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All topics Members' On-Line Discussion, All discussion threads for AGS Events


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Started by: CLIFF BOOKER


Go to latest contribution by Martin Rogerson, 06 April 2012, 07:54. Go to bottom of this page.

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Contribution from Cliff Booker 30 March 2009, 14:03top / bottom of page

Am I the only person who is a little worried that it is now 1.30pm on the Monday after a major AGS Show (at Exeter on Saturday) and there has been no mention of the event on this site, no images have been posted and no-one in the wider circle of this great Society knows the name of the Farrer Medal winner or indeed his magnificent exhibit UNLESS they are members of another national society where numerous images have already been posted and congratulations expressed from all corners of the alpine world? I happen to love this great Society of ours and would like to see the same enthusiasm being displayed on these pages as we witness on other sites? Your comments, suggestions and condemnations of my views are welcomed ... anything to get members posting?

Contribution from Cliff Booker 31 March 2009, 10:33top / bottom of page
One of my favourite verses ...

And in the naked light I saw Ten thousand people, maybe more People talking without speaking People hearing without listening People writing songs that voices never share And no one dared Disturb the sound of silence

One of my favourite verses ...

Contribution from john dower 31 March 2009, 12:55top / bottom of page

While there are those who would willingly contribute it is not too hard to understand why other sites have all the traffic and the AGS lags behind - the AGS site lacks the simplicity and intuitive attributes necessary to encourage spontaneous involvement. Given that the website is such an important part of the working of the society, is it not possible to have a complete review based on making it genuinely user fiendly? Thanks for raising the question Cliff. John Dower p.s. I like the 'soggy microphone' pic! Is this from your Radio Caroline days?

Contribution from Cliff Booker 31 March 2009, 17:42top / bottom of page
Thanks John

Many thanks for your very welcome contribution, John. I hope it may encourage others to respond? The furry microphone from Radio Caroline is actually Pulsatilla vernalis in bud. Some other images captured this morning (31st March 2009) here in mild but overcast East Lancashire.

Thanks John
Pulsatilla vernalis
Pulsatilla vernalis
Pulsatilla vernalis
Pulsatilla vernalis
Primula clarkei
Primula clarkei
Hepatica close-up
Hepatica close-up
Hepatica close-up
Hepatica close-up
Adonis vernalis bud
Adonis vernalis bud
Thlaspi close-up
Thlaspi close-up
Muscari close-up
Muscari close-up
Pulsatilla vernalis stems
Pulsatilla vernalis stems

Contribution from Jim McGregor 01 April 2009, 08:50top / bottom of page

I'm not sure what the problem is with the site. If there are aspects of the site that are not intuitive and user friendly someone need to tell us so that we can address the problem. We are certainly congratulated regularly on the content of the site. The site is not simple because of the huge range of content and facilites, but the members' discussion area which I assume John is referring to, seems pretty easy to use and is well integrated with the rest of the site in style and appearance.

There is a redesign of the overall appearance of the site going on at the moment, but that won't affect the structure of the content.

Come on you members out there add your comments!

Meanwhile back to the London Show which started yesterday. The official results went up last night on the formal results part of the site with some trophy pictures. (I haven't got the Exeter results yet and have been unable to post them.)

Contribution from john dower 01 April 2009, 10:52top / bottom of page

Jim, I have no criticism of the overall site - it works. My concern is only the on-line discussion. If there is one change I would welcome initially it would be to separate paras in the text without the need to upload each individual bit. Reading contributions where it is a continuous script feels awkward and can dilute the impact of long contributions. Is it possible? J.

Contribution from John Richards 02 April 2009, 09:50top / bottom of page

I agree with Jim, the site is user-friendly, and the only problem is that relatively few people still contribute to it when this is so easy. However, I would say one thing. At present, wonderful photos and comments on the Shows are being posted in three different places, under AGS events and Plants at Shows in the On-line discussion, and under Shows as reports (usually much more tardy!). This is very confusing. I would suggest that under AGS events it is added 'please post Show photos under plants at Shows', and that the Show Reports are scrapped. By the time they appear they are out of date and irrelevant anyway.

Contribution from Jim McGregor 02 April 2009, 10:57top / bottom of page

Thanks John and John.

I'll look at John Dower's suggestion of basically providing a more sophisticated editor that detects paragraph breaks and keeps them. For now, the easiest way to start a new paragraph is to click the Submit button which I will do now.

New paragraph. Just as well doing it that way, as if you sepend too long thinking about what you're going to type, the Server will log you out (set to half an hour at the moment) because it hasn't heard from you and thinks you have gone away. So submitting small chunks at a time solves both problems.

I clicked submit again there. I just noticed the message about this at the top of the contribution page - I added that a short time ago. Perhaps I need to add something about getting a new paragraph at the same time.

I agree that the show pictures need pulling together in some way. I've made a start to that by adding links back to the On-line discussion for members Show pictures from the official results pages.

Contribution from john dower 02 April 2009, 12:38top / bottom of page

Hi Jim & John, I hope I can correct the impression that I am criticising the whole site - I am certainly not. A more sophisticated editor is a worthwhile objective to simplify the submissions and I look forward to that. As for the show pics etc., this is surely more a matter of identifying a need for a little more speed following a show and creating a rhythm which, over a period, could achieve the hoped for results. It will take a good deal longer to create the active involvement of more members, but there are those who would wish to make it so and will persevere to that end. Cheers, John

Contribution from John Humphries 08 April 2009, 20:13top / bottom of page

Having spent some time making contributions in that other place before the on-line discussion was available here, there are a couple of helpful additions that could be made here.

As has been the case from the start, the paragraph situation would be much better if we could type all we wanted in one go then submit at the end.

What would make this even better would be the "Review and Submit", so that you can actually see what you have typed, and edit it before your typos become tablets of stone.

The individual paragraphs and submit aspect here means that you cannot see what you have typed in the previous 2 it is already committed, so the only way is to submit another paragraph and read the total.

Which is sometimes split because you have timed out. At least that always used to be the case I think Jim has increased the "Gone away" timer since the early days.

Moderator Required

Also, while Jim does a tremendous job in all the work which goes on behind the scenes, there needs to be a kernal group of enthusiastic and regular contributors.

Not least of which should be a moderator, or a function which sweeps for any and all new comments and questions which have not been responded to. Maggie in the other place does a sterling job on that and as a result encourages new contributors to stay and contribute again.

