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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Why I am not a member of he NSS

The National Space Society. As far as I can tell a great little organization. Not really sure, since I have yet to meet anyone (physically) in it and I have never received any information on it. Why am I telling you this? Ken Murphydyne wrote a post the other day on Selenian Boondocks lamenting the 2005 NSS Membership Survey. Basically he is a very active VP of a very active chapter of NSS in North Texas. I am here to answer some of Ken's concerns and perhaps create new ones.

The first thing that bothers Ken is that only 7% of NSS members are affiliated with a local chapter. You want to be bothered even more, Ken? I would consider myself a space activist, or at the very least a space fanatic. I only just found out the NSS exists earlier this year (thanks to Clark over at Hobby Space). And until your post, I didn't even know they had local chapters. Bet that makes you smile.

But maybe you live in a cave, you may say. I work across the street from the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. I can see a full size Saturn-V out my window standing tall all day long. I live where Werner Van Broun lived and worked for many years. We are even nick-named the Rocket City. And I didn't know we have a NSS chapter. Mind boggling, isn't it?

Now as to the %73 of the 93% that didn't even want to join a chapter, you guys are not exactly making a rousing case for yourselves around here. I mean I'm sure you do a lot of neat stuff and talk about space and all that, but where is the PR? Why am I not a member? Why do I still get crap from the Planetary Society which I quit on purpose (we have our differences off opinion which I will not relate her) and I have never received anything from NSS?

And to go one better, earlier this year when Clark told me about them, I went to their web site, clicked on the contact us and asked them what sort of space activities they do, what membership entails, etc... I am still waiting on the reply. Not a good first impression.

So my advice to Ken and everyone at NSS, get serious about membership. Let people know who you are with advertising, sponsorships, go places where space people go.

Just my opinion, take it for what it is worth.


murphydyne said...

Well I certainly appreciate the candor, and I am not unfamiliar with that area having attended Adult Space Camp (Great Experience! Worth Every Penny!).

You probably haven't heard from anyone because there is only one paid position in the whole organization. Some services are subcontracted, and of course the subcontractor likely maximizes shareholder value by staffing the account with college interns and temps {I have no facts to verify this, just years of business experience).

I guess the web page design was a bit confusing because most of the answers you were looking for are on the website. There is no formal structure for forwarding e-mails from HQ to the hinterlands.

The chapter in your area is a very interesting one, and the members have tried to take a bit more of a commercial approach. They've also expressed an interest in hosting the 2008 ISDC, though they'll probably be competing against Toronto. (So join and help them win it!)

I am serious about membership and there was a net increase of four or five members during my tenure as president of the chapter. If you visited the chapter gallery at our website, then you can see that we're out there in the community, but D/FW is a really big community.

Part of the problem is that you space folks suck at a lot of really basic things, like how to get your message into the content flow that people receive. Then again the general public can be pretty oblivious too (I've had people ask me what organization we're with when we've had an NSS banner on the wall above the table, on the front of the table, signs on the table, and all chapter members in logo-wear. Amazing).

Socialization skills tend to be a bit iffy, and a ready willingness to lecture ad nauseum on a digression into technical minutiae tends to be a bit off-putting for those outside space geekdom.

One goal for our chapter this holiday season is our annual Santa space-toy drive to collect space-related toys, books, videos, etc. to donate en masse to a local TV toy drive, hopefully on-camera. That kind of devious thinking doesn't seem to be too common either.

You're right, though. It takes lots of warm bodies to volunteer for this stuff, and it's a constant struggle. Thanks for taking the time to reply in an honest and candid fashion.

P.S. It's just Ken Murphy. Murphydyne was my choice for my first internet e-mail account in homage to Aerodyne, Rocketdyne, Teledyne, YoYodyne, etc. and it just kind of morphed over the years into one of my generic tags. I also used Kadet Ken for a while, but now that's only over at the uplink. I think Lunadyne is the only other one I've used.

Dan Schrimpsher said...

While I can appreciate the difficulty of running a non-profit organization like the NSS, I am really not sure what you are getting at. I went through the web page, and found a lot of fluffy crap that everybody has but very little real stuff. I wanted to know what the NSS was really like. I wish I had done that before spending my hard earned money on the Planetary Society.

One think that confuses me is "you space folks suck at a lot of really basic things." Why didn't you include yourself? Because you don't suck at it or you are a space folk? Just curious.

Are there more paid people at the planetary society? Or do they have non-space folks who can print out mailers (just a little jab at NSS, no offense intended.)

Thanks for the response and the info on Huntsville's local chapter.

Michael Mealling said...

A good introduction to the interesting bits of NSS is to go to the ISDC conference. They've greatly improved over the past couple of years. As with all organizations there are productive bits and non-productive bits. NSS under George Whitesides has gotten a lot more productive over all.

One question for you though is how would you suggest that local chapters find folks like you? I've run various volunteer organizations and the hard part is a Catch 22: to do anything interesting you need dedicated and competent volunteers. But in order to attract those kinds of volunteers you already need to be doing something interesting.

As far as web design is concerned, I definitely agree that everyone in this industry could use a course in web design and usability. Less is more....

Dan Schrimpsher said...

Well as far as my personal experience, a simple letter got the Planetary Society a dues paying member for 6 years.

Arthur said...

Hi Dan - Arthur Smith here, I'm actually VP for chapters with NSS (an unpaid volunteer, and with lots of other responsibilities...!), here thanks to an email from Ronnie.

I think you're right about the "simple letter" being a great start - however, blasting letters to every member of the public isn't financially feasible... We do spend a lot of money on paper mailings but it doesn't seem to be very productive (I think even with targeted mailings we spend more on the mailings than we receive back in first-year dues, but donations and renewals help make it positive); I wonder if you have any specific ideas for improving the collection of addresses to send to? Any idea how Planetary Society got your address?

Anyway, Huntsville's a great place, I was there for Ronnie's conference last year and had a good time; some friends in town gave me a tour which was very nice. In fact, thanks to friends there you might have seen some of my book reviews in the Huntsville Times...

Good luck with the Huntsville chapter, they're good guys!

Dan Schrimpsher said...

I am adding a post addressing this issue to make it eaiser to comment on.