Friday, February 23, 2018

The website of the Australian UFO Research Network (AUFORN)

Dear readers,

Unexpectedly I have a day off work today; the kids are at school and hubby is interstate on a business trip so this post is early.

I am still looking at websites operated by Australian UFO groups, in order to update my self after several years away from the field. These reviews are simply my own opinions of what the websites offer. Someone else checking out the same website may come away with a different view than mine. That's to be expected. However if Australian UFO groups want science or even government to treat the subject in an objective way, then they need to present their website material in a far better manner.

AUFORN

I used a smart phone to access the AUFORN website. The home page states that AUFORN has been around since 1998 - 20 years this year. This would make the website the oldest Australian UFO website. Well done. 

However, you then notice the words 'The most up to date Australian UFO web page on the Internet' but this is immediately followed by the words 'Updated April 19th 2014' which is rather contradictory.

Tabs

The home page has nine tabs namely: 'About us;' 'public meetings;' 'UFO sighting reports;' 'online report form;'UFO hotline;' 'articles;' 'what's on;' 'links;' and 'contact us.'

About us

We learn that 'AUFORN was formed to continue the work of ACUFOS defunked in 1992/93' and was established by Diane Harrison and Robert Frola. 'We believe there is enough circumstantial evidence to prove the existence of UFOs.' Then 'Our objective in the coming years will be to provide this evidence to the Australian government.' There is no detailed statement about what this circumstantial evidence is, and nothing on the site indicates that the evidence has ever been presented to the Australian government. 

Public meetings

The website advises that public meetings are held and provides a land line telephone number to call for further details. No dates or names of speakers are given. Curiously, it also states that 'AUFORN hold meetings around Australia and everyone is invited' yet it gives no more details than that.

UFO sighting reports

Here was an area of interest to me, data about sightings. There are reports from the years '1800's' through to 2012. Choosing years at random I checked a number of dates. I found several hundred summaries of sightings - an excellent resource for people like me who like hard data. Some of the summaries even have a basic analysis of the event looking for explanations. Most do not. Its a pity that this resource is not being kept up to date.

In this area another excellent resource are copies of issues of 'Australian UFO Reports and Experiences;' 'Australian UFO Reports;' and Research Digests of UFO Research Australia. Dozens and dozens of sightings with some analysis. Great work.

There are also old newspaper clippings; and the Newsletters of the AURA Disclosure Project which located and arranged to have digitised Australian government UFO files, plus some TUFOIC and UFORFNQ periodicals. Much interesting reading here.

All in all, this is the best repository of Australian UFO reports out of all the Australian UFO group websites I have so far examined. It is a great pity that no one is keeping it up to date.

On line report form

This electronic UFO sightings report form is the best one I have seen so far. After asking for some initial details it next has a big free-form box 'please write your own account of what happened.' Often if you simply have a list of questions you are unable to get a general overview of the incident. This is followed by a series of other questions including about the weather and the astronomical sky. A great piece of work.

UFO hotline

A free toll hotline number is provided to call in sightings. However when I called the number myself I got a recorded message where the voice of an unidentified female asked me to leave a message. There is no live operator.

I recall reading somewhere over the last few weeks that this hotline has been discontinued, then why is the number still advertised and why do you get asked to leave a message? Why not delete this area from the website?

Articles

Here I found a range of interesting articles mainly by past and present Australian researchers, such as Bill Chalker, Dominic McNamara, Daniel Sims and George Simpson. However, the site states that this area was last updated on 10 February 2009. Another disappointment as I hear that AUFORN's 'UFOlogist' magazine has carried some really good articles in the period 2009-2018. Why aren't some of them here?

What's on

This area refers to three no longer operating radio shows - 'Ghost radio;' 'UFOs Down Under;' and 'UFO matters.' Why this area is still on the website I couldn't work out.

Links

Here are links to things that happened in the time frame 1998-2008. It appears that nothing has been added for 10 years or so.

Contact us

We are again given the hotline number and an email address.

In summary

After going through the entire website I was left with two conflicting thoughts about the site's content.

On the one hand it has excellent (if outdated) resources in the form of several hundred summaries of Australian sightings - useful data to people like me; plus articles by Australian researchers.

On the other hand, there are multiple areas which appear not to have been updated for many years. It certainly does not live up to its claim  to be 'The most up to date Australian UFO web page on the Internet.'

