[VHFcontesting] The impact of the digital modes on the January VHF Contest and some suggestions on dealing with those impacts

nosigma at aol.com nosigma at aol.com
Sun Feb 7 12:50:29 EST 2021

I could not agree with you more.  
Getting people, especially new people up on the air is the positive way to increase activity.  Penalizing people for using one mode or another through an outright ban, changing the points awarded or other "negative sticks" is not going to make it more fun or increase activity.
You are all probably sick of hearing me say this....
Reach out to NEW hams.  Make the effort to get them on the air as Technicians.  If we want to increase the number of VHF/UHF contesters to work that is the place to start.  Yes that means (shudder, can you stoop that low?) FM.  They all have 2m & 70cm FM.  Ask club members (Tech, Gen, Adv) to make a QSO with you during a contest.  Most HF rigs have 6m SSB and FM.  Take your log (SSB, CW, FM or even FT-8) and use QRZ to find email addresses and ask them to get up on the air for the next contest.  I have been building my FM QSO email list for 5 years, now up to 400+ and it has paid great dividends.  Over 150 stations and 380 QSO's on FM alone in January.
Last year I started to see  enough people on the air (FM) to make the activity self sustaining.  It was fun to listen to all THE NEW vhf/uhf contesters work each other.  Especially this January where the activity was intense.  Pile ups, tailgating QSY's and nearly a full 33 hrs of activity on just FM.  
I encouraged most that I worked who had multi-mode rigs to give 6m SSB a try.  9 out of 10 were hesitant since 6m SSB is always a dead band (your point about daily activity is well taken).  Most tried and made a few contacts.  Sadly at least two came back to me and said how much more fun they were having on FM due to the lack of SSB activity IN A CONTEST,  though they were impressed with how far they could reach out.  Those 6m QSO's are out there but they will remain SILENT unless we work together to get them on the air.
Please take a positive approach to increasing activity on 6m SSB, CW & FM.  It takes some effort, about 3 evenings effort in my case to update my email list and send them out.  We all put way more effort into station testing, tuning and building than it takes to rally up people to get on the air.  Todays new Tech with FM only is tomorrows multi-mode (shack in a box)  rig owner entering every contest IF WE MAKE IT FUN by generating turn out.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeff Townsend <wb8lyj at gmail.com>
To: N2WM Walt <n2wm at centurylink.net>
Cc: vhfcontesting at contesting.com
Sent: Sun, Feb 7, 2021 10:08 am
Subject: Re: [VHFcontesting] The impact of the digital modes on the January VHF Contest and some suggestions on dealing with those impacts

I think everyone is missing something here.

There are all sorts of proposals on changing the rules.

You are all looking at this from the contesters point of view.

A majority of the stations on are not in the contest though.
No fiddling with the rules is going to change the how most of those stations operate.

They are there to have FUN and could care less about points.
Maybe fun for them is FT8, maybe its SSB, maybe CW.
When it is no longer fun for them they are gone.

I don’t know if this was mentioned here but I know I have heard it in other discussions.
The best way to get more stations to work on your preferred mode is to encourage normal daily activity.

Create activity nights for your preferred mode, get local stations active.
That will translate to more contacts at contest time.

