Monday, January 21, 2013

The Un-Club: Validation

At ARRL Pacificon 2012 I presented "Club is a Four Letter Word" - during which I set forth the idea that most amateur radio clubs are hurting more than helping our hobby.  The thesis of my presentation was that, in the modern world where membership can be obtained by simply clicking the Like button on a Facebook page, and information on innumerable subjects can be obtained from YouTube and other sources, a traditional club structure is often not needed.  A recent article on the ARRL website entitled "The Un-Club" talked about many of these same ideas, and gave examples of how their group has rejected the traditional club model and the positive benefits from that approach. 

Consider Bay-Net in the San Francisco Bay Area.  It's increasingly one of the more popular amateur radio groups in the region, with a popular linked analog repeater system and D-Star node.  Bay-Net has no members; if you're on the email list, you're in the group.  Bay-Net doesn't hold regular meetings, except for a once-per-year gathering at which goals for the coming year are set forth for consideration and an informal expo is held where members bring in projects to share and discuss.  There are three "board members" (required to maintain the Bay-Net vanity callsign WW6BAY) but they're not treated any differently than anyone else and most of them group doesn't even know who they are.  We host a Field Day site every year and usually come in last place because we spend all of our time playing around with radios and gadgets instead of making contacts, but we always learn something. There are no dues; if we need to buy something we ask for donations and people step up. 

One of the great things about Bay-Net has been that it's attracted a lot of younger operators, which I credit in part to the "not a club" approach.  I encourage you to consider whether your club might be more efficient, more effective, and more inviting if it wasn't a club at all.

Update: As if to yet again validate this idea, I received an email from a local club that allows non-members to monitor their mailing list:

We are having an election to make a change in the By-Laws. The proposed change is shown in RED LINE in the attached petition and adds the words "more than once" to the end of Article IV, Section 1 of the By-Laws. In essence the proposal is that the By-Laws be amended in order to allow officers to serve up to two one year terms in a row rather than only one term as presently provided. It would not extend officer terms and all officers would still stand for election each year at the April meeting.

Update, Part II: I keep getting comments (here and on my G+ post) about the importance of f2f interaction and why clubs provide that.  Let me clarify: I'm not saying that Bay-Net never interacts f2f.  We meet up all the time, for a variety of reasons.  We just don't do it *formally*.  If we need or want to meet, we do.  What we don't do is waste time with minutes, financial reports, committee reports, voting, etc.


Michael Miller said...

Interesting. But, I find that the point of most clubs isn't the subject itself but getting together and socializing. Sure, we can jump on the local repeater and talk, but it doesn't replace getting together as a group, shaking hands, seeing faces, etc. I've seen more new hams find an Elmer at our meetings and I don't think that would happen as often if the club didn't meet. 73 K4AFK

David Witkowski said...

Thanks for the comment Michael. I've appended an update in response to your comment.

acton said...

That is a great idea. I just learned my callsign yesterday. I am no a spring chicken but personally I am an introvert and secondly the club remind me too much like Science fiction fandom where you have an old guard complain how star wars are not "real SF fans" in the way the old guard hams guard looks at us Non CW hams. By the way I made a huge transgression in the eyes of the old guard by using SF than Science Fiction.
I am a furry and spoiled because most interchange in the fandom is online on boards and websites. face book yet we still get together for a fun event like picnic or art jam. Why not do the same for ham radio, yes use the local repeater to build a group but have an unstructured picnic to meet each other.
ps. it was at one of our furry meets, a furry was also a ham encouraged me into getting amatur radio.

gord smits said...

Not really sure how I even came across your blog but, nice. We have a similar idea in Chatham-Kent, Ontario. Disillusioned with our local club in some aspects , a few have branched out and started a non-club similar in many aspects to the club you describe ( No real members, no dues, informal get togethers, etc. We usually chat on the local (real club) repeaters or hf/vhf/uhf simplex and are encouraged to experiment and use their equipment (we're also 'real' members there). All in all a win-win situation. I just set up an EchoLink -R station using my own equipment and the 'real clubs' repeater. So far its been fairly well received (I hope) and everyone is getting some exposure to digital with little expense.

Glad I stopped by here.

David Witkowski said...

Gord, sorry it too so long to publish your kind comment. Not sure why I missed the alert that a comment was pending moderation. Thanks for stopping by!