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Feb 11, 2008, 08:04 AM
VTPR & Slope Aerobatics
surfimp's Avatar
Thread OP

OT: 5 Years on RCGroups: Reflections & Recommendations

Holy crap I want those 5 years back!

Just kidding of course. But today officially marks "day one" of what I hope are my next five years on RCGroups Join date was Feb. 10, 2003.

IIRC my first post was about the "most scale" EPP P-51 available at the time. This was before Leading Edge Gliders was really well-known or had a Mustang kit (now Jack sells them in a wide variety of sizes from 36" to 72")... before Dream-Flight (then known simply as "Richter R/C") and the Weasel were a worldwide phenomena... well before I had any idea that such as thing as VTPR existed or that I would someday create a website about it and other forms of slope aerobatics... and certainly had no idea that five years and well over ten thousand posts later, I'd still be on here mixing it up!

I've met hundreds of people from RCG in person and they've all, without exception, been great. Everyone from the total newbs who I help with trimming out their Weasel to the über-pros who help me trim out my planes

I've flown with RCG members all over California, Nevada, Montana (well in Montana I was solo but I posted pictures so it was almost like you all were there with me), and even Spain. I've made "real life" friendships that I hope to keep for a long, long time, and look forward to making plenty more!

When I came back to slope soaring in 2003, I was trying to quit smoking cigarettes. I figured I needed a hobby to distract me, and when I looked at the cost of my cigarette habit (pack a day, and at $5 a pack that adds up!) I realized I had a fair bit of discretionary income that could be re-purposed somewhere more productive.

I'm proud to say that from the day I quit smoking on January 8th, 2003 to today, I've never smoked another cigarette! Slope soaring saves lives!

I had been into the hobby off and on from my pre-teen days and dusted off an old Hobby Shack Firebird (Sig Ninja clone) as my re-entry to sloping. I was shocked to learn of the EPP revolution and quickly decided I'd get one of those ugly little planes called "the Weasel" from a guy in town named Michael who I hoped could show me the local sites and maybe give me a few pointers...

Today Michael Richter is one of my very best friends, someone who I deeply admire and look up to and who has literally spent hundreds of hours educating me, putting up with all my silly ideas, and quietly helping me learn a lot about R/C toys but more importantly, about what it is to be a great and giving person. On my very best days, I can only pretend to a hackneyed simulation of his example! He's getting married this spring (just before WeaselFest) and I couldn't be happier for him and his bride-to-be.

Early on in 2003 I made the "long drive" out to Cajon Summit to attend a Warbird Race (remember those??) where I met the Inland Slope Rebels crew. TFLG, Carl Maas Sr. & Jr., Timmig, and a whole bunch more were there... along with a guy named Tawg and a certain squirrely looking guy (just teasing!) named Jack Cooper.

Jack was the first ISR guy I "met," after a fashion. I was driving up the bumpy dirt track to the top of the hill, I saw this guy with a backwards baseball cap and what appeared to be a finless flying wing with swastikas on it (Horten IX) walking up the road. I nearly stopped and offered him a ride, but instead just waved, thinking he was nearly to the top anyways. It wasn't till I'd parked (and he was just finally getting there) that I realized how far down the hill he'd "landed". Or "pulled a Cooper" as I later learned to call it

I ended up chatting with Jack quite a bit that day and kind of "buddied up" with him. Later in the afternoon, after the races were over, I whipped out my miniWeasel and promptly pegged him in the chest with it (the legendary Cajon lift was a bit much for the 4 oz. plane LOL). I think he still has a mark from that "gnat bite", but fortunately I don't think he ever placed the threatened claim against my AMA policy

Later on my relationship with Jack would expand as I built the LEG website for him and then partnered with him on the Le Fish aerobatics glider. Jack is still a great buddy of mine today and someone who I always look forward to speaking with on the phone (and anyone who knows Jack knows how much he loves to talk on the phone!!!)

Tawg (Kevin Huckins) is another good buddy from the 909... after Jack moved to Nevada (and then to Kansas), Tawg ended up putting me up for the night every time I came out to the 909 for an ISR event or the AMA show. He's also become a good friend of mine, someone who I've got tons of great memories of flying and hanging out with. I can't wait to see him again, and even though he doesn't post much on RCG anymore, I know he and I will always be buddies.

