[CQ-Contest] Re: NAQP name handicap experiment

Richard Ferch ve3iay at rac.ca
Sun Jan 19 08:43:26 EST 2003

On Sat, 18 Jan 2003 at 09:34:28, Matt said:

> I could be wrong, but I believe using hard names was born out of a
> to use "defense" instead of just "offense" in the realm of contesting.
> Most contest operators use an offensive strategy primarily. That is to
> the operator marches the ball down the field and increases his score by
> running stations or S&Ping. The operator doesn't really have a whole lot
> do with what his competition is doing. However, by using a hard name, it
> actually does slow down the copying station and therefore can be seen as a
> defensive strategy.

And the point of the brief analysis in my previous post was to point out
that any such "defensive" technique is counter-productive, i.e. over the
duration of a contest it can hurt your own score a lot more than it hurts
your competition's scores.

Radio contesting is an unusual form of competition, in that unlike most
competitions your own success is critically dependent on cooperation with
the opposition. This cooperation is not merely passive (both following an
agreed-upon set of rules), but active (trying to complete a mutual
communication correctly). You won't win at tennis if you always hit the ball
to the other guy's strength, but in radio contesting that is exactly what
you must do.

According to the rules for the NAQP, both stations must correctly copy and
log the exchange for it to be valid. In other words, you are depending on
the other guy not only to send you his information but also to receive yours
and to enter it correctly into his log. If you make his job harder, you are
also making it harder to complete your QSO as described in the rules.

So in working out your strategy and tactics you must take into account the
needs of your opponents. You make decisions on things like CW speed and how
often you send your callsign or repeat your exchange based not only on how
long it takes you to send them but also on how hard it will be for the other
guy to copy.

The element of humour may indeed enter here. A funny name may be less likely
to cause confusion than some real ones (Eric vs. Ric vs. Rich vs. Rick vs.
Dick), and be more memorable for the QSO on the next band, not to mention
making the event more enjoyable for all. It may even lead to contests within
the contest (did anyone achieve Worked All Chads a couple of years ago? how
about 5BWAChads?). But this is not a "defensive" strategy, it's a
cooperative one.

Likewise, you don't try to make it hard for the opposition by operating on
160 only during daylight hours and on 10 only at night. Indeed, in entry
classes which permit it, you even want your exact operating frequency to be
available to your opposition via means such as the DX cluster.

The cooperative vs. individual aspect extends further, as shown by the rules
on spotting. It's considered acceptable if other contestants post your call
sign and frequency cooperatively, but unacceptable if you do so yourself or
by asking someone to do so (self-spotting) except when you give out your
information directly to another station during a two-way communication
(passing mults to other bands).

I would suggest that this is the real reason for opposition to BEACONet. It
appears to be a self-broadcast of information about your operation instead
of a cooperative unprompted posting of this information by another operator.
Therefore it appears to be outside the spirit and intent of the rule on
self-spotting, hence the ARRL's ruling.

To return to the defensive vs. offensive theme: To get the highest score you
shouldn't conceal your call sign or send the exchange as fast as possible
with the deliberate intent of making it hard for others to copy. You should
send them just often enough to maximize the chances of correct copy with a
minimum of repeats. Depending on how often you get asked for repeats (which
depends on the strength of your signal, band conditions, etc.), you may
decide to send your call sign or exchange twice or more so as to minimize
the number of fills.

This even extends to the details of how you send the exchange. This is most
obvious in RTTY, where you should design your message buffers so that your
call sign and exchange are both preceded and followed by spaces in order
that the other guy's software can pick them out of the incoming data.

In the RTTY exchange, in terms of raw speed 599005 is faster to send than
599-005 or 599/005 , which in turn are faster than 599 005 assuming the
standard unshift-on-space. However, the fastest choice makes it more
difficult for the other guy's software to pick out the serial number (no
delimiters), so it is actually least effective. In fact, under noisy
conditions the slowest option ( 599 005 ) may well be best, because it
includes a bit of redundant information (a second FIGS character) which can
reduce the rate of FIGS vs. LTRS case errors.

I would even suggest that this cooperative element is a reason why most
contests include the meaningless RST in the exchange. It is easier for the
brain to recognize a two-element exchange than a one-element exchange,
particularly if the first element is completely predictable. The 5NN or 59
is mainly there as a synchronizing element to help the other guy to get
ready for the serial number or whatever that follows. And this in turn helps
explain why everyone sends 599 instead of a real report. It is, of course,
because that is easiest for the other guy to copy and therefore the best
cooperative strategy.

Evidently I have nothing better to do this weekend. Or rather, I find this
more interesting than the tasks I am avoiding. I'd better extend the
cooperative theme to my family and job too!


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