DX University Summit Meeting in Rome
For many years, members of the three primary population centers have been characterized and labeled usually as a group following major DXpeditions. They are usually characterized in different ways. The Asians (primarily Japanese) have been seen as highly disciplined. According to some analysts they are disciplined to a fault. According to some DXpeditioners, the Japanese are too organized, tending to slow the proceedings. Usually though, they are a relief and a delight for DXpeditioners. Operators in North America are often described as efficient and quick. High rates are achievable when working large numbers of these operators. Much of the time they are overly aggressive, but their similarities are numerous.
European operators on the other hand are usually characterized by continuous calling and lacking in cooperation. Rates are said to suffer because of these traits. For this, they are often labeled as troublemakers. It is interesting that more often than not, we refer to “ The Europeans” as a single group. Who are these “Europeans?” Should we put them all in the same box? Are they really all the same? Or do their differences deserve more study?
To pursue this question, we first need to consider that how the members of a particular population center are characterized depends heavily on who is doing the evaluating. We need to understand that these descriptions are highly dependent on popular perceptions and attitudes.
The operating performance level achieved by various DXers depends increases greatly when the levels are determined by members of the same group. When we are reading an evaluation referring to “The Americans,” “The Europeans,” or “The Japanese,” we need to be suspicious. This is an indication that objectivity is missing, and methods and attitudes may need adjusting.
When a groups’ characteristics are described in this manner, we can all be fairly sure that more understanding is required. Would we really expect all members of a particular group to be the same? Is the makeup of the group even properly defined? What does it take to make pundits think a bit more before commenting? Well, it takes research and thinking seriously about the problem. There isn’t much room for shooting from the hip anymore.
Some members of the DXpeditioning world are very successful in dealing the vast diversity of personalities and cultures present in the modern pileup, other operators are significantly off course. This in-turn suggests that given the proper approach, most any pileup can be managed.
There are aspects of pileups that can’t be controlled. There is the pathological, deliberate QRM (DQRM). There is virtually nothing that the DXpeditioner can do to assuage these sources. On the other hand, some DQRM is provoked by the DXpedition operators themselves through their own actions. Procedures such as allowing a pileup to exceed a reasonable portion of a band is one such provocation. I witnessed a serious situation in the last week as usual on 17 meters. Opening a DXpedition with maybe only two stations, one on 17 meter SSB is almost guaranteed to create a problem. In this case, DQRM resulted directly.
So what should be done to improve the situation? Let’s consider “The Europeans.” What can we do to be able to say: “As a group, they really have it together.” Is it even possible to moderate their pileup behavior? Maybe, maybe not. It might take a radical solution, but I know we can do better because some have done it.
Martti Laine, OH2BH, is one of the most successful DXpeditioners and Contesters in our increasingly difficult times. In cooperation with the DX University Martti has written a paper describing how to successfully work Europeans. The paper is entitled: “DX Chase: It Takes Two to Tango” and subtitled: “Working Europe from the rare ones can be difficult. Here’s how to do it.”
This past weekend, October 10th and 11th, the paper was presented and discussed at a DXing Summit meeting in Rome organized by IK0FVC, Francesco; OH2BH, Martti and IK0XFD, Giordano, President of the Rome branch of Associazione Radioamatori Italiani (ARI). This paper isn’t a list of Thou Shalts or How to’s. It isn’t a list of Best Practices. It is rather a more thoughtful discussion of the differences of the world, attitudes, and lengthy discussions of some more specific operating procedures, why and how. Careful thought, study and adherence to what this paper proposes – and what follows (it’s probably a work in progress) – is almost guaranteed to improve DXpeditioning across the board.
And a caveat: (You knew there would be a catch, right?) If and when all of this fails to make us better DXpeditioners or DXers, there is a new -- or revised -- Q-Code: ‘QTX’. This code is a less blunt way of telling an operator – DXer or DXpeditioner – to stop transmitting for some time and then come back with a retuned method or mind. “WW2XX QTX – 10” means that WW2XX should stop transmitting and only return to the chase after spending the next ten minutes adjusting his attitude or procedure. This is sort of a penalty box. The DXpeditioner can put the DXpeditioner in the penalty box, OR the DXer can put the DXpeditioner in the box. (Good luck you say? Maybe. But if I were a DXpeditioner and I heard a series of “Z81X QTX – 30” I might think again.
DXpedition Planning Video from K0IR
Ralph Fedor, K0IR has had the prime responsibility for planning a number of major DXpeditions. His experiences include expeditions to VK0IR, K5D, FT5ZM and K1N, Heard, Desecheo, Amsterdam and Navassa Islands. Each of these expeditions culminated in world-class results.
At the 2015 DX University session in Visalia CA, Ralph presented a program describing important aspects of DXpedition planning. There were a number of significant ideas in that presentation, not the least of which was the notion that a DXpedition owes a voice to DXpedition supporters -- investors if you will -- prior to the trip; that the investors are entitled to a voice in defining the DXpedition’s parameters.
