Community Broadcasting Technologists
Technorama at CBAA 2017
Technorama President John Maizels ran a tech workshop for station managers, board members, and other non-technical people. Why? Because radio is a technology business, and you need to understand something about the technology if you’re going to be a good decision maker. The session covered just enough that participants came out knowing a bit more about what they don’t know.
And we got good feedback: “Very informative as always – John hosts a great workshop and was able to take away a lot of content to take back to my station” as well as “Really great presentation. Entertaining, informative and entirely relevant. Thank you.”
What did you miss this year? Read the full CBAA event program here
CBAA 2017 Links
Shaun Dennis takes Tech gong
You need to know what you don’t know
Here is the printable version of charts from the session that Technorama’s John Maizels and Michelle Brown ran at CBAA 2017. We haven’t added script notes yet, but you’ll get a lot of the the idea. Key points: block diagrams are GOOD. You need to know enough to adequately question whether the advice you’re given is good or not. Broadcasting is a Technology Business. We must invest in training. No question, get your Tech Team into the strat plan, and get them to Technorama each year. Join now. Get on the mailing list. Now read on…
BA Pro-Bono support
Stephen Farrugia from Broadcast Australia announced a new program to help stations with tricky RF and technical planning challenges. BA will offer two days of pro-bono engineering support per month to support CBAA Members, and the CBAA will schedule requests. The aim of the support is to provide advice and guidance, but most particularly to provide access to tools that BA uses for spectrum and transmission planning, which would otherwise be unavailable to the average community broadcaster. Steve’s presentation is here, and Technorama will provide more information as it comes to hand.
Station Health Check
Not strictly tech, but certainly a part of establishing good governance: how does your station rate, and how well is it working? CBAA and CMTO have announced a tool to help stations identify how the station stacks up against best practice governance. You can check out the process here. The recommendation is that you spend some time as a board, and if you would like help it’s available through the CBAA (Nadia Elkholy) or CMTO (Giordana Caputo). By the way, currently you need to be in the list of stations to get past page 1. There will be an “other” category shortly, to allow other sector bodies to use the tool.
800 MHz Restack
Many stations will be affected by the plans to clear the 849-852MHz segment currently used by Studio-Transmitter Links (STLs) or Sound Outside Broadcast Links (SOBLs). The ACMA recently ran a Tune Up session to update plans, and get feedback. They are listening. In one interesting side-conversation, we discussed need for gridpac antennae as opposed to lighter and easier to manage yagis, or maybe something simpler. The response was helpful.
We’ll keep you updated as the process moves forward. Those stations who have FM links know that there are several advantages (including: you can listen to yourself off-air, and failure modes are gentle compared to IP links). Meanwhile, Udana Athuraliya, who is managing the project for ACMA, has provided this background information.
We’ve been asked a few times in the last week: is it OK to be commercial on the Q&A Facebook group? Well… yes and no. Check out the policy link in the Q&A Facebook group section on the right hand side of this page (or just go here).
Technorama Annual General Meeting
The second Annual General Meeting of Technorama Incorporated was held on Monday 18 September, entirely in cyberspace. The meeting was Chaired by the President from the comfort of his family room table. Well… when we say comfort, it was practical. The audio/visual part of the event was run using GoToMeeting for audio, graphics and occasional video linkage. But an absolute star was the beta test run of Sparklevote Live, an extension to an existing platform that was delivered to spec and just in time for the meeting.
The challenge with any meeting is that it involves people. The NSW Associations Act allows a meeting to be conducted using electronic means, but it must be conducted according to the rules, and all attendees must have the same access as if they were in the room. That’s a challenge, because our rules require that we must be able to take nominations from the floor, run a secret ballot, take a paper vote if requested – lots of actions that are easy when everyone is physically present, but very challenging over the phone. And up until now, there has not been a tool that we could trust to manage voting and balloting, AND which would allow on-the-fly motions to be set up and balloted securely in real time.
Sparklevote solved the problem for us very neatly, providing us with the ability to have a show-of-hands or secret vote created instantly.
