MicroHAMS Digital Conference 2021 – Update

Since 2007 the Microsoft Amateur Radio Club (MicroHAMS) has held a conference focusing on digital communications: the MicroHAMS Digital Conference (MHDC). The mission of the MDHC conference is to “inspire, inform and educate.” As such, the MHDC presenters offer a variety of topics across a wide range of skill levels. 

One of the virtues of going online is that we can invite presenters that would be impractical to bring to the Seattle area.  This year, half of our presenters are from outside our area.  The latest updates will be published on the MicroHAMS web site at http://www.microhams.com/mhdc2021/. 

This year’s conference will feature the following  

  • Walter Holmes, K5WH – Free DV Digital Voice for HF 
  • Gregg Marco, W6IZT – Rig in a Box solution for DXpeditions 
  • Bob Bruninga, WB4APR  The APRS author will discuss the latest developments 
  • Paul Elliott, WB6CXC  Developing and tracking drift buoys 
  • Paul Sturmer, KI7WLV – High speed communications from HuskySat-1 
  • Bryan Hoyer, K7UDR – The ultimate packet workstation 

Now in our 14th year, we are repeating the online format from last year’s event. The 2021 conference will be streamed to YouTube and at no charge (donations welcome). One of the virtues of going online is that we can invite presenters that would be impractical to bring to the Seattle area and support an unlimited number of attendees. In 2021, half of our presenters are from outside the Pacific Northwest.

During the conference, there are two ways that attendees can interact with our presenters. Attendees can ask questions in the YouTube chat channel, which we will pass on to the presenters during Q&A. For live Q&A, each session has a Zoom breakout room available at the end of the session. Presenters and attendees can hang out and answer questions in person for the hour after their session has aired. The entire conference will also be recorded and available on YouTube for viewing later.

See you Saturday! (April 24, 2021)
Scott Honaker, N7SS for the MHDC Team 


MHDC 2020 Wrap Up

This year we identified a new venue that has room to grow and meets our needs. We started our planning around the new venue when the virus struck. We kept adjusting our plans as the requirements changed. There was a temptation to simply cancel the conference rather than continue to pursue this moving target. Ultimately, we felt it was more important than ever to deliver the conference. The virtual format also offered us the opportunity to reach out to speakers we could not practically bring to Seattle.

We normally get about 100 people at the physical conference. You may have noticed we saw between 300-500 people actively watching the stream over the course of the conference. Interestingly, we also saw 2000 unique views during the conference so clearly some people only attended a portion of the day or specific sessions. We’re pleased with these numbers but if we had been better prepared for all the changes, we would have created a larger advertising push for a greater reach.

We’re happy to announce the videos have been published to YouTube on the Microhams channel. You can find the agenda with the links to the corresponding video on the Microhams web site at MHDC2020. We would encourage you to pass this information along and share broadly with others.

The final accounting isn’t complete but it appears the donations just covered our expenses this year. Feel free to help others find the donate button on the Microhams web site so we can continue to bring you this content in the future. We don’t know what next year will look like but we’ll be ready. We already have a date and deposit on a venue.

It would also be very helpful if you would complete the conference survey so we can improve the conference experience in the future. The survey is short and should be quick. You can find it HERE.

Mark your calendar. We hope to see you Saturday April 24, 2021!

Scott Honaker, N7SS

MHDC 2020 Chair

MHDC 2020 Update – May 8th

Another day, another update! 

I have just created the stream event on YouTube for the conference tomorrow (May 9th) and completed all the testing I can at this point, so barring any visits by Murphy you should be able to get to the conference by clicking this link.

MHDC 2020 – YouTube Link

So far YouTube search hasn’t added it to the index, if you search for MHDC 2020, all you find is the past years saved conferences. I’ll see if there is something I can do to make it show up. I know a lot of people are looking forward to watching the conference on their big tv’s using some type of streaming device, so it will be good if you can search and find it.

73, Kenny-KU7M (YouTube Lackey)

MicroHAMS Digital Conference Update – May 5th

Quick update on how the conference will operate this year. While the MHDC has been streamed via YouTube the last couple years, we have never attempted to produce the show with all the speakers remote and 100% of the audience also remote. Since this our first time trying something this complicated, please understand it will not be perfect.(You get what you pay for, but please donate anyway)

Here is some of the details for how things will work on Saturday.

