I remember getting my first DMR radio. After diligently reading up on programming codeplugs, the next challenge was deciding which talkgroups I would include in my first attempt.
The choice was almost overwhelming – global, national and regional channels by the score. But I carefully planned my choices into a logical structure and loaded up the plug.
On 98% of those channels, I was met with a wall of silence.
After nearly three years on DMR, little has changed. If you want a conversation, or even wish to just listen, you’ll nearly always have to go to 3100, 4400 (and its handful of subsidiary rooms), maybe TAC 310? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone on the UK Midlands talkgroup.
And if we’re honest, the same phenomenon is true of D Star and Fusion. Even REF001C, D Star’s ‘mega repeater’, isn’t keyed up every second of every hour, is it?
So what’s going on? Well, firstly, we have that unfortunate trend in the hobby where people just won’t key the mic and call CQ, or whatever may be the equivalent in that particular mode. Thousands listening, no-one talking.
The other problem is a matter of simple dilution. In our quest for variety and structure, we have simply created too many choices.
You see exactly the same problem with television these days. When I was a lad, we had three channels and millions watched Dad’s Army, The Generation Game or whatever. Now, there are hundreds of channels and thousands of programmes – but fewer and fewer people watching each one.
So far, a big part of network radios’ (note lower case) success has been that an increasingly large number of people are gathered in a relatively compact ‘space’. We frequently hear newcomers enthusiastically declare that they’ve had more QSOs on Network Radios (note initial caps) in the first few days than they have in years on traditional ‘RF’ modes.
Unfortunately, that phenomenon could be under threat from its very popularity.
Look, I get that people are excited by how much this part of the hobby has developed in a short while. I understand the urge to go and ‘do your own thing’ and create your own space. I even understand those who perhaps feel – wrongly, I should add – that there is some sort of ‘elite’ group running the existing show which just wants to hang on to ‘power’.
I really would urge you all to rein in the excitement. Think back to all those silent DMR channels. Now think about how many amateurs there are out there with DMR radios compared with Zello-equipped network radios or smartphones.
It’s a question of maths. Dilution is a real threat to the wonderful phenomenon we have jointly created.
There are now three active channels on Network Radios, and seven more in reserve. Can you honestly say that those three channels are now too busy for you to have a QSO when you fancy it? Didn’t think so.
And don’t forget, if you want a private, elongated chat with someone specific, Zello already has the features to facilitate that. One-to-one chat is simple, and for more regular groups of friends, there’s nothing to stop you creating an informal, low-key room for your private use.
However, if everyone who creates those rooms then begins promoting them widely, problems quickly arise. New arrivals are suddenly confused as to where they should go. Dilution – and silence – inevitably follows.
Please, let’s stick together – and continue to enjoy what makes network radios really different.