© 2013 Eric (“Rick”) Hilding, K6VVA * The Locust 

Hello, this is Rick, K6VVA, The Locust, with a look at SOLVING THE IOTA QSL PROBLEMS. 
Here are what I call “THE BIG 4”. 

#2 – SLOW QSL’ers
#3 – NON-QSL’ers

This has become a MajorProblem, and often requires repeat QSL’ing and more “GreenStamps” or IRC’s. And it is FRUSTRATING !!! 
There are several SOLUTION OPTIONS. IOTA Expeditioners who livein Countries with known Postal Theft problems should get aEuropean or USA QSL MANAGER, and use “OQRS”. “OQRS” means“ONLINE QSL REQUEST SERVICE”. This saves the cost of sending aQSL, Envelope, Self-Addressed envelope and “Green Stamps” orIRC’s one way of the QSL Request to Receipt process, but onlyreduces Theft Problems on the return leg. 
Here’s a creative solution used by some QSL’ers for the returnleg envelopes with the requested QSL. This one is from an area known for Postal Theft problems. Notice the lower right handcorner of the envelope has been cut off. This allows anycorrupt Postal Employees to quickly see that there only a QSLand no money inside the envelope. 
Some of these types of cut envelopes I’ve received also containwording like “CARD ONLY – NO MONEY” just above the cut cornerand sometimes also in another location on the envelope. 
As I admired this creative approach, several “IDEAS” came tomind… based upon the way most QSL cards were sent and receivedback in “The Good Old Days”, and the reality of “OQRS” now incurrent times. And TNX to “OQRS”, we can return to “The GoodOld Days” for both International and Domestic USA QSL cards. 

Here is one of my favorite QSL cards from back in that era. Aclever and quite appropriate design on the front for the Islandlocation. On the back, note the postmark date – 5 January 1961. And look at the 3 Cent U.S. Postage stamp. Those days are goneforever, with the current Domestic USA postcard rate being 33cents and due to go up perhaps another 3 cents in January 2014. 
Many other “Old Timers” will remember the typical QSO detailssection on the left side of the card, and address block on theright. If I sent my QSL shortly after the QSO on 19 November of1960, that was still a pretty fast turnaround considering themail routing through Hawaii and out to Parry Island in theEniwetok Atoll and back during the busy Holiday mail period. 
Using “OQRS”, this type of return Direct Card method willsubstantially reduce Postal Theft problems. But there is another benefit. 
Using current USA DOMESTICS RATES for QSL’ing here within theUSA, sending a QSL inside an envelope requires a 46 cent stamp. This is projected to increase to 49 cents in January 2014. Comparing the current 46 cents to the Postcard rate of 33 cents, that’s a savings of 13 cents per QSL in return postage costs, not to forget the extra savings of envelope costs. While this may not seem a lot, for 5,000 IOTA Expedition QSLs just thepostage savings along would be $650 USD, and that IS a lot !!! 
So instead the spending time cutting the corners off 5,000envelopes, looking at the backside of this QSL, it would be veryeasy to insert a typical QSO Details label into pre-printed texton the left side, and an address label on the right. 
With today’s printer technology, QSO Details and whatever textis desired along with the address info, can both be printeddirectly onto the back of the QSL. That’s another TIME-SAVINGS for the IOTA Expeditioner or a QSL Manager !!! 
In addition, modern technology also provides the ability toprint postage directly onto the QSL – at least here in the USA and some other Countries. WHAT A HUGE TIME SAVINGS IN PROCESSING DIRECT QSLs, and reducing Postal Theft problems too. This warrants S-E-R-I-O-U-S consideration, and is a direction Iam likely to pursue for my own IOTA Expedition QSL’ing. 

But what about all those double-folded QSLs? REALITY CHECK. Postage rates in the United States will go “UP UP UP”. Ratherthan keep giving UN-necessary money to Postal Systems, ditch thedouble-sided QSLs and use the money to fund more & more IOTAExpeditions. Yeah! In reality, most of the double-sided QSLsI’ve received have so much weenie little printing on them, Ihave to get a magnifying glass to read it anyway. Just refer people to a website URL on the QSL instead. 