No such thing as a stupid question, only stupid people too afraid to an attitude that we need to convey here.

Search facility required

While we don't really have the problem of having too much information to search through, it is nonethe less sometimes difficult to find the bit we want.

It would be useful to have some search facilities available, to find the chain we want, or look how things are organised in an index page.

Trying to get a big picture of the overall situation here is quite difficult. It is not easy to scan the On-line discussion to see what might be of interest.

Likewise, the facility to see what and only what has been updated since you last logged on would be good. I know most people now have broadband, but it still takes a lot of time to trawl every chain looking for the new bits.

As this is the first time I've been on for a while it's good to see some new names adding comments here and there, plus of course some stunning photography from the initiator of this chain.....thank you!

It would be good to have a signature, or a comment at the end showing a little bit about the author.

To be used as a sign

John Humphries

Gardening in Hampshire


As always a huge thank you to Jim who designs, codes, builds and maintains all of this....we all need to use it more and we all need to make helpful suggestions about what we want.

Contribution from Cliff Booker 08 April 2009, 21:18top / bottom of page

Many, many thanks John ... not only for your excellent suggestions and helpful comments but also for demonstrating that members do care enough to make contributions to these pages. I must add that it seems strange to talk about 'that other place' when we are clearly referring to the Scottish Rock Garden Club, a wonderful bunch of fellow enthusiasts. We are so lucky to have two magnificent societies in this neck of the woods and we should cherish and enjoy each for their similarities ad their differences. I sincerely hope that we can continue to assist Jim in his endeavors with useful suggestions and constructive criticisms where necessary. Kind regards from East Lancashire. Cliff Booker - Lancashire

Contribution from john dower 09 April 2009, 10:08top / bottom of page

The comments from John & Cliff very much echo my own sentiments. As it stands, the AGS site does not compare favourably with that of SRGC, but with a little ‘tweaking’ might well be greatly improved On Saturday last, at the Chesterfield show, the AGS forum was discussed in some depth, and revealed not only serious concern, but at least one person who would be prepared to be involved in this ‘tweaking’ process. Perhaps that individual ( who remains incognito at this stage) would also be prepared to take on an administrator role in order to coordinate contributions and encourage wider involvement. Perhaps the most important need is for a much closer relationship between the AGS and SRGC discussion sites – particularly as so many are members of both. John Dower, Cheshire.

Contribution from john dower 13 April 2009, 10:50top / bottom of page

Given the dearth of responses in this thread, and as a means of encouraging greater activity here, may I suggest a look at the following: John Dower

Contribution from John Humphries 13 April 2009, 19:08top / bottom of page

John D. I would be very happy to take forward any suggestions or results from discussions at Chesterfield and elsewhere for inclusion in considerations of changes to the website.

However it is very much the case that things cannot automatically be changed just because we have thought of them.

Like you, I would hope that people would make comments on these chains to suggest ways in which they might be persuaded to join in.

Cancelling the need for people to be members might be a benefit. That way people seeing and adding their comments might be persuaded to join, rather than feeling excluded.

There would still be a need to register and password, so as to prevent spamming, but I cannot see why the right to raise entries should be exclusive to members. As it stands, it would appear that about 0.1% of the membership actually participate.

Yet another example above of the arbitrary splitting of entries simply because I am trying to separate out paragraphs.

Let's hear from anyone else who has anything to say on any of these points. If you have felt like making an entry and haven't.....tell us why!

Contribution from David Nicholson 13 April 2009, 20:43top / bottom of page

I am following this discussion with great interest but so far have hesitated to comment as I am a relatively new member of The AGS. I have been a member, and continue to be so, of The SRGC for a few years now and was originally attracted to take membership as a result of searching the Internet for plant information and finding, firstly the SRGC Forum and secondly Ian Young's excellent Bulb Log. Since then I have become a regular reader of and contributor to the Forum and I have to say that it has greatly expanded my knowlege of plants and gardening and I learn something new from it every day. Perhaps the most important part the Forum plays is to provide a place for members of differing experiences and skills; differing views on cultivation; and differing continental climatic demands to simply come together and chat and thereby contribute to the learning of all. In comparison the AGS Members' On-line Discussion appears to me to be stilted and lacking contribution. I do wonder, in this age when many similar Societies are loosing rather than gaining members, how many AGS Members realise that an efficient and effective on-line discussion system can, in this age of technology' be a very important recruitment tool.

When I typed the above I did so in more than one paragraph!!

Contribution from john dower 14 April 2009, 11:11top / bottom of page

Thanks for your comments John. I do appreciate that changing everything on a whim would be absurd, but there does seem to be a gathering consensus that the use of the discussion editor could be lot easier.

I also agree that having a separate registration for the discussion section may well lead to a more welcoming view from the website for those who have not yet joined the society.

I suppose the main comment in the recent discussions at Chesterfield and Stockton was about links to other sites - particularly the SRGC, where all agree that the forum is such an attraction.

A number feel it is unnecessary to have two fully functional discussion forums and that the SRGC already fulfil the need very well indeed, largely it must be said due the enthusiasm of the moderator of that site.

Is there any reason why the AGS site should not have a link to the SRGC forum?

The effort needed to maintain a discussion forum (and particularly make changes) is not underestimated and is appreciated by all members.

Perhaps, by aligning the on-line discussion more closely with the SRGC forum, there is a mechanism to introduce more members to the idea of sharing their views and experiences as David has said and, by removing the AGS membership qualification, to more on-line enthusiasts joining the society.

(I tried the 'multiple submissions' technique this time! The break in sections is when the broadband went down. What a pain!)

Contribution from Cliff Booker 15 April 2009, 08:32top / bottom of page

I have noticed that this discussion forum is attracting more entries recently, but only, it seems, from members who are slightly disenchanted with or desperate to improve the mechanics of the forum or to increase/utilise our links with the excellent forum of the SRGC. This all suggests to me that members in the wider reaches of the society are either a) reluctant to use these pages because of technical/posting difficulties or b) have no interest or requirement for a forum of this type or c) have not searched for, located or discovered this valuable feature of the site? Each of these alternatives requires prompt investigation and attention, attention which is quite obvious in the case of alternatives a) and c) - very, very worrying in the case of b) as other forums prove a popularity and frequency of use that belies this alternative completely. The AGS should and must be at the cutting edge of web based alpine interest or it's fortunes will surely decline at an alarming rate.

