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Re: [CQ-Contest] K5GO speaks out for youth in contesting

To: cq-contest@contesting.com
Subject: Re: [CQ-Contest] K5GO speaks out for youth in contesting
From: David Gilbert <xdavid@cis-broadband.com>
Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2016 14:01:43 -0700
List-post: <cq-contest@contesting.com">mailto:cq-contest@contesting.com>

I enjoy contesting, but it's a legacy that isn't going to successfully compete for attention among anything beyond a very small percentage of today's youth. Most of the young ops at Field Day or contest stations are only there because of some family connection, and most of those don't last. Even the great majority of new hams the ARRL likes to tout as evidence of a growing base don't stick with the hobby ... if they did, we wouldn't be having these discussions. I do think that contesting is drawing a growing percentage of hams, but the base is getting old fast, and from my perspective here are some of the reasons:

1. Ham radio is expensive, especially of you actually want to be competitive instead of just participating. Rigs and antennas cost far more than a decent computer or smart phone, both of which offer far more effective communication and opportunities for competition.

2. Ham radio requires antennas. They are physically obtrusive and often create conflict with neighbors. Hardly anybody has to fight to get connected to the internet.

3. Ham radio is real time and unreliable, subject to the vagaries of propagation and activity on the other end. Applications like Twitter, Facebook, and online forums (like this one) are precise, dependable, and "sticky" (you can read and answer at your convenience). Online game competition against real opponents from around the world is available around the clock every day with virtually no waiting.

4. Ham radio requires a license, one which many of us perceive as relatively easy to get but which isn't needed at all for any other pursuit. It's a roadblock with no particular advantage to the user ... it's not like it keeps LIDs off the air.

5. Almost any video game out there is more immediate with more intense real time competition than ham radio contesting has. You compete directly against opponents who can counter your moves almost instantly, and you see the result of that interaction immediately. The breadth of "weapons", each with their own effects and deficiencies, is probably an order of magnitude greater than available to a contest operator. The required strategies for success vary with every match and every opponent, and often change significantly on the fly. Radiosport has nothing that even comes close to it (and if you try to tell me that breaking a pileup qualifies you are really out of touch).

I honestly hope that radiosport hangs around for a while ... it's fun for me and I have a lot of money invested in it. But it needs to change if it's actually going to draw new people to the game. I've tried to come up with the idea of a contest format that would capture some of the real time features of a video game, particularly the ability to directly and immediately counter (either by action or by score) the actions of another contester, but so far I haven't come up with anything. But if you think something like that isn't relevant, picture how attractive a video game or smart phone app would be if you simply sent messages to a bunch of other users with no effect on what they did and you had to wait days, weeks, or months before you saw whether or not you sent more than they did.

Ham radio simply doesn't have the fascination for anybody today that it did for us ... and if we were young again in today's world it wouldn't for us either. If we want to change the demographics of our hobby, our hobby is going to have to change. It's as simple as that.

Dave   AB7E

On 3/23/2016 7:17 AM, George via CQ-Contest wrote:
Kudos to Stan, K5GO, for going public on the "youth in contesting" issue with his conversation with editor, Brian, N9ADG, in the ARRL Contest Update, March 23, 2016 issue. Stan is a member of the CAC subcommittee, along with W1UE, W0GJ, K4ZA, and NA0N, studying the "Youth in Contesting" issue.


Check out Stan's article in the CONVERSATION Section, "Contesting needs you...to share your station with new contesters!" In this piece, Stan spells out some interesting ideas and methods for getting "potential new contesters" involved in a contest at your station.

As part of the CAC subcommittee's work, they are collecting any leads about how and where "youth" are involved in contesting, so if you know of any, please let Stan or any of the subcommittee members know.

73, George, K5KG
CAC Chairman

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