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The Future of Amateur Radio IS with our youth!!!

In response to a The Future of Amateur Radio is with our youth . . . not! by Joe Cupano, NE2Z (because his wordpress doesn’t allow comments, unless you’re logged in as admin to his site, lol.

To that headline, I say, the Future of Amateur Radio IS with our youth!

But youth is relative. Sure, there is a definition of youth, but I argue that youth in ham radio must take it’s aged demographic into consideration. The average ham (according to ARRL/NCJ and OFCOM data) is…old. The UK its over 71, the ARRL/NCJ is 70. So what is youth relative to 70 years old? What would at 70 year old tell you?

They would say to almost everyone younger than then, even a 50 year old, that they’re still young!

But that begs the question: what is old? Unfortunately, “old” has a very negative connotation (cranky, curmudgeonly, stinky, mean, burdensome, stubborn, and tech illiterate) while the positives (wise, elder, experienced, aged (like a fine wine or whisky), and virtuous) are often ignored.

Simply put, old is not young. And based on our relativity to ham radio, and removing as much connotation and subjectivity as possible, old is aged beyond that of the average ham radio licensee, which is about 70.

Lets actually read the post and not jump to conclusions about the title (can’t begin to tell you how much that happens on my blog. If you’re a reader of n0ssc.com I probably don’t have to remind you that Millennials Are Killing Ham Radio, but maybe I should have put a “…NOT” in that headline🙃).

Joe asks,

How many times have you seen the messaging in Amateur Radio that it’s future is with the youth and how the Amateur Radio community should engage them in teaching or demonstrating technology to them?

It’s bullshit!

It’s bullshit because he believes there is a double standard (I guess) where youth are failing to show hams how to use modern technology like cellphones, social media, maker tech, and videoconferencing, and that youth have surpassed the ham radio community in technology engagement.

I’ve mulled that one over.

It must be a symptom of his tunnel vision, or something, but I fail to see both the double standard, and the fact that young people aren’t teaching old people (and in Joe’s case, specifically hams) how to use tech. This, I think, is bullshit, because old folks are using tech, and using it well enough to present themselves on Zoom meetings, create and comment on Facebook posts, make YouTube videos of their ham radio fun (some pretty great!) and even make 3D printed thingies – THANKS ENTIRELY to…

Gotcha! You thought I was gonna say youth there, didn’t you?

First of all, the fact that old people still, in fact, have a brain and can still learn, often by themselves, nullifies Joe’s premise, but secondly, people who have either helped them learn (I currently don’t know a young ham who isn’t tech support for their grandma), or have made tech generally as accessible as possible for people of all ages and levels of technology literacy in the first place. And some of those helpful people happen to be young. Some are old, too. But what’s your point, Joe?

Joe mentions the overlooked “middle child” of generations – Millennials and GenXers (did I tell you Millennials Are Killing Ham Radio?) but I feel he left his point hanging there, but contextually, I assume he believes the reins of ham radio is in their hands but doesn’t consider those people “young.” I believe this to be true, but it’s just as important to bring ham radio into the minds and hands of GenX and Millennials as it is for GenZ, and those after that when they come of age, for the same reason why it’s of paramount importance (not to mention highly desirable) to have diversity in any community of peoples.

But maybe, ham radio has always been an old person’s hobby, and that’s just the way it is. Hiram Percy Maxim apparently stated that the age of hams was a problem…in 1900s (citation needed…someone told this to me at W4DXCC and I’ve not found a source, but I believe it!)

Even if that’s the case, imagine my disappointment when the old guard dies away without doing anything to bring new blood into ham radio, resulting in international amateur radio spectrum reallocation, resulting in no ham radio for me when I get to be old. That would suck, and that’s why I am the IARU R2 Liasion for Youth and a co-founder of Youth on the Air, and a die-hard evangelist for this hobby. I don’t have the time in my 20s and 30s to operate every day, go on mega DXpeditions, contest for 48 hours straight for 12 weekends out of the year and more, and win WRTC, because I’m working over full time while still having a life with my wife, dog and two cats, friends, and family, with the world to still see. I want ham radio to still exist when I retire, dammit!

(and also to give back to the community by making ham radio a valuable STEM sandbox for young people, as it did for me!)

So I will blog during my lunch hours, I’ll travel to a hamfest to give a talk a few times a year, and I’ll join a club’s zoom to help promote youth in ham radio. What are you doing to keep ham radio existing in perpetuity?

If anything, just get on the air!

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Protected: A Short Note on the Saturation of Ham Radio YouTube

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Thoughts on the Saturation of Ham Radio YouTube

I…uh…haven’t blogged in a long time.

How have you all been?

