Facebook and the ARRL
Earlier today, fellow blogger and Cornbread Road podcaster Jeff, KE9V posted an article on his blog entitled “Screw You Newington“. Please take a minute to read that if you haven’t already.
While I don’t entirely agree with Jeff’s comments (and I commented there saying so), I do feel that the ARRL has possibly made a serious mistake in the way they’ve gone about starting up their presence on Facebook. As I promised Jeff, I’ve written an email to my ARRL Division Director (Frank, N2FF) and Vice- Directory (Joyce, KA2ANF) explaining my concerns. I have slightly edited what I wrote to them (removing some personal things) and I am posting it here, sort of as an “open letter”. Unless they explicitly give permission, I won’t be posting their response, but I felt that posting this would give my view of things.
Hi Frank and Joyce,
I hope you’ve been keeping cool and the DX has been flowing for you.
Recently, the ARRL posted an article on their website about their presence on Facebook. In general, I think this is an excellent idea, as social media, like it or not, is here to stay and is an important part of having public visibility. I think it’s a great way to show that the ARRL is active and recognizes that things like Facebook have value to many people. A Facebook presence should help the League acquire new members who may not be aware of the fine work that they do.
However, I do have one concern. The following is quoted from the article:
Thanks to Herman May, KE5HYW, the ARRL has its own Facebook page. Check out the page to see a lot of features you won’t find anywhere else, such as pictures from ARRL events and interactive status updates. [emphasis mine]
I have shared with both of you my disappointment in the current ARRL website, but I think that the worst thing that the League can do is to start posting “exclusive” content elsewhere. While I understand that intent is to provide another outlet for content, asking members to visit a second site doesn’t seem to be a good idea to me. If the ARRL wants to keep users coming back to their website (which is typically the goal of any website), the exclusive content should be there, and there alone. I think it’s perfectly fine to have some overlap between the sites, but the arrl.org website should be the primary site.
I also think that the League will run into issues with members who aren’t willing to join Facebook (they’ve gotten a lot of bad press lately, some of it deserved, some not, for their privacy issues), and I am sure there will be complaints from users who are being “forced” to join Facebook to view the content.
With that said, I have looked at what’s up on Facebook now, and aside from some user-posted pictures, most of the content appear to be cross-posted from the ARRL news feed along with minimal status updates like today’s “Who did you have your first QSO with”? If that’s really the main thrust of what’s going to be available there, then perhaps this isn’t really a significant issue, but I am aware of several fellow hams who are taking the information published in the article at face value and assume they’ll be missing out on something if they don’t join Facebook.
In closing, I hope that you take this note in the spirit in which it’s intended, which is to provide constructive criticism of something that I think the ARRL could be doing better.