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Re: [CQ-Contest] Aniother rules/remote RX issue

To: "'Bob Naumann'" <W5OV@W5OV.COM>, "'Dick Green WC1M'" <wc1m73@gmail.com>, <sawyered@earthlink.net>, <cq-contest@contesting.com>
Subject: Re: [CQ-Contest] Aniother rules/remote RX issue
From: "Dick Green WC1M" <wc1m73@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 1 Jun 2012 17:19:17 -0400
List-post: <cq-contest@contesting.com">mailto:cq-contest@contesting.com>
Well, Bob, we're going to have to agree to disagree. Not surprising: this
subject is unlikely to every result in unanimous agreement.

I do want to correct one impression you got from my email. I should have
said "This is exactly *the sort of thing* the CAC intended." No, we never
considered using RBN or packet network spots for checking propagation.
Obviously, we couldn't consider every possible variation of using Skimmer,
which is why we needed the wording of the rules to embody the CAC's
intentions. What I meant is that the CAC intended for the decision on
whether a particular practice is legal or not to be based on the type of
information obtained and its impact on the competition, not on vague
definitions of "assistance", "outside assistance", "A boy and his radio",
etc. You can disagree with that, but after months of deliberation the CAC
voted overwhelmingly in favor of the recommended wording that embodies this
approach. Ultimately, what I meant was that Single Op use of RBN to check
propagation is consistent with the CAC's intention.

I have a real problem with relying on the "fundamental non-assisted single
op 'boy and his radio' definition". I'm afraid there would be a great deal
of disagreement about the meaning of that phrase. For example, does a "boy
and his radio" mean one radio or two? Many have vehemently argued that SO2R
is not Single Op. Although I'm a big fan of SO2R, and wouldn't want to see
it outlawed for Single Op, I think the argument against it is a lot stronger
than the argument against using RBN to evaluate propagation. That's because
SO2R confers a much greater tactical advantage and thus impacts the score
and skills necessary for operating to a much greater degree than checking
propagation on the RBN.

There never has been wording in the rules that outlaws getting information
from outside your station or from a source other than your HF radio. That is
your interpretation of what Single Op means. The prohibition against packet
is based in the fact that other operators supply the information, which
makes you multi-op, not that the information comes from outside your radio
station. This presented a real dilemma in determining whether CW Skimmer
should be allowed in the Single Op category. Skimmer is not an operator, so
it doesn't make you multi-op. And the information doesn't come from outside
your radio station, either. All you're left with is saying that Skimmer
provides "assistance", which is not allowed. But since Skimmer is simply
sampling the IF of your radio and decoding the signals, how is that kind of
assistance different from getting "assistance" from a second radio, a
computerized logging program, SCP, single-channel CW decoders (which have
always been allowed), etc. At what point do we draw the line and say that a
particular technology constitutes assistance? And if we do that, are we
stifling innovation and the fun of using new technology?

Faced with that problem, the CAC chose to look beyond the hardware/software
and look at the information and benefit provided to the operator. It was
clear as day that CW Skimmer spots provide the same kind of benefit as
packet spots: instead of tuning and listening for new stations to work,
which is very time consuming and requires excellent copy skills, you can
just point-and-click to work new stations. There's no doubt in my mind that
this confers a substantial advantage. In fact, I operated using CW Skimmer
in the 2008 IARU contest, where it was allowed in Single Op on a one-time
basis, just to see how much advantage there would be. Even with a
less-than-optimal Skimmer configuration, I broke my personal record for
mults by a good margin. Operating with Skimmer was exactly like operating
with packet, only Skimmer was more accurate and comprehensive than packet.
Looking at it that way, there's no question that CW Skimmer should not be
allowed in the Single Op category.

While defining Single Op in terms of not getting any information from
outside your station is esoterically pleasing, it doesn't capture the
operating factors that truly affect the scoring and competitive landscape.
It's almost laughable to say that getting three-hour old propagation reports
from WWV is of any real benefit at all, or that propagation prediction
programs are accurate enough to really impact the competition. A second
radio with a band scope is much more useful, and there's nothing in your
definition of a traditional Single Op that prohibits that. I'll admit that
seeing if your signal is being heard at a particular target location is
useful, but you can infer the same thing from the band scope and/or calling
CQ a few times. It's just not that great an advantage, but it's fun to do.
It certainly doesn't change the fundamental nature of what you must do in
Single Op, which is to tune and listen, and it doesn't provide any kind of
significant advantage to those who use it.

It's fine to be a purist, but I think it's counter-productive if it
disallows innovation and fun for no good reason.