Don’t you just love it… whenright after working a new IOTA, you fill out a QSL Card, addressa mailing envelope, add a stamp, and insert your card along witha Self-Addressed return envelope and “Green Stamps” or IRC’s, then mail it the next day… only to still be sitting with NORETURN QSL 8 months or longer down the road? 
There are several SOLUTION OPTIONS. The first one is Two Words: “QSL MANAGER”. If an IOTA Expeditioner can NOT process QSLrequests on a timely basis, GET A FRIGGIN’ QSL MANAGER …(preferably one in Europe of the USA). And Three More Words: PLEASE USE “OQRS” !!! 
Don’t you just love it…whenyou’ve worked a new IOTA, gone though all the steps you did forthe SLOW QSL’ers, but 18 months later still no return QSL? So you send another QSL, “Green Stamps” or IRCs … once or twice, only to NEVER receive a QSL? There are several SOLUTIONS OPTIONS. “QSL MANAGER” … preferably in Europe or the USA. Ifthe person won’t do that, then they should be placed on anOfficial RSGB IOTA NQ (NON-QSL’er) List. 
If there were a way, they should also be BANNED from any futureIOTA Expeditions. Everyone should BOYCOTT working these flakes!!! Why work them if they won’t send you a QSL Card ??? Let themCQ-CQ-CQ … CQ-CQ-CQ-CQ-CQ-CQ with NO replies !!! 
So what is an INVALID QSL?? IT’S A BUMMER IF YOU GET ONE. It has either a Hand-Printed Expedition Callsign, and/or, a Hand-Printed Island Name on theQSL. NEITHER OF THESE ARE ALLOWED for IOTA Credit !!! INVALID 
QSL CARDS are Disappointing, Irritating, often Costly To Fix, and a PAIN-IN-THE-(you know what). 

For me, the Last 8 months have been like an IOTA Version of“WHAC-A-MOLE”. After dealing with one INVALID QSL, anotherINVALID QSL showed up. And after that, yet another INVALID QSL, and even TWO INVALID QSLs at once to be dealt with. Some IOTA Expeditioners need to WAKE UP !!! 
IOTA Chasers spend a lot of time and money attempting to getVALID QSLs to submit to their “CHECKPOINTS” to get Credit forIOTA AWARDS. INVALID CARDS DON’T QUALIFY FOR IOTA AWARDS !!! ATTENTION: IOTA EXPEDITIONERS … please understand all the requirements for a VALID QSL !!! Either a Hand-Printed Expedition Callsign, and/or a Hand-Printed Island name on theQSL are NO GOOD. These do NOT work. 
A “FIX” for Home QSLs used by some IOTA Expeditions is with aproperly completed QSL Label like this one. {IMAGE}. Note thecallsign on the label includes the “Portable” Identifier, theOffically formatted IOTA Designator and the Island Name. Again, the Expedition Callsign, Official IOTA Designator, and IslandName. The layout of all these on the first line makes it easyfor any IOTA “Checkpoint” to quickly verify the card for credit. Of course included is the recipient callsign, 2-Way QSO details, and in this case, the use of a “QSO VERIFICATION” stamp acrosstwo corners of the label and onto the QSL card itself. 
If everyone used this type of label layout, it would be Easy & Simple for “Checkpoints” to efficiently process the THOUSANDS ofIOTA QSLs they receive to validate credit for IOTA AWARDS. 
Some IOTA QSLs I received required getting a magnifying glass tosearch all over the card trying to find the weenie printedIsland name. That’s one reason I re-designed the backside of myIOTA Expedition QSLs to put my Expedition Callsign, the OfficialIOTA Designator and the Island Name on ONE LINE at the TOP ofthe QSL – to make it easy and simple for any IOTA Checkpoint toquickly validate the card. 
Now if I change to this QSL format to ELIMINATE having to use anenvelope for reasons already discussed, using a printer for all back-of-card QSO details and the address – including the postagewill eliminate the boring process of affixing labels and postagestamps. OQRS now makes this method possible. In some respects, this is like going “BACK TO THE FUTURE”. Especially when I lookat the potential savings involved over several IOTA Expeditions, that’s a LOT of money that could help offset Expedition costs!!! 

