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Friday, 17 April 2020

A newcomers view Part 1.

When I first came to this pastime a few weeks ago I initially did a certain amount of research as to what was essential information that I needed to catch up on after approximately 50 years absence and which social media sites offered a form of "bang for buck" value in terms of acquiring information.
What initially struck me was even as a sixty five year old how technology had left the top of the hobby behind, was it just in the UK?
Now I have worked in the comms industry alongside the military for some years but in no way am I an expert but at least they use social media to promote and expand.
So here are some of my main gripes as I see to what is turning people away or not joining philately.

I initially went to the main authorities to see about membership and learning values, below are some of my thoughts.

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The Royal Philatelic Society London

You open the site page and the first thing that struck me was a donate button, so I thought that's good they are donating to our NHS in these difficult times. No your donating to them for the future !

There is no mention of a membership structure on the front. This is further in on another page.

You have to print a form off and send it in to join. No modern option available.

There is no mention of a youth section. Membership is for 18 years or over only.

Is there a youth section or associated group. No.

What about social media? Does not appear or is not immediately visible.

All the initial images show members in formal dress and settings, no relaxation of these. We live in 2020 now and formal dress is ok at the right time for the right visit so please relax to encourage others to board.

Oh I nearly forgot that you need a proposer and seconder from the society to join and it ONLY takes three months for them to decide whether you meet the criteria.

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So my initial impression was they obviously only want you to join a local club and society and are not interested in young members, those of us who are returning to the hobby or the ordinary collector.

And I shall go further if the hobby is to be promoted it needs to start at the top with others following that leadership, therefore I can only conclude they ( RPSL) are not interested. What an opportunity they are missing.

I understand that it is granted a Royal patronage but you have to move with the times they seem oblivious to this.

If anyone disagrees with this please contact me to have a constructive discussion, oh and also have a look at what the American Philatelic Society are doing to promote the hobby it puts the above to shame in many ways.

Post number 2 on this subject will appear soon.







21 comments:

  1. Peter - I do not believe you have a complete picture of what the Royal Philatelic Society London offers to the world. I am 34 years old and joined when I was 22. I have been engaged in philately since age 7 and I will testify that there is no more welcoming place to people of all ages and backgrounds than the RPSL. I encourage you to check out -https://twitter.com/the_rpsl with over 3200 followers or the Society's facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/royalphilsoclondon - I would also love to chat with you further about youth engagement and a range of others aspects of the Society. Please email me at your convenience to find a time that works - haimannat@gmail.com - I am also a member of the American Philatelic Society and can share insights on that front as well.

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    1. You seemed to have missed the point of the article. He is not saying the RPSL is not welcoming but rather from a visitor's viewpoint to the RPSL website, it does not appear welcoming. And just to clarify, the RPSL has 3,200 followers on Twitter and 1,500 likes on Facebook. Consider that against the APS which as 3,900 on Twitter and 12,450 on Facebook. Both societies should be on par.

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  2. With reference to being oblivious, clearly Peter you failed to explore any of the pages that lead off the home page - ALL of which have links to Social Media (Twitter and two different Facebook pages). You chose to ignore the Membership and Associate Membership information, for instance. You criticise the RPSL for putting information about what you term its membership structure on a further page of detail - why do you want to see that the instant you come to the landing page?

    Being oblivious to these matters has given rise to your inaccurate and distorted view of the RPSL.

    As for the dress code at the RPSL - smart, business-like on meeting days, and entirely informal on non-meeting days. Why? Because being presentable and smart in a meeting is not to be sneered at.

    We can see that you also believe that presentation is important. The one picture you choose to include on your profile shows you dressed smartly, as is the woman with you in the picture.

    That said, other organisations may have different dress codes or guidance in terms of attending meetings - that is their choice. Leading does not mean starting with the lowest common denominator.

    The photos look to have typically been taken on meeting days, when the Society's photographer is in attendance - they do not necessarily show members who are in the building the rest of time, undertaking research, etc. and not wearing any kind of formal attire.

    You can be sure that the associate members (i.e. the youths, as you term them) who attend the meetings also dress appropriately, and any accompanying parents and guardians also.

    Like AlexH, I also believe that you have an incomplete picture of what the Royal Philatelic Society London is about. This seems to be because you limited the amount of research, and you have a distorted picture through your choice to ignore so many facts.