73, Dick WC1M

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Bob Naumann [mailto:W5OV@W5OV.COM]
> Sent: Friday, June 01, 2012 8:20 AM
> To: 'Dick Green WC1M'; sawyered@earthlink.net; cq-contest@contesting.com
> Subject: RE: [CQ-Contest] Aniother rules/remote RX issue
> Dick,
> Thanks for the explanation of what the CAC recommended contrasted with
> what we ended up with in the ARRL rules. I truly appreciate the efforts
> you put in, and know how thankless a job it is.
> That said, I am somewhat puzzled as to why the CAC "intended" to allow
> all categories of entry to use remote systems to evaluate propagation?
> "If the CAC's wording for the rules had been used, the practice would
> definitely be legal for all categories. This is exactly what the CAC
> intended".
> Really? The CAC intended to allow all classes of entry to access the RBN
> over the Internet to "check propagation" of their own signals?
> This goes so against what I believe to be the fundamental non-assisted
> single op "boy and his radio" definition that quite frankly, I cannot
> imagine what you guys were thinking.
> Why would you envision allowing this activity for someone who is
> supposed to be doing everything without *any* outside assistance?
> Do we really need to alter what we all revere as traditional single op?
> Is it necessary to let outside technology in? To what end? Why?
> We already have the Assisted or Unlimited categories that encompass the
> use of all this extraneous stuff - why do we need to taint the
> traditional single op category with this?
> Again, I strongly suggest that we not focus on what "assistance" may or
> may not be, but instead focus on what "single operator" is and always
> has been.
> This definition is much easier to come up with, and is extremely narrow
> in scope.
> Simply, a single operator should not receive ANY information outside of
> his own radio "tuning and listening" activity that occurs inside his
> head via his ears.
> You ask: "At the end of the day, does it really matter whether they come
> from your HF radio or the Internet"?
> My answer is an S9 +60db: YES IT MATTERS!
> Why do we need to morph single op into being the same as single op
> assisted / unlimited, when we already have such categories that allow
> for all of that stuff?
> The following sounds good on a first read (talking about defining single
> op):
> "But with rapid evolution in technology, station architecture and
> operating techniques, it has become increasingly difficult to define
> exactly what that term means.
> Again, it's better to focus on the information received and its impact
> on the competition".
> I have to, once again, totally and vehemently disagree with this
> approach to define single op. This is clearly the wrong approach.
> Defining single operator is very easy.
> Why would a single operating be receiving any information at all, from
> anywhere outside of his own direct actions, abilities and operating
> skills?
> The underlying premise is completely flawed. A single operator should
> not be "receiving" *ANY* information from anywhere outside of his own
> direct actions, abilities and operating skills regardless of the impact
> to the competition. How did we lose this perspective?
> Again, while I truly appreciate the work done by the CAC, I think this
> initiative was flawed and completely misguided.
> Bottom line: leave single op alone.
> 73,
> Bob W5OV
> -----Original Message-----
> From: cq-contest-bounces@contesting.com
> [mailto:cq-contest-bounces@contesting.com] On Behalf Of Dick Green WC1M
> Sent: Friday, June 01, 2012 2:33 AM
> To: sawyered@earthlink.net; cq-contest@contesting.com
> Subject: Re: [CQ-Contest] Aniother rules/remote RX issue
> I'm no longer on the ARRL Contest Advisory Committee, and certainly
> don't speak for ARRL, but since I led the CAC's deliberations on Remote
> Operating and CW Skimmer, maybe I can shed some light on the questions
> asked by Pete and Igor. The ARRL rules are fairly clear on the practices
> Pete and Igor describe, but it's a little more complicated than you
> might think and there are some issues with the wording of the rules.
> By rule 3.7, use of a remote receiver to check for a clear frequency, as
> described by Pete, is not allowed in the Single-Operator category under
> any circumstances. For Single-Op Unlimited and Multi-Operator, the
> "spotting network" exception in rule applies. You could setup a
> remote receiver and have it send Skimmer spots to the RBN. Since those
> spots are available to everyone, this would be legal. But by rule 2.2.1,
> you could not send audio or spots from the remote receiver over a
> Private internet connection or phone link.
> Filtering RBN spots of your own call to evaluate propagation, as
> described by Igor, is not allowed in the Single Operator category
> because by rule
> 2.1.1 the use of "spotting assistance and nets" is prohibited. There's
> actually a significant issue with the wording of this rule, which I'll
> address below, but going strictly by what's published, Single-Ops can't
> do it. For the Single-Operator Unlimited and Multi-Operator categories,
> the exception in rule would apply, and the practice would be
> legal as long as you get the information via a publicly available
> spotting network.
> However, you can't do it with a remote receiver that you install and/or
> control. That would be self-spotting, which is prohibited by rule 3.14.
> Going back to Pete's question, remote receivers must filter out your
> call to avoid running afoul of the rule against self-spotting.
> [Hmmm... are stations with dedicated *local* Skimmer radios that send
> spots to the RBN filtering out their own calls?]
> Now for the problem with the wording of the ARRL rules:
> In 2009, the CAC studied CW Skimmer and developed clearly-worded changes
> to the rules to address the technology. Those recommendations were
> accepted, in their entirety, by the ARRL Programs and Services
> Committee, a sub-committee of the ARRL Board of Directors. However, the
> wording that subsequently appeared in the official rules does not match
> the CAC's recommendations. I didn't discover that until fairly recently,
