, particularly EmComm (the video focused on Colorado fires that year, and they had to stage much of what they used). Bill dedicated one of his Town Hall forums at Dayton to encouraging hams to shoot and edit video with the new tools whenever and wherever they could, especially during EmComm operations. 

Bill believed that someone with my technical background could maybe pull it all together. I miss Bill. I was looking forward to many more BS episodes with him on HamRadioNow.

Neither Rich nor Bill was fully right or wrong. Production get did get cheap enough that I could produce videos that looked as good as CQ's series for probably 10% of their cost. But the ham community still did not embrace them enough to make them a business. My goal (and Bill's hope) was for a program that could document and present ham radio professionally, both for ham 'internal consumption' and to provide grist for the general media mill to tell our story. It wasn't happening.

Ham Nation appeared on the TWiT network in 2011. Bob Heil brought in one of Ham Radio's biggest 'stars', Gordon West WB6NOA, and asked me to guest-host when he was on the road. Then he discovered George W5JDX from his Amateur Logic series. I suggested they try to incorporate Newsline into the program with a short peek at upcoming headlines, and initially Bob Sudock WB6FDF did the job (but it was never 'upcoming' headlines. It was and still is leftovers from the previous week. Have I mentioned that video production takes time?). Bob had health problems, and the Newsline job fell to Don Wilbanks AD5DW. Don's a total pro, and quickly became a regular part of the full show. I'll say that Don 'took my job' as guest host and leave the long story at that.

I'm gonna also say that in some ways Ham Nation ruined ham radio's chance at the professional production Bill Pasternack and I had hoped for. The popular show sucked much of the air out of the room for ham media with a low-production-value happy-talk style that put 'amateur' back in 'amateur' (OK, it never really left). They do some Skype interviews, sometimes newsworthy and sometimes really interesting, but never hard-hitting. They get some videos contributed by viewers with variable quality (and for the 'big' show, they don't get flooded with videos). The most popular segments are about building stuff, a ham staple that lots of other shows rely on and I've stayed mostly away from (my Episode 82: Dipole with over 32,000 views is among my most popular, so no, I don't learn lessons). We don't know how popular Ham Nation really is because TWiT doesn't release statistics. Their YouTube channel shows view counts in the 2 to 4k range (with spikes above that), but YouTube is only one outlet, and if that's just a fraction of the viewers and listeners, we're looking at 10k or more... maybe in the 20 to 30k range.

TX Factor

There is one show out there that does produce very professional ham media: TX Factor. It's a British production that began in February 2014. While they cover the usual ham stuff, they do it in a magazine show style (three to five segments in their 40 to 60-minute show... they've been getting longer...) that are all shot on location, edited and packaged. It's a lot of work, as evidenced by the fact that in four years they've produced only 19 episodes. They also shy away from controversy, though they'll occasionally note that something is a bit off here and there.


I didn't intend to do a full media review when I started writing this blog entry, but I should mention the League's lack of participation. They've made a few video programs in addition to equipment reviews and now the Doctor Is In podcast (excellent, by the way). But they've never built a TV studio or produced a regular video program, even though they concentrate almost everything going on in ham radio in one building in Newington (and could Skype in the rest). Nor do they go out of their way to get their staff to appear as guests on the many talk-format shows out there. I was able to get some of their leadership on HamRadioNow for a while, but that seems to have stopped when I proved not to be a reliably friendly venue. 

Money is a issue at HQ, but I'll just say that if I can do it with my limited, individual resources, it's not the main issue. Clearly they don't see value... a cost/benefit calculation. At least not yet.

Meanwhile I have seen some good stuff from the RSGB (with help from TX Factor). Nothing regular yet, but more than the League has done.

The one area that has consistently produced high-quality video programs are the ones coming from DXpeditions. Not all are top notch, but Bob Allphin K4UEE and James Brooks 9V1Y have led the field in all amateur radio video production. And I'm not saying that just because I edited Bob's Navassa DXPedition video. And sorry, they're not online. You gotta buy the DVDs (a few of the old ones have found their way to YouTube). You can watch James' excellent WRTC 2014 documentary online. That this is the case shows where the money is in ham radio media.