The ISR events were how I met a good cross-section of the SoCal slope soaring scene. Target is another good buddy who seemed to hit it off with me early on. I remember a really fun day flying with him and his brother in Palos Verdes, as well just hanging out with him at every PSS Fest. He's a feisty and cool guy, you never know when you see him whether he'll look like "fresh off the boat Target" with a couple day's growth of beard, or if he'll look like "spit & polish Target" with his snazzy hipster glasses. It's all part of the fun with the illustrious Mr. T! He's been a true source of great info, and whenever I get in a bind during a build, I seem to end up placing at least one call to him

There are so many more people that I fondly remember meeting... I posted a "hook a brotha up" thread about flying in Norcal and got to meet Reed, one of the most awesome designers of gliders anywhere (well duh!) and a genuinely cool guy. I wish I had the time or excuse to go up there more often because I really like hanging out with him and the rest of the Norcal / Pacifica crew.

I remember Nauga's first posts to RCG, where he started using his now-signature and much-emulated taglines, and which I totally loved from the very beginning. I was really jazzed to get to meet him in person at a number of ISR events. That guy really knows about aerodynamics better than anyone else I've met, and even better, he lets me pester him with my newbish questions about same! I try to do it in moderation, but do appreciate him putting up with me all the same!

I think I've only gotten to meet Dawson once in person so far, but I fondly remember flying Weasels with him at Ellwood and being truly impressed by his flying skill. He's like a "brother by another mother" and I hope that he and I can continue to push slope aerobatics flying in the US and beyond, because it's a heck of a lot of fun! See you at WeaselFest dude!

And let's not forget Pete SchiessCo, Jeff & Zack Charlot, Minhuahua / ChiefHighHorse, I'mRickJames and all the other "usual suspects" from LA that I seem to run into all the time while flying in and around SoCal. Can't forget the San Diego bros either. LouieD, Mark Wood, SrWade, Joeskysailor, and all the rest. I've had great times with each one of those guys and look forward to plenty more at WeaselFest or wherever we run into one another.

There's surely someone reading now and thinking "that jerk didn't mention my name!", so I apologize... my insomnia is in full force and I'm doing the best I can, man! But seriously, thank you to all the many other Slope forum regulars for all the great times both on here and on the slopes. You guys rock! And you local SB guys, I don't need to mention you here, you know who you are and what I think of you--all good things!!

And I'd be extremely remiss if I'd not once more thank all of you who participated in the raffle to help with the medical bills from my son José Luis's stroke back in 2005. While we didn't ask for the financial help, and I even tried to dissuade it once the ball started rolling, a bunch of forum regulars would hear none of it and thanks to some timely orchestration by Jludwick and Hydrogin, it seemed like overnight we had prizes donated from vendors and a fullbore raffle underway. And the money really did help quite a bit, of course! So thank you all again! You have touched our lives in a way that's very special and for that we will always be most grateful.

Since that time, I have taken it as my mission to try to do the best I can here on RCGroups in helping people out, providing entertainment, and documenting my builds and flying, because I truly feel like it owe it to you all. Thank you!!!

So, maybe that's enough with the recollections for now. I'd like to make some recommendations, spurred in part by an exchange between Reed, Target, Samotage and myself (well I more interjected than anything) in a different thread.

Putting it bluntly, we've lost a lot of great contributors in the past few years. Some have gone away due to Life (job, kids, whatever), but a disturbing number have drifted away due to what's perceived as a poor "signal:noise" ratio here on RCGroups. Meaning that the forum is filled up with offtopic banter and has very little (in their view, anyways) relevant slope content anymore.

This is disturbing because when I started participating here in 2003, there was A LOT of great info being posted on a near daily basis. The forum was a lot smaller then and was pretty SoCal biased at the time, though there were of course a good number of participants from all over. There were all sorts of awesome build threads posted by truly expert builders, and which documented in detail all sorts of really cool planes being built up. And while there was banter, this was the pre-"Here Goes Nothing" days, and OT threads were for the most part somewhat uncommon.

