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Comments on the S.A.P.C.

Dear Steve/Editor,

I am not really sure where this letter is going but I have a few points I would like to make about our site. Firstly it must seem strange to new visitors to the site who come on to a South African Philatelic site and see not only South African material but 'foreign' material as well; then to confuse the situation, they turn to another section and find poems and other writings which cover more than just South Africa. I feel it necessary to do a little explaining as to how this site has developed.

Firstly, you on your side had the vision to see that philatelists with South African interests were kept in touch during the lock-down. I had the same sort of idea but chose the emailing route. I had been involved in philately for many years and besides that hobby I had interests in ornithology, writing and in a hospital chaplaincy for all of which I had separate emailing lists. When we were introduced and our workload developed I was forced to join my emails into one sending which involved non-philatelists, this in turn meant that non-philatelists were visiting our site. To accommodate them the writings were added to the site. I will add here that perhaps I for one was being a little crafty as I was thinking (and hoping) that if we accommodated them we may get a new breed of philatelists.

The question now is where do we go from here? I am beginning to see the site as a philatelic magazine with overlapping interest in much the same way as the old 'Springbok' magazine that was given away by South African Airways. A bit of this and a bit of that. Stamps cover every subject that has every been known, this usually shown in their design. On top of that there is the knowledge of printing, history, geography, currency, politics etc. contained in and on the covers and their contents. All of these subjects should be covered in what we give our readers/viewers.

We can't do this ourselves! We need our reader/viewers to contribute some of their knowledge... I know we have top collectors, auction houses, doctors, professors religious leaders and other specialists, visiting our site. We need their input, their pages, their know how, their ephemera on our site so that all can learn from this wonderful hobby of ours.

I would like to see our members reaching out for our site first thing in the morning in much the same way as they would reach out for the old fashioned newspaper. For this we need postings every day and at all times of the day and night. I can see members posting in Europe, Africa, from the Far-east and the Americas so that when members wake up new material has been added during the night. I would like to see names replying to postings. If a person wants to use a 'nom de plume' so be it but let us encourage more action so that others can learn and in so doing bring new blood into the hobby. If we don't do it and don't encourage new members into our midst who is going to want our material when we move on?

Jamie, thanks. Sorry, you have touched a nerve. This is long. Skip to the last paragraph!

I remember the old SAA's Springbok magazine. It often contained an article you wished you could take home with you. The solution was to tear a few pages out of the Springbok while coughing loudly or nonchalantly try to sneak it into your briefcase. I hope that our readers will find similarly interesting articles on this site. Please Download or Cut&Paste them. Don't be embarrassed doing so!

When I started the South African Philately Club (SAPC), I had no-one but Bob Hill to encourage me. Nevertheless, I still wanted to "do my thing". Most specifically, I did not want to be constrained by the rules and committees of philatelic societies. I felt strongly that if this was going to happen at all it would have to be done my way. I have seen the life choked out of philatelic societies by committee meetings that forward all and any suggestions to an AGM to be held next year. Right from the off, I was antagonistic to the established philatelic status quo.

I was then introduced to you via the good offices of Simon Peetoom. Bob Hill, a SAPC Founder Member, said he had met you at a SACS meeting, that you had great material and that you were a man unafraid to express his own views. "You'll get on with Jamie," Bob said, We did. What I liked was that you were immediately full of suggestions and offers of material. You really grasped what it was that I was hoping the SAPC would become. More than anyone, your enthusiasm, support and contributions got the SAPC up-and-running. I can't thank you enough!

When we started the SAPC the idea was to provide philatelists in self-isolation with an on-line meeting place. Many people have joined the SAPC but few chose to share material, news and views on-line. I think many are still waiting to see where we are going. Few are influencing the direction we take. We are now six months down the road and we have had to make some choices and decisions along the way. Like you, I hope we will get more contributors posting their material in our forums and displays. We are desperately short of input from members.

I take your point about newcomers finding it strange that this is not strictly a stamp and postal history site and, more importantly, not  strictly a South African one.  The reason for that is simple. We have not had enough South African material. We have had to post what we had and what we were given and when that ran low we had to put up non-SA material, like your excellent East Africa, Italian East Africa, Egypt, Iran and GB. There is a connection there for many South Africans. It is not irrelevant. We were a British colony, my South African Mom's brother fought in Abyssinia, the Western Desert and Italy. Iran is a major trading partner and a country with a very interesting history and place in the world today. What is there not to like in your non-SA displays?

