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[CQ-Contest] FW: More ARRL DX Thoughts

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Subject: [CQ-Contest] FW: More ARRL DX Thoughts
From: "Dick Green WC1M" <wc1m73@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, 26 Jun 2011 16:43:01 -0400
List-post: <cq-contest@contesting.com">mailto:cq-contest@contesting.com>
-----Original Message-----
From: Dick Green WC1M [mailto:wc1m73@gmail.com] 
Sent: Sunday, June 26, 2011 4:42 PM
To: YCCC (yccc@yccc.org)
Cc: 'K1AR@aol.com'
Subject: RE: [YCCC] More ARRL DX Thoughts

It's best for me to limit my public comments on the ARRL DX tasking while
the CAC is still working on it, but enough people have asked why we're
looking at the rules for the contest that I feel a response is necessary. I
believe this is particularly important because I was the person who
initiated the project by asking the PSC to give the CAC a tasking on ARRL

First and foremost, let me categorically state that no one involved in the
process, including me, believes that ARRL DX is broken. It's true that what
started me thinking about the contest was noting the position of ARRL DX in
third place for log submissions behind CQ WW and CQ WPX. Nothing wrong with
third place, but I wondered if we could improve on that. After all, just
because something isn't broken doesn't mean it can't be made better. Also,
participation isn't the only measure of success for a contest. An equally
important measure is fun. In contesting, fun and participation interact and
reinforce each other, either positively or negatively.

As I thought more about the contest, I compared my personal experiences in
ARRL DX with those I've had in CQ WW and CQ WPX. Although I've placed well
in ARRL DX CW over the past 11 years, I honestly have to admit that the
latter two contests are a lot more fun for me than ARRL DX. I wondered why,
and I wondered if others felt the same. For years I've noticed a definite
lack of enthusiasm for ARRL DX, and difficulty recruiting ops for it, at a
certain M/M station where I operate Phone contests. It's clear that this is
largely due to less DX participation in ARRL DX than the other major
contests. The number of DXpeditions outside the Caribbean is relatively low,
too, which also affects the contest experience for W/VE stations. I've read
reports of what it's like to operate the contest from a DX country --
boring, boring, boring. The bands aren't open to W/VE all the time, which
leads to lots of idle time, part-time efforts or no participation at all.
Clearly, this impacts DX participation. It also impacts DXpeditions because
in many cases it's not worth the expense and effort to mount one if you can
only operate a limited amount of time.

So, I asked the question, "Can we make this contest more fun and more
attractive?" I figured if we could do that, participation would increase.
>From my perspective, that was the sole agenda for the ARRL DX tasking. I had
no preconceived notions about what the CAC might find during its
investigation, nor did anyone on the PSC. The tasking was structured
broadly, with a handful of suggestions to look at the obvious areas we
always consider, such as categories, scoring, exchange, awards, reporting,
and incentives to increase participation. There was also a request to look
at adding a 24-hour category. However, the tasking was explicitly not
limited to those areas.

It was my opinion from the beginning, supported strongly by the CAC, that we
had to retain the essential nature of ARRL DX as a world-works-W/VE contest.
There was never any thought about making ARRL DX a clone or look-alike of CQ
WW or CQ WPX. Obviously, that makes it more challenging to improve DX
participation. On a suggestion from a top contester in my Division, I
introduced a proposal for a significant rule change that would allow
DX-to-DX contacts on a very limited basis (e.g., low point value, not on the
same continent, etc.) As it turns out, there was very little support for the
idea among CAC members. It probably didn't help that a poorly publicized
implementation of DX-works-DX was tried in the '70s and failed miserably.
Fortunately, we still have a couple of lower-impact ideas on the agenda that
may prove attractive to DX stations.

The proposals that have caused so much controversy in the contest community,
distance-based scoring and reducing the operating time limit for single-ops,
were brought up by CAC members, as allowed by the tasking. As I've stated
previously, we're still in discussion mode, not decision mode. Changes to
the contest are not imminent and I have no idea what final recommendations
will be made by the CAC when we complete the tasking, nor do I have any idea
which of our recommendations, if any, will be accepted by the Awards
Committee or PSC. I will say, however, that what strikes me about these
proposals is that they show the contest may not be quite as much fun for
many of the more serious participants as is generally assumed. The issues
are not limited to ARRL DX, of course. The advantages of location and
ability to do an ironman effort exist in other contests as well. And the
issues aren't new, either. They've been discussed by the contest community
at length. It remains to be seen what the CAC will conclude as to their
relevance to ARRL DX.

