$100 to Attend via a webinar for the Fall Meeting??

American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
Tue, 11/03/2015 - 22:45

Gosh, upfront, I have to confess I feel a bit guilty about even bringing this up, in as much as I fully appreciate the financial difficulties our Organization faces with the annual budget struggle and how small our membership fee is in relationship to the annual budget.

I note the cost of attending the Fall meeting in person is $130.

This year HQ is offering pretty much full Virtual attendance for $100.  I will confess that I have no idea how much the webinar service will cost and whether it is by attendee or a flat rate.  Ultimately, I am a great believer that the user of a service has to pay for the cost of the service.

On the other hand, for me, this is initially a perception issue; after all, for many of us our reality is what we perceive it to be.  Take away the dinner and virtual attendees are being asked to pay as much as those physically present.  Simply does not, for me, seem like a proportionately “fair” cost; and one that is higher than I am willing to pay.

I would suggest to HQ that they immediately host a survey for about a week with the following questions.

1) The aavso will be offering webinar attendance for the Fall meeting (Nov. 12-14), including all the paper presentations.  The fee will be $100.

I will attend

I will not attend because the price is to high

I will not attend for other reasons

2) If you are not attending the virtual meeting because the price is to high at which of the following prices would you be more inclined to attend?       




3) If the webinar were offered for the price you just checked would you then plan on attending?



Then run the numbers from the survey and determine the best cost/benefit ratio.

Per Ardua Ad Astra,

Tim Crawford, CTX

American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
Webinar price

Like you Tim, I wasn't expecting the remote attendance registration to increase in price ($60 at last meeting?).

ON THE OTHER HAND, the the regular registration fee doesn't include the banquet price ($62 -- which initially sounds really high, but I bet little/none of that goes to the AAVSO -- catered meals at conference facilities are just plain expensive).  And webinar attendees don't have to pay travel costs.

Besides any webinar service fees, there are incremental staff duties required to make it work ($).

At the last meeting, I think there were just a handfull of webinar attendees -- so the costs must be covered by just a few people.

So, I wish it were cheaper, but I wish that about a lot of things...   I can't attend it all in real time, so I'd be counting on the later playback option.

Gary Billings


American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
OK by me


 I was one of the remote attendees for the meeting, and I would participate that way again.  No, it is not cheap, but it's a great deal less expensive than traveling to Boston, which did not happen to fit in my schedule this year.  Do not underestimate the value of the meeting for keeping up on developments in our community.  Professionals attend conferences all the time for that reason.  I think $100 spent staying connected is just as valuable as $100 spent on equipment.  I would encourage anyone to at least try the webinar option once.  

The one problem I encountered was audio quality.  The speakers were picked up by an "ambient" microphone in the room rather than directly from their own mic. Sometimes it worked well, sometimes it didn't.   A little bit of extra audio hardware should suffice to rectify that.



American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
Recorded sessions

On the page where we "ordered" the remote registration, it said the sessions would be recorded, and available for a while after the meeting.  I am counting on this, as I was not able to listen to the whole meeting in real time.  How do I access the recorded sessions?

For the part I was able to listen to "live", I had the same experience as Tom, i.e. sound quality was sometimes good, sometimes less so.   

Gary Billings

American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
Recordings and sound

Thank you for joining us remotely! The main idea is not to replace the in-person meeting with remote ones, but allow people attend if they can't come. For those who registered, you will be getting a link with the recordings.

We did have a couple of technical issues this time, and we are not sure what they are due to. I noticed that the wifi we got from the hotel was underliable at times. At the same time, lesson for future meetings: speakers need to repeat questions from participants to ensure that online participants hear both the question and the response.



Best wishes - clear skies,




American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
Echoing the sentiment

I think Stella explained it perfectly - this is an option that will suit the needs of some people at some points in time. Of course we would love to see as many members as possible in person. I find meetings are great for recharging my batteries and whetting my enthusiasm for observing.


I look forward to seeing many of you in St. Louis in April!


Kris Larsen

American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
recorded sessions available for a while after the meeting

Gary's question about recorded sessions available for a while after the meeting also applies to the Spring 2015 meeting last June, which I couldn't find online anywhere after the meeting (although my virtual attendance worked without problem during the sessions that I was able to attend).

Frank Dempsey

American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
Recorded Sessions

Frank shortly all the sessions from Spring 2015 will be made available to all via YouTube to all and I will post the link here. 

The recorded sessions from last week are currently being worked on and will be available shortly also through YouTube, a link will be emailed to the registrants. 

Owen Tooke Admin Assistant, AAVSO HQ

American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
The Entire View

I know that for myself, attending the conferences is much more than being in the presentations live as they are given ... it also includes the chance to network with like minded and research driven collegues and also to possibly be won over to any other type of variable star research that I am not involved in.  So I agree with Kris and Stella.

When you really piece things together, $100 for a two day webinar lasting a good majority of the day is a great alternative.  Not only are you saving on the additional $30 early registrations fees; but, the entire cost of airline tic kets, lodging and meals.  All said and done the total cost of the conference is significantly higher to be there in person.

So I feel the Webinar route even at $100 is a bargain and also paves the way for those that are less finacially fortunate to be able to attend the sessions.

That said, as in all past live appearances, I really enjoyed the Annual Conference and despite technical hitches, I think thet the planners and doers did an excellent job!  The best part is that I learned a lot more AGAIN!

-- Glenn





American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
The Coast of Meeting Virtual Attendence

I would definitely second Tim's suggestion of polling the general membership regarding the costs for webinar-type attendance of meetings. In my personal opinion speaking as someone who in the more distant past attended every fall meeting for decades, but stopped because of the growing costs, I feel that the organization is today slowly pricing itself beyond what the average hobbyist is willing to pay and at the same time hurting our exposure to the general hobby. 

For a couple of years in the recent past we had free live meeting attendance for at least the Saturday morning business session. This not only served the members unable to attend because of distance or costs, but likewise offered insight into the organization to potential members and reason to join the ranks.

It is no secret that the number of active observers, particularly in the USA, has been shrinking both significantly and steadily for some years, reflected in our the light curve coverage becoming increasing sparse for many stars and particularly among the CV stars when compared with 10, 20 and 30 years ago. There was a time when the AAVSO gained major exposure in the popular magazines to bolster our numbers with new recruits, but this is no longer true today. From what I see currently we struggle to gain new "active" members throughout the Western Hemisphere. Perhaps it is time to rethink how we encourage both member participation and recruitment, rather than raising further financial barriers to it.  

Thoughts of a half-century member.

J.Bortle   (BRJ)


Related Ideas

We already a just our membership rates for students and the developing world.  Could we adjust the cost of virtual attendance for the meeting on a similar scale.

I also think we would do more to attract both virtual and in person attendance by professionals if the titles and abstracts for the presentations were electronically published in advance of the meeting.  It stands to reason that if someone sees a presentation pertinent to their interest on the schedule, they are more likely to register and attend.