Personally, I think that diversity of philatelic material and opinion is healthy. I think that we should concentrate on southern Africa while finding interesting material that reflects our experience from complimentary countries in Africa, the Middle East, even the old colonial masters of Europe, anywhere that offers us lessons that help us to understand ourselves and our history better. In that regard, I am not averse to a wonderfully human, environmentally sensitive, knowledgeable leftfield philatelist, postal historian, poet, ex-pub landlord, ornithologist, catering entrepreneur and ex-dancehall crooner with a belief in God that I do not share having his own column on the SAPC website where he can write about whatever he wants to his hearts content.

I don't have any answers. Yes, it would be great to have more contributors like you Jamie, and more people like Yannis and Underbidder posting but we are going to have to make do with what we've got until that happy day. And it is coming. I have just taken delivery of two volumes of SA Maritime and Shipping Postmaster mail with more to come. Yes, I question the layout of the site and worry where it is going as an archive that can be accessed by all in future. There are areas I want to see introduced, obvious ones like OFS, Natal, TVL/ZAR and SWA, areas I know little about. Until we improve in those areas we will look like we are Cape and GB / Commonwealth oriented. It's not good enough!

I want more and better but am pleased with the limited success we already have. I am taking pleasure in the growth of this lovable all-consuming monster that we have created. It has been difficult but in the midst of all this you have always been there pushing things along. Don't stop now! We've only started this journey. You thoroughly deserve your Founding Member status. Thank you for all you have done for the SAPC and also thank you for giving the hundreds of self-isolating collectors who have found in this "strange" website some small philatelic relief from the awfulness of living alone, a demented misery which you so vividlly describe in "All Locked Up With Nowhere To Go".

Steve, Thanks for answering and for everything you have written but shouldn't this one have gone in the 'Short story' section?

Jamie, yes, I said it was long. I apologise. Hopefully, no-one will read that basinful! Thank goodness!

What I did not say and what I will say now is that part of my vision for this site was and still is to make it into a philatelic resource with the help of members. If every member was able to contribute their expertise and knowledge or even just submit examples of some of their better stamps and covers, we would end up with something really useful that anyone, anywhere could access free of charge.

I have been watching this discussion for sometime and would like to add my 2 cents to it.  One of the most useful features of the site is that you can "talk" to the members and most times you can get some useful feedback out of it.  Normal philatelic societies, valuable as they are cannot fulfill this role, unless you can be present at meetings. However, the society Journals are valuable resources.

Like building up a collection 5-6 months is not enough time to build a more substantial pool of users. I personally do not think that forums are a good format to provide a "resource". But they are a great format to stimulate and be the seed for more short/long articles that should go on "pages" and linked at the front or at the top of the appropriate thread. More scholarly studies can go to the Societies, where one should be looking for more users.

Forums. They are not ideal. I have been trying to re-arrange the Cape Experimental thread into something that can become a useful reference. What I have found is that Forums typically start with the general known information on a subject which may be out of date or even wrong. As the topic develops, the new information that comes through appears further down the forum where it is not immediately obvious unless the entire thread is read. I totally agree with you that what we need is a summary or synopsis, possibly placed up-front so that anyone with an interest in the subject immediately finds the latest research rather than have to go looking for it.

Archives vs Resource. Yes, ideally I want a system of neatly labelled categories containing definitive information that can be quickly referenced. However, someone is going to have to compile that knowledge from tradtional sources like books and society magazines as well as the Forums on this and other sites. It will require agreement, patience and dedication. We will need 'Three Wise Men' (or more such invigilators) to produce a definitive archive. I can't imagine that happening. When all is said and done, this website, jumbled and imperfect as it is, is just a resource. It already contains information that requires the rewriting of aspects of South African philately and postal history. Researchers will have to mine this website for its hidden treasure. It has an adequate Search facility to make the job easier.

Your 2c worth. Thank you for your comments. It is vital for this website that you have your 2c worth. In future, please make it 5 or 10c' worth, as much as you want to spend. Your comment about  "short/long articles that should go on "pages" and linked at the front or at the top of the appropriate thread" entirely mirrors my own thoughts. Such synchronicty suggests we are on to something. I would like to hear more from you and other members on the subject of "wrapping up" a Forum topic or thread ie. providing a definitive summation of a subject.

I am new to all of this. I welcome your and other members input, please.