On the day, 24 people attended the meeting, coming and going just like they would in a physical meeting room. To facilitate the meeting and help with the process, Dean Gillespie (CEO of Sparklevote) stepped into run the polling process.
No question: from a technical point of view (and isn’t that what Technorama is about?) the AGM was an outstanding success. We now have processes which we know will work.
John Martin, our Returning Officer, was able to announce election results early when the number of nominations exactly matched the number of positions to be elected. Changes to committee are:
- Chris Holliday retires as Treasurer, having managed the portfolio since the previous AGM.
- Jim Parish becomes Secretary/Treasurer and will manage both portfolios
- William Martin (BayFM) joins as a Committee Member
- John Maizels (President), Stephen Wilkinson (Vice President), Frank Wilcox, Mike Tobin and Chris Deacon (Committee Members) were all reelected
Technorama TR17 – done, but far from dusted
TR17 wrapped on Sunday 18 June, with almost 80 delegates this year. From the moment the education day started on Friday, we knew we were witnessing something special. Reports will appear over the next few days as we find time, but right now some thanks to the Technorama Incorporated Committee and the team of helpers who managed the event, all of you who presented at sessions, our new Members, our Sector partners and supporters who found the time to engage, our Guest of Honour Steve Farrugia, and everyone who registered and turned up.
A special congratulations to all the winners of the reinvigorated Technorama Awards, now with six BIG categories, and to the Awards Committee who did such a great job. You can check out the 2017 award winners here, and read the backstory and criteria for the awards here.
Last call for TR17 attendee survey: what did you really think?
If you were at TR17, we’d like to know about the experience. Good, bad or indifferent, your view will help us plan TR18.
Click here to get started – it won’t take long, you’ll have our massive gratitude, and your input will help our grant report.
Become a Member of Technorama and save!!
Special deal: Membership of Technorama Incorporated costs only $10 for station personnel, but here’s a special deal if you haven’t already become a Technoraman: members get discounts to everything we do. The TR17 conference cost $15 less if you were a $10 member, so you are ahead on the first year and REALLY ahead every year after. But wait – there’s more. All our activities will be cheaper for members, because we want our members to be involved. That’s right – it’s almost like we’re paying you to turn up.
Question: what do you get if you pile 18 technologists into a room, give them a collection of small computer circuit boards and say “go for it”. Answer: nothing, until you light the spark. So that’s what we did at the inaugural Technorama Education Day, held on Friday 16 June 2017.
Nicholas Vinen and Leo Simpson from Silicon Chip Magazine joined John Maizels to present a program designed to introduce novices to the world of Small Board Computers. Attendees came from all across the country to meet the Raspberry Pi, MicroMite, and Arduino families, and were exposed to some of the joys of each, before unpacking the Arduino kit that came with the class and rolling up sleeves.
Nicholas took the students through a path from the initial “hello world” (flashing a light) through to sophisticated programming and libraries. Students with absolutely no prior knowledge of computers (and, in some cases, no knowledge of electronics either) were surprised to discover how easily they could program the Arduino to read a button and in response first turn on, then a relay. As the class progressed, the exercises progressed to using touch screen, measuring voltages, and many techniques which might be useful in a studio.
We’re looking forward to some projects from the magazine, and further development of what is a very useful skillset.
Our special guest for TR17 was Steve Farrugia, who joined us for the weekend.
Steve is Chief Technical Officer for Broadcast Australia and is actively working on the future of communications in this country. Expect to hear much about emerging technologies including 5G, and come armed with questions about transmission and linking. Many of you might have known of Steve in his previous role as General Manager, Engineering for Broadcast Australia, where he led the team responsible for all of BA’s transmission sites, core engineering and project management.
As always, we have a few of our supporters and industry suppliers coming to join us – come see Wireless Components, AVW, N-Com and On-Air/Logitek who will all be attending and bringing some toys for your edification.
A membership system: just what you’re looking for?