Contribution from John Humphries 15 April 2009, 10:04top / bottom of page

Cliff and John,

If you look back through the archives you'll see flurries of interest and an attempt to get things going on a regular basis by photo essays on Kew or Wisley alpine houses etc. These go back to 2006 when the AGS web was relaunched after having had technical and legal issues through the previous authors/hosters having run into business problems. This caused a couple of years delay in development time and should not be underestimated in the greater scheme of things. The decision was taken then to retain control of all future developments, a task which Jim has very splendidly taken on. Full credit to him and the hundreds of hours work he has put in.

However, if we look back to the very early days of the SRGC site, you will see that a few regular contributors were the only ones making entries for the first 18 months or so....It took a long dedicated effort by a cluster of like minded people to get the whole thing rolling...then suddenly it started to take off and those same cluster were able to take their foot of the driving pedals and drop back into moderator mode..something they have continued to do very successfully.

Contribution from John Humphries 15 April 2009, 17:29top / bottom of page

The point I was making before getting interrupted by system problems at my end was that the key as I see it is to have a kernal of people willing to participate on a regular basis, whilst perhaps getting a few mods to make things slightly easier..remove barriers, paragraphs, review capability etc. That way we can hopefully increase this circle of regular users.

At the same time we also need to focus on the fact that there are many other useful attributes to the AGS site which do not necessarily exist anywhere else. Yes the Forum on SRGC is very popular and we are unlikely to superceed that, however we should be as easy, user friendly and willing to respond to queries raised by the external public, not necessarily members (Yet).

Contribution from David Nicholson 15 April 2009, 20:08top / bottom of page

I agree that it is disturbing that so few members are moved to participate in the On-Line Discussion because, as John hints, it is participation that would drive it forward. There is nothing so soul destroying as, for example,spending time preparing photographs for posting only to receive deathly silence in return.

The key in trying to increase member participation seems to me to lie with Local Groups. Would it not be possible, for example, to ask the Chairs of each Local Group to include a short discussion at their September meeting around the following suggested questions:- 1. How many members present use a computer regularly. 2. Of those how many know that the AGS Web Site has an On-Line Discussion Section. 3. How many actually look at it and how often. 4. How many have participated in it

Contribution from David Nicholson 15 April 2009, 20:28top / bottom of page

Answers to questions such as these would at least provide an information base on which future progress directions could be discussed and implemented. I suppose it has to be faced that a quest for information could just draw a blank as well!! I still can't sort out proper paragraphing, must be getting old!!

Contribution from john dower 15 April 2009, 21:06top / bottom of page

I am delighted to see a reference to local groups, which are in my view a great opportunity for membership to both increase and become more active.

However, there will need to be a much more effective recognition and support of local group activities from Pershore if we are to see real progress form that perspective.

The decline in local group support is not universal, and there needs to ba a real effort by all concerned to generate more activity.

Our own group - East Lancs- has lost a lot of members compared to the best years, but still sustains itself well. Ideas for increased support are discussed on a regular basis, especially in context of the Whitworth show for example, where exceptional publicity resulted in a very satisfactory day all round.

Perhaps a coordinated approach for local publicity - centrally funded where needed - would go a long way to achieving the desired effect.

Why on earth do contributions just six minutes apart appear as separate? Please try to put this right before I run out of patience again!

Contribution from Jim McGregor 15 April 2009, 22:12top / bottom of page

Several people have commented on the time interval that determines a new contributions being too small. I have increased it from five minutes to ten for now, but having seen John's comment, I suspect it needs increasing some more. In the extreme, if someone makes two contributions an hour or two apart, they should probably be separated, but where the threshold lies, is up for grabs

I've also modified the software so that it detects paragraphs during a single contributions as that seems to be a concern.

I've just hit the Enter key WITHOUT hitting the Submit button and it should have now resulted in a another new paragraph.

I see that has worked - so people can now break longer submissions up into paragraphs more easily.

What do people feel about the half hour inactivity limit before being logged out - does that need increasing?

Remember that if you are busy typing, the server doesn't know that - as far as it is concerned, you are inactive until you hit the submit button.

Contribution from David Nicholson 15 April 2009, 22:26top / bottom of page

I'm not sure what John means when he says "there will need to be a much more effective recognition and support of local group initiatives from Pershore if we are able tosee real progress from that perspective...."

I would have thought, given that AGS is a national(international) organisation, that a strong local groups organisation was essential and the only way many members would ave to keep in touch and have contact with "The Society"

In terms of my membership of SRGC and as I am based in Devon I regard the SRGC Forum as my "Local Group" and this offsets my frustration, being geographically challenged, at being able to involve myself in little Club activity.

Contribution from John Humphries 15 April 2009, 23:39top / bottom of page
Thanks for the changes Jim

Just doing a little test on here with the new paragraphing which I certainly welcome.

Having a browse through some of the other recent comments as well, I agree that the 5 minute timeout between entries was toio short. This should not matter now and the timeout could go to 15 mins or more, after all that is just a default end whereas an actual submission should terminate the entry.

Well the paragraphing is certainly an improvement, Thank you.

I see that the submit still just generates a new paragraph and presumably will continue to do so while in the same chain.

Making a comment on the Local Group Front

I think it would be excellent to promote some activity through the group secretaries to get some activity going, at least to use the local group activity pages to advertise a bit more on the meetings being held round the country.

I have submitted material for inclusion in the more formal part of Local group news on the left hand margin for the West London Group.

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to have reached that section so I have used the AGS Local Group section within the On Line Discussion itself.

There is also a section with the AGS Groups section on the left margin to hyperlink to any local group website pages that have been created. This is actually very good for each group to publicise, but I wonder how much activity actually goes on here, and how many people actually know about the links.

I see the 10 Minute timer has taken effect. Jim I think now that you have paragraphing sorted within the individual submission, you should make that submission to be the end of an individual entry, and increase the timer to 15+ minutes.

I think that for the moment it is up to people to review what they have written, but it would be good to have a modify facility at some time in the future.

I assume that the photographs are still single load.

John H Hampshire

Contribution from John Humphries 16 April 2009, 00:11top / bottom of page

I also note the time on the server is incorrect.

It's running 24 minutes fast at the moment. Currently 23.47.