Jeff Townsend

> On Feb 7, 2021, at 9:48 AM, N2WM Walt <n2wm at centurylink.net> wrote:
> This is 100% on the mark.
> I find FT-8 boring and I am an observer not an operator. Yes the Mode works for very weak signals but when stations are s-9 why use FT-8. Last contest to work my own Grid Square had to work a station 12 miles away on FT-8.
> I have been in VHF Contests since 1970 and I read that LOG submissions are up but our Limited Multi Op hilltop station our QSO totals are down.
> I do contest for the fun and challenge of working stations and trying to get one more Grid. With FT-8 no joy, no feeling of accomplishment, Just boring time spent watching a computer screen and knowing no operator skill involved.
> From FN21OC
> 73 Walt N2WM
> Trustee of W2LV  VHF Group.
> On 06-Feb-21 22:43, Jay RM wrote:
>> .. George, you've pretty much read my mind and put my exact thoughts into
>> words.
>> -W9RM
>> Keith Morehouse
>> via MotoG
>> On Sat, Feb 6, 2021, 7:55 PM George Fremin <geoiii at kkn.net> wrote:
>>> Hello fellow VHF contesters.
>>> I have only been loosely following this thread recently.  I have not been
>>> reading many of the messages to this list for a few years now so I may not
>>> be fully up on what all the thoughts have been.  I think I have some idea
>>> of a few folks feelings on this list and I have been having similar
>>> conversations with a few other VHF and HF ops I know.
>>> The last year or two of VHF contests that I have operated have me
>>> questioning if I want to continue to put time and effort into doing
>>> contests on or for that matter even spending much time on these bands in
>>> general.  In addition to the VHF contesting I do, I do a lot of HF
>>> contests.  I choose not to do any digital contests.  I have never found
>>> them to be very interesting to me.  I enjoy the challenge of using my ears
>>> and brain to copy CW and voice signals.  I have spent a large portion of my
>>> life now learning how to do this pretty well.  Letting some machine do that
>>> for me takes removes the skill that I have worked so hard acquire.  As a
>>> result I do not find the digital modes to be that much fun.
>>> I am not sure what the answer is here - I think trying to do mixed modes
>>> will be a mess - although it would help my QSO totals.
>>> Back 10 years or more ago I posted a message to this list where I stated
>>> that I was not going to operate using digital modes - of course this was
>>> when it was just MSK or maybe some EME - and I held to that - and since
>>> very few of the folks and none of the casual folks were doing those modes
>>> it did not affect my scores too much.  We have seen the rise in EME but the
>>> MSK totals seem about the same but the big change has been FT8 - and that
>>> has become the mode that everyone seem to have living on these days.  And
>>> as others have noted that has really hurt contact rates and made it hard to
>>> move folks between bands.  So in the last few contests I have done more and
>>> more digital when I am at home.  I have been doing the Sep and Jan contests
>>> as a rover with my girlfriend using her call - and we have not do any
>>> digital from the car but we can tell that is hiring our score as more and
>>> more folks seem to be stuck on FT8.
>>> As I stated above this all has me wondering why I am on these bands -
>>> since most of the activity is on a mode I do not enjoy.
>>> One of my thoughts has been that I will go back to the way I used to do it
>>> before and only do SSB and CW going forward and let whatever I miss on the
>>> digital modes go by the wayside.  I have no interest in putting up a large
>>> EME array on any bands - since that would just mean more digital contacts -
>>> and for me that is no fun.  So I might do the contests in this way going
>>> forward - SSB/CW only and temper my expectiaons on my scores and likely
>>> never ‘winning’ these contests ever again.  One of my long term goals was
>>> to make over 2000 contacts on 6m in the June contest.  But it has become
>>> clear to me that this is likely not possible any longer due to the fact
>>> that so many casual folks stick to FT8 even when the band is wide open and
>>> the rate I just not there.  So be it.  I have to do what is fun for me.  Or
>>> maybe I just get rid of all the VHF stuff while the getting is good and
>>> move on.  I am still unsure.
>>> One thing I was wondering about for the the past few weeks was how is the
>>> playing out in Europe.  So today I wrote to a German ham that I know has
>>> done VHF contests and he replied.  I what he said interesting:
>>> The major VHF+ contests over here (1st weekend of March [2m+], June
>>> [23cm+], July [2m+], September [2m only], October [70cm+] and November
>>> [2m CW only]) are still unchanged, only allowing SSB and CW contacts,
>>> and I don't see that changing anytime soon. On 2m, the top stations
>>> will routinely work more than 1000 QSOs. I don't think the big guns are
>>> interested in using FT8, and they're the ones sitting in the contest
>>> committees of the various clubs, where rules could be changed.
>>> That said, activity on VHF *outside* contests is predominantly FT8 (or
>>> the various meteorscatter digital modes) nowadays, but in general I
>>> guess that FT8 has overall increased non-contest activity, so maybe
>>> that's not such a bad thing.
>>> Maybe trip to Europe for some VHF contests would be fun for me.
>>> I still do not know what do so here in the North America - maybe we could
>>> make one of the VHF contests SSB/CW only and see how that goes?
>>> That seems like it would be fun.  And it would be something different -
>>> and that is a good thing in my book - why do they all have to be the same?
>>> I am sure there are others that will disagree.
>>> 73,
>>> George Fremin III
>>> K5TR
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Jeff Townsend

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