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The website of Victorian UFO Action

Dear readers,

The family is out for the day, so it's now my time to indulge in my hobby - UFOlogy. 

Today's post is continuing my look at websites of Australian UFO groups. After several years away from the topic of UFOs, this is one way to re-acquaint myself with today's UFOlogy. So after looking at New South Wales and Queensland it is time for my home state of Victoria, and the sole UFO group website I could find, that of Victorian UFO Action.

A few general observations

Interestingly unlike UFO Research (NSW) Inc. and UFO Research (Qld) Inc. VUFOA does not have the word 'research' in their name. I was therefore interested to see just what it is that the group does?

I mentioned in previous posts that I don't usually bother about the appearance of a site, being more interested in the content. However I am going to make an exception for the VUFOA website. It is cluttered; and visually overwhelming to my eyes. It scrolls down and down and down, unlike most website home pages which are short and to the point. Coloured letters and lots of icons don't make for a good first impression with me.

Tabs

There are nine tabs along the top of the home page,  'Home;' 'About us;' 'donations;' 'members pages;' 'search VUFOA;' 'guestbook;' 'report a sighting;'seek support' and 'more.'

'Home' of course is the home page.

'About us' opens up into 'contact us;' 'team members' and 'media releases.' 

'Contact us' brings up a preformatted form which asks for your name, and email address and allows you to send an inquiry to VUFOA.

'Team members' finds a list of four 'investigators' and the geographic areas each covers; plus a listing of eleven 'specialists' which they really aren't as 'Joyce - inner suburbs' and 'Ray-Tasmanian correspondent' and most of the others don't speak to a speciality. In fact there are only two 'specialists' listed, namely "George - photographic' and "Mike-aviation.' Even then, there is no background given which tells you why they are such specialists. 

'Media releases' gives a 'general media pack;' plus the dates 2013 through to 2017 which didn't open for me. Did VUFOA issue any media releases or not?

The general impression I gained from this area was that VUFOA was attempting to project an image for themselves which exceeds what they can deliver.

The  'Donations' tab intrigued me as I don't recall seeing it on any of the three websites already reviewed. So I opened it and found there had been three 'fund raising campaigns' so far. 'Launch to the skies' raised 0% of its $5000 target; 'Raise the cause' raised 0% of its $5000 target, and the more modest $1000 target for 'Support the cause' raised 6.5% of that target. 

The 'Members pages' tab opens up a list of some thirty sub-tabs. Not being a member of VUFOA, I clicked on several at random and was met with a 'sign in' box. Up came a 'Not yet a member register for free' box. This asked me for a display name, email address, password, date of birth, location and gender. It also provided me with a several thousand word terms of service agreement which it asked me to agree to. 

As this is a free registration, and VUFOA is not asking for any fee to join, why do I have to register and supply personal information? What do they use that information for? I declined to register and went on with my public viewing of the site. 

I expected the 'Search VUFOA' tab to allow me to do the usual general keyword search of the entire site. However when I opened it I got the same sign up for membership box as above. You can't conduct a general search of the site, as with almost any other website. I don't understand why this is so.

The 'Guestbook' tab is revealing. Although there are 103 comments, most are very old, with the latest being 7 March 2017, almost a year ago. Clearly very few people are bothering to communicate via this guestbook. This compares most unfavourably with the guest book for UFO (NSW) Inc. which is regularly used, and often excellent sightings are reported in this way to them. VUFOA are loosing an opportunity to get sightings here.

Although VUFOA states it is a state level organisation its 'Report sighting' speaks of a national Australian UFO database. The electronic form utilised is a typical one for a UFO group. Like all the rest it fails to allow for a good freeform description of a sighting, instead falling back on preformatted questions. There is no pre-form statement explaining what VUFOA will do with the data; no committment to get back to you; and no time frame in which they will respond to your sighting data.

The 'More' tab opens a drop down list of eight items, which includes 'positions available;' one of which is for a business manager with experience applying for grants; and 'wanted, one individual with tenacity to ask the tuff questions...' The impression I get from this area is that VUFOA are a bunch of amateurs without a real clue as how to run a modern, efficient, effective, not for profit organisation.

Back to the home page

Most websites would stop at this point but the home page goes on and on scrolling down, presenting items, apparently at random. Here one finds something akin to a 'mission statement' (apart from the top of page ' seeking the truth,' whatever that means.)