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    1. Sorry, but you are living in la la land. The RPSL website is poorly designed. No one should have to go off searching for membership information in the catacombs of a website. And funnily enough, YOUR OWN WEBSITE, has the membership right at the top as the first thing you read. Why on earth are you pulling up Peter on it???

      "Leading does not mean starting with the lowest common denominator." What a horrible attitude. You really should consider what you post on social media on behalf of your stamp community.

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  3. Thanks Alex, you have correctly pointed out that RPSL is one of the most welcoming philatelic societies and a very active platform for the development of the hobby of Philately especially among the young philatelists. It offers lot of opportunities for the young philatelists in form of participation in seminars, exhibitions and other means of philatelic interactions. Please visit the Facebook Page of the Young Philatelists - to know more - https://www.facebook.com/groups/232352994126683/

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    1. You have just agreed with Peter's article. If the RPSL is welcoming to young philatelists, why is there next to nothing on their website home page (and nearly nothing behind this) that demonstrates this. It will never connect with the younger community if it only sells itself to the 60+ crowd.

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    2. Oooh, PS - you need to fix your Facebook link in your settings. It's easier to find Facebook/young philatelists than a bunch of random numbers. :)

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  4. Thank you for your comments, the above was slightly controversial and has generated exactly what I hoped it would, conversation and debate into what I was met with as a beginner,
    In these days of short attention spans and the inherent technologies that feed that area of modern society your site has to hit home straight away to get as many people into your fold and too increase its membership.
    I apologise if I offended anyone but I reported on what greeted me at first glance to the website, at that point it did not capture my attention which I felt it should have done.
    Philately is an excellent hobby but all I see and hear is about the declining memberships and lack of young members, it would be nice not to have delve into a webpage to see the important areas of membership and a youth section.
    I am always available for constructive discussion and will use this blog in the hope of creating that.

    Regards Peter

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  5. Peter - I respectfully disagree with the comments the above. The RPSL is incredibly welcoming to all individuals, young adults included. As a young woman, philately can be intimidating at first. However, the RPSL in particular has provided me the opportunity to connect with other women who are serious philatelists. Much of this has been initiated via the RPSL’s social media pages. Should you wish to discuss this further please contact me, Jess@wellcollc.com.

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    1. As replied above, you have literally just agreed with Peter's article. If the RPSL is welcoming to young philatelists, why is there next to nothing on their website home page (and nearly nothing behind this) that demonstrates this? It will never connect with the younger community if it only sells itself to the 60+ crowd. Peter wasn't saying they weren't welcoming but rather their website isn't - and it really isn't. Their Facebook page doesn't do much better. I scrolled through the photos and 90% are males 60+. That's a problem. We SHOULD be seeing a wider representation of demographics.

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  6. Good morning JR thank you for the comment, I realise this is an easy way out but please refer to my reply above, I will also reply via email as well if you don't mind.

    Regards Peter

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  7. As you have already heard from my colleagues, whom I salute, there is an excellent atmosphere in the association. It combines tradition and modernity. The youngest are consulted, even within the foreign sections.

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    1. The RPSL website in no way reflects your comments. He wasn't having a go at the atmosphere of the organisation. But it really isn't friendly (at least from its social media presence) that it caters for youth. Peter's observations are completely valid as the intent of his article.

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  8. Peter, I was appalled to read your ill considered comments about the Royal Philatelic Society London. It is an excellent, forward-looking society that is enjoyed by almost 2.500 members worldwide and is one of the few societies that is increasing its membership. To quote one of your replies 'I reported on what greeted me at first glance to the website'. You clearly did not bother to research the organisation before you did a hatchet job on them. That is poor journalism and bad for the hobby we all love.
    Jon Aitchison.

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    1. If the RPSL's website is considered 'forward looking' then next year is 2001. Peter has made observations which are completely legit and current. His comments will improve the hobby, yours will nail it's coffin shut.

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  9. Good afternoon Unknown, please read my criticisms carefully. There are no disrespectful comments about either the society or the members of whom I have respect for, but if read it is the website that generated my comments. How nice it would have been to see on opening the page an image and underneath "membership" the same for a section let us call it "Youth programme" for arguments sake. I would also have thought that in 2020 you could fill in a form online and if accepted pay online without having to post the form in.
    Also there is no link to You Tube, Twitter and other social media which would bring a new audience to the society.
    As stated before it is first viewing that counts in this day and age and these are my views probably nobody else's.
    I am not a journalist as you state, this is not a journalistic blog, it is a site to promote Philately and my views on what I discovered trawling through the hobbies many excellent contributions as a newcomer.