The Slope forum has since become much more international, especially the last couple years with the rise of more and more Australian and UK participants. There are just a lot more posts in general... it's pretty impressive that the Slope forum alone has more posts than all the other Sailplane forums on here combined. There are still some really great build threads (Hi Samotage!) but there's also a lot more banter. A lot more.

Now I'm not bashing any of the (relative) newcomers to the forum. I welcome any and all and am personally very glad to see the forum have a less parochial and more international focus. I love reading the "Briticisms" and get a kick out of trying to translate Australian into American.

At the same time, I'm concerned that the Slope forum might be bursting at the seams. One of the hallmarks of our forum, and what makes it different than nearly every other hobby forum out there on the Interwebs, is that we have stubbornly and consistently refused to have our content tidily subdivided. We want it all, and we want it all right here. There's a whole other world to RCG outside the slope forum, but I wonder how many Slope regulars go there? I know I rarely even venture into the other forums within the Sailplanes group, let alone the plethora of other subjects out there.

The Slope forum truly is "one stop shopping" at its finest. We have build threads for crunchies bumping build threads for foamies. You've got someone looking for twisty wing unobtanium just above someone else looking for an Alula. Flying wing threads and PSS threads, "Which 60" moldie should I buy?" and all the rest. And interspersed between all this you've got "Making Life Easier" or one of the many other offtopic nonsense threads. Which all means that there is a LOT of information being posted every day, and parsing it all out into useful and usable content (whatever that means to you) can certainly be difficult.

Now personally, I have to take my fair share of responsibility for the above. I do not watch TV or movies. I play with my kids, and once they go to bed, my entertainment is RCGroups, and specifically the Slope forum. So I certainly don't mind a bit of banter with my build threads. I try to balance out my bantering and OT nonsense with some solid content in the form of build threads, photos, videos, or just general "newbie technical assistance." I'm sure I could do better in this regard, but I tell myself that at least I am trying.

I know most forum regulars do the same thing. There is still a ton of good content, it's just that it doesn't hang out on the front page for all that long. I'm sure there are plenty of great threads that don't get the attention they deserve because they simply get bumped down and off the front page, unless they are really popular threads. All too often, however, these "really popular" threads seem to be filled with OT banter and they stay on the front page - and bump other threads off it - because they end up being treated more like a chat room than anything else.

Again, I'm not calling anyone in particular out here, but simply observing that RCGroups is changing. In fact, I suspect most people are still doing much the same thing that we were five years ago, it's just that there's a lot more people on the forum now. And the forum is being used 24 hours a day, whereas it used to go pretty dormant from around midnight to 6:00am California time. These days, we've got three pretty distinct "shifts" on the boards, corresponding (rather disturbingly for employers I'm sure) to business hours in the UK, US and Australia/New Zealand, in that order.

So, is this a problem, and if so, what to do about? Well, I'm only one guy, but here are three recommendations, for what they're worth:

1. Have you posted something Really Useful today? Have you helped a newb, or posted pictures of your current build, or video from your flying session from last weekend?

Remember, we are both the consumers and creators of our Slope forum content, and it is literally "on us" to make this place chock-full of what we originally came here for. No, not "Here Goes Nothing", but rather R/C slope soaring content. If you post every day, try to make sure at least one of those posts contains Really Useful content. And consider whether the forum really needs another Not So Useful comment. Probably not, eh?

2. You Are What You Eat Quickly, when you think of the Slope forum, do you think of the latest awesome build thread or inspiring flying video you watched, or do you think of the redneck joke you just read in "Making Life Easier"? Are you consuming and contributing "junk food" or are you making a healthy meal of the Slope forum? Do you really need to keep a pointless thread alive with OT banter, or should it just be allowed to die a natural death? What are you spending your time here for?

Entertainment is important... but it shouldn't overwhelm the forum's original purpose, which is to distribute information about R/C slope soaring. It's always good to step back and think about why you are here on the Slope forum, what you are getting out of your participation, and what you are giving to others by your participation. Let's cut out the bloat whenever possible, eh?

