It is with great sadness

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Cepheus42
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It is with great sadness

Post by Cepheus42 »

I joined a local astronomy society just a few short months ago hoping to find like minded people willing to share their love of astronomy and a kindred fellowship of people with whom I could socialise and learn. After 4 months, having attended around eight meetings, I am now seriously considering not going back. My biggest reservation to joining a society in the first place was that it would be filled with self important people talking endlessly in highly technical terms in what was essentially a closed boys club.

I have to say that in only one of the eight meetings I have attended has anyone made any attempt to talk to me and that was another prospective new member feeling isolated and out of place. They never returned. During the other seven meetings I sat in silence, possibly being fairly socially shy it didn't help, but I have always thought the life blood of any club or mutual society is in making new members feel welcome.

This feeling was heightened when I posted my first meagre attempts at imaging on the club members page which attracted no comments of any kind whilst a fully established members similar post that same day drew many comments.

This lead me to the sad conclusion that whilst societies like the SPA (who I joined this year) have a watchful eye on the attraction and retention of new members, the local community, certainly in my experience does not. When I myself have been part of a club or society linked with any of my other two hobbies, I always sought to seek out new prospective members and ensure they are included. In one society so much so to the extent where I was charged with looking after new members. Sadly it looks very much as though I will return to a solitary hobby never to return to a local astronomical community and convinced that my experience is typical.

I have resolved to try one more time and to really put myself out there and hope that there is more of a response. If not, another amateur astronomer will join the ranks of the unnumbered.

This is a cautionary tale highlighting the importance of looking beyond our existing social group (in our clubs and societies), to ensure that we attract and look after our new members and be mindful of how they may perceive our actions intended or otherwise. Without new members who stay, any organisation is quickly consigned to the past.
Peter Hutton.
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David Frydman
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Re: It is with great sadness

Post by David Frydman »

. Dear Peter,
sorry to hear of your experiences with your local society but unfortunately this is not uncommon.
I joined the British astronomical Association at the age of 15 or 16 and I felt very lonely for years even though Patrick Moore made me welcome on the first meeting when they ask for new members to make themselves known.
But I still went every month and learnt a lot.

There were no local societies at all when I first joined the BAA at least I did not know of any.
However, there are some which might make you welcome such as Wolas, at least I hope so.

I was very shy as a youngster but later on I worked hard at changing this and threw myself in at the deep end by becoming a company representative selling to shops.
on the first day I went to a shop in Folkestone, stood outside for one and a half hours, went in and the owner threw me out. To say I was upset is a big understatement.
Every evening I said I could not do this and resolved to go home the next morning but I stuck it out and after several months I actually began to know what I was talking about and get more confidence.

Maybe nowadays I'm a bit too pushy.

So I cannot really offer any advice, although you could actually talk to whoever is running this society and telling your story. If things don't improve then you can leave and maybe join another society or indeed carry on by yourself.
I suppose you could go to SPA meetings and maybe find some friends who might even be local to you.

It is just a thought, but maybe in this digital age people do not communicate so well face-to-face as many transactions are done over the Internet.
However, I don't like the Internet at all because of its negative characteristics, but here I am using it when I try to make the best of it with my limited knowledge of computers. personally, I think that the Internet should never been invented but again here it is.

Anyway good luck.

Best regards, David
brian livesey
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Re: It is with great sadness

Post by brian livesey »

The club you attended Peter might have an unusually high proportion of folk with aspergers and autism. People with these conditions can be attracted to astronomy for its solitariness.
That reminds me, the newly-formed Misanthropist Society's annual Xmas party has be cancelled for the foreseeable future :wink: .
Last edited by brian livesey on Tue Nov 26, 2013 4:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
brian
mike a feist
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Re: It is with great sadness

Post by mike a feist »

Hello Peter: this is indeed a problem that often seems to occur with Societies and Clubs. David's experience with the BAA as a young man was similar to mine, although having gone to one Lunar Section Meeting similarly as a slightly older lad, I was so sad about not being spoken too that I gave up entirely. Part of the problem was my own shyness and of course the other people chatted to those they had known for years. The aspergers point mentioned with difficulties in personal communications happens too and of course at any meeting members are going to want to chat to their friends etc. Fitting in is not that easy although trying to do so for months unsuccessfully is soul destroying. I do not think that most members are that "self-important techies" but the subject itself has so many "angles" that what seems "clever-cloggism" to some may just be "ordinary chat" to others. I idea that a committee member should make it his task to meet and greet new members is a good one even if he can only steer the newcomer towards the "sub-group" which he thinks might be most suitably. There are certain social areas that are a no-no for me.........basically "lets go down the pub afterwards" or "shall we have an xmas party" is all too too much for me! regards mike
Cepheus42
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Re: It is with great sadness

