I think that for most of us, we have had a difficult and challenging year. The Covid-19 virus and its affect on our entire lives has had a profound effect on the way that we view our lives, and our relationships to our families and friends. I used to think that I was the ultimate social distancer. As an amateur radio operator and working from the home office, social distancing is as natural as riding a bicycle. But after a sustained period of lock down, I am realizing that I long to be back in the groups of family, friends, and the different communities that make up my life.
The QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo seemed like a natural extension to the QSO Today Podcast as a way to give you and the listeners some relief from the pandemic. I had no idea how much potential was there and what a difference it made after months of ham radio lock down. I enlisted my former post college roommate and best friend, Brad Grob, to partner with me, and to help me get it off the ground. The amount of work is over the top and the rewards are great. Our team is in un-charted territory. We are learning new skills and technology that we can use to make even better events in the future.
Other than the fact that over 90% of the 16,000 hams who attended said that they would like to return to the next Expo, building a virtual expo has been a great intellectual enterprise for me. I wanted in August, and now in March 2021, to create an amazing user experience for you and everyone who came. There are a thousand pieces of this puzzle that have to be fit together to pull this off. The virtual platform that we used was amazing, but it needed to be tweaked to make it even better.
For example, Dr. Ron Milliman, K8HSY, a blind ham, created a team of seven for the Expo that audited our platform using screen readers, to find the problems that blind or vision impaired hams would have during the expo. His suggestions from August were incorporated into our road-map upgrades to vFairs, our platform provider. VFairs complied, allowing the expo platform to pass a second inspection by Ron and his team last November.
As part of wanting to improve the user attendee virtual experience, I thought that the social component of having 16,000 hams on the platform, and not seeing or feeling them was missing. So I spent September searching for a solution. Especially a solution that would allow random hams to meet random hams, to allow hams to meet in small groups, and would solve our work flow issues with presentations and live questions and answers. I wanted to create the "hall way" experience of live events, where we could meet other people with similar interests in the halls outside of the exhibits and presentations. I wanted to enhance presentations and exhibits with the sense of people energy that was missing.
So here is my holiday gift to you. Knowledge and experience that we gained since August.
The gift is a platform is called Airmeet. Airmeet is an Indian company that created exactly what I was looking for and what they agreed was missing from Zoom meetings: the social interaction between the audiences and people in a virtual get together.
I offer it as a gift of to you as a way to enhance your virtual ham radio club meetings, to build your virtual communities, for the future. Airmeet offers what they call "speed dating" to allow you to meet new members when they walk in the virtual door, to sit at tables with other members for video chat. Imagine having up to 25 tables of 8 at your meetings, before the main presentation, based on subjects like DX, Contesting, SDR, DMR, building your first antenna, etc. in video chat. Imagine having a stage for presentations - pre-recorded and live integrated together, for live questions and panel discussions. And while I am anxious for live club meetings, you should consider that by going virtual you have reached out to members around the world, and former members who moved away. I plan to use it this Spring with my Great American Songbook for an on-line dinner theater experience with a lobby to meet the audience, dining room tables, and a stage. The product is free for up to 100 visitors, and nominal monthly fee for up to 350 members and visitors.
Full disclosure, if I could buy stock in Airmeet, I would in an instant. I can't buy stock, but I can be their evangelist. It is the answer to the missing social elements of the Expo, that will make it even greater. It solves a huge problem for on-line communities like amateur radio clubs that have gone virtual. Your using our Airmeet link, that they created for QSO Today, will tell them that I told you about them, and that you will consider Airmeet for your next meeting. I have made no agreement with them for remuneration. The referral link will let Airmeet know that you came from QSO Today. That may give us some leverage when we come to negotiating for the Expo.
While I am extremely anxious for this emergency to come to an end, I know that we have all been profoundly changed by it. I am using video conference for every call now, just to see faces. My family and friends mean more, and time is precious and should not be wasted. Every decision now is about family time versus work balance. I am walking more eating less. I need more sleep. Our virtual world is now a part of our real world, and this will last beyond the emergency.
I want to wish you and your family, a warm and joyous holiday season, with a future of health and happiness. I am grateful for your listening to the QSO Today podcast and supporting it. Now, more than ever, I am anxious to see what the new year will bring.