3. PMs are often better than Posts If you've got a specific question that only one person in the thread can answer, and which doesn't directly pertain to the subject at hand, maybe it's better to send a PM? Especially if you can avoid derailing a thread. Some people are very offended when they see their build thread or whatever get sidetracked by a conversation that could really been held via PM or a separate thread. Let's not piss off someone trying to do something Really Useful, and instead take it to PM whenever possible.

Now the above is surely common sense (I have been accused of being a Master of Tautology before), but I think it's appropriate that from time to time we step back and think about how we're doing things, and see if there isn't a way to make improvements. I'm not saying things here are broken, but we do want to encourage on-topic discussion and contribution.

At the end of the day, do you want to set the example of encouraging "Here Goes Nothing", or do you want to see a build thread of what might become the next Jart? Think about it

And to all you experts out there - don't go quietly into the night. If you care about slope soaring and enjoy interacting with other people, then participate! Set the example for others to follow, don't slink off to your cave. RCGroups is where it's at for R/C slope soaring in the English language. If you've got it, flaunt it!

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Feb 11, 2008, 08:06 AM
VTPR & Slope Aerobatics
surfimp's Avatar
Thread OP
Man that was long. Sorry!

Feb 11, 2008, 08:14 AM
Phil.Taylor's Avatar
Congratulations Steve

who thinks its "all good"
Feb 11, 2008, 08:35 AM
Biting ankles since '53
Valid points to be considered for sure! Thanks for the observations.
Feb 11, 2008, 08:40 AM
satinet's Avatar
Steve, I think part of the problem is that new users feel like it's all been done before (a lot of posts in 5 years +). Questioners are often pointedly directed towards previous threads or the search button. yes you do get tired of the same threads cropping up, but I always try to give basic info where i can, although i am only a relative newbie to this RC game....

build threads - also usually been done before. Do we need to see build threads for the same models again? I don't know. Personally i don't think it can hurt to start afresh.

I feel the international nature of the board is it's key strenght - sloping is a minority in a minority. The number of posters from around the globe gives us a enough critical mass for this board to function as it does (yes there is no sloping coverage in mags.). This is where it's "at" for slope soaring........

Might be controversial but some people are fairly cliquey - the only really respond to posts made by their mates/buddies...... as a question, get ignored.....

Personally, I use the search function a lot. this place is a like wikipedia of info, if you know how to use the function properly (not many in this category??!) .

We probably do need less OT stuff though, as you say, as the "interesting" stuff gets bumped off the top page (also FAR too many stickies). As you say breaking the board up into sub categories doesn't work........

vive la slope forum.......
Last edited by satinet; Feb 11, 2008 at 08:45 AM.
Feb 11, 2008, 09:19 AM
fun is the goal
AndreasMergner's Avatar
Steve, I agree with all three of your points. Lately there has been more humor-based threads than slope threads. I don't have a problem with humor threads, but they should be posted in the non-rc forums.
Feb 11, 2008, 09:24 AM
satinet's Avatar
they would only get posted on the main board if there were a humour board...... that was my point - no body looks on the other threads.....
Feb 11, 2008, 09:49 AM
Phil.Taylor's Avatar
Originally Posted by AndreasMergner
Steve, I agree with all three of your points. Lately there has been more humor-based threads than slope threads. I don't have a problem with humor threads, but they should be posted in the non-rc forums.
And a couple of those were because of OPs that were difficult to interpret as to whether they were serious or not, and written in a challenging way by a newbie - chaos followed.
1. how about a new "category", or being able to re-label a thread category as "humourous" (i.e. slope-humorous) - keeps it on the board, so we can all share the fun. Yes, i know there's a separate humour forum - but the stuff on "slope" is funny because its (mostly) slope related.
2. how about guidance (FAQs?) on getting the best out of RCGslope / RCGslopers - especially for newcomers -we were all newbies here to start with.
3. pull threads back-on-topic if they are worth keeping (happens anyway), or spawn new, more focused threads

Last edited by Phil.Taylor; Feb 11, 2008 at 09:57 AM.
Feb 11, 2008, 10:03 AM
satinet's Avatar
yeah, you did spawn a new thread, regarding the EPP thing Phil. that was a nice move......
Feb 11, 2008, 10:06 AM
Surf's up!!
sixty9mustang's Avatar
Hey Surfimp
Just wanted to say, the next time you are in Montana, You probably won't be alone. That is if you let someone know you are coming .
I am trying to start a new build thread (semi scratch-build) and can't get the photos to upload . Have tried the easy way and the Java-load and both fail. I can load photos from work and it works fine. Must be something wrong with my computer.