So as my car on the HamRadioNow train approaches the terminal, I'll say that it's been very rewarding (emotionally, not financially). I look back over the nearly 400 shows (over 400, if you count the many multi-part episodes), I can't believe where I got the ambition to do it. And I'm generally happy (sometimes very happy) with my 'performance' on-camera. Happier than most of you are, it seems. It is a vanity and ego-driven business, after all. I'm sorry I didn't get to do what I set out to do - the documentary style programs that TX Factor does - here in the US. I'm sorry that nobody in ham radio has found a way to make a business out of ham video, and maybe the hobby is just too small for that. Maybe it's just not possible, and all our 'new' media will continue to be in the DIY/vanity category. 

But I'm not sorry I tried. If I hadn't done this, I probably wouldn't have tried doing what's next.

73, Gary KN4AQ

*And I'll leave it to motivated TAPR enthusiasts to promote and make the KICKSTARTER successful. It's not that I don't want to go, but at this point it will be a business proposition that covers expenses and editing (highly discounted editing). Think of it as you're hiring me to do it, not that I'm just asking for some support.

Copywrong ©

UPDATE: CBS has retracted all copyright infringement claims (Facebook and YouTube) 

HamRadioNow episodes 364 (Icom Stuns, Kills DMR) and 365 (NCIS Newington) both used a few minutes of footage from the CBS program NCIS. CBS filed copyright violation notices on the episodes as they appeared on YouTube and Facebook (we recorded them on Facebook Live). I'll tell you where that stands down the page, but first, some background. (no peeking)

The NCIS episode was titled Trapped, and ham radio played a significant role in plot. In most NCIS episodes, somebody is or was killed, and the episode revolves around solving the case. In Trapped, the guy who was killed happened to be a ham, and another ham was the key to the clues that solved the murder. It was a stretch to have ham radio be the link, but why not? A little publicity in prime time couldn't hurt. What could possibly go wrong?

That alone would be enough to give the episode our attention, and probably show a little footage of how we were portrayed. Prime Time usually gets something wrong, which spins up a lot of hams, and it's a fun circus to watch. But wait... there's more.

Although neither ham was 'the bad guy,' we still ended up with a black eye. Both hams were shown to be social misfits, loners, using radio as the one way they had to reach out to others. The dead ham was analyzed by an NCIS profiler (and appeared posthumously through his answering machine message), and the clueless ham-with-a-clue, who had a lot of unfortunate time on-camera, was described this way by one NCIS agent (himself a former ham, or at least the son of one), "...no driver's license, no home phone, no cell phone, no reportable income since 2007, so I think this guy is going to be exactly who you picture when you think of ham radio weirdo." (emphasis added, sort of).

That earned CBS a place on the show for sure. I captured all the show footage that directly related to hams, and used it as we reviewed the material. 

When we recorded Episode 364, we were mostly talking about Ray Novak N9JA's blog post warning about some things in the 'commercial' digital modes that have invaded ham radio. I'd just noticed comments on the NCIS show, hadn't watched it yet (I am a fan of the show, sort of... well, I do watch it regularly, but in delay). So I quickly scraped through the little thumbnail pictures on the show's timeline, looking for signs of radio equipment, found some, and grabbed the footage. I got lots of 'bad' ham radio, but I missed the worst stuff. When I watched the whole thing, I prepped the second show, NCIS Newington. I carefully edited three sets of clips: Bad Procedure, The Gear, and Profiles of the Hams.

When you or I use copyright material on Facebook or YouTube, it gets flagged by 'bots that look for identifying images or sounds that match that material. It's supposed to be reviewed to see if it qualifies for Fair Use, the ambiguous law that lets a producer like me use copyrighted material without permission under some pretty limited guidelines.* What really happens, in my experience, is that a copyright violation is automatically initiated. In the old days (two years ago) that would mean a 'Takedown' - the show is blacked out, or if it's just audio that's in alleged violation on a video, the audio track is silenced (the whole track, not just the offending segment).

That can happen today, but producers have realized (and YouTube has offered them) that there's an opportunity to make money. They can 'monetize' the video with their own ad, usually as a preroll that plays before the disputed show, and they can block me from making money. That's what CBS did with my YouTube videos. Facebook doesn't seem to have that option, so it was a 'take down' on Facebook.

