Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Spotting - Effective Communication

DX Spotting

I feel like there are a few vocal Crusty-Ole-Curmudgeon's who just want to control how all things in OUR hobby function.  Obviously this is a loosing battle, yet THEY DO TRY.  Some to the detriment of others.

Our Amateur Radio Hobby is built on, and centered around "The Art of Communication".  It stands to reason that not everyone in our hobby communicates well.  And that flows out into the realm of Chat sites and other forums beyond the Radio all of this is built upon.

Not everyone has internet access for things like chat sites.  So how else can we disseminate information on what we're hearing, that MIGHT BE interesting to THOSE folks?  Ah...that's right DX Clusters.  Ham's created a method of almost instantly informing each other where the DX is.  We "Spot" what we hear, on a local server, and that server shares that information with a global network, which then make it available ONLINE, or via our radio's and something called a Packet Cluster....which deliver the "Spotted" information to whomever has the ability to monitor these Clusters.

So some folks 'share' more than others.  Some folks like to control their Radio Environment by NOT "Spotting" so that then ONLY THEY know of some DX that they're hearing.  Some similarly prefer to ONLY share in online Chat sites.  And others (Like ME) prefer to share this information EVERYWHERE at ONE TIME to maximize the potential for EVERYONE.

For myself, I don't mind bumping elbows with others to 'bag' a rare DXCC.  That's part of the hobby by nature.  It's gonna happen even if you don't share any information anyway.  So you're only fooling yourself if you think 'holding tight' to your little scrap of information is going to accomplish anything meaningful aside from making it harder for your fellow hams to get ahead.  (which in my opinion IS NO WAY TO BE!  But to each their own.)

I get that.  I just don't agree with it at all.

Don't fear the spot humpers.  A 'Spot humper' is someone who closely monitors DX Clusters in order to try to pounce on any rare DX that gets posted.  Nothing really wrong with that.  THAT IS THE POINT of the whole system.  What is wrong, is when you aren't hearing that Spotted DX and you still call on that frequency regardless of what you hear going on or don't here.  So yeah...that's wrong, and you shouldn't do it.  

Again.  We can't control what others do.  And frankly there really just isn't that much of that type of behavior happening not like some folks try to make it out anyway.  Not in the grand scheme of things.  Sure it happens, we've all seen/heard it.

But is THAT the reason we decide to stop effectively communicating?  Seriously?  We're beaten that easily?  I don't think so, and I won't let that sort of behavior change how I operate.

Recently a local ham commented in a public forum "Guess t[h]e spots attracting attention and now the locals are firing up on 1st seq." to which I responded "Those pesky spots screw it all up for everyone" and "Hey kid get off my grass" sound about the same to me.  YOU CAN NOT CONTROL OTHERS.  Yes, you have the right to whine about it, and try to make your point heard.  Just as I have the right to share EVERYTHING I hear with EVERYONE.  Including with the Crusty-Ole-Curmudgeon I just spoke of. That's right, even without admitting it, he reaps the benefits of MY spotted information just as much as the Spot Humpers, and the Newbie who TX's on the wrong sequence and the VAST VAST MASSES of folks who actually just use the information to be informed.

Incidentally, I messaged that newbie on JTAlertX informing him on how we mostly CQ in the 2nd Sequence on the East Coast when we're hunting for DX to the east of us.  And not 30 seconds later, he stopped.

That's called EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION folks.  Well, I'm not bragging about it.  But it WAS effective, right?  Was it effective to WHINE-BAG about it on a Chat site where the Newbie wasn't even logged in on?  NO.  But I'm sure it made the Crusty-Ole-Curmudgeon 'feel' like he was DOING something that might magically through osmosis seep into the ether and into that poor Newbie's mind to stop transmitting in the 1st Seq?  I don't know.  I don't think it's effective to bemoan this and that on a stupid chat site, instead of ACTING to make a change, or help others.  Spotting helps WAY WAY MORE people than it has ever harmed. Effective Spotting INFORMS the masses.  Which might even keep more of them from doing the 'wrong thing' whatever that may be.

I have had more thank you comments about spotting DX than I have whiner-comments.  I will continue to Spot what I hear, when I hear it, without delay, for as long as I am in this hobby.  Because it's one of the most effective ways of communication on the DX that I'm hearing.  NOT Constrained to a few hundred (at most) who are signed into some random chat site.

Another reason I am an avid "Spotter" of DX is that this is the only data that actually feeds our various Mapping applications, and websites.  Without spotting there's no mapping.  When I define spotting here I'm talking all forms of spotting to include those which are routed to PSKReporter, and HamSpots Websites. (these circumvent the old school DX Cluster spotting networks).  Again, not everyone has access to the internet.  Some folks ONLY have (for example) Packet Cluster access.  Which is via Ham radio.

Mapping what we all hear is crucial!  It visually informs us where the hot spots are that we need to direct our attention antenna's to.  In fact, this is really the primary reason I'm an avid supporter of spotting.  We can learn so much about propagation by paying attention to these types of maps.

For example today there was a massive opening from S. EU to the Caribbean, I was aimed at S. EU and seeing both EU and Caribbean stations working each other.  When suddenly I see at -13 FT8 (which is fairly strong) a 9K2 (Kuwait) calling CQ CA ("Caribbean").  We would both have been aiming at S. EU at this point.  The map clearly showed the scatter point this occurred at.  We both rotated our beams direct, and the link was gone.  

MAPPING may be one of the more important guides to learning what propagation is doing.

What feeds Mapping?  Spotting, in all of it's forms.

PSKReporter doesn't show us EVERYTHING that's happening, so those maps are VERY one-sided, and almost not useful.  HamSpots doesn't do maps.  So that only leaves a few websites and apps that DO map DX Cluster Spots.  Where do those get their data from?


The very same spotting that the Crusty-Ole-Curmudgeon was condemning because IN HIS TWISTED THINKING Spotting was causing that poor Newbie to do the wrong thing.  Spotting somehow MADE that poor newbie transmit his "CQ DX" in the 1st sequence?  I really don't understand how that's possible.

I think it's more likely that the newbie just doesn't know any better, and simply needed some guidance.  But in no way was his action to transmit in the 1st Sequence prompted by spotting of DX.  Except perhaps to entice him to try to call CQ when the band was open!  Which...IS when we should be calling CQ AFTER ALL!  He just didn't know any better as to which sequence to call.  

Spotting isn't causing anyone's bad behavior.  They're either bad actors to start with, and would do bad no matter what, or they're just misinformed, in which case, we hams SHOULD COMMUNICATE MORE EFFECTIVELY.

Right?  Well I think so.