A bit of related conversation about IOTA AWARDS. Most peopleknow there are 3 ways for credit. 
• Direct QSLs 
• Via The BURO QSLs 
• IOTA CONTEST Logs (if the Expeditioner or resident IOTAoperator submits them. 
In my opinion, the fact that the IOTA Programme does NOT havingsomething similar to Logbook of the World, is one reason whythere are NOT more folks involved in IOTA. Here are some facts. 
The DXCC Program currently has 340 “Entities” possible to work. The IOTA Programme has 1,157 Islands (not all of which have beenactivated). About 41.2% of all DXCC Entities are IOTAs. The 
numbers show about 3.5 times MORE IOTAs than DXCC ‘Entities”. 
DXCC Updates made in 5 years average about 25,000. IOTA updatesmade in 5 years are only about 3,300. Sadly, with so fewerentities to chase, and many more players, DXCC “DX-Peditioners”
have many sources to sometimes fun TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollarsto Expeditions. IOTA Expedition funding sources are few. 
IREF only funds IOTA Expeditions for 15% or less “Claimed”
Status, even though for all the other 85%, these are stillconsidered “Rare” IOTAs for those in need !!! 
REALITY CHECK. The IOTA Programme needs more participants tosupplement the lack of funding sources, so more IOTA Expeditionswill be QRV for all to work. A future solution for IOTA Fundingwill require all seeking credits to share in the Expeditionfunding monetary requirements, possibly on a Cost per QSL, orperhaps a Cost per QSO basis. 
Considering the costs for Direct QSLs, I think one reason whymore DXCC’ers don’t chase IOTA can be stated paraphrasing aformer President of the United States of America: 
Based on one’s Current Age, Life Expectancy (including the “SK” – “Silent Key” Factor), the Total monetary cost, and certainlythe individual stations and antennas… if a DXCC’er is now 55 or 60 years old, starting from scratch to achieve the IOTA 500 

Award will take 5 to 10 years, and including postage rateincreases, cost about $2,500 USD for Direct QSL’ing involved. For the IOTA 750 Plaque of Excellence, it will take 10 to 15years, and cost about $3,500 USD for Direct QSL’ing. For the IOTA 1000 Trophy, it will take 15 to 20 years, and cost about$5,000 for Direct QSL’ing. That’s a LOT of money spent just toget IOTA QSLs !!! 
We need to make it Less Costly to get IOTA Credits, in order forthe IOTA Programme to survive !!! As previously discussed,“OQRS” can help reduce costs IF everyone implements it !!! Of course, “Via The Buro” is another option, but it’s time foranother “REALITY CHECK”. 
Unless everyone implements “OQRS”, then “Via The BURO” can takeup to 2 years to get a QSL card. {SAD FACE}. And Not everyCountry has a QSL “ BURO” ;-( Compared to the “Good Old Days” in the late 1950 through 1970 ERA, here in the USA, the “BURO” system has gone downhill. The ARRL Outgoing “BURO” only shipscards 4 times per year. The Incoming W6 “BURO” only sends QSLsto the individual card sorters about 3 times per year. “OQRS” can reduce Postal Theft problems… at least ONE WAY for DirectQSLs. For “Via The BURO” QSL Card requests, “OQRS” also reducesthe time delay to receive QSLs. At least for one direction  involved, and at ZERO COST to the Requestor, just by clicking an“OQRS” Button. I’ll repeat that. At ZERO COST to the Requestor, just by clicking an “OQRS” Button. 
Another “REALITY CHECK”. All Expedition operators still bearthe BURDEN of “Via The BURO” costs for printing and shipping theQSLs !!! In my opinion, this is NOT a very fair system to allparties involved ;-( So when it comes to “Via The Buro” QSLCards … a more “Fair and Reasonable” QSL System is needed. Like one where everybody pays their “Fair Share” cost of a QSL. A system based on QSL Printing and ALL BURO related costs. 
Let’s look an Example. If an IOTA Expeditioner “Activates” a newor Rare IOTA, with 3,500 QSOs with approximately 80% “UNIQUES”, this equates to a potential of having to send out 2,800 QSLs.
When it comes to “BURO QSLs”, typically about 55 Percent of allQSL Requests are for “Via The BURO”, which in this example, equates to roughly 1,500 QSLs. So if 300 BURO cards are shippedin batches 5 times (totaling 1,500 QSLs), here in the USA theQSL Printing Costs, Outgoing BURO Costs, plus the expenses ofshipping to the BURO will cost the Single Expedition Operatorabout $330 USD (or about 22 Cents per QSL). “Via The BURO” QSLs 