Ralph has recently been named Chairman of the Board of The International DX Association, Inc., INDEXA an IRS (USA) 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. In coordination with INDEXA, the DX University is presenting a video summary of the DX University presentation. Click here to view Ralph's summary of that presentation.
The Complete DXer
Bob Locher, W9KNI is IMO, a classic DXer. Over 30 years ago – in 1983 – he published a book called The Complete DXer. According to Bob, the book was intended to make the point that DXing a fun endeavor that requires skills that can -- and must – be learned.
Bob’s book describes the “Classic DXer.” It is essentially a “how to” book as were many others published during the same era. But, Bob’s book is different – delightfully so. It was different then, and it still is. It was not written as a set of directives, laid out point by point: “thou shalt do this or thou shalt not do that.” Rather, the book was written as a narrative, from the point of view of a real DXer, describing the things that successful DXers do – as they are being done.
At the outset, I need to put this discussion in perspective. To a small degree, the Complete DXer is obsolete in the 21st century. Many changes have taken place in DXing in the last 50 years, and certainly in the last 30 years. DXing has changed repeatedly as technology has moved ahead. Further, our perspective on our own DXing continues to change as we work more and more DX without “un-working” any of it.
The most significant of these changes has been the Internet. The Internet has changed the world forever, of course, and these changes include effects on DXing. Many of the changes are not only technological, but also changes in how we view DXing. For example, DXers no longer need to sit for hours at their radios listening for needed DX stations. Moreover, since we can never “un-work” our DX, the games that we play and what we wish to work change periodically.
While “one ringer” telephone alerting networks had long existed, there was nothing like the fully-interconnected, Internet-based DX data gathering and distribution systems that exist today. The Internet has changed DXing forever, yet all-in-all it has probably changed for the better. We are all aware of the stress placed on family harmony by DXers needing a 160 meter QSO, but not knowing: “When will you be on 160.”
Why am I recommending a 30 year old book? It’s simple: Extensive listening on the air suggests to me that many DXers need to learn some of the techniques that fall into the “classic DXer” category. Primary among them is listening; knowing what’s going on at all times.
Despite the steady flow of information provided by the introduction of the Internet into DXing, however, The Complete DXer still makes a point: DXing is fun. It describes the hunt for DX, and it emphasizes that DXing is a game that can and must be learned. The Complete DXer describes – among many other things – the technique of listening; being aware of what it going on. Absolutely nothing is more important in DXing. When it comes right down to actually making a QSO, the Internet is a no match for actually listening. The third (and latest) version of The Complete DXer provides a valuable perspective on modern DXing. If nothing else, it puts a ‘modern DXer’ into a framework to understand the all-to-often neglected essentials of DXing.
The Complete DXer and a companion A Year of DX published in 2010 are very readable and helpful additions to your DX library. They are currently available from the ARRL.
QRM and Frustration
(This article is drawn from parts of the DX University presentation at Visalia in April, 2015.)
DXpeditions have always had some form of on-the-air difficulty in conducting their operations. In the early days, there were many fewer DXers, and the QRM potential was less. But, there were always DXers disgruntled by their inability to make a QSO who would transmit on the DX frequency. But, recent DXpeditions have been increasingly plagued by QRM, inadvertent and intentional.
Inadvertent QRM falls into several categories: Ignorance or IQRM, Unnecessary or UQRM, and Created or CQRM. A forth type of QRM is not inadvertent, it is Deliberate -- DQRM.
Ignorance IQRM or IQRM* stems from a lack of learning about standard, proven DXing procedures. To the extent that it affects us all, this type of QRM is primarily caused by the inability of would-be DXers to operate their radios properly. This results in transmissions on the DX frequency and the inevitable reactions from frustrated DXers.
Unnecessary or UQRM is usually attributable to the UP and Frequency police. This difficulty appears to be exacerbated by the unnecessarily complex frequency controls of modern transceivers.
A third form of QRM is Created QRM or CQRM which is caused by DXpedition operators who don’t have the ability to control their pileups. (In some cases, CQRM can lead to intentional QRM.) The fundamental principle is that the nature of the pileup depends on how the pileup is conducted. It is likely that CQRM is the easiest QRM to control since it is relatively easy to guide a relatively small number of DXpeditioners.
Having defined several types of disruptive expedition-related QRM, what if anything can be done to rectify these situations? To help combat Ignorance QRM, the “DX Press” has been prolific. But one thing is becoming clear: More often than not we are “preaching to the choir.” We are NOT reaching the large percentage of casual “DXers.” They don’t read the literature, they don’t belong to DX clubs, and often they don’t know other experienced DXers. They have an interest in DX, and they start calling when they hear something interesting. We need to pay more attention to finding and working with more casual DXers.