    As an addition to the above I am also aware of the work of volunteers who create time to work on the web page and put a lot of hard work in, as stated these are my comments on how I found the experience on entry.

    Regards Peter

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  10. This is one of the problems with organised philately which I have stated on social media - they just aren't willing to listen! Rather than having a go at you, these people should be saying "We are going to work on your feedback to improve those issues you've raised." I think everything you have posted was perfectly valid - and yes, I have checked the RPSL website after it was identified as a culprit in Stamp Chats.

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  11. There was some mention earlier of la la land … part of the demographics of philately, certainly in the UK, is that young collectors are not as common as they used to be, for instance in the 1970s (I could pick other decades, but I feel you get the point).

    Demographics of course relate not only to age, but gender and race too. The good news is that philatelists certainly span a broad spectrum of races, in the UK and across the world, but as a generalisation, there are far, far, fewer women stamp collectors than males. JR explained that she found philately to be intimidating, so perhaps this is a factor that explains the imbalance of the sexes.

    So given these truths, websites depict the people at meetings who attend and the photographs taken at philatelic societies across the whole of the UK show the same thing (go and look at any issue of the ABPS news and you will see what I mean) … philatelic society meetings do not have a wide demographic, including those who attend the Rhodesian Study Circle, for that matter - just look at the picture on the front page of http://www.rhodesianstudycircle.org.uk and you will see what I mean.

    Peter is right to state that memberships of philatelic societies are declining, but to somehow turn that into a criticism of how a website has been designed and built is a nonsense. That is because the causes of the decline are not that people aren't immediately captivated and enticed by websites.

    So for you to state we SHOULD be seeing a wider representation of demographics is an idealistic view, when the down-to-earth, true view is that there is not a wider demographic who can be represented in genuine photographs of philatelic meetings.

    As for lowest common denominator - Peter was suggesting that attendees at meetings should not dress smartly, and that as the leading society, the RPSL should reduce its dress code standards. Peter was denigrating having a smart dress code. You state he was criticising the website, but as the meeting attendees all choose to dress in accordance with the dress code, then of course the people in the photos are smartly dressed. Peter stated that he feels that in 2020 the Society should relax its dress code, so that is a comment on the Society, not about its website.

    If the picture of the people attending the meeting of the Rhodesian Study Circle in 2019 is anything to go by, even having a more relaxed dress code has not attracted a younger crowd. So we don't need to look very far to see that the demographic is not about the style of clothing, it is about the interest in the subject matter (i.e. stamps, postal history, etc.)

    As for criticising the RPSL for having a button on their website to allow people to donate to the Society - again as clearly stated on every page of the website, the Society is a registered charity, and you would expect a charity to invite people to donate to it. Do you know of a charity that is conducting fundraising that on their website invites you to donate to a different charity? On the subject of inviting donations for the Society itself, has anyone looked at the Donate option at http://www.rhodesianstudycircle.org.uk/engage/donations/ for example?

    As for followers/likes or whatever the measure is on social media, why should any two organisations be "on a par"? What a ridiculous notion! People follow whosoever they wish to, and they express their liking for content as they wish to. It is not a competitive sport.

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    1. Stamp collecting is never going to reach the peaks it once did but there are lots of stamp collectors out there but they are not engaging in traditional 1950's methods. For example, you will find tonnes of female collectors on Instagram and Twitter. The Video Games stamps issued by Royal Mail went viral on social media among millennials, clearly demonstrating there are a massive amount of collectors out there if the conditions are right. These ‘hidden collectors’ were highlighted in the APS 2016 Future of Philately papers.

      There is absolutely no doubt that only a certain demographic still attend stamp clubs and that is because that style of interaction was the norm for that generation. However, you seem to have completely missed the points of Peter’s review. While that style of interaction works for that generation, it is clearly not sustainable for the current or next generation. People communicate and interact online these days. Which is why it is so important that societies up the efforts to ensure that the online presence is current, relevant and reflects the audience they want to recruit. However, to say you 'support youth philately' and then show nothing on your website to demonstrate this is completely contradictory.

      Membership is not declining for all philatelic organisations. The Korea Stamp Society is one example - they engaged over 200 new members by simply going online within a few months. The Rhodesian Study Circle has also had growth since moving online to a point where nearly all new memberships come from social media. The APS continues to draw in crowds through online campaigns.