Contribution from john dower 16 April 2009, 13:23top / bottom of page

Well done Jim that will make a real difference.

As to the time interval, is there any reason to have a submission limit time different to the auto logout time?

If they were the same, any auto logout should immediately allow a new login without losing what was being typed - so no problem.

Finally, for now, I see the contact page for local groups but not for other organisations such as SRGC, NARGS etc.

I am sure such a list would be welcomed by many members.

Contribution from Diane Clement 16 April 2009, 13:58top / bottom of page

The contact page for other groups (NARGS, SRGC, and a few specialist groups) is still there but has been moved under Plants, then Related Websites:

I have a few issues on ease of posting.

One is the ability to see the previous post when you are replying, possibly with the facility to quote from it. I find I browse back, then get the error message "Do not use your browser button ...", so I press Refresh instead, but invariably then lose my message. So the only way round (when I remember) is to cut and paste the previous message into Word and compose a reply, then cut and paste back. It is standard practice on other forums/discussion boards to be able to automatically quote a previous message.

Next is the order of display on the Front page of the Discussion page. Could it be put in date order with the newest at the top. And the same idea also in each thread. That way any new postings would be clear at a glance, and old or obsolete postings would go down the screen.

Next thought is can we have more editing tools, e.g to put hyperlinks in, as in my message above which quotes a url but won't put in a hyperlink. Also some simple text editing.

I am well aware of all the hard work Jim puts in and I thank him for all the time he puts in to make the website work.

Contribution from john dower 16 April 2009, 15:49top / bottom of page

Thanks Diane.

I never would have found it without that!

Perhaps it deserves a little more prominence?

Contribution from john dower 17 April 2009, 10:46top / bottom of page

I'm not sure what John means when he says "there will need to be a much more effective recognition and support of local group initiatives from Pershore if we are able tosee real progress from that perspective...."

I would have thought, given that AGS is a national(international) organisation, that a strong local groups organisation was essential and the only way many members would ave to keep in touch and have contact with "The Society"

In terms of my membership of SRGC and as I am based in Devon I regard the SRGC Forum as my "Local Group" and this offsets my frustration, being geographically challenged, at being able to involve myself in little Club activity.

Comment for David N.

I like the idea of the SRGC forum being a 'local group' David. This is exactly how it feels, and it would be a great advance if we could get some of that feeling into the AGS site.

Sadly, at the moment, the activity on the AGS site does not have the same impact and, as pointed out by John P, will take some time to generate.

As for local groups, I can think of no better place to start generating new members, and support in respect of local advertising of lectures etc. would be a very useful aide.

We saw the effect at the East Lancs show.

Following great efforts from Cliff B. in particular, where excellent publicity was achieved in several pulications as well as online and resulted in a substantial increase of visitors through the door.

Total cost was modest as Cliff did most of the editorial and pics., and was worth every penny.

Contribution from john dower 20 April 2009, 10:13top / bottom of page

It was interesting at Knowle to hear how many people had followed the discussion re the forum and appreciated the improvements.

Pity they don't say so online and get involved!

Come on guys - have a go.

Contribution from Luc Gilgemyn 20 April 2009, 14:31top / bottom of page

Wonderful to see this place become more "lively" !

I've been a contributing member of the SRGC forum for a number of years now and not only have I loved it, I've also learned an awful lot !! I'll be glad to try and visit here as well !!

After all we can never see too many Alpines !!

Contribution from Martin Rogerson 20 April 2009, 20:07top / bottom of page

Two tuppenceworths from me.

I agree with Diane that the threads need to be ordered so you more easily spot the post recent posting in both the high level and next level down folders.

Another one we all need to agree on. Show pictures need to either go in 'AGS events' or 'Plants at Shows'. At the moment they appear in both. As Jim has already linked the results page to 'plants at shows' I suggest we all use that.....when I finally find the time to process my pictures that is!

Contribution from Giles Reed 21 April 2009, 21:04top / bottom of page

My thoughts:

The AGS 'On-Line Discussion' section of the website somehow seems a bit 'formal'. I often feel a bit intimidated about posting things, because of the expertise of many members, and the fear of appearing 'stupid'. It doesn't have the feel of a 'playground' about it.

Contribution from john dower 22 April 2009, 12:41top / bottom of page

Giles, I think your observation Giles crystallizes a thought I have had for some time.

There almost seem to be two societies at times, one the very important academic element, the other what might be called the everyday 'ordinary member' element.

In reality, these two elements collide very successfully at the national shows, where everyone is made welcome and no question is regarded as stupid. (I hope so anyway, being a specialist in daft questions!)

In your case Giles, with your skills as a premier 'piccy taker', you hold a widely regarded place as an AGS member with absolutely no need to feel uncomfortable.

But there is also a third element - that of the AGS as a business - an area which appears to have become rather confused over the last few years. With changed financial circumstances being so influential I know from my own experience running a business how difficult it is to sustain a clear business plan - but it is essential.

If the website serves to make the society more accessible, less 'formal' to use your word, perhaps it may be seen as means of expanding membership directly as well as via local groups to the benefit of everyone.

However, that should only be considered in context of a broader understanding of the objectives of the society - what used to referred to as the 'Mission Statement'- a concept which is changed and updated over time.

I would be very interested to hear others views of this important topic.

Contribution from john dower 28 April 2009, 13:47top / bottom of page

It was encouraging at Harrogate to hear how many people are following this thread, and who feel it to be important.

But where are the responses online?

It seems that some find it difficult to formulate their views for submission and I wondered if there wasn?t a way to help with this.

One of the tricks used to assess ideas, both new and existing, is called a SWOT Analysis.

SWOT is the acronym for :

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats.

The idea is to list all the good things, bad things, those things which we like or dislike, see as exciting ways forward or out of date and an impediment to progress.

Think in context of the website and the on-line discussion, or the society in general of course, with a view to encouraging greater activity and the broader enjoyment of all concerned.

It may be that the same item should appear under more than one heading ? and that?s OK, since a Weakness which could be a Threat may be lead to an Opportunity to generate a Strength.

Don?t be afraid to repeat what others say, the more views the better, even if they are simply to agree.

If you have already expressed a view perhaps you might repeat it in this format.

Just to start the ball rolliing:

Strength ? Large membership.

Weakness ? Membership required to log on.

