The "don't fix what's not broken" and the "we'll never find a way that's
fair" observations have a lot of merit. Maybe we're working on an
unsolvable or nonexistent problem.
Still, a lot of us seem to be unhappy. Maybe it's worth thinking about how
to solve that problem, without flailing to change something that isn't
broken and we don't think we can fix, and haven't had much success in
After all the recent discussions rattled around in my head for a while, a
new thought just popped up. At least I think it's new, at least to
Radiosport, but it's an ancient idea elsewhere. Maybe it's been tried
before and failed? KE3X's analysis of Gaming was especially useful. So
here's an idea for the mill.....
The focus of our unhappiness seems to be a perception that "it's not
fair". Many of us think it's not fair, but don't agree on how to make it
more fair. We still participate, and maybe send in logs, but we seek the
experience of actually being in a fair fight, pitting ourselves against
contestants like ourselves, and comparing our performance against theirs in
a fair battle.
In any contest, there are probably always at least a few people who I would
agree are enough like me that competing with them would be a fair battle.
The problem is that I can't find them. When I see the long list of
scores, I can't tell which of those callsigns are the people who were like
me, to see how I did in the company of my peers.
Various "categories" split up the contestants into groups, but I still
believe that no matter what group I am in, there are others in there with
an unfair advantage. The only contestants who don't have this problem are
the ones who have committed the time and money, or are simply lucky enough
to live in the right place, to be "world class" in the particular contest's
"unfair" scoring scheme.
They have sacrificed a lot to get in that situation and they enjoy battling
with others like them. More power to them. But the rest of us would still
like to enjoy the experience of competing, against our peers, in a fair
fight. How do we do that, in existing contests, without changing the
contest at all?
An idea popped into my head. I'll call it Challenge Contesting. The idea
is that people in a contest compete with other people in the contest who
are, in their own opinion, sufficiently like them to make it a fair
fight. The key words are "in their own opinion". I'll compete with you
if I think your situation is enough like mine that it's fair - whatever I
think "fair" means. Of course you also have to think that it's fair -
whatever you think that "fair" means. I think I have a decent shot at
beating you. You think you have a decent shot at beating me. You're on.
Meet me in the Alley in 20 minutes! It's a Challenge!
Others might decide to join in, turning our Duel into a Brawl. But if a
300 pound wrestling champion, or a wiry guy wearing a black belt shows up,
the rest of us might just flee for our lives. We may enjoy a fair fight,
but we're not stupid.
If you don't like fighting, think of something like chess matches. The
point is that we enjoy a fair competition, measuring our performance
against our peers. Could we bring that experience into contesting for the
masses in addition to the top tier?
To issue a Challenge in a radio contest, I need to know something about
you. I won't "throw down the glove" until I know enough to believe I'm
entering a fair fight. You also need to know about me. Then we need to
both agree to compete. I Challenge you. You Accept. Meet me in the
Alley. Game on.
Perhaps another contestant notices our Challenge and thinks "Hey, I'm like
those guys but I'm better than them. I Challenge both of them!" If we
both agree that it's fair - whatever we think "fair" means to us - then we
Accept. It'll be a three-way battle, within a group that all agree is fair
- whatever fair means to each individual.
More people might similarly Challenge us and we might Accept them. We
don't Accept that wrestling champion, or the guy we suspect is a Cheater,
or anybody else unless we think it's fair. Although even a one-on-one
fight is fun, in Radiosport it would probably be more fun with more people
competing -- but all would agree that it's a fair fight. Duels could
readily evolve into Brawls, and that would be a good thing, more fun for
all. Because of the nature of Radio, we could even compete in several
Brawls at the same time in that same Alley. Sounds like Fun.
So, how would we actually do this? It seems that some interesting
mechanisms are already in place. We could do it just by email or forums
like this one to start. That might get unwieldy if Challenges become
popular. There are already web sites that allow you to register your
station characteristics - where it is, what equipment you have, etc. I
probably need more information in order to judge whether or not the "other
guy" is enough like me so that I consider it fair. We'd have to come up
with that list. What do you want to know about me before you Challenge me,
or Accept my Challenge?
We already have some mechanisms for registering our intentions before the
start of a contest - e.g., registering teams in some contests. So we need
a similar mechanism to enable the people who want to compete in one (or
more) Challenges, either Duels or Brawls to find each other.
We like to talk about our conquests afterward. We already have mechanisms
such as 3830 to boast after the battle subsides. Some similar mechanism
could help us figure out how we did in that Alley shortly after the dust
It seems like it should be relatively easy and straightforward for someone
with the skills to put together similar mechanisms for Challenge
Contesting. Contest organizers might do it, but they don't have to.
Anybody can set up the mechanisms to arrange for epic battles. The
contest builds the Alley. We do battle in it.
We don't have to change existing contest rules at all. They are just part
of the framework - they tell us about the Alley in which we're going to
settle once and for all that I'm better than you in a fair fight.
So, ... Here's an example. I'm K3FIV. I'll be operating from grid
CM88eu, at a height of 400 feet ASL. I have a Flex-3000, 100 watts, and an
80M Carolina Windom hung between 2 trees at 30 feet, which i use on 80
through 10. I'm in a rural area so there's very little RF noise. I can
find maybe 12 hours, no more, in a weekend to do battle. I can use the
Internet, but I'll agree not to if you want that to Challenge me. My rig
has a Panadapter, which I find very helpful in contests, but I don't use a
Skimmer. I've been licensed since 1963. I can still do CW but it gets
real tough above 28wpm. Want to know anything else? Think you can beat
Note that mechanisms for arranging Challenges might be readily adapted to
other purposes. For example, instead of arranging for a collection of
entrants to compete against each other, we could use similar mechanisms to
arrange for a collection of entrants to act as a Team. Teams could form
and then Challenge other Teams just as individuals do, and have fun in a
fair - to them - competition. A Team mostly located in the Caribbean
might Challenge a Team mostly located on the US East Coast. With apologies
to West Side Story, we might name those Teams the Sharks and the Jets. It
could be an epic battle. It could be an annual event. It could be a lot
of fun both to participate and to watch.
Challenges are somewhat like existing Categories, but offer much more
flexibility. Most people don't think it's fair to compete against someone
in a great location. But can your stacked-beams on a 120 foot tower fed
by massive amps in the hinterlands beat a vacationing ham on a Caribbean
island with a 100 watt transceiver and a Buddipole?
Does your nasty HOA restrict you to stealth antennas? There are others
like you. Think you're better than them?
Do you have a super station but can't spend more than 12 hours in the
chair? That young whippersnapper with a tribander and transceiver can
compete all weekend and thinks he can beat you? What do you think?
Challenge and find out! If you both think it's a fair fight, it will be
Anybody out there want to build some Challenge machinery? In much of the
world it's winter now, maybe a good time to be inside at your computer
rather than up wielding aluminum on a tower. It's probably also more fun
than grousing about the status quo. Tell us all where the website is for
setting up Challenges!
So, we don't need to change rules or build new contests to have more fun.
The Alleys are already there. We may not like them, but as long as we
agree that it's a fair fight, why not. Game on?
/Jack de K3FIV
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