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The Joys of Moderation

The Joys of Moderation
by Chris G7DDN

Years ago, when I first started listening to Amateur bands, operating practices were pretty good.

Callsigns were given clearly, explanations were given at the end of a contact as to the intentions of the caller, (whether still monitoring, closing down, changing frequency or whatever).  They were very useful “pointers” to what was happening next in a contact and especially great for listeners like me.

The Dark Side…

However, there were always a few “mavericks”. Often these people frequented repeaters and used them for their own, somewhat “quirky” purposes.

It was not unusual to hear music playing, odd “squeaky” voices and sometimes downright disgusting language. It wasn’t the kind of thing you would want your children or grandchildren to overhear. It didn’t do a lot to advertise the hobby either!

Why? Why? Why?

We can speculate forever as to the motives of such folk and, indeed, there may even be some mental issues involved in the mix too.

But the fact remains that the Amateur Bands were not (and dare I suggest, even today, are still not) a place you would let youngsters roam free.

We bemoan the lack of activity on the Amateur bands (apart from contests, but that is very much a “Marmite” subject which I shall avoid for now) but it is, to some extent, out of our hands.

What can we do?

The kind of behaviour that we would not wish to hear become prevalent, sadly has – and there seems little we can do about it.

Whether it is the more “infamous” occupants of 14MHz or the local idiots on 2 metres, our licensing authorities seem powerless, or unable, or maybe do not have the time and resources, to police our bands effectively.

Time was that it would not take much straying outside of the terms of your license that you could expect a very prompt and forthright visit from Officials from the GPO (in the UK) – many licenses were in danger of revocation and much equipment was impounded.

Not any more it seems. We may have a “free” licence in financial terms, but with that comes far less say as to how our Amateur Bands are controlled.

Enter Digital Technology

In the 21st Century however, we have digital technology that allows us to control our “online worlds” far more effectively.

And this is one aspect of Network Radios to which I would like to draw your attention today.

“Taking Back Control”

Zello is the favoured PTT app used by these devices – there are many good reasons why, but amongst them is the ability to keep the way in which people access it, in check.

Built into Zello are controls to help channel organisers and “moderators” keep your corner of the digital world running smoothly.

For example, let’s say you create a channel for your local radio club. You can password protect it as a first “line of defence” – only your members will know the password and only they can access it. So far, so good!

Then you can select that any new members, having entered the correct password, need to be “trusted”. This means that everyone has to await a moderator’s say-so to allow them full access to that channel.

But that is not all!

Once trusted, you can be “muted” (no transmission rights – listen only allowed), blocked (for any period of time) or even summarily kicked off!

If only…

Can you see where I am going with this?

If this had been possible on Ham Bands and repeaters in the past, a lot of the poor operating and behaviour would have gotten nowhere.

But that is not so easy in an analogue world. In a digital world though, it is easy to implement!

A further example

Let me give you another example – the “Network Radios” Zello channels are proving very popular at the moment, especially here in the UK. Indeed they are growing seemingly by the day!

Thanks to a dedicated group of moderators (which also seems to be growing by the day, by the way!) newcomers are lightly “interviewed” as to their possible interest in a mostly-Ham based channel.

The membership is very much a mix of licensed Amateurs and unlicensed radio (or even “PTT”) enthusiasts, but there are strict rules about behaviour, etiquette and expectations.

Once or twice, people have overstepped the mark and they have been simply removed from the channel, warned and sometimes given a second chance to ameliorate their behaviour. (Sometimes not too, depending on the seriousness of what has taken place…)

Evidence!

Because Zello can record all overs (if you tell it to!), it is fairly straightforward for the moderators to listen to what actually was said and use that as a primary source of evidence in cases of dispute.

In other words, there is less requirement for circumstantial evidence based on what someone thought someone else said or meant. Even if the moderators miss the offending moment in person, they can simply replay it back, as if it were live!

Joy to the (Digital) World

These then are some of the “joys” of moderation – the “joys” of a digital world.