Post by Cepheus42 »

Thanks for the replies and I think that within them the nail has been hit on the head in that there is no malice intended. It's purely a matter of perception. I am also mindful that there are many very knowledgeable astronomers out there who are more than keen to share their knowledge, and I would not malign their good intentions. I do get lost in it sometimes :-) I agree too that astronomy doesn't lend itself towards the pub social side of things nor do I think I would be inclined that way either. I'd rather be out looking at the night sky than discussing it in the pub....lol.

I really do wish that all societies, not just those related to astronomy would take on board the idea of having a person who would channel the newcomers and take pains to integrate them. In fact it is a role, that despite my own shyness, I have excelled at before and thoroughly enjoy because it speaks to the future.

My wish is that many people read this thread and it provokes thought and examination of their local societies introduction of new members. Perhaps it's something I should suggest to my local society rather than simply backing out of membership. Thanks for your thoughts.
Peter Hutton.
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Cliff
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Re: It is with great sadness

Post by Cliff »

Dear Peter
Difficult\impossible to generalise.
Clubs\societies\individuals all different.
There's one informal-ish astro group near here (I've never visited !!), It's existed quite a while, big turnover - many newcomers. I just heard one of its founding fathers suddenly "Resigned" because another "member" had organised a group event without consulting "the father".
Another local-ish society well run (or certainly used to be) was completely organised by two "officials" (Chairman & Secretary) no other committee members and probably no elections\AGM ???
I'm currently a member of two local astronomy societies (both well run) and one national society (having one time been member of 4 other astro-organisations). Although in recent years I've attended few society meetings.
In my hay day I probably got involved with say 30% of the membership of the smaller organisations I got closely involved with - the other organisations with only a tiny few.
Ironically one local society I've been a member of, probably a dozen years (though associated with it before) I got to know say 30% of its up to 30 members. In very recent years membership has increased to about 70 (probably the Prof Cox influence!) but I barely know 7. Of course its mainly my fault not attending meetings, but I think even attending more meetings wouldn't change things much.
I'm sorry if the above is of no help whatsoever - but i'm just trying to make some points to illustrate the complexity of things.
I might suggest one\two possible thing. Don't get too intensely involved with one society too quickly - and there just might be other organisations that suit you better ?
Best of luck from Cliff
G Burt
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Re: It is with great sadness

Post by G Burt »

I'm in complete agreement with the comments made above and would add that a great deal depends on the dedication and enthusiasm of the committee.

The club I belong to has an excellent committee which organises beginner's courses and weekly training/observing sessions, as well as the usual members' nights and regular talks. When I joined some years ago, I started with the beginner's course and it was very enjoyable. The atmosphere was friendly and informal with everyone more or less at the same level, so no-one felt embarrassed or excluded. Those who wished to continue and become members had therefore already acquired a good knowledge and used the club 'scopes by the time they joined. All astro clubs should do this!

So it's worth looking around your area for other clubs/societies. I drive about 20 miles to reach mine but it's worth the travel.

Geoff
sands
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Re: It is with great sadness

Post by sands »

Hi Geoff,
It would be nice if you would name the society that gave you a nice welcome,I agree that many societies (astro or otherwise) could learn a lesson from the experiences mentioned on this topic.
Steve Anderson
G Burt
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Re: It is with great sadness

Post by G Burt »

Hi Steve,

I'm in Hampshire Astronomical Group. Don't want to sound biased but it is very good indeed.

http://www.hantsastro.org.uk/

Geoff
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Re: It is with great sadness

Post by M54 »

Peter, I am sorry to say I have found much the same.
First club I visited I sat the whole evening and literally not a word was said to me, didn't get a Hello. During the evening various people turned round to look at me from their seats as if I was from another planet. As in "What's that sat there?". At the end they announced that coffee was available and all walked past me with not a word said. It actually was/is a fairly large club, so not as if a small group of close knit friends.

Second club was fine, and I am still there. Sort of place where you say you have come to have a look, get told Yippee another pair of hands, get a box shoved in your hands and told where to take it to. And as you are walking in the direction indicated (with the box) someone yells What's your name by the way?

