[CQ-Contest] The Skimmer Rule Challenge

Joe Subich, W4TV w4tv at subich.com
Sat Jun 14 02:29:40 EDT 2008

> >  Technological advancement of
> > all kinds if a significant part of and reason for amateur radio.
> Absolutely. And if Skimmer is allowed in all categories 
> except Single-Op, we're not suppressing technological 
> advancement, are we?

You may not be suppressing it but it is certainly not being promoted. 
It gets treated as a "necessary evil" for the multi-op classes. 

> The categories may have originated that way. I don't know. I 
> wasn't involved in the process at the time. I have no doubt 
> the rule makers considered that packet spots are originated by 
> other ops, which is certainly a reason they were allowed only 
> in the SO-Assisted and Multi categories. But I rather doubt 
> this was done without considering the value of the 
> information produced. 

There is no need to consider the value of the information produced 
any more than there is a need to consider the skills of the operators 
involved in a multi-op station.  The differentiation is based only 
on "one operator" or "many operators."  That is ALL that was or 
should be considered. 

It is up to the operator to consider the value of the information. 
In any case, if the information is not coming from another individual 
it does not effect the status of the single operator. 

> > The issue is the participation by "another individual" and not 
> > how that participation takes place.
> This is not the only issue I want to consider when thinking 
> about the impact of Skimmer on contesting.

That is the only issue involved - it is the only difference among 
the single operator, single operator assisted and multi-single 
classes.  If you want to consider the "impact," you are proposing 
a MAJOR change in the rules structure and those considerations 
should extend to ALL aspects of technology particularly "power" 
(EIRP) and receivers (SO2R).   Consideration of power would 
potentially encourage more participation from those with CC&R 
issues while consideration of receivers would potentially deal 
with both SO2R and Skimmer in the single operator class (e.g., 
skimmer == second receiver). 

> Right, it doesn't violate the current rules. But if the 
> contest community wants to preserve the SO category, and not 
> have it morph into something that is virtually identical to 
> SO-Assisted, then the rules will have to be changed.   

You keep asserting that skimmer will cause the single operator 
class to blend into "assisted" but you have no proof.  There 
is no indication that skimmer results will be significantly 
different that those currently obtained by a good SO2R operator. 
Even if the multiplier totals change by one or two per band, the
relative performance of any two operators will vary that much 
year to year based on propagation, preparation and human 

I know how external factors can change results ... it can be 
something as simple as the late season thunderstorm in New 
England during the 1982 ARRL 160 contest.  The normal "big 
guns" could not hear anything, their multiplier totals were 
way down and I ended up #1 in W/VE (and overall) that year 
from Ohio.    

> It seems to me that part of the job of the contest sponsors 
> is to structure the categories so the greatest number of 
> individual tastes can be accommodated without creating 
> excessive overhead for the sponsor. Yes, the rules should be 
> fair and consistent, and up to date with the latest 
> technology. 

Contest sponsors have been very resistant to changing classes 
a the whim of individual tastes.  If they had, you would have 
seen separate SO1R and SO2R classes in most major contests by 
now.  I'm pleased that contests are not run based on a "rule 
by rabble" standard and that sponsors have tended to stay 
relatively true to the traditional system for determining 

> Why do so many ops favor keeping Skimmer out of SO? It's not 
> the "not in my backyard" syndrome. It's because a lot of 
> people like playing the SO game essentially the way it is, 
> and if Skimmer is allowed in that category the game won't be 
> even remotely the same. It won't be a small change. SO will 
> become almost identical to SO-Assisted. 

I disagree.  It is entirely a resistance to technology and 
change.  The loudest anti-skimmer voices rejected it out of 
hand at the very beginning.  There was no evaluating it in 
the context of a station already using all the other tools 
- including SO2R, there was a knee jerk reaction to the CW 
decoder aspects and a fear of "robot operations."  There was 
no consideration of the historical use of the same tools 

> It won't be a small change. SO will become almost identical 
> to SO-Assisted. We will have gone from two categories, each 
> of which appeals to different people, to one category in which 
> some people are happy and others are not. 