Once again, and I apologise for harping on about this, but technology has thrown us a conundrum. If we continue to try to live exclusively in an analogue world, the joys of moderation will not generally be available to us. However, if we embrace what new digital  technology can do for us, we can improve our lot substantially.

It is no over-exaggeration to suggest we can be, in this new digital world, our own policemen and indeed our own licensing authority – in fact, we are already doing it!

The Last Word…

Perhaps the last word should go to a member of the Network Radios group, who himself posted only this week on the Facebook Group attached to the channels, the following…

Just want to say a thanks to both the mods and the users I hear every day for creating and maintaining a busy, interesting, largely tech/radio centric place I can finally tune into and listen to again in the car and at home when the family is about.

My youngest (9) is into radio. Has her own PMR radio (set up with privacy so she only hears me), uses Zello on our own private channel and wants to take the foundation test!

We’re ‘outdoorsy’ and take the radios with us everywhere we go, but the local chatter around here has gotten so bad with colourful language, near-to-the-knuckle innuendo/smut and politics tainted with bigotry that I no longer feel confident of turning on the FT-70, except for during the morning school run when it’s virtually dead anyway.

I had put together a mobile hotspot with a DV4 Mini and a Raspberry Pi 3 to tune into CQ-UK which is infinitely better and true to the spirit of radio – it’s just a little too quiet sometimes. I can often make my whole commute without hearing a single call.

Firing up Zello and Network Radios in the car and at home, I know we’re going to hear a decent, clean and respectful discussion – which is what I always believed to be the Amateur Radio credo – and I 100% know I’m not going to hear the stuff I hear from the CB lot currently prolific on 2 metres around here with their one sentence overs, arguing, swearing and threats to give someone ‘a visit’.

I am waiting for my T-320 to arrive… The FT-70 will… still come with me when I leave the house, but I expect it’ll start the journey in the bag when the kids are around.

In short – cheers for making somewhere that’s a pleasure to be a part of, a pleasure to listen to and for a place that I know will not totally put off my daughter from the hobby, but will encourage her to go for her Foundation (License).

A breath of fresh air it is indeed and long may it continue.”

Well said, Sir!  Long may we all continue to enjoy the “Joys of Moderation”!

© Chris Rolinson G7DDN
June 12th, 2018

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Win a FREE Transceiver

Learn how to win a FREE mobile network radio! It could not be easier! This is a sweepstake for a brand new Anysecu 3G-W2 – The mobile network radio with the biggest display, for easy mobile usage! What are you waiting for?



Terms & Conditions

This is your great chance to win a free network transceiver – the Anysecu 3G-W2

You don’t have to buy anything. All you have to do is to register in our newsletter and you get a free entry to the sweepstake that will occur on the 30/06/2018.

We will contact the winner by e-mail so make sure you add our e-mail address to your contacts so it will not end up in the spam folder. Our e-mail address is info@network-radios.com

But you can increase your chances to win, by earning additional free entries to the sweepstake! See how you can get extra entries:

Once you register, you will get your unique code and you just need to share with your friends. Look how you can increase your chances:

Each referred signup +100 entries
Share on Facebook +10 entries
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Just register below. Once you do it, you can check how many entries you have accumulated! Good luck!

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3 Differences between RFinder K1 and M1

Size matters
The RFinder K1 is smaller than the M1.

Dual SIM card slot
The RFinder K1 has a dual SIM card slot, so you can actually have two different cellphone providers in the same radio and make & receive calls, texts and use data services from both providers.

Optional drop-in charger
It’s probably the most popular accessory for the K1. Just drop it in the charger and go on with your life!

What can these radios do?

DMR operation is exciting, but dealing with code plugs can be a terrible headache. RFinder makes it easy.

What if you could have a radio with a database of all DMR repeaters that updates continuously and you just have to point and click to change to the right frequency and settings? And this is not only regarding DMR, but also analog repeaters and Echolink nodes.

This is the RFinder concept. DMR made easy!  Get your GPS location, find nearby repeaters, select it from the list, and the radio is fully configured!

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The Radio-Tone RT4 is currently the only 4G/LTE Network Radio that works in US and Europe. Unlike the Inrico T320, it offers US, Australia and EU/UK 3G/4G bands. This makes the RT4 the best travel companion. If you are new to Network radios, then you you could not have a better way to start!