Opportunity ? Removing need for log on to read would widen access to non-members, encouraging them to join in order to contribute.

Threat ? Continued low activity.

Please list your enthusiasms as well as your pet hates ? short and to the point is best ? and I will try to collate them all in due course.


Strength ? Good show at Harrogate- especially the picnic!

Contribution from Cliff Booker 28 April 2009, 14:27top / bottom of page

Super posting John. Anything that encourages, eases or provokes responses to this interesting thread should be applauded..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

Strength - Established membership across the globe - avid for information, images, innovation and (hopefully) interaction..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

Weakness - A reluctance among this 'established' membership to embrace this electronic panoply of delights...............................................................................................................................................................................................................

Opportunity - There appears to be a resurgence of interest in the society, the web site and the discussion forum that MAY be a catalyst for improvements and progress? ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Threat - Inertia ... as simple as that!

.............................................................................................................................. More power to your elbow, John.

Contribution from Luc Gilgemyn 28 April 2009, 16:46top / bottom of page

May I add my thoughts :

Strenght : the world's largest group of very (!)knowledgeable people in the field of alpine plants.

If this knowledge becomes more widely and easily available in this Forum, this will proove to be a great asset !

Weakness : Too little input from a large number of members.

Opportunity : The internet and the good use of a website + forum offers a tremendous weapon in the continuing fight against the threat of declining membership in this modern and rapidly changing world.

The fact that things seem to be getting more lively here is a good sign of growing awareness.

Threat : Further or renewed lack of initiative in trying to make this place a more lively one !

Contribution from Jim McGregor 29 April 2009, 23:08top / bottom of page

Just to correct a misconception above - you don't have to log in to READ the Forum and that has always been the case. Anyone, member or non-member can read these pages without logging in.

You do have to log in to make a contribution, and that is essential, as the pages would soon fill up with adverts for I dread to think what.

The only question is whether we allow non-members to register as users so that they can log-in. At moment we don't and the general feeling seems to be that this is the right approach as it is intended to be a discussion area for members.

Thank you for all your comments - I am watching them carefully and am thinking carefully about possible improvements to the discussion area.

Contribution from john dower 29 April 2009, 23:18top / bottom of page

Thanks Jim, my mistake.

Let's hope others who are keeping a watching brief also find time to respond.


Contribution from john dower 30 April 2009, 13:15top / bottom of page

Still quiet on the contributions front ? so try this one.

STRENGTH - good local groups and geographical distribution.


1.Falling membership ? variety of reasons including competing interests.

2.Apparent lack of active support centrally.

3.Problems with perceived rules on officers service and requirement for rotation.


1.Use local newspapers and local authority websites to publicise talks, events etc.

2.Fund advertising from Pershore but controlled & spent by local groups.

3.Seek approval to derogate rotation rules where needed to sustain group.

There must be many more thoughts around this important topic - over to you!

Contribution from Cliff Booker 30 April 2009, 14:20top / bottom of page

It is totally inconceivable that there are (out of a membership of many thousands), so few people reading or interested in these contributions that they cannot or will not be inspired to have their say!

These are tricky times, both financially and numerically, for any group or society (especially one with such a specialized, if truly wonderful, appeal), so YOUR ideas, YOUR suggestions, YOUR gripes and YOUR commendations are both necessary and welcome.

I began this thread with the following paragraph:-


Am I the only person who is a little worried that it is now 1.30pm on the Monday after a major AGS Show (at Exeter on Saturday) and there has been no mention of the event on this site, no images have been posted and no-one in the wider circle of this great Society knows the name of the Farrer Medal winner or indeed his magnificent exhibit UNLESS they are members of another national society where numerous images have already been posted and congratulations expressed from all corners of the alpine world? I happen to love this great Society of ours and would like to see the same enthusiasm being displayed on these pages as we witness on other sites? Your comments, suggestions and condemnations of my views are welcomed ... anything to get members posting?

... and i am very pleased to report that images are being posted (both by attending members and by the 'official' show photographer (many thanks for your excellent images Jon) and reports from the shows are becoming available to the wider membership far more quickly than occurred in the past .... but where are your responses, where are your queries about plants, your questions about how they are grown, your congratulations to the growers?

These are not unexpected responses - they occur all the time on the SRGC forum and on Alpine_L - how do we encourage YOU to join in - how do we awaken YOU from dormancy? Please add YOUR contribution to this discussion?

Contribution from John Humphries 01 May 2009, 22:40top / bottom of page
Non Member participation should be encouraged

Surely we have an opportunity through these interractons to allow non members to ask questions, where do I find? How do I start? why is this? Without necessarily being in depth or indeed difficult to answer.

We can easily allow a screening of SPAMMERS by asking for a logon and password for non members, just as we do for members.

It seems quite clear to me that 99% of the membership are not contributing to these pages....80% of central committee come to that!! So why do we feel we have to preserve this as a members only section.

Instead of being a benefit to members it should present encouragement to join. To present ourselves as a friendly inclusive society, keen to share our knowledge of the plants we love. Willing to help others, not yet completely smitten as plantaholics to become more so, to get access to the rarer plants, and especially to gain the knowledge required to keep those gems thriving so that the next generation of plantspeople can develop from whatever seeds of interest are sown here.

Contribution from David Nicholson 02 May 2009, 20:18top / bottom of page

Thoroughly agree with every word you said John.

I wonder how far The Society, in it's "Central Form', realises what a trick it is missing in not proactively encouraging use of this particular method of communication both with members and non-members alike.

As a result of my membership of our sister societies' Forum I have friends (fellow gardeners) from many parts of the world and rarely a week goes by without some little gift of spare seed, and indeed plants, dropping through my letter box and rarely does a week go by without my visiting the post office on a return mission. All contribute to my learning.

As members the only time many of us meet is at Shows, with an active on-line discussion we can meet every day. What a way to pull local group membership together, what a way to pull national membership together.

Contribution from john dower 03 May 2009, 10:29top / bottom of page

Thanks Cliff, John & David.

The 'local group' issue is one about which I feel very strongly. I feel it holds the key to a real growth in the society.

If the plan were to increase the membership by, say, 1000 or more, is it likely to come from those already committed to the growing of alpines? Hardly. Or would it perhaps be wiser to target people who have never heard of the society but tend to browse garden and plant books - in other words the general public.

