Category Archives for "Commentary"

Don’t know contest exchange? You are an idiot!

FinishAfter virtually every contest, the e-mail reflectors light up with posts about the stupidity of contesters (usually new) who do not understand the exchange. Or the exact, best way to format the exchange to maximize every second of the expert contester’s time to achieve a winning score.

The e-mails range from quietly supportive to out-and-out elitist, as if our new contesters need to figure it all out before the contest and perform at the 10,000,o0o point level right now. Or else they aren’t good hams.

We’re an exclusionary hobby

The great feature about ham radio as a hobby is that there are many different segments for the hobby. Bored with SSB? Try CW. CW drive you crazy? Try DXing.

But in each of our little segments of the hobby, we build our own little walls. You want to be a CW contester? This is what you need to do. Do it any other way and you are outcast.

SSB? You do it this way or you aren’t a real man…er, woman…er, contester.

We don’t need exclusiveness, we need inclusiveness

There are enough challenges to the hobby without beating our own members as not being perfect enough to get everything right the first time. There is a difference between pounding on people and constructive criticism in a contest.

When we, as a hobby, take up pounding on people as not being ethical, smart, or not doing the exchange correctly — and therefore are idiots — we defend the status quo and don’t embrace those who are trying to learn. Instead of being Elmers, we become elbows pushing ourselves to the front of “I’m right, your wrong, so get over it.”

The next time you want to go over the top about how people are contesting, think about when you started. Did you know the exchange? Did you know how to contest? Even if you had an Elmer, did you do everything right the first time? Never experienced ONE frustrating moment when you couldn’t get it right? Never felt shamed when someone flamed you for being a dunce because you didn’t know everything to do in the heat of battle?

If you did, you’re a genius. If your like the rest of humanity, give your fellow hams a break. We’re all in this together, we all need to learn, and we all need to use the spectrum in order to protect it. Exclusivity for your part of the hobby is a poor way to encourage growth of ham radio. But it’s a great way to push away hams and potential hams from the hobby we love.

NCJ and ARRL Needs to Fix Subscriptions

National Contest JournalA few weeks ago, I got a note in the mail from the National Contest Journal asking me to renew my subscription. The problem is: I already did.

Right at the bottom of the original renewal notice, it says you can renew online. And I did. I also got the confirming renewal e-mail three weeks before from the ARRL that I was again getting notice for.

Now, most published magazines use some kind of service to take care of subscriptions. And the ARRL and NCJ are not the only ones who don’t get databases updated in a timely manner. I have a whole “magazine subscriptions” note in Outlook that just has the expiration dates for the subscriptions because the magazines send out renewal notices one month after you’ve subscribed.

But if money is tight and the League makes money on publications, why is it so hard to synch the databases so that when I renew online I don’t get the paper, envelope, stamp, and time spent on a renewal notice in the mail three weeks later?

If the League is serious about using technology, here’s one to implement that will give you some money to serve hams instead of magazine subscriptions services.

Blame the day job

My Work Space

You would think the K9JY radio world went out someplace into the ionosphere and didn’t refract back!

Blame it on the day job. The last couple of weeks have been extremely busy on some pretty important projects. Then throw in some infrastructure issues on my career site and hours in the day didn’t match up for the hobby.

But, things are going well and you’ll see more here now.


Scot, K9JY

3830 is not the contesting winner’s site

The Finish! Over on the contesting reflector, there have been days worth of posts suggesting that 3830 postings by contesters be required so you can see “results” faster than the contest sponsor’s results.

While 3830 is a fabulous service and I strongly advocate posting scores there, 3830 is there for fun. It is one of the best services ever offered to contesters and we can thank “Dink” for all that hard work building the automation that makes it all possible.

But 3830 is not the contest winner site.

Yes, some contesters will look at 3830 and decide to change their entry. Yes, some contesters will look at 3830 and sandbag their scores until the end.

But that entirely misses the point: the contest results come from the contest sponsor, not 3830.

It is not a contester’s requirement to post to anything except turning in their log to the contest sponsor. Everything else is hooey.

Scot, K9JY

Ban CW Skimmer from Contesting?


A petition is now out on the Internet that requests banning the CW Skimmer program and Related Enhancements for CW contests in any operating category.

The petition says, in part:

We love CW Contesting because it is CW Contesting. CW Contesting is enjoyed by Amateur Radio Operators worldwide who use their skills and stations to compete with other stations and the other stations’ operator(s) skills.

