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Short Takes #22: Why Hams Get Feisty, PLUS - New Contest Ideas!

By Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

 

Tear 'Em to Shreds

 

While reading the QRZ forums the other day, I was reminded of how in my teen years my friends and I would get into endless Ford vs. Chevy arguments whenever the topic of cars came up (which was literally all the time). There were points to be made on either side, and each of us would stand by to make a comment on our favorite vehicle. It was very similar to today’s “Icom vs. Yaesu” discussions. Even though it could get ugly, what I remember most clearly is that these guys were still good friends at the end of the day.

 

I’m not sure this happens with the non-stop arguments I see in ham radio circles. One fellow told me he was going to "tear 'em to shreds" with his next comment on a gear topic.

 

As my wife says, “there’s just something about boys and their toys.” We love to argue about toys and technology, and in ham radio the issue is amplified by the dozen or more side channels we can go down with our interests. There are so many ways we can play radio that many of these “Ford vs. Chevy” arguments can exist simultaneously – and they do! Think it gets rough on the forums when someone brings up religion or politics? Try raving about how much you love that “X design” antenna. There are leagues of “Y design” antenna lovers out there who will jump all over you . . . Love that CW decoder you bought at the Hamfest? Just don’t state that out loud because you are sure to be nailed for even considering something other than an old Navy key or a blah-blah brand Iambic keyer.

 

This isn't just our forums here . . .  the same thing happens in other forums and even on the air (but at least we have good moderation at QRZ thanks to Dave Ellison W7UUU and crew). One new ham posted on a Trials and Errors forum that he was completely overwhelmed by the negativity directed to him when he asked questions of a Google ham discussion group. He had been thinking that he’d discover an Elmer on his topic, someone to help him make his way from Technician class into HF radio. Instead, his entry-level question became the butt of jokes about the ease-of-entry we have for new hams.

 

I wish I could offer a suggestion of how to change the course of some of these discussions to make them more productive and helpful to newcomers. You can’t always expect humans to act with sweetness and honey – human nature can be quite finicky. We’ve just come through the holiday season, a time of joy and harmony. We’ve experienced both the sounds of happy carolers as well as shoppers pushing and shoving at the malls. Or, maybe we've witnessed "grab and go" thieves clearing out a store shelf. That stuff may never go away, and neither will Internet bullies who want to trample someone else to make their point.

 

Maybe I’m a Pollyanna thinker, but I sense that every forum topic offers us the chance to add something that will have a nugget of value to other readers.

 

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Some Thoughts about New Contests

 

For months I’ve been working on the basics of a new ham radio contest, one that would be a gateway to Radiosports for all levels, and where the little guy has just as much a chance to win as does the huge contest station. If I can get the required support, I will introduce the idea more fully in a future Trials and Errors. But let me put this out there . . . These are the few things I think need to be considered for any new contest or QSO exchange activity ala POTA.

 

POTA has been hugely successful, but my guess is that anything based on the same parameters will ultimately be a weak sister to the original. Sure, there are Islands and Lighthouses and maybe even a future Campervans on the Air. But pushing out another idea that simply generates a new set of 30-second QSO’s adds nothing to the Amateur Radio Services. While we all have our own thoughts about the value of ragchewing, even hardened contesters will admit that building radio contacts around the globe has been a rewarding experience for them. Few would argue that in the history of ham radio, talking to other operators (and not just exchanging signal reports) has resulted in a stronger radio service today.  So, one element to add to a new contest or activity would be something that instills a desire to actually converse with that other operator.

 

In the proposed new contest I'm working on, a numerical exchange takes place much like our present Radiosport contests. In this case, however, that number ties back into a roster of personal interests and hobbies outside of amateur radio. If you hear a 120 to confirm your QSO, you check the roster and know that the ham you’re talking with enjoys playing golf. Hear a 280 and you’ll see that the operator plays piano. Nearly 800 different activities have been identified and logged for this contest, from stamp collecting to motorcycles to cooking and landscape design. The opportunity is there in front of you to discuss areas of common interest outside of radio. If you still want to pursue the 30-second QSO, have at it. But many of us will refer to the contest chart and find that there are common interests to talk about with the other operator. For example, 75-year-old operator Jim (Extra Class) sees that 22-year-old Technician Class ham, Jenny, is also a 325. They’re both into nature photography, and that one-minute contest QSO becomes an interesting 10-minute discussion about camera filters.

 

Of course, if the contest is based only on sheer numbers of QSOs (as most are) the pressure will be to move on and keep that 20-seconds-per-QSO rhythm going. That’s one thing great about POTA. There are no pressure-filled days and nights in front of the radio, grinding out contacts. Instead, hunting is done at a leisurely pace. We all love POTA, but amateur radio doesn’t need another contest that emphasizes such short connections. This leads to our second consideration for a new contest idea . . . there must be an element of luck combined with radio skills. By adding elements of randomness and luck, we can attract all levels of operators into the game. Big time contest stations would lose their “edge,” but a gateway may open for contest stations of the future as new operators experience success in contesting because they have been in the right place at the right time. There’s a way to combine luck and skill and I think we’ve found it. More on this later.

 

In the meanwhile, if you’re interested in reading over our list of hobbies and interests to ensure that we’ve been fully inclusive, write me at my QRZ email address and I’ll forward you the PDF when it is available soon. This is a cool idea, but it will take some forward thinking hams to appreciate the difference a contest like this might make. 

 

73 for now,


Dave, W7DGJ

 

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Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

Dave Jensen, W7DGJ, was first licensed in 1966. Originally WN7VDY (and later WA7VDY), Dave operated on 40 and 80 meter CW with a shack that consisted primarily of Heathkit equipment. Dave loved radio so much he went off to college to study broadcasting and came out with a BS in Communications from Ohio University (Athens, OH). He worked his way through a number of audio electronics companies after graduation, including the professional microphone business for Audio-Technica.  He was later licensed as W7DGJ out of Scottsdale, Arizona, where he ran an executive recruitment practice (CareerTrax Inc.) for several decades. Jensen has published articles in magazines dealing with science and engineering. His column “Tooling Up” ran for 20 years in the website of the leading science journal, SCIENCE, and his column called “Managing Your Career” continues to be a popular read each month for the Pharmaceutical and Household Products industries in two journals published by Rodman Publishing.


Articles Written by Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

This page was last updated January 17, 2024 14:30