DX University™

  A Guide for DXers and DXpeditioners



The purpose of most DXpeditions is to 1) satisfy the DXers demand for country (entity) award credits, and 2) to do so in a manner that is fun for the audience – the DXers. The DXpedition members, organizer(s) and operators – the Team Leaders – are in the best position to make the DXpedition successful in this regard. If a DXpedition is not conducted in an acceptable manner, disgruntled DXers can and often will make life difficult for everyone. Intentional or deliberate QRM (DQRM) often results from poor DXpedition operating which, in turn is exacerbated by inexperienced DXpedition operators. In conducting a DXpedition pretty much any method of operating, which accomplishes the desired results would probably be considered acceptable by definition. We might also say that an acceptable operation would be one conducted in a more elegant manner.

In either case when an experienced individual, or a group of individuals, is entirely self -supported, owing no one, there is a large degree of latitude in conducting his operation and there isn’t much we can tell him about how to operate and whom to work.

When DXpedition organizers accept contributions and support however, there is an implicit and maybe even an explicit obligation to conform to certain accepted operating criteria. Organizations which funnel money to DXpedition groups for the benefit of the DXing community have in some cases become more particular about whom they support. Their assistance often demands minimum standards of operating proficiency and may depend on the track record of the group. In some cases these organizations have not set standards for performance. (DXers should communicate their interests to these organizations). Regardless of whether or not a DXpedition group accepts support the operators should strive to conduct their operation in the best possible way. In either case, with or without financial support, strictly and comprehensively following some simple rules can go far in assuring on-the-air success of a DXpedition effort. With better operating on both sides of the pileup, DXers and DXpeditioner alike will have more fun, there will be less acrimony and bad feeling and DXers will be more successful.

The information presented here is neither new nor unique. After reviewing this material, some of us will feel that it is obvious or superfluous. Much of it has been published and read before. We have all observed however that in the “heat of battle” many of these principles are forgotten or disregarded even by some of the most experienced DXpeditioners - inexperienced expeditioners often remain oblivious. It is simply not sufficient to present these concepts in a summarized, bullet point form as has been done in the past. For this reason, considerable discussion is presented so that it is possible to study a point from a number of angles, rather than simply agreeing or disagreeing with a simplified concept.

Some DXers and DXpeditioners have said that pileup behavior has deteriorated greatly in the recent years. This observation needs additional perspective. To some extent pileup behavior has been chaotic for decades. No doubt it has scaled up as more DXers enter the fray. Yet, I can recall no worse operating on both ends of the pileup than a 1978 expedition to a rare Pacific island – and that was from a West Coast perspective, close to the center of the action. There have been several other “notable” operating disasters before and after that operation. I recall discussing these situations with a customer who was a clinical psychologist back in the late 70s! His discussion didn’t add much to my knowledge but the fact that I sought his input indicates to me that it was a serious problem that far back. Indeed, reading articles in QST going back to the beginnings of DXCC indicate that to some extent these problems have always been with us. Today, with more DXers chasing more band-countries, the problem is very likely a matter of scale; too many people on the same frequencies.

Adding to these spectacles were many factors including the rarity of the country being activated, the size of the pileups and the propagation – particularly to Europe. But make no mistake: In my view the ability and experience of DXpedition operator is by far the single most significant element in determining the character of the pileup. In fact, many people agree that the DXpedition operator is largely responsible for pileup conduct.

In his book, "Where Do We Go Next", OH2BH states: "Every DXpeditioner should always carry with him that Magic DX Mirror to look at sometimes. The pileup accurately mirrors the DXpedition operator who runs the show. Often, the operator may look like his pileup, at least when the game is about to be lost."

So in a sense, pileups tend to reflect the DXpedition operator's skill. It is the DX operator who has the greatest power to control the pileup. A perfect operator will not have a perfect pileup; there is usually a degree of intractable or even untoward factors. But if he/she fails to exert the customary best practices, the result is almost always chaos.