Amongst the generalised statements is found:

'Dedicated to UFO activity in Victoria' - (then why are they collecting for an Australian wide database?)

Your resource for all UFO events in the state.

Investigate on the ground UFO activities.'

Hold it a moment, I was just taking one last look at the website before publishing this blog post, when amongst the clutter I found a mission statement which gave me details of what VUFOA is about. So, just another pointer to the site being chaotic and too 'busy' ie too much disorganised content on the home page. 

There is a sightings map and a 'Who would you like to see at a future Melbourne UFO conference?' which are useful contributions to someone browsing the site.

'VUFOA presents' tells me that on 24 March 2018 VUFOA is holding a presentation at which Peter Khoury and Bill Chalker will speak about the 'Hair of the alien,' Peter's story and subsequent investigation. Although this is an old, old story, I might get myself along to the occasion to see if there is any new scientific peer reviewed evidence being offered.

Then follows a couple of sighting reports, one from 2004 and one from 2017.

Finally, something of real interest to me as a 'non member' without access to sightings material, is the '2016 VUFOA sighting report just released.' There is a nice map showing the location from where people reported sightings and further data which opens to some statistics (although it says only up to 19 Feb 2016, yet lists 179 cases but with 47% still open, which makes little sense.) Again, the impression I get from this area of the website is that VUFOA are a bunch of amateurs trying to look professional about investigating sightings, but failing. 

Then there are three boxes titled 'The Ben Hurle show;' 'VUFOA TV' and 'Southern skies radio.' To me the only one of these worth further looking into is VUFOA TV which does have some very good material, such as James Fox's 2017 Melbourne talk; and Westall - the Witnesses speak. I get the impression that in this area of holding conferences with guest speakers, and documenting the results, someone at VUFOA is demonstrating a professional approach - congratulations to James- their events manager.

Almost at the bottom of the home page is 'Reported sightings to VUFOA' which states 'As you can imagine we have had a huge response to our sightings database...' which gives a 2015 dated list of closed sighting cases with explanations. This is exactly the type of material I like - details and analysis and a conclusion of some sorts - well done here VUFOA.

In summary

I found the VUFOA website to be extremely frustrating. Why must I register for free information?

The appearance of the site is too 'busy;' too chaotic; for me. Bits appear to have been added on in any sort of order. It needs to be reorganised better under main heading tabs. It seems very out of date in many areas of information and looks like no one is bothering to update it regularly. 

It was my choice to not register as a member, so I have been unable to assess the quality of their sightings investigations and analysis apart from the occasional pieces which are strangely listed way down on the home page.

In short, the quality of content varies from the excellent - eg the VUFOA TV section, and items relating to events; to the poor - eg the hype/attempt at marketing, both in the 'team members' and 'positions available' areas. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The website of UFO Research Queensland Incorporated

Dear readers,

I am running a couple of days late with this post, due to illness in the family. This week I am continuing my look at the websites of Australia's major UFO groups. Last time it was UFO Research (New South Wales) Incorporated and the UFO & Paranormal Research Society of Australia. Today it is the website of UFO Research Queensland Incorporated. 

UFORQ for short, states on its website that it was established in 1956 and is Australia's oldest UFO Association. There are seven tabs on the home page, namely 'About Us;' 'Sightings;' 'Meetings;' 'Resources;' 'Shop;' 'Blog' and 'Join UFORQ.'

I started off by reading the history of the group under 'About Us.' I should say histories, as there is a short section titled 'History' and a much longer section titled 'A brief history.' I think someone needs to edit this section of the website.

Here we also find out some of the motivation of the group. '...we want to be there when the great body of hidden information is finally brought into the public domain...' Unfortunately, there is no definition provided of what exactly this 'hidden information' might be (I suppose its hidden after all!) Nor is there any indication of who the group thinks might hold this knowledge. It all reeks of conspiracy theory.

My main  interest is not in the body running a website, but in the quality (or otherwise) of the data on it. So I next took a look at the 'Sightings' tab. Here you can either report a sighting or take a look at sighting reports post 1997. This is disappointing as the groups' excellent research works of the 1950's and 1960's - the heyday for unknown Australian sightings, is not available to us here.