The code is another situation. With the advent of no-code licenses, we have many new hams who want to work CW, but haven’t yet put in the time to learn it effectively. Thanks to the industry code readers are prevalent. Some DXers wish that these people would stay on SSB and RTTY, but is that what we really want?
Unnecessary QRM can be minimized by better educating DXers in the operation of their radios. In addition, frequency control in radios currently available is far more complicated than necessary and should be simplified. Transmitting on the DXpedition frequency was seldom a problem with separate transmitters and receivers.
In the case of Created QRM, QRM created by DXpedition operator’s style, more attention by DXpedition managers to procedure would prove helpful. Because there are relatively few DXpedition operators, it is easier to help these operators in using the best practices to manage their pileups than to attempt to educate thousands of DXers. If DXpedition operators consistently employ best practices, pileups will be more efficient and more fun. Following the suggested Best Practices published by the DX University and by The DX Code of Conduct – for DXpeditioners can help.
In the case of CQRM, QRM created by DXpedition operator’s style, more attention to procedure by DXpedition managers could prove useful. Following the suggested Best Practices published by the DX University and by The DX Code of Conduct – for DXpeditioners can help.
Intentional QRM is entirely another matter. DQRM is usually generated by discontented operators who wish to retaliate in some way for some reason. Perhaps some of these operators haven’t made their desired QSOs for reasons they deem beyond their control. Some of these QRMers are not DXers at all, and have had their net QSOs disrupted by DXpedition activity.
Some DQRM results from adverse, real-time interaction between DXers and other, pre-existing Amateur Radio activities. For example, DXers in pileups aren’t well known for listening to their transmitting frequencies before transmitting. DXpedition operators aren’t known for listening to their pileup frequencies, either. Opening an expedition on a narrow WARC band without a full complement of stations isn’t the best idea, but it happens. Covering certain nets and mode frequencies isn’t wise either. Some of the QRM and DQRM is caused by the operating style of the DXpedition operator; frustration experienced by DXers can lead to DQRM.
When a major DXpedition in on the air, there is much additional friction ready to be exploited. Better operating on both sides of the pileup is necessary. Putting our educational resources where they will do the most good is essential. The DX University is working in this area. If you have additional ideas, please write.
*The terms UQRM, IQRM, CQRM and DQRM used in this article are attributed to Chris Duckling, G3SVL.
DXU Best Practices
With ever increasing activity, pileup behavior on the DX bands seems to be becoming worse and worse. The DX Code of Conduct is a widely circulated list of operating rules that have been adopted by many DXpeditions. The original Code is directed at DXers, and it instructs them how to operate in a way that could bring order and make pileups more civil.
Less widely known is that "The DX Code of Conduct" Web pages also contain a set of guidelines for DXpeditioners or DXpeditioner's Code. The DX-Code organization has asked DXpedition leaders to "support" the DX Code of Conduct. Which code they support is not always clear, however.
To clarify this situation, the DX University offers clearly delineated guidelines for both DXpeditioners and DXers. They are referred to separately as "Best Practices for DXpedition Operating" and "Best Practices for Courteous and Efficient DXing." Links to these pages are found elsewhere on this page. Best Practices" for DXers is similar to those of the DX Code of Conduct, although presented as suggestions.
The "Best Practices for DXpedition Operating" is the result of a considerable effort by a group of experienced DXers and DXpeditioners who hold strongly to the principle that DXpeditioners themselves are in the best position to control and manage their pileups.
We hope that DXpedition leaders and operators will review and adhere closely to the Best Practices for DXpeditioning Operating in order to help assure well-run operations. While the DX University takes no position on how these guidelines can or should be used, we hope that the organizations might would recommend these "Best Practices," These guidelines are simply offered as our recommendations for good operating practices.
About the DXAC
Ever wonder what the ARRL's DXAC is all about? See the DX University Blog for a short history of the DX Advisory Committee, what's it's been doing and where it's headed right now.
DXpeditioning Basics - Revised
A new version of DXpeditioning Basics is now availabe. The original version was published in 1994. To see the new version, go to the DX University Website > DXpeditioning Tools > Publications > DXpeditioning Basics - 2013.
Tuition Grants for DXU Students
FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLICATION
22 April 2013
NCDXF DX University and Contest University Scholarships
NCDXF is committed to bringing younger DXers and Contesters into our hobby. NCDXF will provide full tuition scholarships for hams 25 years of age and younger at all DX University and Contest University sessions held in North America for the next year. This includes those held at the Dayton Hamvention next month.
Funding for this project comes from NCDXF’s Scholarship Endowment Fund, which is separate from its General Fund used to support DXpeditions.
Credit for the success of NCDXF is made possible by our contributors, individuals and clubs.
Joining or renewing membership has never been easier. Please visit our website at http://www.ncdxf.org
Glenn Johnson, WØGJ
Vice President, NCDXF