Issue 64: AKA Corner

I hope this finds you well and warm. Here in the Northeast USA we have been experiencing record cold. Indoor flying looks really good this time of year.

We are coming in to peak Kite Making Workshop Season. Please visit the AKA Web Site and check out the Calendar and find a workshop near you. Workshops are a great way to visit with old friends and make new friends and exchange tips and techniques on all sorts of things. Just ask anyone who was just at the Oregon Kitemakers Retreat! But don’t worry, there are more to come. Some people think nothing of traveling across the country to go to the Fort Worden Kitemakers Retreat in Washington State in March. The Midwest Area Kitemakers Retreat in Oregon, Illinois is almost centrally located, as is Junction Kitemakers Retreat in Texas. Maryland Kite Society Retreat is on the east coast. That is just the tip of the iceberg, there are many more.

National Kite Month is April 2009. The dates are March 28 to May 3. Plan a Kite event, put kites in your local library or school. Do a kite making workshop for local Scouts or school.  Register your events here:

There is great information there on how to get a proclamation from your Governor or Mayor declaring April as Kite Month. Yes, if you got to the web site right now, it needs updating. I have been assured by the powers that be that it will be bought up to speed soon. Email now to find out how to help make this the best National Kite Month ever.

This Kitelife issue’s message is going to be about communication and technology, maybe even technological communication. My generation grew up thinking age was just a number. It turns out that people’s perspective depends a lot on how old they are. Just as an example, my generation was not expected to be able to remember an entire phone number. Seven digits were just too many, so we were taught a word and five digits. The first two letters of the word were the first two numbers of the phone number. Another example is that there was considerable concern about Zip Plus Four, adding four digits to the Zip Code. It was thought then that the average citizen would never be able to remember it all.

The AKA came of age in a day when the top of the technological heap was the fax machine. Don’t get me started, I can go for hours on how the facsimile transmission technology was developed and who developed it, and what they developed it for, and how it ended up in Xerox’s hands, but that is not why we are here. The point is, the AKA has primarily been doing business by phone and fax. For as long as the Internet, and personal computers, and Adobe software have been around, it is still expecting a lot for some people to scan something to PDF instead of faxing it.

VOIP, Voice Over Internet Protocol, using the Internet for transmitting voice in real time, is a relatively new animal. It is cheap and sound quality can be less that perfect. But it makes it possible, not only for more AKA Members to listen in on the meetings, but also for more meetings to be held. It has been surprising how much pushback there has been over using it, from all sides.

Back in the day when a two-hour teleconference AKA Board meeting cost $2,500, it made good sense to have as few meetings as possible. AKA Bylaws say that there need to be at least four Board Meetings a year. Many long-time AKA Members are in a ‘four-meetings-a-year mindset’ and anything more than that is additional, special, and expensive. But these days the AKA is paying a flat rate for unlimited conferencing. Conferencing is available to every AKA Committee to use to communicate by voice in real time with up to 50 people on the Conference. What’s the cost? $150 per month. $1,800 a year. On the one hand, we pay for it monthly whether we use it or not. On the other hand, we get a year’s worth of unlimited conferencing for about what we used to pay for one meeting.

I would like to have six Board Meetings a year. It is the best way to get the Board together and talking. People we hardly hear from through Board e-mail speak up and contribute well on a conference call. I think we get more done with more meetings, and there is no added expense to the AKA. There is still a learning curve for everyone involved. It is new, which means it is unknown, and that makes it hard for some to accept. But, like the fax machine, the new technology will soon be ubiquitous, and it will be at the top of the heap until something better comes along. We need to embrace it now.

I spent about an hour today updating my Facebook Page and it really hit home what an amazing time we live in. The world is changing around us faster than it ever has. We, all of us, especially those of us tasked with guiding the AKA, need to change with it, or we and the AKA will be left behind. I am doing my best to lead by example. Playing with Facebook and posting in Forums, I fear my poor neglected Blog will become even more neglected. Please remember that I came of age in kiting back in a day when finding out where to fly on any given weekend meant making several long-distance phone calls. Nowadays there is e-mail, E-Groups, Web Calendars, and, dare I say it, Forums.

Forums: I love Forums, I really do, especially the Kite Talk Forum on the AKA Web Site. Discussions are great. It is really fun to go back on forth, ad nauseum, on whether a Dyna Kite is a Diamond Kite or a Delta kite. Or debating whether water is wet. That’s what Forums are for, discussing a point and expressing an opinion no matter how trivial the subject. Discussion and opinion is Signal. Deriding someone for having an opinion is Noise.

I haven’t posted much in KTF for a while. Sometimes the Noise to Signal ratio gets a little high. Some of that is just the nature of the beast. People talking about things have different opinions. Some people are offended by those who don’t think the same way they do. But here’s the thing: Some of us have been doing this a while. Some of us remember when rec.kites (rec.kites was a pre-Forum Internet Newsgroup) was an informative, creative, fun place to discuss things. Been there, done that, have the tee shirt. Heck, there were even ‘@’ buttons worn by kiters to identify other rec.kites subscribers. Rec.kites is still there, a mere shadow of its former self. Part of the reason is that technology has passed it by, and part of it is rec.kites turned into a cesspool of name calling instead of a place to exchange ideas. As someone who remembers the good times in rec.kites, I would rather be chided for not participating enough in the Kite Talk Forum than be an unwilling participant in committing it to the same fate as rec.kites.

The thing is, many AKA Members have expressed a wish to eliminate bickering. Much of what is perceived as bickering takes place on the Forums. It is hard to find a way to directly address the bickering without being thought of as one of the bickerers. Rather than risk it, sometimes it is safer to take a break and let things cool than go head to head with folks who like noise more than signal.

I have made a New Year’s resolution to participate more in the Forum(s). Even if I just go in there to post ‘Nuts.’ We all need to remember that we are all in this together. Things any of us do, say or post reflects on all of us.

Now go play with kites. Thanks for listening. See you out there somewhere.

good heavens;

gary engvall