[CQ-Contest] The Skimmer Rule Challenge

Michael Coslo mjc5 at psu.edu
Tue Jun 10 10:20:22 EDT 2008

In order to not flood the group with too many messages, I'm  
condensing replies a bit.

Part 1:

On Jun 9, 2008, at 12:26 PM, K0HB wrote:

>> A person using Skimmer is going to be spending a lot of time
>> looking at the skimmer screen, which will take away from
>> operating in the contest.
> A dumb contester might do that, but a good operator would just let it
> populate his WriteLog bandmap, then periodically harvest the band  
> map.  The
> advantage that this would be to a single-op in SS CW is almost  
> incalculable
> at this point.  In Navy tactical terminology we'd call it a "force
> multiplier".

The information provided by the Skimmer is quite time sensitive.  
Those who are running a frequency tend to stay mostly put, others  
move about a lot. My estimate is that the info provided by the  
Skimmer might be good for a minute at most, depending on how busy the  
contest is.

How long does it take to work the folks running frequencies? Is the  
Skimmer going to help you work the runners any better than using the  
VFO and working your way up or down the band?  While I might use  
Skimmer as an operational aid due to my hearing issues, what I've  
seen of it is that at best, it would be about the middle or lower  
third of the pack. In my case probably somewhere right above those  
who got on the air to make one or two QSO's.    ;^)

>> So how do we determine it's actual impact? We allow it's use for a
>> time so gauge that impact. If Skimmer users start dominating classes,
>> then it might be time to direct it's use to one category or another.

> I believe Skimmer should be quarantined into the "assisted/unlimited"
> corral until it's effect can be gauged.  Letting it run "in the  
> wild" risks
> it causing damage to the pure Single Op category that we can't now  
> predict.

That would be a permanent quarantine, Judging from what I have heard,  
there are some Ops who will always be against Skimmer.

Part 2:

On Jun 9, 2008, at 1:46 PM, Kerr, Prof. K.M. wrote:

Mike wrote:

 >>So how do we determine it's actual impact? We allow it's use for a  
time so gauge that >>impact. If Skimmer users start dominating  
classes, then it might be time to direct it's >>use to one category  
or another.

 >To Mike and anyone else who is interested, I have a real problem  
with this approach. >The argument over how much impact 'packet' in  
all its various forms has on contesting >is well covered territory.  
It has been pointed out for years on this reflector that there >are  
relatively few examples of the same guy with the same station going  
assisted and >unassisted in comparable events to help draw proper  

It is truly difficult to get a scientific test. What we do is try to  
spot trends. If say the top 10 ranking in a given contest in a given  
class go to Ops using Skimmer, then we can fairly safely conclude  
that Skimmer was involved in that placement. If there appears to be a  
random scattering, then Skimmer was probably neutral. If the Skimmer  
users are at the bottom, they were probably spending too much time  
looking at their bandmap, and not enough at the radio.. 8^)

 >I submit that it will never be possible to gather adequate data to  
make the comparison >and come to a reasonable conclusion regarding  
whether or not skimmer is 'having an >impact'.

	Respectfully disagree. If we take accept  your argument, we can't  
make judgments on anything. Experiments don't have to be tightly  
controlled in all cases. I know that I tend to make more QSOs when  
I'm going QRO than QRP, even though I haven't done a rigid test.

 >Furthermore, I suggest, as I did a few days ago, that this is not  
the point. I cannot see >the relevance of whether or not skimmer  
impacts on scores. What matters is how this >technology is perceived.


 > The key issue is surely to determine whether or not skimmer is a  
form of assistance?

 >I just cannot conceive how this technology is anything other than  
such assistance and >suggest that allowing it in what is to be  
considered otherwise a SO Unassisted class is >wrong.

Perhaps looking at it from the POV of someone who makes rules might  
be of some help. Hams are an opinionated group to be sure. I get  
dozens of requests every year to make rules changes. Most are serious.

I get ones such as "You shouldn't give QRP Ops extra points per QSO.  
You should give the extra points to the people they work." Sounds  
odd, but they then go on to make good points about how many tries  
they have to make to get the exchange correct, etc.

I get asked to change the contest so that an Op's favorite logging  
program will score it properly.

I won't belabor the examples too much more, I just picked two of the  
more amusing ones. But suffice it to say that what was amusing to me  
was not to those who made the suggestions. They were dead serious.

So what I have is people who want versus people who don't want. In  
this case-Skimmer.

So how do we determine if it is okay to use or not?

I can't deal in terms like "pure". Single op unassisted is not "pure"  
today. We can discuss it all day, and it won't change.

What I can do is determine if it is okay to freeze the technology for  
the class at it's present level. That is really what is being asked  
for by some here, those who are not calling for an outright ban of  
the technology.

Banning the technology altogether just won't work. There are  
similarities to existing technology that is allowed, and there isn't  
a practical way to enforce it. So let's just assume we are looking at  
making it assisted or not.

Another aspect to look at is would banishing Skimmer to assisted  
classes have a detrimental effect on contesting? Will we harm the  
class by shrinking SOU over time to a very few Ops?

There is the possibility that as time and technology goes on, that  
the single op unassisted class might become very small indeed. I have  
a few classes that have become so small that I have to consider  
eliminating them from the party. Some of those were trophy classes.  
At some point one has to ask is it worth having a trophy in a class  
with three competitors?

The point is that as technology marches on, many people will decide  
to use it. If I were to operate CW in a contest at this point, I  
would probably use Skimmer. If that puts me in assisted, so be it. I  
suspect that new people entering the fray might feel the same.

Let's look at a bigger picture over many years, not just this year's  

Overall, my point is that the answer just isn't all that simple. All  
actions have consequences, some unintended. Trying to use rules that  
were written for other technology don't work, and emotions have to be  
put aside. This is a technology that has to be assessed on it's own  
merits, not on rules that were written for packet or DX clusters.  
They weren't written for Skimmer. Skimmer is not the same thing, and  
arguments that it is tend to become circular.

Hope this is of some help to show the approach to the issue. I can't  
vouch for the others, but it is how I approach it.

-73 de Mike N3LI -

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