I visited another later and at this one again not a word spoken and for all I was walking around I may as well have been an invisible ghost. Not a word and no one actually looked at me. At one stage I brushed shoulders with a member on a narrow path, still not a word. Most amusing was that the night I visited was supposed to be an evening for the public to come along and get a feel for the astro club and the hobby. Club was at a visitor centre, about 8:30, nice dark site and nothing else there except for the astro club. So not as if I could have been there for anything else.

Have said elsewhere, someone could do a Psychology PhD on Astro Clubs, Astro Forums and the Memberships of each.

Best advice is to visit a few, I have found that ones at a University are better. Club members don't try to impress the speakers so much if the speaker is Professor ABC.
brian livesey
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Re: It is with great sadness

Post by brian livesey »

Bear in mind our own demeanor when we enter a club's room for the first time. Club members might interpret our demeanor ( or socks :wink: ) as giving off a seemingly negative atmosphere, so that we don't get a welcoming response. First impressions last :D .
brian
Cliff
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Re: It is with great sadness

Post by Cliff »

Dear Brian
You are absolutely right !
Best wishes from Cliff
brian livesey
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Re: It is with great sadness

Post by brian livesey »

There's also the problem of mixing high-brows with low-brows in a given situation. The former can be patronising towards the latter and also adopt an attitude that the latter have nothing to add to the debate and should, therefore, be ignored.
Clyde Tombaugh said that Edwin Hubble didn't take him seriously ( over an astronomical issue I've forgotten the substance of, but possibly about Tombaugh postulating an expanding universe ) because he was less qualified than Hubble.
In a club of high and low-brows the atmosphere could turn out to be claustrophobic for some.
brian
Cliff
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Re: It is with great sadness

Post by Cliff »

Dear Brian
There was a time when I was in big-time popular demand giving talks.
I even ventured into the "wilds" of Yorkshire occasionally.
One time I was invited to a posh society who held their meetings in a sparkling University.
I was younger, barely 60 then, and pulled out all the stops to travel the 50ish miles in rush hour traffic. I got there in very good time only to find I was second on the bill.
The first speaker (wearing a very smart suit) got a tumultuous reception. However, his lecture was franchised from NASA, they provided the photo slides and "the speak" as well.
When that first lecture finished 90% of the audience immediately headed for home. After I eventually gave my talk someone asked if I wanted a drink, which I enjoyed with the very few chaps who had stayed to listen too me. They were quite complimentary about my effort which they said they enjoyed more than the main well rehearsed lecture. Of course they might have just being nice but I thought them sincere and I found their company made my effort very worthwhile, (but I wouldn't ever have gone back there to give a talk - Mind you I never got invited).
However, I mention that to illustrate that at least in my opinion, some astronomy societies can be inconsiderate in all sorts of ways - not just in greeting potential new members.
Best wishes from Cliff
Cepheus42
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Re: It is with great sadness

Post by Cepheus42 »

It's very interesting and a little sad to hear the different experiences above. The really sad bit is that new members must be walking out of the door never too return. I do wonder how the future for the less than hospitable societies will fair.

I do agree that our own demeanour can affect the way others perceive us, but I have always thought that it is paramount that at least one or more of the officials have an eye to any new bodies in attendance.

Oddly enough last Friday I attended a meeting of a different society where I have now become a member. I have attended about 5 meetings now, I saw a new guy there and went straight over to him and engaged in conversation. There was no reason for me to do so as I am basically a new member myself, but I made the effort. As I have said before, I am not the most outgoing person but it was worth the effort and at the end of the evening he thanked me and said he was looking forward to seeing me at the next meeting. So rather than him spending the evening in solitary confinement, there is potential for a new member with what I considered very little effort.

I believe that I have found a society that I can make a home with. It is such a shame that too many other societies lose people who may not ever return to try again.

For the sake of the future of our societies it's important that we all share the responsibility to welcome new people with open arms. I have certainly taken this on board as my unofficial duty within my new club.
Peter Hutton.
Scopes Owned :
Meade LX50 10", Skywatcher Skymax 180Pro, Meade ETX 90, Skywatcher ST80(guidescope),
Skywatcher ED80 Pro, Skywatcher Equinox ED100 Pro, Coronado PST.
Mounts: HEQ5 Pro Synscan, NEQ6 Synscan
Cameras': Orion StarShoot 5MP, Orion G3 CCD, Canon 1100D (DSLR), DMK21.
Keeper of the Sacred Knitted Fingerless Gloves of Darkess and sometime comedy writer and stand up performer.
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