Friday, February 29, 2008


My new ARRL card came in. I haven't really kept up my membership consistently, but I suppose it's worth it for QST - especially since there don't seem to be many other ham radio magazines around these days.

I tried to sign Charlie up at the same time, but their online form wouldn't accept 1996 as a valid birth year. It's not like 12 is an unusually young age for a ham - he's been licensed for over a year and a half already, and I was licensed at age 10, too. I'm sure the validation is only on the client side, though, so I'll probably just hack the form and make it accept it. I reported the problem but no one seemed particularly interested.

I emailed the application for the Dayton Hamvention booths last week, and as usual I've had no confirmation, and no one answers my messages. The ARRL, on the other hand, has been emailing and leaving phone messages about advertising in their special Dayton section in QST. I'll probably skip it this year - a 1/24 page ad is more than a month's online advertising budget for me. I'd rather spend the money on a nice eye-catching display for the booth.

It continues to amaze me that Hamvention can pull in millions of dollars and still be such an amateurish production. Their website is straight out of 1997 (and they've refused offers of free web design help), they're difficult to contact, even for those of us shelling out $1,700 for booth space each year, and when things go wrong, no one is accountable. Last year we were without Internet access (that we'd paid in advance for) for half of the show, and it cost us dearly in lost credit card sales.

They were blaming problems on an outside vendor, but they didn't even have the cable run to the booth until a day into the show - they claimed they'd lost the order. I'd specifically paid for wired access because I didn't trust their ability to get wireless working. At least we had working power - the year before, we didn't even have that when we got there. Nor did we have the table drapes that the website had promised - I had to fire up my broadband card and bring up the website before I was able to convince someone that it really did say that. The only compensation they've ever provided was a refund of half of the Internet access charge.

Hamvention will keep on going out of sheer inertia, I'm sure. Everyone comes because it's the biggest thing around, and at least from a vendor's perspective, if you're going to go to one show a year, Dayton's it. But at this rate I don't expect the show to ever get any better. I know a lot of volunteers put in a lot of work, but I really think they'd be better off handing the management over to a paid management service.

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