In response to Ria Jairam N2RJ’s question on Twitter:

Tell me what’s wrong with #hamradio and how you’d fix it. If you’re uncomfortable responding on twitter, email me

I’m not normally one to call out organizations but the ARRL is all we got as hams, really. People have argued with me on the merits of being a member, and I say “they’re all we have to represent us”. No other org lobbies the interests of hams and protects our bands– not ragtag petitioners, nor even conglomerations of clubs. Given that, the ARRL is our only hope. Yet it is a very slow and disconnected organization. Our “newsletters” are mostly stale and dry, member notification and communication is mainly through a magazine. Most ARRL officers have no online presence. Any “open door” policy by our elected officers is effectively blocked by lack of online presence. Board activities are secretive, if not simply poorly documented.

Then there’s the brainstorm fatigue we experience yearly. The ARRL is always asking us what can we do to improve membership and get more people hooked into the hobby. If you have to ask, and this many times, perhaps it’s true that the hobby is not relevant anymore. But talk to many experienced hams and you’ll see motivation, drive, deep interest, projects, experimentation, and exhilaration when things come together. The ARRL needs to stop broadcasting its helplessness. It does not inspire confidence when our main and only org is grasping straws and constantly probing its members for solutions. If you lack a direction or ideas, hire experts (as most normal companies do when they lack talent). Or maybe hire and involve the very people who are actively demonstrating this momentum in their own endeavors. There are many such hams to choose from. Kind of like scouting for sports talent, bring those people in and give them the resources to create an impact with the membership (and non-membership). This is not simply done with a magazine article or two. It is not done through podcasts or five talking heads in a video livestream. There needs to be organizational support for sharing ideas online, communicating, interacting, and even sponsoring the individuals  who have these new inventions/ideas.

Many hams oversimplify the ARRL as a bureacratic magazine subscription. Sticking to paper methods, and a disjointed bunch of half-finished web services contribute to this sentiment. Can we honestly say that the ARRL website is a good user experience? Yet the ARRL is so much more than how it appears, and the membership needs to see the organization’s strength. Hire PR. Hire talented active individuals. Bring in those who engage the hams and the public regularly. Become the best “club” that people are excited to attend.

Nothing is wrong with ham radio in itself. But if we want it to continue to exist in the future, the main organization that represents it needs to be a hundred times more efficient and effective than it currently is.

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