[CQ-Contest] NAQP CW + Skimmer

Aldewey at aol.com Aldewey at aol.com
Thu Dec 23 08:38:34 PST 2010

I would like to take this opportunity to make a few comments on this  
subject on behalf of NCJ.
When multi-channel band decoders for CW started to show up several years  
ago, there were strong feelings on both sides of this issue.  Some felt  
strongly that, as long as there was no assistance from any source outside the  
station , including the Internet and packet cluster of course, than it should 
be  treated like any other technological advance.  Others felt that is it  
indistinguishable from packet spotting assistance and even, perhaps,  
superior to it.
Although NCJ does not have an official "Contest Committee", issues related  
to the NCJ contests are discussed among all the NCJ contest managers.   
Often, input is solicited from others also. Final decisions rest with the  
Contest Manager for each of the 6 contests we sponsor.  For the Sprints, it  was 
obvious that the allowing the use of multi-channel band decoders made no  
sense because of the QSY rule.  It really came down to being an issue for  
the CW NAQP.  We decided to allow it in the Single Operator Class as long  as 
there was no connection via the internet or any other outside source.   In 
2009, the NAQP rule was changed to state:
"Technological methods of copying the information in the contest exchange  
are permitted as long as they are entirely contained within the station."
This rule was intended to allow technologies like CW Skimmer as long as  
they were self contained within the station.  It has been in place for two  
years.  Ironically, because we did NOT get any feedback on this, we began  to 
suspect that they rule was unclear.  Did some people, perhaps, think  this 
was referring to MASTERDAT and Contest Exchange Data bases?  So, for  2011, 
we change the rule to state:
"Technological methods of copying the information in the contest exchange  
(e.g. CW Skimmer, Code Readers, etc.) are permitted as long as all  
components are entirely contained within the station."
So we have not CHANGED the rule - we have only CLARIFIED it.
Also, we understand the danger of identifying a specific tool such as CW  
Skimmer in the rules but, at this point in time, this is what contesters are  
aware of.  This is why we identified it as an example.  As new  
technologies arrive, this will have to be revisited.  The fact that adding  CW Skimmer 
as an example rather than just using the words "technological  methods" sort 
of proves this point.
I realize that this is a very sensitive subject.  In fact, I cover  this 
topic in a little more detail in my editorial for the Jan/Feb , 2011 issue  of 
NCJ.  I also realize that this will not make everyone happy.   Personally, 
I do not plan to use CW Skimmer myself in NAQP as I enjoy the  challenge of 
finding the multipliers myself.
Al, K0AD

In a message dated 12/23/2010 6:47:48 A.M. Central Standard Time,  
k1ttt at verizon.net writes:

that  just goes to prove my point that brand names should be avoided.  CW  
Skimmer is well known for generating spotting information so many people see 
 that name and assume that is its only purpose.  but it also makes a nice  
audio passband code reader.  In this case it is lumped in with 'code  
readers' for copy 'exchange information', after specifically excluding all  
sources of spotting information... so 'obviously' the writer of the rule  change 
understands that it can be used just as a code reader and wants to  allow 
that while excluding the user from decoding a whole band for spotting  
purposes.  While this is an improvement over other ways of writing the  rule, it 
would still be better to leave off that brand name software and just  state 
that audio bandwidth code readers are ok for making  contacts.

Dec 23, 2010 06:44:53 AM, daven2nl at gmail.com  wrote:

I normally bite my tongue when these discussions come up,  however 
I'm quite surprised and even more disappointed at the apparent  rule 
change in the NAQP that allows local CW Skimmer usage by single  
operators. I am curious how this rule change came about - was there any  
previous discussion? Does NCJ even have a contest  committee?

Granted, I may not currently have a dog in this fight since  I am 
currently stationed overseas, however the NAQP has always been a  
favorite contest of mine, and I was fortunate to have had a measure of  
success over the past decade of participating in the CW event. I most  
certainly was planning on participating competitively again upon  
reassignment stateside. With some prior knowledge of the NAQP, the way  
I see it, there are three basic requirements for a top finish in this  

(1) A favorable geographical location with good propagation (I.E  West 
Coast in January; W9 and W4 in August).
(2) A relatively good  station, preferably SO2R capable.
(3) The skill set required to effectively  S&P and operate SO2R while 
maintaining rate, with an understanding of  propagation. Perennial top 
ops such as W9RE, N2IC, KL9A, and N6MJ usually  rack up anywhere from 
200-400 QSOs through effective SO2R technique, which  separates them from 
the rest. This is a true showing of skill and operator  prowess.

By adding a local skimmer, much of (3) is negated. In a minute  or 
two, the CW Skimmer user can see *every station CQing on every band*.  
Every band opening. Every multiplier is shown. Sure - Skimmer picks up  
a lot of garbage, but it is easy to know that W0BH is in Kansas and my  
skimmer sees him on 10m where I need the state for a mult. It does not  
matter how good W9RE or N2IC is at skill set (3) above, because the  
computerized 2nd op of the CW Skimmer user will find it first in almost  
every instance.

As a result, this rule change has serious  implications which puts 
it separate from other contesting advances the  Skimmer proponent uses as 
a defense. CW memory keyers and computer logging  does not find QSOs for 
you. CW Skimmer does. With the elimination of (3)  above, is there 
really any point in competing anyway? Sure - there are  still some 
skills required, such as timing with SO2R, but the unscrupulous  op only 
needs to blast away without an interlock.

Again, I am  disappointed that this change came about without even 
consulting with the  perennial top finishers who have operated this 
contest for years. In my  opinion, the change should have been the 
addition of an "unlimited"  category, which allows single operators to 
use packet, a local skimmer, or  the Reverse Beacon Network. There are 
no certificates issued for this  contest, so I don't believe a new 
category would cause much heartache for  the sponsors. I still fail to 
understand the psyche that seemingly  portrays "Assisted" category 
participants in a negative light. This psyche  leads people to either 
lie that they were unassisted, or try to force feed  these game changing 
rules into the "One man and his radio" historical  Single Operator Category.

73, Dave  KH2/N2NL

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