A smartphone for hams

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A video review

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So What is “Real Ham Radio” then?

by Chris G7DDN

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece called “It’s not Real Ham Radio”.

It caused quite a stir and has since been disseminated worldwide, broadcasted and quoted in many places and in magazines too.

The basic premise was that, as new technologies come into the Amateur Radio Hobby, Hams often have difficulty adapting to them.

Change demands a response

This should, in reality, not be a surprise. You will be able to think of many instances in your personal and work lives when change has come along, often unexpectedly.

The problem is that change is a little scary – and this is because it demands we react in some way.

3 ways we react to change

Oftentimes our reaction is to dismiss any change and try to remain in the status quo, where we feel we know our “ground” and where we feel secure. The problem here is that any changes then may pass us by – we can easily become mired in what quickly becomes “the past”.

Other times we are forced to take on board things we may not really want to. (Most times though, those things turn out to not be as bad as we had expected, just different.)

And very occasionally, we actually get all positive and embrace change and become quite excited about it.

Time to ask the question in a different way..

So, revisiting my initial article, I thought it was perhaps time to address the question, what actually IS “Real Ham Radio”?

Immediately however, I sense a problem here – you could probably get a different answer to this question from every single Ham in the world!

A few examples

  • A QRPer will tell you Ham Radio is about using the least power to get the most distance
  • An Amateur TV enthusiast could talk of cameras, test cards, repeaters and using microwave frequencies with dishes for antennas
  • A DX-er might regail you with stories of the excitement of the pile-up and the feeling you get when you “bag” a new country towards your DXCC
  • A Top Band rag-chewer may well tell you of the friendships he has made over countless years and the close bonds that have been made (and many beers consumed!) as a result
  • A CW enthusiast will probably tell you how close they feel to the original spirit of the earliest Hams
  • An LF enthusiast could tell you of hours spent winding large coils in order to get an antenna match, just to get minimal ERP out
  • A Microwave specialist might tell you about lining up horn antennas on summits to try to get DX contacts using snow scatter as a form of propagation
  • A SOTA hiker may well tell you of the joys of Radio in the great outdoors and how life is always better with batteries

All these examples, and I could have gone on, are individual responses to the question “What is Ham Radio?”

What do you want Ham Radio to be?

To some degree, it seems obvious that “Real Ham Radio” is what you want it to be, what you make it for yourself.

Few hobbies have such a wide range to them, so many avenues to explore – I doubt that any one Amateur has ever managed to visit them all!

FT8, for example, is the latest digimode to appear on the scene and has been taking the Ham Community by storm it seems – although there are many, myself included, who don’t get a kick out of computer-typing modes.  I love to see my friends enthusiastic for it however, as it keeps the hobby alive.

So can we define “Real Ham Radio”?

Frankly it is a problem!

I had some lengthy correspondences with a few Hams after my initial article. We had to work hard to find common ground that would satisfy each other as to how to define our hobby.

I had one excellent thoughtful debate with a US Amateur during which we were both challenged to think of how we defined the hobby. We managed to agree for the purposes of our email exchange on something close to this…

“Ham Radio is a hobby where a government-approved license stipulates what we must do to comply with our license conditions. But this relates solely to the emission of RF – anything else involved in the hobby will clearly not require a licence.”

So we pretty much distilled the definition to purely TX-ing on an Amateur Band legal in the country that issues the license and nothing else.

But does that actually define Ham Radio?

I have a client who is a Lecturer at a local University. He is a Doctor and his specialism is Microwave Technology. He has his own research profile and also mentors undergraduates. Like me he holds a G7 callsign. Unlike me though, he has never ever been on the air.

Is he an Amateur? By our initial definition, the answer would be no, simply because he chooses not to transmit on specific portions of RF.

By the way, this man is, in actuality, a true RF “professional” – he is not an amateur (with a small a) when it comes to radio. He knows more than most people world-wide about radio, especially Microwaves. 

Let’s try again…

OK let’s amend the definition.