> and I don't know why the PSC-approved recommendations weren't used when
> the rules were revised.
> Unfortunately, the official wording is unclear and does not correctly
> express the intent of the recommendations the CAC labored over for many
> months. Perhaps someone at ARRL can explain how and why this happened.
> The problem is that the official rules do not define the terms "spotting
> assistance" and "spotting nets". In contrast, the CAC report uses the
> term "spotting information", defined as follows:
> "Spotting Information: Information specifying the transmit or receive
> frequency and any portion of the call sign, identity, exchange
> information, or location of another station with which a contest QSO
> could be made."
> In Igor's scenario, when you receive a spot of your own call, you are
> not getting information about "another station with which a contest QSO
> could be made." Therefore, it's not spotting information. If the CAC's
> wording for the rules had been used, the practice would definitely be
> legal for all categories.
> This is exactly what the CAC intended. Unlike many of the arguments
> about CW Skimmer that were taking place on the cq-contest reflector at
> the time, and that have been resurrected for the current debate, the CAC
> avoided interpretation or definition of the word "assistance". As the
> public debate demonstrated so well, that's a very slippery slope,
> especially when you have to evaluate whether a particular technology is
> assistance or not. Instead, we thought it was better to look at the
> issue from the point of view of what information is being received and
> what impact that information has on operating requirements and
> competitive factors.
> The essential point is this: tuning and listening is the heart and soul
> of Single-Op. It requires a certain set of skills, strategy and
> patience. If you're using information from any source outside the
> frequency to which your radio is tuned to find, identify and work
> stations, then you aren't tuning and listening. That represents a
> fundamental difference in the operating techniques and requirements
> associated with the Single-Op category, dramatically changes the time it
> takes to find and work stations, and thus changes the competitive
> landscape. What's more, the result looks exactly like what a Single-
> Operator Unassisted does with packet spots. Looks like packet, smells
> like packet, should be treated like packet. This approach makes it very
> easy to decide whether or not CW Skimmer spots should be allowed.
> By focusing on the information and the benefit it provides, we avoided
> difficult semantic arguments over the meaning of "assistance", whether
> there's a difference if the source is man or machine, and whether a
> particular technology, now or in the future, might violate the spirit of
> the rules.
> So, if you look at it from that point of view, using RBN spots of your
> own call to evaluate propagation doesn't fundamentally alter the key
> differentiator of the Single-Op category: the requirement that you tune
> and listen to make QSOs. Yes, the technology provides some benefit, but
> it's along the same lines as using a band scope to determine if a band
> is open.
> It's helpful, but it doesn't drastically alter the playing field. Yes,
> the information comes from outside your station, but so do WWV reports,
> which are perfectly legal. Are the scientists involved in those reports
> providing assistance? At the end of the day, does it really matter
> whether they come from your HF radio or the Internet?
> I know the CAC's approach may not be appreciated by those who think the
> rules for Single-Op should be based on the simple premise of "A boy and
> his radio". But with rapid evolution in technology, station architecture
> and operating techniques, it has become increasingly difficult to define
> exactly what that term means. Again, it's better to focus on the
> information received and its impact on the competition.
> For those interested in the CAC's deliberations on Remote Operating and
> CW Skimmer, the reports are published on the ARRL web site:
> Remote Operating
> http://www.arrl.org/files/file/About%20ARRL/Committee%20Reports/2008/Jul
> y/Do
> c29.pdf
> CW Skimmer
> http://www.arrl.org/files/file/About%20ARRL/Committee%20Reports/January/
> Doc%
> 2029.doc
> Each of the above documents is a semi-annual report to the Program and
> Services Committee on the CAC's activities, but at the end of the main
> reports you will find individual reports on the CAC's deliberations and
> recommendations on the two topics of interest here.
> 73, Dick WC1M
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Edward Sawyer [mailto:SawyerEd@earthlink.net]
> > Sent: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 5:33 PM
> > To: cq-contest@contesting.com
> > Subject: Re: [CQ-Contest] Aniother rules/remote RX issue
> >
> > The rules in CQ WW state as "call sign alerting assistance of any
> kind"
> > and "remote receivers" are not allowed.
> >
> >
> >
> > The rules of ARRL DX state as "use of spotting assistance or
> > automated, multi-channel decoders" are not allowed.
> >
> >
> >
> > Specifically, in CQ WW, I believe you would have to consider the RBN a
> > form of a remote receiver and since ANY use of a remote receiver would
> > look to be not allowed, I would interpret as not allowed.
> >
> >
> >
> > In ARRL DX, I believe the "multi-channel" decoder use (public or
> > private)
> > would be a local skimmer or public RBN.    Again, for this reason, I
> > would
> > say, not allowed.
> >
> >
> >
> > More interesting would be the use of looking up spots of yourself,
> > especially in Phone contests.  No use of remote receiver or decoder
> > and no call sign alerting assistance (unless you consider your own
> > call sign a call sign alert). That one seems to be squarely in the
> > seams of the rules to me.
> >
> >
> >
> > The contest organizers should really keep updating the rules to
> > clarify such questions as technology is evolving.  It would help all
> > of us "play fair"
> > and all play off of the same play book.
> >
> >
> >
> > Ed  N1UR
> >
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