Although I've not taken a final position on distance-based scoring, and as I
said in a previous post we're waiting for the results of tests against
actual contest logs (a project that's now underway), I've been a little
disappointed by the arguments I've seen on both sides of the issue. While
rankings are obviously important, they're not the only consideration. Paul,
K1XM, has posted results of his attempt to guess what impact distance-based
scoring would have on rankings. He begins with the assumption that strategy
doesn't change. But while winning is still going to require running Europe
as much as possible, distance-based scoring would likely introduce a new
strategic element into a contest that doesn't require much strategy now.
Even more interesting is the question of how distance-based scoring might
affect the overall contest experience. I suspect that when UA9 and UA0
stations start streaming over the pole, as they sometimes do, I would
experience a similar thrill to the one I get when working a rare mult or a
double mult in CQ WW, or when racking up 6-pointers on 40m late in CQ WPX.
Maybe DX stations in Latvia will appreciate a boost in adrenalin when they
work a W6 as opposed to yet another W1, W2 or W3. Maybe JAs will stay on the
air on Sunday so they can work more East Coast stations. I probably haven't
covered all the possibilities, but isn't it intriguing to think about adding
another dimension to the contest? Yes, we also have to ask if the rankings
will be affected in an undesirable way. We have to ask whether the scoring
will be too complicated for ops to follow. We have to ask if a new dimension
is worth sacrificing the current scoring records. These are all important
issues that remain to be discussed.

Let me add one more thought about distance-based scoring. The term "level
the playing field" has been tossed around a lot in the discussions about
this subject. The CAC is under no illusions that it's possible to eliminate
geographic advantages, nor has that been a desire expressed by any member.
Distance-based scoring is being explored for ARRL DX as having a potential
to moderate what is perceived to be a growing "tilt" in the field. Keeping
the field from developing a near-vertical tilt is a far cry from trying to
"level" the field. Yes, there could be possible undesirable side-effects of
such an effort, and that's what we're investigating now by rescoring past
logs (note: our initial testing is being done using the geographic centers
of States/Provinces for W/VE and the prefix coordinates for DX stations from
the CTY file.)

Regarding the 48-hour time limit, while I'm open to discussion of just about
any proposal that could improve ARRL DX, I've personally taken a firm
position that we should not take away any aspect of the contest that is
currently enjoyed by participants.

I'm in complete agreement with K1AR and others that the top 100 do not make
our contests -- it's the legions of casual, part-time ops who provide the
vast majority of the QSOs, and hence the fun. Some of the things we're
looking at would potentially improve the experience for such participants.
That said, the contest community is led by several hundred ops who do care
deeply about competing and have made substantial investments of time, money
and effort to do so. Many casual, part-time DX ops want to work these loud
stations for DXCC, WAS or county awards credit, and many casual part-time
W/VE ops want to work DX and DXpeditions stations for awards as well. In
other words, we need the top several hundred, too. While there may not be
viable solutions for all of their concerns, I believe we have an obligation
to hear them and take their opinions into consideration.

73, Dick WC1M
NE CAC Rep, Chair

-----Original Message-----
From: K1AR@aol.com [mailto:K1AR@aol.com] 
Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2011 10:36 AM
To: yccc@yccc.org
Subject: [YCCC] More ARRL DX Thoughts

I'm in the camp that suggests we are offering solutions for a problem that  
doesn't exist -- at least in a meaningful way. Here is some other sample  
data (thanks to G3SXW):
ARRL DX Log Submissions
2010 - 3151 logs
2009 - 2631 logs
2008 - 2056 logs
1996 - 1492 logs
2010 - 3938 logs
2009 - 3114 logs
2008 - 2688 logs
1996 - 1505 logs
And, while log submissions don't tell the entire story, the data suggests  
that we are not dealing with a dying contest. In fact, quite the contrary.
Brian, K1LI, made a marvelous observation the other day. If you didn't see  
it, he said, "I think that those with sufficient competitive spirit are 
always  going to find a way to win. Tinkering with rules may have a
effect on  which of the top 100 entrants wins what, but for most of us it's

Also, there was another terrific post on CQ-Contest by W2ID. I strongly  
suggest you read it at: 
(http://lists.contesting.com/pipermail/cq-contest/2011-June/094624.html) .
In my view, contesting will be much better served by worrying about  
everyone except the top 100. I wish there was equal  or greater passion for 
creating new CTU-like events and other ways  to generate interest in
contesting as 
has been generated by this topic.  Solving the impossible problem of 
equalization is simply a waste of oxygen  and valuable resources.
73 John, K1AR
PS: I have an Excel file from Roger with all of the log  submission data 
for most major DX contests back to 1996 if anyone is  interested. Let me
and I'll send it to you.

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