Happy Flying
Feb 11, 2008, 10:09 AM
Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum!
Doubletap's Avatar
There already are forums for humour, chit chat, politics, etc.

I think these cover just about all OT subjects that may pop up.

Feb 11, 2008, 10:28 AM
fun is the goal
AndreasMergner's Avatar
Another thing that might help is to encourage rating of threads. At least that might point someone to threads of value. Then again, I can see humor threads getting 5 stars by those that support them.

Just because a thread has a crazy start or a non-start (ala Making life easier for all), doesn't mean it should be kept alive for 4 MONTHS. How long was that 3 word slope poem going on for?

I think we may get more useful info here if there is more discussion on the good threads instead of the more random ones. Responding to a insightful post encourages more posting from that author. IMO
Feb 11, 2008, 10:43 AM
VTPR & Slope Aerobatics
surfimp's Avatar
Thread OP
Stickies are a "sticky" issue, if you'll pardon the pun, because "we" don't like to go other places to see event listings. So every year, around late winter / early spring, we get a whole slew of them posted to the front page. They usually stick (again, pardon the pun) around till May / June and then slide down.

For events, I think it's good they are stickied at some point, but maybe they could get stickied closer to the actual event (like 2-3 months instead of 5-6). That way everyone gets to see the event listing and plan for it, but the sticky itself isn't up so long.

I personally don't see a need for any non-event-related threads to be stickied in this forum, unless there is a specific and timely thing which deserves such billing. That would have to be determined on an "it depends" case-by-case basis, of course

Regarding the humor threads, I think it's best if we jokesters can settle on having one "LTUP/Humor/Whatever" thread and having clearly marked as such. And try to keep our bantering largely confined there whenever possible.

And it does suck when truly good information gets posted in the bowels of a thread with a completely separate subject line. Oh well! At least it's easy to link to specific posts.

Regarding search usage, I think it's got to be encouraged, though it doesn't have to be in a nasty way. There is so much info here, that on some level it is ridiculous to literally re-type the same thing I've re-typed a dozen times before. And I strongly feel that people have to exercise the tiny bit of initiative required to perform a search for something prior to posting a question which has a good chance of having been asked and answered. Thinking before you speak is good policy, and same goes for here with respect to posting, IMHO...

I'm just really glad that we're having a debate about how to make our forum better, and not about how our forum is filled with egotistical jerks who flame one another, and of course the newbs, constantly. Too many forums have been ruined by that, and we are truly lucky to have very little if any of it here. So let's not forget to count our blessings, eh!

Feb 11, 2008, 10:51 AM
satinet's Avatar
Regarding search usage, I think it's got to be encouraged, though it doesn't have to be in a nasty way. There is so much info here, that on some level it is ridiculous to literally re-type the same thing I've re-typed a dozen times before. And I strongly feel that people have to exercise the tiny bit of initiative required to perform a search for something prior to posting a question which has a good chance of having been asked and answered. Thinking before you speak is good policy, and same goes for here with respect to posting, IMHO...
I know what you're saying Steve. I'm solved many a linux user's problem by directing them to the 1st hit on a google search........ can't beat human nature though!
Feb 11, 2008, 10:58 AM
BillO's Avatar
Well said Steve. About the issue of old build threads having shown it all before -- in fact, they haven't "shown it all". There are zillions of different ways to do things, and everybody does them slightly differently. What I really enjoy about a build thread is the little tips about doing common things. I try to share those things.

Like sandbags for clamping things like fuses, or how to thin a mylar, or how to set the incidence on a stab. I am still looking for a good way to do the last one. Keep the good ideas coming!

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