Randy et al,
There's been lots of valid points and good discussion, which IIRC started
with a question of how to increase participation. I'd like to offer some
food for thought from a different perspective.
For every log submitted to a contest, there's maybe ten (a pure guess)
stations that made Qs, but didn't submit a log. For every station that
makes Qs in a contest, there's probably hundreds or even thousands of other
licensed amateurs that don't participate at all.
In short, almost everyone who could participate simply doesn't.
I suspect that everyone on this list already participates - making Qs in
contests, sending in logs, etc. We collectively have lots of good ideas
about how to make things more fun, fair, interesting, or "level". No matter
how the rules change, we'll probably still participate. Maybe a little
more, maybe less.
But we're hooked, and that probably means that we're not the best group to
ask about how to increase participation. It might be enlightening to hear
from the people who don't participate.
For the last couple of years while I was president of our local radio club,
I made it somewhat of a mission to try to get people interested in
contesting. I haven't had much success at that, but I've managed to get
some feedback from those who could participate, but don't. There's a lot of
reasons and excuses, but two themes emerged:
1) I don't have the resources - equipment, time, location, whatever, and
2) I'll never be good enough to compete.
In other words - "I'm not competitive and it's too hard to become
competitive." Show a new licensee a "contest station", or let him or her,
thinking about learning Morse, listen to the blazing CW in a contest, and
they easily become discouraged. The learning curve is dauntingly steep and
long. Expensive too, in time as well as money.
A few make it past these hurdles and become contesters, but thousands, or
tens of thousands, do not. We encourage people to get on and have fun, even
if they have little hope of an unembarassing score. Reasons and excuses
ease the pain - Murphy struck, I had to go to a family event, I live in a
black hole, I can't stay awake that long, it's not fair, etc. etc. Interest
wanes, and the radio remains off next weekend.
So, why is this such a hard problem...? I've been thinking about that, so
Radiosport is an interesting and unique sport. Every weekend, people
participate in all kinds of sports. Games are everywhere, from national
professional teams to school teams of all levels, to the neighborhood vacant
lot pickup games. Lots of people are having lots of fun, playing lots of
different games, and many different kinds of game. Every village, town,
city and school has fields and stadiums. Many of them are so much in demand
that they are used for many games - maybe baseball in the morning, soccer in
the afternoon, and football (or rugby) later. Kids play in the
neighborhoods, grizzled veteran pros play under the TV eye. Lots of
participation. Lots of activity.
On weekends, we Radiosport fanatics hit the turf too. But there's a big
difference -- we only have one field for all of us to play on - the radio
spectrum. We all play on the same field, at the same time, no matter what
game we're playing or what level of experience and equipment we have. We
struggle to arrange "the field" to please everyone. We fail.
Imagine other sports if there was only one field. Everyone plays their own
game, at the same time, on the same field. The local Little League, the
Olympic soccer team, a Tennis championship, and the Super Bowl, all at the
same time, on the same field, and all using the same single scoreboard to
see who wins. Doesn't sound like much fun, except maybe to watch the chaos.
Instead of just struggling to "level the playing field", I think it might be
useful to try to make the single field we have more attractive for all the
different kinds of games and players we have - everyone playing on the same
level field, at the same time, enjoying whatever game they prefer, and
competing with their peers - just like on all the separate turf fields out
in the physical world.
My suggestion is to split the thought process into two pieces: the Venue and
the Competitions. Contest organizers would organize and operate the Venue -
the field. In particular, they would define the format of the QSOs, i.e.,
the exchange - what information is in it, what frequencies are permitted,
what time periods are allowed, etc. They would operate the game, collect
logs, and process them to validate. They would collect data from
participants - power, QTH, operator(s), equipment, club membership, etc.
They would publish that data as well validated logs, i.e., with logs with
all invalid QSOs removed.
But, as part of operating the venue, they would not compute scores, or even
assign points to QSOs. The Venue only documents what occurred - the history
of the event. It does not make any judgements.
The second part of the thought process is the Competition - comparing, i.e.,
judging, how different entrants did with their team partners, opponents,
previous years' results, etc.
More precisely, it involves Competitions - more than one game at the same
time, on the same field.
The goal would be to allow people to compete with their peers - with people
playing the same game in a way they agree is fair. The crux of fair scoring
is to allow as many scoreboards as participants want, each tailored to their
So, one group of people might think distance-based scoring is fair. Another
group might want grids as multipliers. Another might focus on weak-signal
skills, and treat LP and QRP stations worked as multipliers. Whatever you
can dream up...
Perhaps some Competitions have rules which restrict entrants, much like
today's categories, but with the freedom to define categories as desired -
by geography, club membership, equipment used, etc. Two popular
Competitions might be "HOA-challenged", where the equipment is no better
than 100W and wire antennas, and "Daytrippers", who compete for no more than
With published logs, anyone with the interest could organize a scoring
mechanism tuned to a specific interest - which is perceived as fair by that
group, run the publicized logs through their scoring machine, and publicize
results of that Competition.
Competitions which prove popular would survive and encourage more
participation. Some Competitions might have very few entrants, but still
survive. There are many people today who compete only against themselves,
looking at their prior years' results. The traditional scoring schemes can
remain as they are today, run by the venue organizer or someone else with
People can enter whichever Competition they like, or as many as they like.
Everybody plays on the same field, at the same time, but competes in a way
that they find to be fair and fun.
>From my conversations with non-participants, I suspect there might be quite
a lot of interest in Competing in the HOA-Challenged and Daytripper games.
More activity, more callsigns on the air, more Qs for the Big Guns too.
So, my suggestion to contest organizers is to not change the existing rules
at all. But change the processing to encourage other Competitions to form,
publish validated logs to make it feasible to operate multiple Competitions
and experiment freely, and see what happens.
/Jack de K3FIV
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