[CQ-Contest] To Sign or not to Sign

Doug Grant k1dg at ix.netcom.com
Sat Dec 2 13:00:16 EST 2000

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Recently N6TJ said:
  Nosey very effectively signed his call after EVERY contact, and this
  did THREE things:

  (1) I acknowledge the exchange and call you sent,
  (2) I am KH6IJ,
  (3) QRZ?

I think that guys running pileups go through three distinct levels of =
learning how to do it. The first-timers know that (1) and (3) are =
important. They do not realize that the operators calling them may have =
just tuned in and need to know who they are (item 2). You hear them on =
SSB completing QSOs literally with "QSL QRZ?" which is generally =
insufficient information and leads to a rate-slowing, =
frustrating-for-everyone chorus of "WHATZYERCALL?"

After a few years and maybe some friendly advice, they progress to the =
next stage, which is to sign the call after EVERY QSO. This technique is =
very effective. KH6IJ used it for years, and at the time of his career, =
it was probably the best going. I used to advocate this technique also, =
when it was the best I knew how to do.

I have now discovered the third level of skill. This involves knowing =
when it is possible to omit signing the call and save time. Some =
operators use a brute-force algorithm (e.g. "I sign my call after every =
third QSO").  That's not bad, but it can be improved if the pileup is =
small. It's unnecessary to sign your call if there is another station =
waiting who already knows it and will call you as soon as you sign =
enough to communicate number (1) above. (2) and (3) are not needed, =
because if the timing is right, the station waiting in the wings knows =
that the next thing you want after ACKing the first guy is a QSO, so =
there is no need for anything more than a "TU" or "R". In an ideal =
world, pulling two full calls from every "QRZ?" allows you to do this =
VERY effectively. Even a partial of the second guy's call is enough so =
you can call him and not invite QRM-causing newcomers to call. I was =
astounded this weekend to hear CN8WW, with their =
ogy and resources, pull 3 complete calls out of one CQ when I called =
them. They saved the time involved in signing their call superfluously =
three times, since all 3 of us knew who they were already.

I believe that the top ops are able to use their judgment intelligently =
for this adaptive method. As Neiger the Tiger says, knowing when NOT to =
sign your call is as important as knowing WHEN to sign it. To paraphrase =
Einstein: "You should sign your call as infrequently as possible, but =
not more infrequently." The best example of this I heard last weekend =
was OX/N6ZZ's run on 40 Sunday morning (funny how TJ used Phil's =
callsign-challenged circumstance as an example of when NOT to ID too =
often). Phil had a small, skilled group calling, and seemed to know =
instinctively when to complete a QSO with "R" and when to sign the call. =
His speed was perfectly suited to the conditions (funny Zone-40 fading), =
and it was the smoothest run I have heard in a long time; he always =
answered a correct full call, and I did not hear a single "?" or "CL?" =
from a potential caller.

It is likely that there is another level of pileup management I have not =
discovered yet - one that guys like AR, ZD, the TJs, and such have =
mastered. (Note to self...check to see if N1TJ is available...something =
strangely Karmic about that suffix) I know those guys have figured out =
multiplier-finding better, so I still have lot to learn. Maybe someday =
I'll get good enough at it that my good friend YT3T will also accuse =
*me* (in jest, of course) of being a packet-watcher. I guess that's the =
ultimate compliment.

TJ the Elder also said:
  It is IMPORTANT for all to remember, the DX station is in-charge, and
  dictates as to how he chooses to operate. Everyone else has the =
  freedom to call him, or not.  But it's HIS pileup.  Let him run it the =
way he wants. =20
  If you think you're better, than YOU go out and prove it!
W6NL once said that you can't educate an operator during a contest - =
from either end of the pileup. The 48-hour period is only for making =
QSOs as fast as possible under the circumstances - and that means =
working a certain percentage of less-skilled ops. You can only teach by =
example during the event. I'm glad we have a forum like CQ-Contest to =
provide the post-contest educational service.


Doug K1DG

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