for 5 similar Expeditions will then cost the Expedition Operator about $1,650 USD. THAT’S OUTRAGEOUS !!! 
Actual costs may vary from 15 cents to 30 cents (USD) per QSL. A “20 cents per BURO QSL” would be fair and reasonable. Considering all future increases in costs to Expeditioners, tomake sure we continue to have Expeditions to work, in myopinion, a “QSL Via The BURO” “FREE LUNCH” must come to an end. 
A FAIR OQRS BURO card system can work quite well. If someonedoes NOT have PayPal in their own Country, ask a Ham Friend withPayPal for their assistance. Of course… the most ideal solution 
would be like LoTW – Logbook of the World … or what has alsobeen termed “Paperless QSL’ing”… to dramatically reduce the costof IOTA Awards. It would save us all a LOT of TIME and MONEY !!! Yes, Expedition operators would need to upload the logs. 
REALITY CHECK again. Unfortunately, the RSGB IOTA Programmehas NO RESOURCES to implement such systems. In fact, the IOTAProgramme needs volunteer software coders NOW to help with BasicEnhancements to the existing computer system. If you can help, please visit the RSGB IOTA website: . 
Logbook of The World or “Paperless QSL’ing” for the IOTAPROGRAMME could eliminate or substantially reduce most of “THEBIG 4” IOTA QSL Problems. IOTA has this capability now, butonly for IOTA Contest logs ;-( Even a Failsafe Secure processto Download .pdf QSL Cards … like we can for .pdf IOTA Awardscould work. We would simply print the QSLs on our printers andsend them to the IOTA “Checkpoints” for credit. The QSL mightlook similar to this example, and have some kind of RSGB IOTAOfficial .pdf VERIFICATION Seal or Stamp affixed to the image. 
Our only hope… for a “Paperless” IOTA QSL System, is for thosewith the Financial means, to provide ALL the funding necessaryto make it happen. In other words… we need an IOTA “SugarDaddy”. {PAUSE} No, not that kind. This kind !!! An IOTA “SugarDaddy” Philanthropist, or a number of them. Maybe we should allstart buying “Lotto” Tickets? Another option is for all seriousIOTA Chasers to Contribute funding. SERIOUSLY… if you can help,
please contact the RSGB IOTA… NOW!!! The email address is: … Let’s nuke “THE BIG 4” IOTA QSLProblems. This will INCREASE participation in the IOTAProgramme, which will INCREASE Expedition Funding, which meansMORE Expeditions and MORE IOTAs to work for everyone. It’s a “WIN-WIN” situation. 

Of course, to somehow get any type of credit for an IOTA AWARD, “Ya gotta hear ‘em before ya can work ‘em”. 
REALITY CHECK. Too many IOTA Expeditioners are CLUELESS aboutAntennas & Propagation, which is why you can’t hear them. And with using only 100 Watts, they have weak weenie signals. Thatis a FACT !!! … which is why I’ve started on an EducationalVideo titled “ANTENNAS & PROPAGATION FOR IOTA EXPEDITIONERS”. 
“Stay Tuned…” THANK YOU.