DX Code Of Conduct

what you can do to improve DXEtiquette

More Haste, Less Speed

Roger Western, G3SXW

g3sxw@btinternet.com

The hare was so confident that he took a nap. The tortoise plodded slowly and won the race. I’ve noticed in Africa that no‐one hurries: having adapted to the hot, humid climate people walk slowly. Better not to run and build up a big sweat. It may be better to plod over a longer period and in the long‐term get more done.  

I wonder if the same observation might apply to DX pile‐ups. On the DXpedition end it can be mentally exhausting to sit hour after hour copying and logging call‐signs, hopefully accurately. At its simplest it may be wise to take a short break every couple of hours so as to delay the onset of fatigue – the overall outcome might be extra logged QSOs, more than compensating for QSOs lost during those rest periods. But there are also several other ways in which ‘slower is faster’.

QSO Rate

QSO Rate

By definition a ‘DXpedition’ is a limited operation lasting a short period of time. It provides the opportunity for DX‐Chasers to make QSOs with a rare location, so there are many callers. Therefore the priority is to log the maximum possible number of QSOs in the shortest possible time. Hence the urge is to go as fast as possible, to not sleep, to come home with a full log‐book, having satisfied as much demand as humanly possible. This is the aim of all serious DXpedition operators. This dedication may not apply to a family holiday with a bit of radio on the side, but for the sake of this article let’s assume that this is the prime intention of serious DXpeditions.

 

Down the years I have found that 1,000 QSOs per operator per day is a fair guide to what is achievable. A two‐man team, for instance, may target 14,000 per week. The larger the team probably the lower the daily ‘productivity’ per operator . . . the shorter the activity the higher the daily rate . . . the rarer the location the greater will be the demand and the longer the pile‐ups will last . . . and so forth. So this average is only a start‐point. When running like a hare for only a couple of days then sleep is a lower priority, more like contesting. But when operating for a longer period it may be best to plod somewhat, more like a tortoise, putting in fewer hours per day in order to stay the course. Each to his own, matching mental and physical abilities to the circumstances, also his motivation to persist.

 

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Operating Tactics

But there is a further point which may be more opaque than stamina but is nonetheless important: slowing down can actually provide bigger success in the long run. It seems that these days ‘faster is better’, and faster entails being as brief as possible. We have now truncated the QSO to the bare minimum of content, transmitted at the fastest possible speed. Back in the 70s I operated as EP2IA and felt guilty for only sending my name and QTH once during each QSO instead of the expected twice. Oh, how things have changed in the last forty years!

An extreme example is when a DXpedition operator sends CW at 50 wpm and is weak with flutter or echo. Very few can copy his transmissions so few QSOs enter the log. He needs several repeat transmissions before completing each QSO. Maybe this is just an ego‐trip: ‘Look at me: I can operate at 50 wpm’. At very least this seems rather unintelligent. It should become obvious that callers are not able to copy so slowing down and repeating content might help to increase the QSO rate. At least that might be worth trying.

I recall once, some twenty years ago, working a big pile‐up of Japanese stations. They were having trouble copying my weak signals but I was ripping through the pile‐up at three per minute. The next day, with the same opening to Japan, a high proportion of callers had been logged the day before. Clearly, they were unsure that we had completed a solid two‐way QSO. I slowed down and sent each JA call‐sign twice. The effect was to slow the hourly QSO rate but surely a prime requirement is for BOTH ends of the contact to be confident that the twoway QSO was completed. After all, duplicate contacts serve to halve the QSO rate! It is more efficient to make one slower QSO than two snappy ones.

 

Pile ‐ Up Problems

A major issue of great concern these days is pile‐up chaos. For many DX‐Chasers the hobby is being severely damaged by a combination of poor operating on both sides of the pile‐up. We perhaps feel that it is the DX‐Chasers who need to develop their operating skills but we also wonder if the operating tactics on the pile‐up end are often the catalyst which generates the chaos.  

Much of this chaos is rooted in the (commendable) desire of the DXpedition operator to make as many QSOs as possible in the limited time. He therefore transmits at the fastest possible speed, repeats nothing, omits his own call‐sign for extended periods, does not repeat calling instructions: all in order to truncate transmissions as much as possible, to save micro‐seconds. He even may set the software to speed up the ‘5NN’ to shave another few micro‐seconds off the time needed to complete a QSO. To maximise the QSO rate is laudable and also this gives the adrenalin kick that the DXpeditioner craves.

 

But many Callers do not hear such ultra‐brief transmissions because they are sending their call‐sign at that moment. When they do not hear ‘North America only’ how are callers in other continents supposed to know that they should now stay quiet? So they keep calling and are then criticised for calling out of turn. They are blamed for the chaos when in fact the DXpedition operator was the root cause. Had he slowed down a little and/or sent the instruction twice perhaps the chaos would have een avoided or at least reduced.

 

Flexibility

Remaining flexible is of course essential. We all know that when signals are weak slowing down helps but there are many other ways in which flexibility can reduce pile‐up chaos. If there is much QRM then it might be wise for the DXpedition operator to repeat the call‐sign of the station being worked. How about ‘W1AAA 5NN W1AAA’ instead of sending it just once. If the time invested to complete the contact in this slower way leads to fewer repeat transmissions then it must be a good investment. And QSO rate may actually

increase. 

Another important way in which DXpedition operating tactics often seem to generate chaos is by not sending his own call‐sign for long periods. The extra time needed to send the call‐sign at least once per minute or at least once every 2‐3 QSOs is surely a wise investment. It helps to maintain rhythm and therefore control and again the QSO rate increases, delivering more than enough pay‐back for those lost micro‐seconds.  

The same might be said about calling instructions: repeating ‘UP 2’, or ‘Europe only’ at the end of every QSO also helps to maintain consistency. The extra degree of control and the resulting reduced pile‐up chaos is well worth the additional time required to send this extra content.

Slow Down

To regain normality on the bands when a DXpedition pile‐up gets out of control maybe it takes only one small change in attitude: the DXpedition operator should slow down. The modern trend of highspeed, truncated transmissions has perhaps gone a little too far. Just slowing down a little and repeating information with longer transmissions can make a big difference. It also undoubtedly reduces chaos, Continuous Callers, and Deliberate QRMers.  

After all, the intention is to complete the maximum possible number of contacts in the time available. If slowing down and repeating content reduces the number of repeat transmissions and duplicate QSOs then the overall outcome may be a higher number of QSOs logged. The tortoise wins the race!

 

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Finally, please review the DX Code of Conduct in its entirety. You want those calling to follow it so remember the type of operating behavior it encouarges. As you are able to do so, reward those who follow it.

Good luck and Happy DXing.


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