Perhaps we can say “A Radio Ham is someone who holds a license to transmit on specific Amateur Bands, whether or not they choose to do so.”

There – that’s better. We can now count my client in our new definition.

That also covers another friend of mine who is a genius at construction and making transmitters from scratch. He gets his kicks from our hobby by constructing – but he doesn’t ever go on air.

He just tests his home-built radios on dummy loads and then usually gives them away to those in the hobby who enjoy the operating side. It would be churlish to say he wasn’t a “Real Radio Amateur”, even though technically, he didn’t even have to pass his exam to become a Ham for what he gets from the hobby.

So here is another issue – can you be a “Real Radio Amateur”, or engage in traditional Ham activities, and not even take a license exam?

Where next?

This is getting more difficult – perhaps we can go back to the root word of “Amateur” – the Latin ‘amare’ – to love.

The difference between Amateurs and Professionals is that the former practices for love and the latter does it for a profession; in all likelihood they get paid for it.

We “love” radio so that definition might work, might it not?  Maybe or maybe not!

After all, CB-ers are also lovers of radio. So are “Freebanders” and a lot of aviation enthusiasts.

In fact, a lot of other hobbies cross over to us in some way – model aircraft enthusiasts use RF in order for their hobby to work at all, for example.

So where are we to go?

We seem to be up a cul-de-sac with no way out.

  • We can’t quite define Ham Radio by transmitting RF – clearly we are still Hams when we are not transmitting RF on specific bands
  • We can’t quite define Ham Radio by only the passing of a license test, like my Doctor client who never actually goes on the air or practices the hobby in any accepted form
  • We can’t quite define Ham Radio by “love of radio” either, as it encompasses groups that are on the edge of our hobby but not quite part of it

And now…

So here we are and now Network Radios arrive on the scene and people are scratching their heads as to whether we “accept” them or not, as if we are some “guardians of real radio truth”!

I think the problem is that the technology is making it yet more difficult to define what our hobby actually is – and as newer and newer technologies come on stream, it may yet get even more so!

Perhaps we need to think “outside the box” a little more?

It’s not “Real Ham Radio”… or is it?

Network Radios certainly do not transmit on Ham Bands so wouldn’t fit into definition one.

However they could fit into definition two – you can use them like an Amateur would, if you choose to do so. If you choose to use Ham Protocols, fine, that is your prerogative.

They very much fit into definition 3 in the sense that we can make use of them in ways we see fit for our own “pleasure” and enjoyment.

More definition required!

A quick search for the definition of a hobby comes up with this – “an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure”.

Well Network Radios fit that just fine too – and to boot, they also use RF at various points in the chain, albeit on cellular or wi-fi frequencies.

But there’s more…

However, remember that they also can crossover into Ham bands via streaming audio or via remote operation of, for example, HF transceivers. This clearly would require an Amateur Service licence.

Bizarrely then, there is a sense in which Network Radios simultaneously may and may not require a license!

Isn’t this getting more than a little weird? That’s what technological conundrums do for you!

Now there’s a challenge!

As I said at the start of this article though, change challenges us – it challenges the status quo.

Change has come many times in our hobby (this was the main point of my original article) and it is challenging us now in the persona of Network Radios.

Perhaps we need to broaden our definitions; in this way, we can encompass a lot more in our hobby and maybe even reach out to others and grow.

The alternative is to “batten down the hatches” and try to defend our own little corners of the hobby – ultimately, I think that road could conceivably lead us to extinction.

Change? Or Opportunity?

I like Seth Godin’s take on this… (if you have not heard of him, look up some of his TED talks)

He says, “Change is not a threat – it’s an opportunity. Survival is NOT the goal, transformative success is” (emphasis mine)

Paradoxically then, it is actually change that will ultimately drive the hobby forward.

Trying to just “survive” with only what we did in the past will mean we will shrink rather than grow.

Network Radios could well be part of these growth “opportunities” – isn’t it worth embracing them to see if they are?

What do any of us have to lose by doing so? Except maybe our fear of change?

© Chris Rolinson G7DDN

May 2018

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