New members will have been signed up at Harrogate recently, but the number of shows needed to reach a given target, and the cost involved, would be just too great.

So heres an idea which may be worth pursuing.

At Knowle yesterday I noticed a number of AGS publications for sale at heavily discounted prices and it struck me to wonder if there are not titles which, having gone out of print, could be resurrected at more modest cost for sale through high street outlets such as The Works or Amazon.

By this means the society would be marketed directly to the public, with the addition of clear links for AGS and other websites, nurserymen etc., and with the real possibility of tapping into new blood.

For example, I recently re-read a smashing book called 'The Complete Book of Alpine Gardening' by Richard Bird and John Kelly, published by Ward Lock in 1992, (it was originally £20) which might make a possible candidate in such a scheme.

Contribution from Cliff Booker 03 May 2009, 10:43top / bottom of page

Excellent idea John. In a similar vein, would there be scope for a series of DVD's produced by the Society and distributed to schools, colleges, libraries, local gardening groups and other interested societies, that promoted alpine gardening and the AGS (troughs, miniature gardens, woodland plants, bulbs, exhibiting, high alpines, mountain holidays, digital photography, flower painting, propagation, etc. are just a few topics that instantly spring to mind)? DVD production costs are fairly low for high volume issues and these could be utilised many hundreds of times by interested parties?

These DVD's could also be sold at garden centres and those same retailers that John has already pointed out.

Contribution from john dower 03 May 2009, 10:57top / bottom of page

Souns like a plan Cliff. Could you produce one?

Contribution from Cliff Booker 03 May 2009, 11:49top / bottom of page

Everything is possible, John, but each topic would take many hours to put together. The production set-up would require a business plan, a promise of funding to see it through to the finished article, practical help and knowledgeable input ... but everything is possible!

Contribution from john dower 13 May 2009, 11:12top / bottom of page

Ten days since the last suggestions and still no further responses - so - see if this makes a difference.

Following the thought of addressing the public directly via publications, why not jump on the current bandwagon in respect of climate change and see if there is not a vast wealth of experience among members in respect of growing 'plants which resist drought' etc. (Please try to ignore the (possibly) rather spurious arguments as to our contribution in this field - if you can!)

I am sure there are enough of you out there to take a positive position on climate change rather than than the all pervasive negative view promoted by the press.

Why not a 'Plants in Warm Climates' concoction to be published in a national magazine or as a newspaper article, with pictures and experiences drawn from members.

This should be accompanied by all the info needed to draw people to the AGS, SRGC, NARGS and other websites, groups, shows etc.

Contribution from Cliff Booker 13 May 2009, 11:25top / bottom of page

... Or even, dare I add, articles assisting gardeners in much damper parts of the world who probably haven't considered true 'alpine' species, but are totally unaware that we, in this Society, support a very broad church and grow plants from bogs, moraines and damp woodland settings? ...

Will we awaken the masses, John or are we the only ones out there?

Contribution from Mel Linney 13 May 2009, 17:24top / bottom of page

I've been following this topic with interest from the start and yes there is need for concern. My local garden society folded recently after 110 years, yes you heard right the first time one hundred and ten years, through lack of involvement by its members. The stalwarts of the society, which you could count on one hand, tried everything they could think of but to no avail. I personally gave freely of my time as secretary from 1981 to 1996 and then continued again in 2006 after a spell as chairman. The upshot of my story is if you, the members, do not involve yourselves in some way the consequences can be dire. So like Cliff I would like to 'loosely' quote something from the sixties uttered by an American President. " Ask not what your Society can do for you, ask what you can do for your Society".

Contribution from john dower 18 June 2009, 07:50top / bottom of page

Last contribution 13th May! I feel a wave of apathy overwhelming me.

Having promised a ?collation? of responses I find there are hardly enough to qualify for that description.

The main thought on-line is clearly that the AGS is hugely appreciated for what it is. The main theme privately are problems which members find difficult to voice on-line. I will refer to these later.


On-line Discussion.

The comments about the website, and the ?user friendliness? of the on-line discussion, have clearly been recognised, with some changes made and others pending. Thanks to Jim McGregor, who has already made changes to the paragraphing and time on line elements and is now seeking a better method for the uploading of photographs.

Other matters, identified in particular by John Humphries and Diane Clement, will take a little longer but may lead to very much simpler usage of the discussion area and (hopefully?) more likelihood of contributions being made.

If the website, especially the on-line discussion, has a real opportunity to widen interest among members it is to try to emulate the SRGC experience. This is a daunting prospect which may be better addressed by simply combining the ?formal? stance of the AGS site and the ?local group? atmosphere of the SRGC site. One question which has been asked a number of times is - ?Do we really need two forums??


Proposals for show pics to appear in one place (from Martin Rogerson & others) would seem sensible, however I cannot see why show reports should be abandoned (John Richards). Surely the AGS website is the perfect place for an academic archive of this sort, no matter how long it takes to remit or how little it is used at the moment.


John Humphries pointed out that there is place on the website for local groups, but is this enough to attract new members locally? Anyone who is totally unaware of the existence of the AGS would need more local initiatives to become aware of the joys to be had via local activities.

John is also interested to see non-members allowed to involve themselves in the discussions with the same objective.

Perhaps the most telling comment regarding local groups was from David Nicholson who said ?I regard the SRGC Forum as my "Local Group". This is a wonderful observation and one which deserves much more consideration.

These last two points both need initiatives to alert people of their existence ? initiatives which will need to be repeated ad nauseam if they are to have the desired effect.


While Cliff started this thread as a plea to have pics posted from shows more promptly, he has also been a hugely enthusiastic contributor to ideas for development of the website generally and the AGS as a society. What a pity so few people could take up the challenge.

The ideas put forward were intended to draw comment from those with the authority to do something positive in bringing about innovation and change.

The absence of any response from that quarter serves only to dull the enthusaism shown.



The lack of comment from all quarters is very disappointing and does not bode well for any improvement in future activity.

For example, a recent submission (27th May) for plant identification elicited no response at all on the AGS site, but a 91 minute response on SRGC.


This thread has resulted in substantially more comment ?off-line? than on!

I have had conversations with a number of people involved in local groups, shows etc. who express their frustrations privately but feel a little intimidated when asked to do so publicly. Do they care? I believe they do, but they feel it would be a waste of time to try to do anything about it. I believe I am beginning to understand their view.