As with the sightings area for the websites of the previous two groups, there appears little to no analysis of the sightings. No attempt to provide mundane explanations for the 95% of UFO reports which are universally recognised to be explainable. This is a great disappointment to me.

As you would expect, the 'Meetings' area provides details of the group's regular public meetings. There seems a good spread of topics covered in these talks, including some overseas speakers, who do the Australian circuit of Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. 

The 'Blog' section which I hoped would be full of analytical debate and discussion, was nothing but advertising each of the monthly meetings. Again a definite disappointment.

All in all, I would rate this website as lower in standard than that of both UFOR(NSW) Incorporated and the UFOPRSA.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The websites of two Australian UFO groups

Dear readers,

As I write this my home City's temperature is sitting on 23.3 degrees centigrade, which is rather comfortable, compared to a hot week ahead for my former home town of Adelaide which is bracing itself for several days around 38-39 degrees centigrade. 

Overseas, you hear of Australia's beach culture, and one of the reasons is indeed our hot climate, especially during February - traditionally our hottest month.

So with a glass of Victorian chardonnay at my side, and hubby looking after the kids, I sat down to take a look at the websites of two of the biggest UFO organisations in Australia. Here are my observations.

1. UFO Research (New South Wales) Incorporated.

Up front I must say that I am far more interested in the quality of information provided on a website, than how it looks to the viewer. I found this website to be extremely easy to navigate, having just four main areas, namely 'events;' 'sightings;' 'membership;' and 'archives.' It opens up to the 'events' page.

Here we find current events - details of the group's upcoming monthly meetings, with speakers and a summary of what they will be talking about. Over the last few years, under the leadership of Mariana Flynn (recently retired as President) a large range of overseas speakers have appeared at the group's meeting, together with a diverse range of Australian researchers. Here you can also sign up for notifications of events by email. 

The 'sightings' area opens up to (a) report a sighting; (b) UFO sightings guestbook and (c) UFO sighting reports. Individuals wishing to report a UFO sighting can choose to either complete an on-line report form, or write a guestbook entry. When I checked out the guest book, I found reports dated between 1958 and 2017. Many of these appear to be of mundane objects, and it would have been nice to see an analysis of the sightings plus a probable cause listed. 

The membership area sets out terms, conditions and fees.

A pleasant surprise for me was the 'archives' area. Here there are lots of original source materials (something I learned to appreciate from Adelaide researcher Keith Basterfield!) There are old Newsletters and Journals; plus a large newspaper archive. While newspaper accounts must always be treated with caution - sometimes they get facts wrong - they are occasionally the only record which exists of a sighting. 

One very valuable piece of archive work is the Dr James E McDonald archive. In it there are around fifty summaries of McDonald's audio interviews with Australian witnesses, back in 1967. An excellent piece of work on this by Sydney researcher Anthony Clarke, and Adelaide researcher Keith Basterfield.

This archive area also has a few articles on such topics as the Frederick Valentich disappearance back in 1978, and 'alien abduction.'

On the Wilson scale for assessing UFO websites, this one rates a 5 out of 5- an excellent source of factual material.

2. UFO & Paranormal Research Society of Australia.

An interesting concept. Here is a website of a group which has an interest in both UFOs and the paranormal. The opening screen has 14 areas, including 'membership;' 'report sightings;' expeditions to local 'hot spots;' and Journal archives. I don't intend to bore you with details of each, just a few which took my own interest.

As you would expect there are on-line copies of the groups' periodical, 'Phenomenon Times' going from 18 months ago back to 2009. A valuable on-line resource.

You can report a sighting via an on-line report form; or check out the database of New South Wales close encounters. As with the UFOR(NSW) Inc. website, I would like to see some analysis of the sightings, rather than just the witness telling you what they saw. Otherwise it implies that 100% of these reports are of genuine UFOs.

Another good area is 'misidentifications' which is a short list of some of the things which are commonly mistaken for UFOs.

On the Wilson rating scale for websites, I'd give this one a 4 - well worth spending time reviewing the information they present.

Well, that's your lot for today. Hubby has fired up our barbeque and is waiting with some sausages and patties, plus of course, another glass of chardonnay! Cheers until next time. 

The website of the Australian UFO Research Network (AUFORN)

Dear readers, Unexpectedly I have a day off work today; the kids are at school and hubby is interstate on a business trip so this post is ...