10 Ways to Improve..
.. the Effectiveness of the DX Spotting Network
By Fred Moresworth AF7S – guest author.
When I first started DXing in the 70s, you had to find your dx by spending time scanning the open bands looking for those desirable stations. It was not unusual to come across one that you needed calling CQ, or with just a few other stations on frequency. Pileups took time to build, as more and more stations tuned across the active frequency, deciphered the call, and determined it was amongst the sought.
Sometimes you’d get a phone call, or maybe a call on the local repeater that one of your DXing buddies found a delectable morsel of RF that you needed, and even when that happened you had a fairly significant chance of working the station, assuming you had a path.
But now, with the internet spotting networks, a dx station barely has time to call cq before their call appears all around the world, and, depending on the rarity, the rabid hoards decend like a flock of screeching seagulls on a truck load of fish guts!
But still, a network filled with good, valid, well considered spots, makes it easier to at least FIND those stations you want to work, even if it makes it harder to work them because of the rapidly developing competition.
But in using the network since I came back on the air at the beginning of this year, I’ve come up with some suggestions on how to make the network more effective for everyone. So here are the 10 things we can each do to improve how it works.
1. DON’T SPOT IT UNLESS YOU ARE 100% CERTAIN OF THE CALL.
A great example this morning. There were two spots within three entries of each other; one for 5N50EAM and one for 5N4EAM. Someone either got the call wrong, or was careless in entering it.
Several days ago, there was a spot for E44DX – Palestine. The actual call of the station was E77DX, Bosnia. How many people were in that huge pileup, one bigger that I would expect for Bosnia, thinking they were trying to work Palestine. There will likely be some very disappointed people who get back “Sri – not in log” because they didn’t bother to verify the call themselves (see #2)
2. DONT ACCEPT THE INFORMATION WITHOUT VERIFICATION
In the recent CW contest, my estimate was that about 30% of the calls were incorrect in the spots. I by practice never work a station until I verify their call for myself. How many people simply accepted the calls as entered without verifying it on their own, and how many QSO’s will be rejected when the log checking is done.
3. DON’T SPOT A STATION UNLESS THERE’S A REASON OTHERS WOULD REALLY WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THAT STATION BEING ON THE AIR.
In most cases, there’s no reason to spot a JA, or a US station because there are nearly millions of us. The spotting network should be used to spot the less numerous, and in fact the rare, not the commonplace.
For US stations a rare county or state, but somehow I can’t see spotting a W6 from Los Angeles, or a JA1 from Tokyo. These simply fall out of your radio every time you turn it on!
4. DON’T SPOT A STATION UNLESS HE’S ACTUALLY ON THE AIR ON THAT FREQUENCY!
Last night, there was a spot for VK0TH, showing him on 28100 (he wasn’t) with the comment “Band is open here, Trevor”. I’m sure Trevor wasn’t reading the spots hoping to find out this information, and he wasn’t even on the band being spotted.
Spots are for notifying WHERE HE IS, not where he isn’t!
5. IF THERE’S ALREADY A HUGE PILEUP, WHY ADD TO THE MESS BY SPOTTING IT?
Especially with a less than experienced DX station, why add to the hoards of squawking seagulls or the throngs of chirping crickets and maybe overwhelm the dx. He’s got plenty to handle without adding another 10,000 signals. Plus those who are scanning the bands like they should be anyhow will find the pileup on their own.
6. DON’T RESPOT UNLESS YOU CAN ADD INFORMATION
I regularly get tweets summarizing the spot activity re a DX station, with something like “J28UC – 74 spots 21.285″. Seems to me that if it already appears in the spotting network, (and in fact that’s probably how you found him in the first place), there’s no need for you to spot it unless you have something important to add, like a change of frequency, or that the station is now working “SPLEEET”
7. DON’T USE THE SPOTTING NETWORK AS EMAIL
How many times have we seen entries like “20m ssb please” or “please listen for SA”. Especially in the case of a DXpedition, why in the world do you think the station on the remote atoll is watching the spotting network with great interest?
If you really want to communicate with a DX station off the air, use email. I do this all the time. QRZ lists email for nearly everyone, and most DXpedition websites have some kind of email link. You at least have a good chance that your incredibly important message that 20 meters is open at your QTH might be read.
8. DON’T USE THE SPOTTING NETWORK TO CHASTISE ANOTHER STATION
I recently saw a spot with “SHUT UP W6XXX” in the comments. I ask you – what was the value of that spot? Apparently the station in question was not operating up to the expectations of the poster.
Another great example is “Lidfest”. Aren’t all pileups, to some degree? Really, how helpful is this message?
9. IF YOU WANT TO BRAG – TWEET IT, OR PUT IT ON YOUR WEBSITE, NOT ON THE SPOTTING NETWORK.
We’re all excited when we work a new one, and I’m sure we’re all excited that you worked a new one too, and that you did it with your Tuna Tin Transmitter hooked to your left shoelace, but put it on your blog or your website, not on the spotting network. Usually these spots are the 40th spot for that particular station, and that information adds nothing to the mix, and just plugs up the system.
I’m also thinking there’s not much reason to say “73, thanks for the qso” in the spot comments, because chances are he’ll never see it. Save your fingertips.
10. DON’T JUST RELY ON THE SPOTTING NETWORK TO FIND YOUR DX
While the unwashed throngs are jumping on spots, creating large pileups almost instantly, other very desirable dx is lurking undiscovered elsewhere on the bands. Because everyone is focused on the spotted station, you, the wise and savvy dxer, may have some of these all to yourself. So spend lots of time listening and tuning on bands you know are open (Because you’ve used the NCDXF beacon system).
To be sure, I watch the spots, and use them to my advantage when I can. But I’d MUCH rather be among the first few to find a gem at the end of my coax than to be one or hundreds or even thousands trying to work one that’s appeared all over the network.
Use some thought when you use the spotting network. If what you’re posting doesnt’ really add anything to the process, then don’t do it. Save your energy for times when your spot or your comments are of real value. We’ll all have an easier time separating the wheat from the chaff, the good nuggets of information from the fools gold, and work may all work more DX because of it.