While there is a clear wish for an AGS website which ticks all the boxes this seems to be beyond any immediate chance of becoming reality.

My suggestion at the moment would be for the AGS website to continue to promote itself for all AGS specific business such as admin, shows, seed exchange, show reports etc., but for the AGS to reconcile itself in a positive and genuinely fraternal fashion with the SRGC site so as to enjoy on-line chat, plant identification etc.

The SRGC site should be used to encourage membership of the AGS via shows in England and local groups ? an activity I am confident the current SRGC personnel would enthusiastically support.

For myself, I am happy to enjoy my membership of the AGS and hope that my current ?apathy wave? is a short lived phenomenon. I do not intend that this shall contaminate my enjoyment of the AGS, particularly the wonderful East Lancs Group and the show scene, and all the people who assemble there.

John Dower, Frodsham

Contribution from David Nicholson 18 June 2009, 15:40top / bottom of page

John, I agree with much of what you have said. Bearing in mind that I have only been a member of AGS for a short while I will await contributions from others (will I wait in vain!) before commenting further.

Contribution from Margaret Young 19 June 2009, 11:12top / bottom of page
How things are....

John D. writes: " The SRGC site should be used to encourage membership of the AGS via shows in England and local groups ? an activity I am confident the current SRGC personnel would enthusiastically support."

I can categorically state that this assistance towards the AGS already happens....and has done for many years. The SRGC forum gives unstinting support and publicity to AGS events; shows links to an AGS website page when appropriate and I have personally answered many requests for assorted information on the AGS over the years when such questions have come to the SRGC Web Team.

The Scottish Rock Garden Club is, in my experience, always willing to assist and support any measure to further inform and enthuse people about the fascinating world of alpine plants and the wildflowers of the world.

Contribution from john dower 20 June 2009, 11:21top / bottom of page

Thanks Maggi.

Contribution from David Nicholson 13 July 2009, 12:52top / bottom of page

Only one comment so far on your post John, very disappointing because you made some important points but, it seems, inevitable.

So, let me, as a new boy, stick my two pennorth in.

I think it is utterly pointless in trying to ape the SRGC Forum. Firstly, it exists and does a wonderful job in educating, informing, and just as important entertaining all of us, Club or Society members or not, who are interested in the culture and showing of plants and bulbs. I for one regard that Forum as an important part of my life and through it I have learned a great deal and will continue to learn. I would not give it up for any possible replacement or "competitor"

In my view the membership of AGS have made it pretty plain, from their lack of commitment, that they do not want an On-Line Discussion at all. So what kind of change of direction might be welcomed.

I agree that there is a place for Local Groups on any AGS Web Site. It is a means of keeping in touch and a means of communication and this could be very easily developed further.

I think too, that there is a very important place on the Web Site for Show pictures and Show reports again to inform and to educate. It would be great pity not to be able to easily see some of the great pictures taken by Jon and many others.

There is a place too for the Diaries provided by Diane Clements, John Richards and Paul Cumbleton, all of which I find very helpful indeed. It would be nice to see other members prepared to put in the time commitment displayed by the three named above.

There may be other sections of activity well worth including that I cannot bring to mind now apart, perhaps, from Administrative matters.

So what other direction could the Web Site move in? One suggestion I could make, given the mass of detail and pictures that already exist within the Society, would be to develop a WIKI for alpine plants, in their widest sense, along the lines of the Pacific Bulb Society WIKI. This would enable the Society to be seen as an important body in the Plant World and would educate and inform.

This is getting long and possibly incoherent so I will close now but hope perhaps I have given food for thought in this ramble that others more coherent than Imay well be able to develop further.

Contribution from john dower 14 July 2009, 01:18top / bottom of page

Thanks for your contribution David.

It was a pleasure to meet you at Pershore, although we had only brief contact.

Among the things to emerge during one conversation at Pershore was the view that there are only a very few members of the SRGC forum who actually contribute. I am sure this is incorrect but, much more importantly, during 2009 there have been a total of 187 new members joining the forum (so far)!

This is an immense number, and cannot be a fluke. It reflects just what you have said in respect of interest, information and fun.

The responses to this thread had petered out completely until your very welcome contribution, but one a month will never get the job done.

Finally a request. Could someone in authority please record (on the SRGC forum) the appreciation of the AGS for the efforts made on the SRGC forum to flag up AGS shows on a regular basis - including road directions and etc. (See details for Pershore last week.) It only takes a second or two and would be a step in the right direction.

John Dower, Frodsham

Contribution from David Nicholson 14 July 2009, 10:54top / bottom of page

Quote from John Dower's last post.

"Amongst the things to emerge during one conversation at Pershore was the view that there are only a very few members of the SRGC Forum who actually contribute..............."

Although I do not wish to engage in any AGS/SRGC comparisons, as these are entirely non-productive and unnecessary, I think I should contest the view put to John at Pershore.

Whoever put that view is surely completely missing the point of the SRGC Forum. Currently the Forum has reached out to 913 members (people who have been moved to register to join the Forum and to, therefore, post on it. So far those members have made no less than 99,765 posts in 3279 topics. Of those 913 members some choose not to post at all but regularly "lurk" and it is always nice to see a lurker come out of the closet! The current average number of members on-line per day is 39.58. When I last checked some 15 minutes ago 11 member users were on-line BUT the important part was that 14 guests were on-line too. Those fourteen were not members but simply interested in the information, help and advice available on that Forum (ie on alpine plants and bulbs) That is the essence of the SRGC Forum, OK the members make it work and make it viable but it is the making available of information to any one, wherever in the world they may be, that is by far the most important aspect of the Forum's work, in my view.

Contribution from john dower 15 July 2009, 01:40top / bottom of page

Thanks David - very well expressed.

Contribution from David Nicholson 15 July 2009, 02:21top / bottom of page

Thanks John.

To further refine the figures I gave the 39.58 I quoted is the average number of people in the Forum at any one time. The average number of Forumists logged on in any day is in the region of 130. That's a pretty good Local Group attendance!

I agree with John it would be nice to see someone showing some appreciation of the lengths the SRGC Forum goes too to publicise AGS events.

Contribution from Cliff Booker 14 October 2009, 15:50top / bottom of page
Nothing appears to have changed ...