  • The event is being streamed via YouTube, a link to the event will be posted on Friday evening (May 8th) on this page and the home page. This allows any modern web browser to enjoy the event, as long as you have a decent internet connection. The stream should go live at ~8:30AM on May 9th, with Scott-N7SS kicking things off officially at 8:45AM.
  • The chat function YouTube provides (on the same page as the stream) will be enabled for the event and this will be how people can submit questions. Questions can asked any time during the speakers talk and they will be captured by one of the moderators. During the Q&A time at the end of the speakers presentation, Scott-N7SS will ask as many of the questions that there is time to cover. (similar questions will be combined) Based on our testing, there is about a 10 second delay on the stream, so doing ‘interactive’ questions isn’t feasible.
  • To provide additional time to interact with speakers for those interested, each speaker will be invited to a private Zoom chat room after their talk has completed. For those that are interested, you will be able to join the Zoom chat room and continue the discussions. The Zoom chat room will be lightly moderated and participates will need to be respectful. Because some of our speakers are located in different time zones from Seattle, we can’t guarantee how long or if every speaker will take part in this option. Information on the chat room will be made available on Saturday morning. We will only have one breakout room, so the speakers will only be available for a maximum of an hour, after that it will be time for the next speaker. Please remember the basic Zoom etiquette of muting your mike when not speaking and being respectful of others.

Question1: why are you using Youtube and not Zoom for the entire conference?

The primary reason is around control and ensuring the event is enjoyable by as many people as possible. Streaming via YouTube allow anybody with a decent internet connection and a modern browser to take part in the conference. YouTube is also designed for broadcasting to thousands of people located around the world. We chose to use Zoom to ‘produce’ the content from the speakers who are all remote and located around the world, along with switching to different local video sources as necessary to create the live stream. This ability to blend different sources on the fly isn’t something Zoom is designed todo, which combined with the access and number of viewers we are expecting, made YouTube the only real choice for the conference.

Question 2: Then why will you host a Zoom chat room after the talks?

It is our belief that the number of people taking part in any single ‘chat room’ will be much smaller than the overall number of people viewing the stream. This is similar to the of people who chose to follow the speakers out to the hallway to continue discussing their talk during the in person conferences, while the next talk begins. It is possible we are wrong and the chat room will become unruly and will need to be turned off. Please follow the basic Zoom etiquette of muting your mike unless speaking and being respectful of others.

Question 3: I can’t make it on Saturday, where can I watch the talks later?

The talks will be made available on YouTube (like past years) after Saturday. Links to the each speaker will be provided on the MicroHAMS website, along with copies of the slides. Groups are welcome to re-stream the talks at club meetings, as long as the creative commons license is followed.

Question 4: Wait a minute, there is no break for lunch or even going to the bathroom in the schedule!

That is correct, no breaks have been planned. By eliminating lunch and bathroom breaks, an additional speaker slot was created. Since people will be viewing this from around the world, there is no common “lunch time”, so instead people can grab lunch/snacks or a bathroom break whenever works best for them. You will be able to ‘pause’ the stream if you don’t want to miss anything.

Question 5: What is the schedule of the talks?

See the schedule linked on the main MHDC2020 page.

MHDC 2020 update – Online only event this year

This has been a crazy year! Over the last several years we have had increasing difficulty securing space for the Microhams Digital Conference on the Microsoft campus. This year we decided to simply find a new space. It took quite a while to find a venue that met all our criteria but it did require changing the date to May 9, 2020. We signed the contract and paid our deposit.

We are very excited about the new venue. It’s new with plenty of space for presentations and demos and the late spring date should be very nice with a park-like setting and great indoor and outdoor spaces.

Then came social distancing. We created a plan to downsize the on-site attendance and stream the presentations which we have done with reasonable success in the past. Then large gatherings were banned and ham radio events were cancelled. It’s clear it will be impossible to meet in person.
We refuse to give up! We are determined to provide an event to the amateur community, especially when few other events can proceed. We may not be able to get together in person but you can join us live on the internet as we stream the conference for you.

Since we cannot hold our conference in-person, we are refunding ticket holders this year and requesting a donation from participants to cover our additional costs.

Those donating will have an opportunity to provide suggestions to drive content next year and will be given an opportunity to register early. We rolled our venue deposit to next year and already secured April 24, 2021 for next year’s conference so mark this date on your calendar.

Viewing information for the conference will be posted to the MHDC webpage shortly at https://www.microhams.com/mhdc/mhdc2020/.

Please join us on Saturday May 9, 2020 online AND next year again, Saturday April 24, 2021 in person!