[CQ-Contest] Why not do a test??

Tom W8JI w8ji at w8ji.com
Sat Jul 2 07:34:29 PDT 2011

Scores are a product of many factors that are entirely the responsibility of 
the person controlling the operation. We want to take propagation out of the 

The only way to do that is to determine the actual difference between areas. 
That clearly cannot be done with scores.

There are two steps to solving this problem. First we have to know how much 
a path loss change actually affects contacts or scores. Second we have to 
know how much the average path loss changes with different locations.

I found only one attempt at determining score vs. signal level (power), but 
the information processing method was so seriously flawed it is really 
totally useless. Signal level (or path loss) related to contacts or scores 
seems to be an unknown, and may never be solvable because of all the 

We can quantify path differences pretty easy though.

All we need to do is setup a few test beacons using identical very 
repeatable antennas in different areas with known power and let them run 
over a period of solar conditions. Then we look at skimmer comparisons. 
This would establish a typical path loss and opening duration for different 
geographical locations.

>From that we have a very useful tool.

I'm pretty sure there is software around that estimates things like this, 
but most likely it is not well verified. This would verify the software, if 
working software exists. It would also give us a real basis for any 
correction or geographical scoring.

I'm pretty busy, but I'd be willing to work with a group of people 
interested in this. It would be something VERY interesting to learn. The 
equipment and work would be minimal.

The very least we would get out of this, even if we could never translate it 
to what the real differences in score are, is to put a number on claims 
certain areas are at an insurmountable disadvantage. For example we might be 
able to say with some authority one area has xx% of the opening time and xx% 
average signal strength of another area.

This really should have been done long before any proposal was made.

Doing any correction by score alone is totally useless, unless we decide we 
want an overall handicap system and operator skills and station construction 
do not matter.

For example if K3LR and I set up 100 watt transmitters on automatic keyers 
into dipoles and just let them run as often as possible at the same time 
during contest season, over a period of months we would get a really good 
idea exactly what geographic differences are. This would involve very 
minimal effort and time, and also give me a very good idea how my station 
compares to Tim's. Not only would this get the egos out of the equation, we 
would then learn when something is obviously wrong with something we are 

It would give us a baseline for everyone to know how much signal level 
difference there should be on average between areas.

I'm fairly excited at the prospect of doing something that can benefit all 
of us!! This could be one of the best QST articles ever, because it would be 
the ultimate BS filter on why some people actually have better results than 
others. It would stop a lot of negativity.  :-)

73 Tom 

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