I have been very busy. I’m on a plane so I found time to write a thing I’ve been thinking about.

I was watching YouTube (I watch a lot of YouTube) and I scrolled past a video with hardly any views, a creator with not many subs, and a title and thumbnail that wasn’t very attention-getting. However, something in my head just said give it a chance.

First of all, poseurs isn’t a misspelling; I thought it was, but turns out it’s just another way to spell posers. In my middle and high school, posers were people who posed as people who they weren’t. Everyone was one at some point, unless you were popular. I was a goth poser, an emo poser, a nerd poser…point was that I didn’t really fit in for a while. I struggled to find my friends until I hit a wall, got depressed, and…joined band lol.

Randon, KN4YRM, actually had a good point in the video. There is a new kind of poser in the ham radio YouTube space, and it’s causing problems for seekers of amateur radio knowledge on the platform and, in my opinion, ham radio in general.

As we may or may not be aware, ham radio, in general, has a significant demographic cliff ahead of itself. And if nothing is done to address that cliff, the hobby (and service) will die. One of the best “boots on the ground” are the growing body of Ham Radio YouTube Creators (a.k.a. HamTubers). They are bringing amateur radio to a whole brand new audience and generation of hams right into their phones and devices.

More generally, YouTube posers (I like to call them douchetubers) are very common on the platform. These aren’t the kind of poser I remember in middle school. Instead of being a wayward teen looking for their place in the world, the YouTube posers he’s referring to are a sort of morally bankrupt opportunistic fame chaser, and in this case, they’ve coalesced upon ham radio. Maybe they really are wayward souls, and deep down are desperate to find a hobby or an ingroup to call home, but I’m not so sure after knowing and talking with some over the last few years.

Douchetubers are sort of an indicator species. They are proof that the OG YouTubers are doing something right insofar that they have made their topic become so mainstream that it is now profitable for the douchetubers to swoop in, make effortless superficial unboxing videos, paid reviews of cool gear and services they didn’t buy or even use, without ever actually participating in the vocation that supports the wares they are peddling, while utilizing skills and techniques that are optimized for The Algorithm – high-energy thumbnails, click-bait titles, precise ad placement, belaboring the point (or never even getting to it) to increase watch time, consistent scheduling, optimized viewer retention and engagement, and the oh so beloved “LIKE AND SUBSCRIBE” call outs.

And if that wasn’t enough, they will even start pointless drama and consternation (sometimes conspiratorially coordinated) with other douchetubers and OGs just to pump up activity and engagement so that the YouTube algorithm catches on – and that is a tried and true tool used by douchetubers the world around. KSI, Logan Paul, Pewdiepie, GradeAunderA are a few that come to mind that all bickered about each other while they all enjoyed the gains due to polarization.

In ham radio world, these are the youtubers who make videos just for the clout, influence, or revenue – without ever hitting a PTT button, melting a single blob of solder, or sharing a conversation with experienced hams and elmers – essentially doing nothing to show or share their true passion for the hobby, because they really have none, or, what passion they did have became usurped by the chase for clout (views, likes, and influencing power) and perhaps advertising revenue (but as someone who receives advertising revenue and knows people in the ham radio YouTube space that do, it isn’t very much).

This is especially becoming apparent in the preparedness realm. PrepTube is chock full of douchetubers who have capitalized on right-wing FUD, civil distress, and the deluge of climate change induced disasters by performing paid gear reviews of things like cheap Chinese ham radios to use when SHTF, and making ill-informed recommendations to their audience that we hams scoff at. Buy a Baofeng and put it in an ammo box? Do you even know how to program those things?

But, good for ham radio! Right? Well, yes and no.

Yes, because douchetubers have an incredible talent at putting information in front of lots and lots of eyeballs. Because ham radio is on a demographic cliff, the exposure they are helping create by making YouTube videos that are highly optimized to attract larger audiences and make revenue is a net good thing for ham radio since YouTube is a perpetual audience of billions and billions of people, especially youth.

On the other hand, it’s bad for a few reasons:

  1. They are really bad at sharing their passion for amateur radio, such that they encourage their audience to watch more of them on YouTube, instead of play more radio themselves.
  2. They are really bad at promoting the hobby (either as a hobby or a service) to the public in general. Their superficial view of it to the masses are…
  3. …diluting the technical breadth and depth of amateur radio (in other words, they are promoting unskilled and untrained appliance operators, especially in preparedness communities.
  4. Randon’s point – it saturates the YouTube ham radio space making it way harder for hams and hams-to-be to find useful, helpful information, and to support legit non-douche YouTube elmers.