I disagree.  When combined with all the other existing tools, 
skimmer will be only a small evolutionary step and not the 
revolutionary change that many are predicting.  Some may make 
better use of skimmer than others just as some are more skilled 
with SO2R than others today but that is no reason to reject 
the technology for the single operator class.  

> I think we'll lose contesters as a result. 

If we lose some contesters because of skimmer, that's a shame. 
However, it is not a reason to change the current rules.  A 
rule change that disallows skimmer in the single operator class 
is equivalent to changing rules in a schoolyard ball game when 
the class bully says "play by my rules or I will take my ball 
and go home."  Anyone who says that shod be told "go home." 

Once sponsors begin to make arbitrary changes in the basic 
structure of the rules, the entire structure of the contest 
becomes nothing more than another part of the competition as 
one group on another attempts to get rules changed to benefit 

> > Exactly - because there is no participation by another person.
> So what? Suppose other operators send meaningless greeting 
> messages to you over packet during contests? No one would say 
> those messages constitute assistance.

No, those meaningless messages are not "participation by another 
individual."  It's just like a "host" can repair or adjust 
equipment and antennas for a guest operator during the contest 
period and it is not considered "participation" (although I 
would certainly label it "assistance").  

> >  As N0AX has written - get over the term "assisted" and 
> > focus on the real difference - the additional person.
> Just replace your last phrase with "- the information 
> provided", and you'll have my position.

That is not how the rules are currently structured.  Again, 
you want to change the rules to suit yourself and not conform 
yourself to the rules. 

> I disagree that the information doesn't matter, and you can't 
> possibly get the same amount of information manually tuning 
> as Skimmer provides in a given span of time. 

The amount of information does not matter.  No human operator 
can possibly log and dupe as fast with pencil and paper as 
the computer can do the job.  I seriously doubt that we would 
see the top operators running sustained 200+ hours on phone or 
150+ hours on CW without computer logging.  That makes the 
computer "assistance" but nobody is saying that computer logging 
should be "disallowed" for single operators. 

When stripped of everything else, your argument is simply "the 
technology is too good for mere mortals to compete with."   
That's illogical and immature. 

> I don't understand this argument. The op with the list of 
> Skimmer spots will know exactly what's out there and whether 
> it's worth losing a run frequency to go get it. The op who 
> isn't using Skimmer won't know what's out there until he/she 
> has abandoned the frequency and started tuning the band.

Every time an operator calls a mult on the S&P radio he must 
decide if he can get the mult on one call or if it is going 
to take long enough that someone may "steal" his run frequency. 
That is independent of whether the technology has produced a list 
of 25 potential mults or if he has found one by tuning.  Skimmer 
is not a tool used in a vacuum and independent of all other 

> Because it won't make any difference whether you operate in 
> one category or the other: pointing and shooting will dominate 
> the mult game.  

"Assisted" does not dominate the single operator class today. 
What makes you thing that type of operation will dominate if 
skimmer used routinely in the single operator class?  There 
are instances of very good operators entering the assisted 
class today and they still do not dominate the top single 
operator scores. 

> A number of SO ops are uncomfortable with the notion of SCP 
> (talk about assistance from other ops...), but they use it 
> because almost everyone else does

If SO ops are uncomfortable with third party SCP why has there 
been no cry comparable to the anti skimmer crusade to have it 
disallowed?  There have been cries for years to disallow SO2R 
or put it in its own category but many of the same people who 
are so adamantly anti-skimmer have been just as adamantly pro 
SO2R and contest sponsors have not been willing to listen to 
the will of a large portion of contesters and go against 
tradition to make a change in categories.  

Because skimmer does not involve the participation of others, 
like SO2R it is permitted under current rules for single 
operator stations.  If a large percentage of contesters want 
to add technology to the traditional framework for defining 
classes they should be calling for a "from the ground up" 
review and not simply an ad hoc ban on one specific form 
of technologies that have been used for many years.  

I don't have an objection to a complete review and restructuring 
of entry classes but I warn you a "fair" evaluation might well  
include changing power standards to EIRP and result in a SO1R 
class without skimmer (one receiver after all) and an unlimited 
class with SO2R and skimmer.  Any restructuring would need to 
be based on the technology/hardware and not the implementation 
or effect of the technology. 


   ... Joe, W4TV 

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