Membership Systems will be one of the topics for TR17. Almost every community radio station has members and subscribers, and we thought that most of you would have automated signup and billing. So imagine our surprise when the survey showed that a large proportion of stations still have a manual system. It’s hard to believe that there’s nothing better available than a spreadsheet and a lot of manual effort, but that’s what you’ve told us.
The system that Technorama has implemented is very suitable for a community station, and we’re working up an installation guide to take all the sting out. See how well it works and give it a test run by becoming a Member of Technorama.
Currently being discussed at the Technorama Q&A Facebook group:
- Perils of Ransomware
- Software testing
- Solar power
…and heaps more. It’s Facebook, so search is minimal, arrangement is annoying, and some posts are hard to find. Delve in, because it’s worth it. Join the conversation: see the link on this page for how to find the Q&A group and join up. And read below for a bit of a backstory on the FB group.
Maybe there’s a reason why you can’t become a member right now. Just fill in the online contact form which will put you on the mailing list. The form is on the right of this page, or at the bottom, or via a hamburger – all depending on your device.
If you’re not a member, or if you’re part of an organisation, being on the mailing list is the best way to stay informed and up to date about Technorama activity. Our promise: you won’t be spammed or fire-hosed.
Technorama IT Subcommittee: answering questions you haven’t asked yet
One of the first actions for this year has been creation of the Technorama IT Subcommittee to take on some of the technology challenges that we now have as an organisation. Founding members are Shaun Dennis, Damien Spanjer, Harry Valerio, Steve Hutson, Stephen Wilkinson and John Maizels (chairing).
TRITS (get it?) has a simple mission: develop best-of-breed solutions to support running Technorama, and in the process build a bag of tools that can be used by any community broadcasting station. We do the work, so that you don’t have to, and we’ll make the outcomes available to Members.
The first TRITS project is already live: the new Technorama membership system. Definitely suitable for small to medium community radio stations, this system is capable of doing most of the work that you need: sign people up, handle membership fees (remember: Technorama Membership is free right now… won’t last!), do mailouts, manage events, publish calendars, and comes equipped with a really easy-to-use administrative back end. The package takes a bit of tailoring out of the box, but the TRITS team is building a wealth of knowledge about how to implement and tailor the system, and we are working towards a quick-start guide.
TRITS has built a fault-logging and problem ticketing system (based on Hesk), is well down the track of building the new Wiki, and stand by for a reskin of this website.
Got questions? Reach the TRITS team via the Q&A facebook page.
Technorama AGM: the Committee
The Annual General Meeting of Technorama Incorporated was held by telepresence on the evening of Thursday 15 December 2016. It was an interesting experience. You’ve probably attended many corporate and governance meetings; there’s quite a different nuance in making a meeting work by telepresence. But we proved that we can run meetings using the net, and we can involve all participants via cyberspace, and it’s another example of learnings that Technorama has developed – and which are available for use by our members. Technorama is committed to making our organisation work with almost no physical travel, and we’re happy to share how we do that.
2016 AGM summary: accounts are healthy, planning well under way for TR17, and list of committee members is updated on the Resources Page (see top right of this website).
Meet the committee by clicking on TR-Inc Board in the menu at the top of this page.
What’s happened at previous Technorama events?
Check the Past TR section of the site, accessible from the menu line at the top of this page.
The site is being updated all the time, but maybe we’re not fast enough for you, especially between annual events. If you have unanswered questions, please contact us and tell us what’s on your mind.
It would not have been possible for an unincorporated group of enthusiasts to run effective events without organisational help. Technorama gratefully acknowledges support from the Community Broadcasting Foundation and the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. We are deeply indebted to the hosts of past Technorama events: the South Australian Community Broadcasters Association Inc, the Community Broadcasting Association of Victoria, and Artsound in Canberra. Without the backing of these people, we would not be where we are today.
© Technorama 2016. All rights reserved. Some rights unreserved. Some wrongs righted. Some Wongs knighted. A partridge in a pear tree. Really, does anyone read this stuff?