What it means for the OG youtubers is that they need to step up their game to compete for views. This brings the playing field back into their favor, at the expense of sounding like a douchetuber themself. “SMASH THAT LIKE BUTTON” is a common phrase among all of us now, because non-DoucheTubers still need to inform their audience that if they don’t like and subscribe, then videos made by douchtubers of low quality and high viewing rates will eventually overpower even the best creations from the most morally enriched and didactic creators – people like Dave Casler KE0OG, Ham Radio Crash Course, Mr. Carlson’s Lab, KM4ACK, Ham Radio 2.0, K8MRD, K6ARK, Signal Path Blog, K5ATA, TheSmokinApe, just to name a few…they all have to compete with the scum of the YouTube earth with the same techniques they do.

Great content does not automatically mean more viewers. Just ask how many times I’ve given presentations on youth in ham radio to near-empty rooms and worked my butt off on videos for all of a few hundred views (while 5 of my top ten videos are awful, unscripted, seat of the pants reviews of popular gear…seriously I still think my Solar Eclipse QSO party video was the moment when I proved to myself I could tell a Neistat-style story through video, but it’s only got 200 or so views despite it being one of my hardest videos to make.)

And the same is true for many hobbies; I’ve seen it happen with flying quadcopters over the last 7 years, and I’ve seen it happen with disc golf over the last year, where douchetubers will review a disc or gear sent to them from Chinese companies without even knowing what the ratings on it mean, never admitting to never having actually thrown a disc in their life, just because so many eyeballs are looking for that information out there, and they have a matching charismatic ability to disseminate useless information while maintaining an audience of people willing to give them their attention.

I would like to add, that while douche-HamTubers are starting to oversaturate the YouTube ham radio space with bad content, that there is no shortage of brilliant didactic (I love that word) ham creators making excellent videos and actually engaging with their passions and audiences while sharing knowledge in a fruitful manner that is well in alignment with the spirit of amateur radio. I wish that wasn’t discouraging to anybody wishing to make videos on YouTube (I had just given a talk to W4DXCC to promote everyone with a smartphone to give it a shot!), but I know that to be true as well.

Randon’s advice to spin the dial works here just as well as it works on the bands. Just spin the dial, and give your attention to those who really deserve it.

Here’s a looooong list of ham radio YouTubers curated by Kyle AA0Z. Do you see any douchetubers on this list? Let us know!

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1BiqqCvRnzNx-iuH9R5ghyfRFomOWkh59zuZ6OrWy7Is/edit

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How to find the circuit breaker without burning the house down #hamradio

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MOQP WØW Breakfast Net

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Hackaday Antenna Class + Hammock

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Ham Radio #short: End Fed Half Wave Balun in a peanut butter jar

Really getting back into the tune of things. Pun intended. #short #n0ssc

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Why I’m not doing winter field day. #shorts

if it was two degrees colder, it’d be snow. #shorts

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iPhone 12 Pro Max Unboxing [ASMR No Talking]

I unbox my iPhone 12 Pro Max and attempt to put a glass screen protector on it. You’ll never guess what happens next.

Also sorry for not making more ham radio videos; I have 2 in the hopper but, you know, life happens.

#nothamradio

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Comment on Millennials Are Killing Ham Radio by Ricky

I’m a little unusual – mid 60s, interested in ham radio back in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a youngster when my uncle brought a shortwave radio home from the Air Force and gave it to me. But never learned Morse, and so never got a license. Got a TRS-80 instead and learned assembly language programming and taught myself how to build microcontroller projects on custom prototype PCBs in the 1980s, eventually sending several hand built projects into orbit on Soyuz and Space Shuttle because nobody knew how to do quick turnaround electronics for one-off projects in the 1990s. Ended my career working as a contractor on US Army drone data link gear and building custom ground support test equipment. Now I’m retired looking for things to do, and ordered a pair of Baofeng UV-5Rs off of EBay just because they were cheap. Huh, need a Technician license to operate these, no Morse code required, what the heck, a week of exam cramming and I’ve finally gotten my ham license. So it’s all about VHF / UHF analog voice comms as an entry into the hobby now, huh? And just look at this cool DMR stuff! I’m still interested and fascinated by the tech, but as an introvert I’m not sure I want to strike up a verbal conversation with anybody…

I think the “technology made ham radio obsolete” is right on the money.

And speaking of money, THAT’s where the interest of youth is being expressed in cutting edge tech. Robinhood retail investments for the young masses and cryptocurrency blockchain development projects for the brainiacs. And social media platform development most of all – helping people meet and communicate in NONVERBAL ways makes billionaires out of nerds.

My advice – go back and read Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke (another post-war relic just like CW and DX), especially the last chapter. Amateur radio, like Karellen, is destined to play “only” an unalterable role as an essential midwife to follow-on generations destined for unimaginable greatness.