I began this topic many moons ago with the following paragraph :- Quote ----

Am I the only person who is a little worried that it is now 1.30pm on the Monday after a major AGS Show (at Exeter on Saturday) and there has been no mention of the event on this site, no images have been posted and no-one in the wider circle of this great Society knows the name of the Farrer Medal winner or indeed his magnificent exhibit UNLESS they are members of another national society where numerous images have already been posted and congratulations expressed from all corners of the alpine world?

The AGS Conference has just taken place and the same paragraph could easily pertain ... nothing has appeared on these pages about the atmosphere, the delegates, the lectures or, indeed, any reaction whatsoever to this premier event?

Contribution from Chris McGregor 16 October 2009, 23:01top / bottom of page

I agree with Cliff - it is disappointing that no one else has submitted any feedback on the 'Down in the Woods' conference. Personally, I very much enjoyed the letures as well as the social aspect. The whole weekend was a lively and informative event. A number of people gave very positive feedback and one member e-mailed me to say 'it was the best event he had ever attended'.

Contribution from john dower 03 November 2009, 20:36top / bottom of page
Promoting Local Groups

With a meeting to discuss means of encouraging expanding local group and AGS and membership imminent, may I please make a final plea for ideas from members to help in this process.

Ideas local, national, international, bright, daft, old or new - please put finger to keyboard and make your suggestions.

The society really does need your help.

John Dower, Frodsham. November 3rd 2009.

Contribution from Mel Linney 06 November 2009, 08:31top / bottom of page

Hello John

Your request is, sadly, becoming an all too familiar plea, not only in Alpine and Horticultural cicles but other fields of interests too.My contribution is that when I was elected Secretary of my local Garden Society back in 1981 we were just surviving with eleven members. We organised four talks by top growers and publicised the events through local papers (get in touch with reporters they are usually quite happy to run a story for you), posters were displayed in shop windows, works canteens, the local library and at members homes. Invitations were sent to other societies and we even got a mention on the local radio gardening programme. This swelled the membership to 100 in that year.Over the following fourteen years while I was secretary we introduced two more shows making four per year, mini shows, quizzes and talks were held at the monthly meetings. At one meeting we were hosts to a gardeners question time organised by Radio Sheffield.We were even featured in a couple of garden magazines particularly Garden News when we won Garden Society of the Month in 1984. in fact anything that was of interest to the members was organised

Contribution from Mel Linney 06 November 2009, 08:44top / bottom of page

To put it in a nut shell I think publicity and plenty of it is the key, which means lots of work for those involved, but the results can be well worth it. Also I personally believe that this website is an excellent medium to publicise your groups events to a much larger audience, particulary non members. Why not try it, it's for nowt. Finally always look at the positives, negatives are nails for the coffin.

Contribution from john dower 06 November 2009, 08:59top / bottom of page

Thanks Mel.


Contribution from Val Lee 13 November 2009, 18:37top / bottom of page

Thank you John and Mel for bringing the subject of membership and the Local Group meeting to the web site. I agree with Mel, encouraging people to join the Local Groups and the Society is an on going occupation. We need each and every member to try to recruit one new person a year and we would soon see better attendance at group meetings and swell the membership of the AGS. I hope you will be reporting back to the On-Line Discussion how Saturday evolved and what contributions various parts of the country make to the overall picture. We had a very good turn out for the AGM last Saturday and lots of members have emailed and telephoned to say it was a most enjoyable day - Stratford is not that far from Loughbro' and a stones throw from Pershore where the Shows attract lots of members, so perhaps more will join us for the AGM next year. See you tomorrow John, I hope you have lots of constructive ideas.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 02 April 2011, 16:27top / bottom of page

Cliff and John pointed me to this discussion earlier and I have just come back to it and realise more how useful it is and how it relates to my thoughts under 'Any Other Topics'. Like Hansard the discussion threads allow points to be revisited and strengthened. There may be members who have not followed the discussion, which was a few years ago, and it does seem like one of the best places to crystallise thoughts and really go somewhere. A lot of the points made related to the website and how it could be more effective (c.f.: the srgc site which I don't know too well). From my point of view of looking to attract new members I think the website is lacking; it is very strongly geared to the present membership. Christine has said that it is the strongest source of attracting new members, and if that is so it could become even better, especially if linked to the publicity being expressed by the different Groups, i.e.: for the Shows etc. I appreciate the relative complexity of the website and that change is difficult - at the same time complexity inhibits change. As a comparison all members know about the AGS Shows so when preparing posters it is unnecessary to mention 'Alpines' or even some other details - the posters are really aimed at gardeners outside the AGS and thus should have a message geared to them and yet retaining the ethos of the AGS. We shouldn't be too purist, or at least so it seems to me.

Initiating a debate in such a large and respected Society is not easy and presumably only really goes somewhere if people feel that sense is being talked, so it would be great to hear what other people think or are doing, as strongly put earlier in this thread.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 03 April 2011, 08:53top / bottom of page

Just a quick addendum to my last note - I have found quickly looking through the NARGS Website pretty exciting and interesting, with new ideas and accessible information. This would tend to run through the whole Society I think, and it is no reflection on what has come before, just a sense of something very solid being built on. I hope that is a fair conclusion.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 08 February 2012, 11:04top / bottom of page
Advertising Events

An interesting comment made on the SRGC forum re. advertising Conferences more widely to Garden Groups outside their Society:-;boardseen#new

What they do is have member(s) visiting many such Groups in advance of the meeting and giving short presentations about the event (this is a major Conference held every five years). I could certainly imagine this being done to Horticultural Colleges, University Departments with Plant based research (notably ecological studies - Sheffield and Reading come to mind) and to forward looking schools, let alone other Specialist Plant Societies. Has a great deal to be said for it, and could have the potential to build links with University Departments which could be useful in the future in organising and running Conferences. (After all such links have always been there through individuals in the Society).

Should have made this clear - the above idea originates with a Canadian group of alpine gardeners, also linked to the NARGS.

Contribution from Lesley Cox 06 April 2012, 01:40top / bottom of page
The "formality" of this discussion area.

Contribution from Lesley Cox 06 April 2012, 02:13top / bottom of page

Well I did add a large contibution and it has vanished, as soon as I pressed "contibute." Shan't go there again.

Contribution from Martin Rogerson 06 April 2012, 07:54top / bottom of page

Lesley, did you fall foul of the 30 minute time out? PLease try again

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