Although certain technological advancements have been developed and generally accepted by the contest community, Skimmer technology is one we feel should be banned from use in CW Contesting in all categories.

Banning new technology for all categories is drastic, to say the least. And requested before there is any real data out on how contesters would use the program in a real contest and describe what would help or hurt them about the program.

I don’t disagree the technology should be available in all contesting categories, but banning the technology from any contesting category flies in the face of human behavior.

Banning the program from use sounds easy, but fails a key contest criteria: there is no reliable metric that tells us whether the program is used by an operator or not. Without the capacity to log check and know, the program will be used, or not, by the operator. Allowing the program in one/some categories would provide the operator a clear category to use the program in the contest.

Instead of petitions recommending banning the program from contesting, I think it would be much smarter to use the program in some contests. Let’s figure out how it changes the operator behavior and then work on putting the technology in the right category for the operator.

Also, KA3DRR’s article on this.

Scot, K9JY

BPL — Good news, for a change

From the ARRL Web site:

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit today released its decision on the ARRL’s Petition for Review of the FCC’s Orders adopting rules governing broadband over power line (BPL) systems. The Court agreed with the ARRL on two major points and remanded the rules to the Commission.

The full story from the ARRL.

This is good news because the FCC ignored ham radio arguments and went with what power companies wanted to do regardless of the impact on services to others. Then the FCC didn’t allow anyone else to see the studies upon which they made the decision.

So we will ignore the will of the people, do what companies want, keep the studies secret that we used to make the decision, and implement it over your objections.

That approach sounds so familiar to me….hmmmm.

At least the Appeals Court can see this logic and send it back.

Scot, K9JY

Technology Trumps Existing Rules

There is a (long) conversation going on over at the Contest Reflector about how rules should be constructed around the new CW Skimmer software that recently made its debut for hams. The commentary ranges from letting a single operator use the software to placing that operator into an "assisted" category like packet to banning the software from contesting.

Having these sorts of discussions is a good thing in that it helps contest organizers figure out where all of the passion and objections come from while they design rules around this new technology.

The deal is this: technology will always be ahead of the rules.

Dipoles came before beams and beams came before stacked beams. No filters came before filters on radio and filters came before software DSP. No spots came before 2-meter local spotting and 2-meter local spotting came before packet spotting.

To try and have rules ‘already set up’ ahead of time to accommodate what we think might happen with technology is really a waste of time. We don’t know where technology will take the hobby — one of the things that make ham radio so much fun.

To try and take new technology and shove it into an existing rules category is a useful exercise much of the time. But sometimes something so new comes along that new rules need to be created.

Have at the CW Skimmer discussion with the rules. But let’s not have a heart attack over how it will be treated in the rules. You won’t have anything left over to deal with the next technology change that won’t fit into the rules.

Technology will always trump the existing rules.

Scot, K9JY

What’s a Ham Radio Blog?

Beam-East The ham radio community has been well served by the use of well-defined e-mail reflectors over the years. Each of these reflectors, representing a segment of our hobby, invites discussion about a singular ham radio topic.

Blogs are both different and an extension of these reflectors. They are an extension of reflectors in that they can be about specific ham radio topics, but they are different than reflectors because anyone can make comments about the specific article provided without joining the reflector.

That’s a little unusual in the ham radio community. We’re used to fairly static web sites like my WriteLog User site or more frequently updated sites like Or simple e-mail reflectors about a topic.

Blogs, if they are good ones, provide unique content about their subject. They engage the ham radio community in the discussion.

There are multiple ham radio blogs, covering everything from contesting with low power to contesting to specific stories about a particular ham.

Unlike reflectors, blogs evolve over time based upon their audience. While I cover a lot of information on contesting, some of my more popular articles aren’t about contesting at all. I’ve changed my mission on this blog several times to more accurately reflect what the community sees as important to the hobby.

Both the reader and the writer learn through the blogging process.

Well established on the Internet (see my career management site, Cube Rules, for example), blogs in ham radio are still in their infancy. You can learn from the information in blogs because ham radio bloggers are constantly searching for new and unique content — exactly what you need to help you in your hobby.

Over on Calling CQ, Jeff, KE9V,  in an article called "Can We Talk?" finds a great 3-minute video that explains blogs in general. But you can leave a comment here to ask any question you’d like on what you’d like to know about blogging.

We both learn together. That’s what’s great about blogs.

Scot, K9JY