In recent years DXers have come more and more to expect superior operating on the part of all DXpedition operators. Unfortunately this hasn’t always come to pass. Some funding organizations recognize this and have addressed operator capability in their application criteria. DXers expect a good QSO rate. They expect consistency. They don’t want to be asked to refrain from tail-ending, only to hear the DX operator accept a tail-end caller. Most serious DXers know the basics of how to operate correctly. They may know how to operate only at their level but they usually know the basics of what to do and what not to do to avoid disruption. But whether in the heat of battle they practice what they know is another matter. Occasionally, forgetting what they know or attempting to gain an advantage, these DXers will be tempted to try tactics unworthy of their skills. If unchecked they will gradually try all of the various unsavory techniques until they are rebuked and even then they may continue. In the end it is the “guidance” of the DXpedition operator that can lead them astray or keep them on the proper path.

There is no argument that a few operators will show up on a DXpedition frequency with the intent to Deliberately QRM (DQRM). People who have disrupted some specific activity might be either pathological individuals with some particular ax to grind or have been more recently frustrated by other DXers or a DXpeditioner. Their numbers are small and they can generally be handled without significant disruption to the operation. Later, we’ll discuss some of the techniques that can work around these situations.

In recent times a small number of DXers have taken exception to poor operating practices by DXpeditioners, claiming to have superior skills, and in some cases causing intentional QRM and general disruption in protest. There may be the wish that this intentional QRM will punish the poor DXpedition operators. While this is certainly not acceptable behavior it highlights the problem and also points toward solutions. DXpeditioners must be capable of operating in a manner that will discourage these tactics: they must refrain from using procedures that encourage poor operating on the part of DXers. A large part of the solution to intentional QRM problems is for the DXpedition's own operating standards to be far above any kind of criticism. Operating at this level might be difficult but at the same time it is not impossible and is certainly a worthwhile goal.

As mentioned earlier, learning a few simple rules can go far in assuring the success of a DXpedition effort. Implementing this information in the heat of battle might be difficult however. Inexperienced expeditioners are probably oblivious. In DXing and perhaps more so DXpeditioning, there seems to be a significant amount of egalitarianism in which DXpedition operators believe they know inherently how to accomplish the task at hand and that additional learning is unnecessary. Despite glowing comments to the contrary a DXpeditioner who seriously studies the world-wide response to his latest expedition might be surprised to learn that not everyone thinks that his performance was the “best ever.” Many DXers will compliment the DXpeditioner on what a great job he is doing. This is most likely on a spotting network from a DXer who just worked the expedition. As Cass(1) used to say: ‘If you worked it, it was a great expedition. If you didn’t it was the worst ever.’

Without proper guidance DXers may try methods that seem effective but are actually disruptive: continuous calling, calling during a QSO, calling when the DX op has replied to someone else and so on. Without some push-back a bad scene often becomes worse. A competent DXpedition operator can quickly control a bad situation if he knows the necessary elements and how to use them. Throughout “DXpeditioning Basics” this is the most fundamental principle: Teaching one DXpedition operator to control a pileup is far more effective than trying to teach a thousand DXers to operate properly. We have all been told that the DXpedition operator is in control, that he has the power to control the pileup. Dealing with the DXpedition operator is far more efficient and effective than trying to lead the multitudes. But who teaches the DXpeditioner? There are cases everywhere you look to indicate that the message is not reaching the newer DXpedition operators.

Some DXpedition organizers seem to believe that expertise in operating from the DX end of a pileup is inherent, something that derives naturally from being a DXer.  Other DXpedition organizers make great efforts to train their operators. Many times, however, little care is given to training operators to manage pileups. Furthermore, little care is given to selecting the best operator from among the group to run a particular pileup. Do all operators posses the unique ability to make sense of an unruly pileup of Europeans? DXpeditioning techniques often seem to take a back seat to logistics. For an expedition to exhibit exceptional operating and thus exceptional results attention must be paid to preparing the operators for what is to come. “DXpeditioning Basics” is about how to accomplish the task of preparing the DXpedition operator.

I have observed that many of the important DXpeditioning principles are frequently forgotten, unknown or even rejected by some of the most “experienced” DXpeditioners. Prior to the expedition they say: ‘We know what we are doing’ and then proceed to muck thing up. In many cases they believe they know what they are doing simply because in the past they haven’t exposed themselves to serious post-expedition criticism. Self-education is not easily attained but this publication offers one approach.