When that happens, a producer (like me) can dispute the takedown/monetization based on whatever criterion they believe gives them the right (privilege?) to use the footage. Maybe they had a license or permission that the 'bot didn't know about, but most claims would be based on Fair Use. Fair Use is thoroughly, often comically misunderstood by people producing YouTube content. I think I've got a good handle on it, especially when it comes to how I may or may not use other TV footage. I also understand that the law is vague, and it can ultimately come down to 'tell it to a judge.' There aren't enough pig-clicks in ham radio for me to afford that.

I've used the Fair Use defense a few times before. The first was a program reviewing Last Man Standing (HRN 49: Last Ham Standing). That's an ABC show, but it's produced by Fox, and Fox filed the takedown (back in the dark ages). I appealed. Fox agreed with me (once a human watched my show?). An appeal on another show — HRN 276 — 'timed out' when the producer didn't respond, so I 'won' that one, too. The show I used was a NatGEO webisode called Before Mars. I used their footage in my extended introduction to last year's TAPR DCC Sunday Seminar (Part One).

By the way, both YouTube and Facebook immediately restored the program on my appeal, not after a decision, so I lost little 'air time.' But it can be 'costly' if I lose. My show depends on YouTube, and if they find me infringing three times, I'm outtathere. So winning is important.

Where we stand with NCIS

I immediately filed appeals with both Facebook and YouTube. Initially, both were denied, but not by Facebook or YouTube. They stay out of it as much as they can. No, it's the copyright holder who gets first crack. That fox is guarding the henhouse. And again, the fox is probably a 'bot. This is the first time I've lost the first round. I figure my claim is so obvious, once someone looks at the show and how their footage was used, that they either approve it, or just go away and let it time out. But it's getting tougher.

And YouTube adds a layer of caution. Basically it's "you can appeal again, but if you lose (and again, the copyright holder is also the umpire), it's Strike One, and three strikes you're out."

I think they're trying to scare the wannabees who think that they're protecting themselves by adding "No Copyright Infringement Intended" as they just repost the latest Taylor Swift video. They need to study a little harder at the School of Fair Use (which, by the way, is Stanford University).

So I take it seriously. I studied up, and while I can't see all the potential outcomes, I've learned that I can keep fighting until they eventually sue me (Cyndi - don't read this).

I appealed both rejections. CBS caved on Facebook, accepting my second appeal. Facebook puts an odd limit on framing disputes and appeals. My initial dispute was limited to 200 characters. The appeal was limited to 700. So in the first plea, about all I could say was "Fair Use". The second had to be compact, but it let me make the case. Well enough, it turns out.

My YouTube appeal is still pending. So if you keep in mind that it's really CBS making the complaint about the exact same footage from the exact same show, logic says they'll capitulate on YouTube, too. I know... silly human. So we'll see.

UPDATE: CBS has retracted all copyright infringement claims (Facebook and YouTube) 

*Oh, what's my Fair Use?

It's adding something like commentary or a review, using just enough to get the point across, and not losing them their audience because I'm giving away their store. 

Obvious, right? But unless you're a federal judge, your opinion doesn't count.



Dear CBS/NCIS...


This is the email I sent to Tiffany Smith-Anoa'i, Executive Vice President, Diversity, Inclusion and Communications, CBS Entertainment

Hi, Tiffany,

I'm Gary Pearce. I produce a video podcast/youtube show called HamRadioNow. I'm also a (mostly retired) career television professional, having been a video editor and audio engineer since 1973 (mostly boutique post houses in Chicago doing commercials, but one brief stint at NBC editing a magazine show, promos, and Phil Donohue segments for Today).

I'm writing to see if I can get a comment, and perhaps a guest for my show, regarding the depiction of Amateur Radio operators on a recent episode of NCIS titled Trapped. I believe that this depiction has done real damage to the reputation of Amateur Radio as a service, and to individual Amateur Radio operators in their interaction with their families, friends and the community.

Amateur Radio is an element in the plot. NCIS agents McGee and Torres discover an Amateur Radio station in the home of a murder victim. That leads them to another Amateur Radio operator who may have information about the crime, but that person proves to be secretive and difficult to locate. 

In the course of the show, McGee reveals that he's had some history with Amateur Radio, and lists some of the hobby/service's positive accomplishments, especially with regard to emergency communications following 9/11 and hurricane Katrina. However, McGee and others also refer to some of ham radio's more stereotypical public perceptions - dorky, introverted. McGee and agent Sloan, a personality profiler, take this to a next level, reviewing how the murder victim - Miller - is highly introverted in public, but an extrovert on ham radio and in his answering machine message.

