Congrats to the FT4TA team.
There has been much discussion about the unruly pile-ups and deliberate QRM etc.
I personally think there is little that can be done to improve the behavior of the unruly mob. I do however think there could be some changes to standard DXpedition procedure which would possibly help improve caller behaviour. It is much easier to change the practices of seven people than what it is to change the practices of 25,000.
Most major DXpeditions these days seem to have the following goals, listed in order of priority:
1. Give out an all time new one on any band to as many as possible
2 Provide at least 1 ssb, one cw and one digital qso to as many as possible (ie 3 qsos – not 3 qsos per band)
3 Provide at least one qso per band to as many as possible.
I think it is fair to say, that the quicker these goals are achieved by a dxpedition then the less QRM and unruly pile-up behavior we are likely to have (ie this bad behaviour tends to reduce as demand for the dxpedition itself is reduced)
If I am correct in this, then there are current dxpedition practices which just do not make any sense to me.
If we take the FT4 DXpedition as an example.
Why would a DXpedition start with 160 metre activity? If you have four stations and the number one goal is to get as many first timers (ATNO) in the log as quickly as possible, why would you not start on 30, 20,17 and 15M and work these bands to death. Strangely, FT4TA worked 160M quite actively on days 1 and 2 and then did virtually no 160 at all toward the end of the dxpedition. This is not consistent with the goal order listed above.
Why a RTTY station from commencement of the dxpedition across multiple bands. The RTTY station should work on just one band only (probably 20 metres) and even then, this should occur only after goal 1 is largely achieved. Otherwise the direct result is that you get callers working RTTY slots across multiple bands (early in the dxpedition) which slows down the achievement of goal number 1 above.
Why work cw, ssb and RTTY on the low bands in the early stages of the dxpedition. Until the above three goals are largely met, activity on 30, 40, 80 and 160 should be cw only. The low bands are tougher for both dxpedition operator and callers, the qso rate is lower. Why slow things down even more by offering ssb and RTTY on these bands as well which again just tempts the “big guns” to work ssb, cw and rtty slots on each of these bands.
Activity on 160 metres is often sacrificed on the basis that the qso rate can be low once the the “big gun” stations are worked. One way around this is to advertise pre dxpedition that during hours of darkness the dxpedition will spend 10 mins at the top of each hour cqing on 160. If there are stations to be worked at a good rate then the dxpedition can continue for longer on 160. If there are no stations to be worked then the dxpedition can return to other bands where the qso rate is higher and only 10 minutes per darkness hour is wasted. FT4TA actually started on 160, which is directly opposed to the list of goals listed above and then strangely did not work hardly any 160 at all when goals 1 and 2 above had been largely achieved.
The wide splits used by FT4TA were cited as a problem and also a possible cause of deliberate QRM. Why do dxpeditions use the most highly trafficked part of the band to operate wide splits? On 10 metres for instance, the band space above 28.600 is rarely used by any one. Why not operate 28.595 and listen up. In this example it is highly likely that there will be no stations disturbed by the split operation as there is rarely any “non DX” traffic above 28.600. The same could apply on 15 metres – ie 21.395 listening up
The DX Code of Conduct needs to set-out what is the situation for Africa, Oceania, Asia (outside of JA) and South America when a dxpedition is working say EU only, JA only, NA only. FT4TA would frequently shift from NA only, to JA only, to EU only. When are the other parts of the world supposed to call? There was a very irrate guy in Cuba who was refused a qso when the dxpedition was calling NA only – last time I checked Cuba is certainly in NA. I personally will call at any time as most DXpeditions are happy to work a VK regardless of who they are calling.. but I have been sometimes chastised by the DX or more frequently by other VKs for calling out of turn. But when exactly is “my turn”?
Obviously once the three DXpedition goals above have been largely met and qso rates are dropping you can expand out into working multiple modes on the low bands and RTTY across a number of bands. In the case of FT4TA, the above three goals were probably never met because time was wasted in giving out multi slots qsos on RTTY, 30M RTTY qsos, 40M ssb qsos, 80M ssb qsos etc.
I am hopeful that future DXpeditions will take a look at some of these suggested problems and practices – if goals number 1 and 2 can be achieved very quickly, then may be we will have less frustration and even less QRM / unruly callers.
Remember – changing the behaviour of 5 to 15 people (DXpeditioners) can significantly help change the behaviour of 25 thousand keen and eager callers (very hard to do it the other way around)
By Paul, VK4MA