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[CQ-Contest] cheating with packet

To: <cq-contest@contesting.com>
Subject: [CQ-Contest] cheating with packet
From: "Dick Green WC1M" <wc1m@msn.com>
Reply-to: wc1m@msn.com
Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2007 12:53:37 -0500
List-post: <mailto:cq-contest@contesting.com>
I don't want to give cheaters any ideas, but it seems to me it's not
difficult for a single-op entrant to cheat with packet in such a way that it
can't be detected. Sure, if you jump from frequency to frequency as new
stations are spotted, it's easy enough for the judges to correlate the
timing of your QSOs with the timing of packet spots. Even if you wait a
while to work new spots, jumping around in frequency would be something of a
giveaway. But if you methodically tune up or down the bandmap and work
packet spots in frequency order, it would be difficult to detect. You could
throw in a few non-spotted stations along the way to provide camouflage. If
you see a mult you really need near the band edge, you could go there, work
it, then work a few stations in order above or below to make it look like
unassisted S&P. Another trick would be to tune past a spot for a mult you
need, work something else, then return to the station you need, making it
look like you deliberately tuned past the mult because the pileup was too
big, then came back to it later.
Granted, this isn't going to be anywhere near as effective as jumping to new
spots immediately, but it does provide help in terms of confirming calls
(with the usual risk of busted calls), knowing what's on the band, knowing
to where the band is open, etc. It's not going to help a mediocre op win,
but it could help an otherwise good op to win. Sometimes all it takes is a
handful of mults on each band to make a difference. 

So, how do we ensure that people aren't doing this? I suppose one way is to
look at the entrant's history. If my mult performance in CQ WW were to
suddenly rival the top couple of stations, I think people would be
rightfully suspicious. But if it improves gradually over time, which I'm
working on, then it would likely be the result of developing skills.
Unfortunately, this sort of evidence isn't really conclusive. I think you'd
have to have something else.

Unless I'm missing some simple way to detect this form of cheating, it falls
into the category of undetectable violations, like running higher power than
allowed by the category. Short of on-site inspections, I don't see a way of
detecting it unless stations are required to submit webcam video/audio along
with the log!

My sense is that self-spotting does provide an unfair advantage. After each
contest, I always look at how often I was spotted, and try to correlate the
spots with changes in run rate. There does seem to be correlation. This
year, I wasn't spotted very much in CQ WW CW, and I think this may have
affected my score adversely. A local ham friend usually spots me a few times
during the contest, as have other local club members probably hoping to help
me. They didn't spot me this year, so perhaps their spots have been helping.
This presents an ethical dilemma: I never asked them to spot me, nor have I
ever discussed the issue with them, but should I ask them to stop? Should I
ask them to restrict their spots to times when they're actively
participating in the contest?

In my score post this year, I made the tongue-and-cheek suggestion that
self-spotting be legalized for the unassisted category. That way, the
playing field would be level, and perhaps the packet nodes would get so
clogged with self-spots that people would stop using packet altogether!
Maybe this isn't such a bad idea... ;-)

73, Dick WC1M

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