We hams are pretty used to this. I sometimes wonder how a 'communications' hobby can be populated by technical introverts. I joke about how you can tell the extrovert at the ham radio club's holiday party: he's the one looking at everyone else's shoes. And then there's me. I'm a less extreme version of Miller: a seeming extrovert on my HamRadioNow show, and the miserable guy trying to make small talk at a party. 

And if that's where it stopped, well, hams would complain about the personalities and the inaccurate depiction of our operation. Mostly they'd complain on our own message boards and on Facebook (and they are), and maybe a couple would go as far as complaining to CBS. But as I said, we're used to it. I did a two-hour interview with John Amodeo, one of the Executive Producers of ABC's Last Man Standing (HRN 288: Amodeo Unplugged - https://www.hamradionow.tv/episodes/2016/12/30/hrn-288-amodeo-unplugged). That program had an ongoing ham radio background element, and two episodes featuring Amateur Radio in the B plot. John, a ham operator himself, and I spoke extensively about writers vs reality and what it takes to incorporate unusual and highly technical activities in a general audience television program. So I get it.

This episode of NCIS, though, takes it farther. The character of Rick O. Shay (ham radio handle "Ricochet" - and by the way, we don't do phony "Handles" - that's CB radio, Twitter and internet chat rooms), is a highly unstable, extreme version of an introvert, afraid of practically everything (and especially the government), with, as agent McGee describes him to agent Sloan, "...no driver's license, no home phone, no cell phone, no reportable income since 2007, so I think this guy is going to be exactly who you picture when you think of ham radio weirdo." 

As a pseudo-journalist, I try not to over-react, not to think of things only in extremes, but to appreciate nuance, and to appreciate good television. I'm a fan of NCIS and I've followed it since Episode 1 (and JAG before that). So here's what I see as the potential damage from this episode:

- The community. We deal with legal issues every day, primarily over putting up antennas. Governments and homeowners associations see antennas (ham, cell, broadcast) as 'eyesores' and restrict or prohibit them. We also have spectrum issues before the FCC where other services would like to take some of our frequencies (that might feel familiar to CBS). We make some progress against this, emphasizing community service, especially in emergencies, but also assisting with charity events like BikeMS (MS Society), Tour de Cure (Diabetes Association), and many more. That gains us some ground, but it's lost when those in positions of authority see an extreme depiction of our already stereotypical image.

- Our friends, family, co-workers. Mr. Shay may not have had "reportable income" for 10 years, but most of us have jobs. Many of us have technical jobs, and some of them pay very well. But think a minute. You work at CBS. Probably not to far away, there are some hams working in a tech job for CBS... maybe someone like me, a video editor. If one of them wanted to change careers into something non-technical, maybe in PR or HR, would their technical stereotype count against them? Would they need to have an extra edge to overcome that? Suppose that application arrived on your desk the day after you watched this episode of NCIS?

Hams have similar difficulties with family. Any person who loses themselves in a hobby, or work, to the detriment of relationships has a problem, and that includes us. It's part of the stereotype, and sometimes a joke. But not always. 

Here's something else I get: ham radio operators are in very large part older, white males, and mostly middle class or above - a privileged community to be sure. It's hard to cry foul from that position, though I'm guessing you hear plenty anyway. But if this is a First World Problem, it's the world we live in, and the world CBS broadcasts to. And some of us would very much like Amateur Radio to become more diverse - younger, with more women and people of color. We pride ourselves on worldwide communication among all the people and cultures of the globe, but we don't reflect that much in America. If we are seen as paranoid techno-freaks, a hard job gets harder.

So what can we... you... do?  

Without researching your job any further than reading your title, I think I can tell what you try to do. I think I know what you're up against (again, Amodeo Unplugged). So just reading all of this is more than half of what I was looking for. You add us to the list of people you advocate for, and we understand that we're not the only ones with problems, and other's are worse.

Getting someone to come on HamRadioNow to talk about this as a guest is good for me, maybe good for hams, and maybe good for you. Of course if it's just going to be PR blah blah, we can skip it, but if you've got someone who can talk candidly about how CBS thinks about depicting generally good people in a dim light, point them my way.


Gary Pearce

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.


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!


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