      While you can try and equate the Rhodesian Study Circle to the RPSL, it would only be the comparison of a fool. RPSL has a market that still issues postage stamps, still has a postal service, has ample amounts of internet services and has no political upheaval in its home country. On the other hand, the RSC is dealing with countries that don’t exist, have no truly functional postal system, has poor internet services, and people that can barely afford food let alone stamps.

      Your remark about the lowest common denominator was appalling. It’s this type of old men’s club mentality that is killing the hobby quickly and driving people to create their own online communities. You are clearly not getting the point Peter was making. Suits and ties may have been great fifty, sixty years ago and it may have been a status symbol back then but the world has changed and this is no longer looked upon as a status. If the aim of their society is only to recruit those that fit this image, then that is fine. But it is not sustainable.

      As for the donation button, again, you seem to have no idea what Peter was saying. His point was that they have a donate button on the homepage in clear sight but fails to put their membership button on the homepage. Our membership offering and quick links are the main source of information on our homepage – we don’t hide the membership link and promote the donation button.

      It’s clear you have absolutely no idea about social media, content marketing, or anything relevant to this century. So trying to explain why the RPSL/APS should be on par, or having any type of informed discussion with you, would be pointless.

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  12. Part 1
    I am 26 years old, so the RPSL considers me a young philatelist. I have been collecting for over 15 years and a member for 6 years. I am also a member of a variety of international associations. I work as an expert at a stamp auction house and am regarded by many as an expert on the subject of my collections.

    I would like to say that I do not fully agree with all your criticisms and especially the points concerning young philatelists. It would appear that you are not a young philatelist, which makes me wonder how you can have an opinion on this matter.
    If we consider donations, the RPSL does need money and makes this clear. I think that, from a marketing point of view, it is very useful to let people know that you need donations and you do not have to be a member to make a contribution.

    When it comes to completing forms, we are philatelists and therefore like old-fashioned methods of communication. Sending off forms is cool. It is almost like a ritual when you fill in this kind of form. It is not necessary to have automated and managed databases in all walks of life. Writing things down is a very good way of leaving our mark on the world. People even collect the written documents and archives of this type of association.

    With regard to people who are under 18, I have never asked myself why there is an age limit. I will not dwell on this subject, as I do not have the information.

    Why does there have to be a youth section? I do not see why people should be categorised. I am a philatelist like everyone else. I collect “stamps” and this is why I have been accepted as a member of the RPSL. I suppose calling for a youth section must be linked to a desire to “teach philately” to young people. In my view, philately is a gift – either you have it or you don’t. In addition, this would discourage young people from using their imagination. Collecting is a personal thing, which you could see as a kind of love affair. It seduces you, eats away at you and stops you sleeping. It can disappoint you, but you can secretly enjoy it and it makes you feel happy when it rains. You can show it off to other people who may wonder why you chose philately instead of something else…
    The RPSL has organised and continues to organise many different events. It regularly contacts young philatelist members and sometimes non-members in order to invite them to take part in these events (it also pays for their travel and accommodation). This is another way, in which donations are used.
    What about social networks? Could you tell me a bit more about how you think it would be better for us to put this on the front page? I would like to remind you that the average age is 65 and few people within this age range are interested in social networks. It is not a good marketing idea for young people. People already give up before they reach the end of our news feed, as it is so long.

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  13. Part2
    Being presentable is a way of showing politeness towards other people. I am proud to be able to wear my suit when I go to the RPSL and my dinner jacket for the dinners and receptions. I even think it is a pity that we do not have an even more formal dress code. This is one of the rules that add to the association’s charm, especially in this day and age.
    I think it may take longer than three months as your application has to be studied and then approved at the general meeting. If you have two sponsors and have been a collector, you will be accepted almost automatically. But I agree with you that anyone can become a member if they agree to follow the internal regulations.

    In conclusion, I think the RPSL does enough for young people and helps them to attend the many events that it organises. It gives them room for creativity and allows them to choose how active they would like to be. It accepts any collector who shares its love of philately. It is one of the few international philatelic associations, which I have joined, to have so many members who are under 40. It attracted me because it knows when it should intervene and what it must do for young people. The approach adopted by the RPSL in relation to young people must not change. Its aim is to bring together young and not so young philatelists from all over the world.

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Good to be back

After several attempts I have managed to clean my Philately accounts that were hacked, hopefully posting will resume as before.