Think About It

Martti, OH2BH and I have been spending quite a bit of time recently working on a paper that presents thoughts on how DXpeditioners can more efficiently work Europe. The idea for this paper has been in the works for long time, but was spurred on recently by some specific finger-pointing at European DXers for their lack of cooperation in various pileups. There has been some support for that complaint in the US, but at the same time, there has been opinion from Europe that the problems lay with the operating methods of the DXpeditioners. Since the DXpeditioners seemed to do fine with US-based DXers, the thought was that the problem lay with the DXpedition to Europe circuit. Since the US to US-based DXpedition QSO rate was very good, it probably wasn’t the fault of DXpedition operator technique. Already, we had two points of view.

This was just one example. It’s always easy to generalize about things. Generalizing, however is a bit of a cop out. It’s easy to lump everything into a single category rather than thinking about – and defining — all of the possible elements that might define a problem. I note that things are often more accurately analyzed in terms of a spectrum; that is not just one way or the other, not just black or white, but varying from one extreme to the other, along with all in between. Problems and solutions are usually complex. Generalizing might make you feel good in having a simply defined problem, but it offers few solutions. Solutions are usually more complex.

And so it seems with pileups. It may be that the difficulty with Europe can be defined as “a lack of cooperation.” But, it is highly unlikely that it is that simple. That term is pretty much useless if a real understanding is desired, and it suggests other ideas that probably aren’t true, anyway.

So, let’s get away from generalizations. Rather, let’s think about the problem, if in fact there is one. There are a number of parameters that can describe a pileup. One is aesthetics. What does the pileup sound like? Is it calm or chaotic? Is it running at a high rate or low? Is it angry? How is the accuracy? Is it disrupting the band for others? Is it fun?

I have long maintained that some of these parameters can be mutually exclusive. For example, if the rate and accuracy are good, what the pileup sounds like isn’t particularly important. Of course, if a pileup is chaotic, it might not be as much fun, even if you are getting in the log on every band-slot, but it might still be effective – you are in the log. So, we need to define the elements and decide what is important.

On the other hand, if the rate is low, we might be worried. Rate is important. A good rate keeps DXers thinking they will be the next entry in the log. So, if the rate is suffering, we might start looking for remedies. If we are analyzing a European pileup and US DXpedition ops, we might start by thinking about the rate at which US DXpedition operators are able to work Europe versus the rate at which they work their USA buddies. Generally, operating style and technique are assumed to affect the QSO rate and indeed, characterize the pileup. Since we maintain that the operator is primarily responsible for the nature of the pileup, a significant difference between USA and European pileups might suggest a flaw in our theory. How is the DXpedition operator doing?

What about language? Does everyone really understand what is going on? When to transmit? When to listen? Did the DXped op just call out a Southern European for calling out of turn and did that Southerner immediately realize that he was now in the log? Let’s think about it. Europe comprises some 24 “official” languages, and it is probably reasonable to assume that EU DXers being in a somewhat older demographic probably aren’t as fluent in those 2nd 3rd and 4th languages.

And, maybe there are other factors.

Within Europe, there is a more diverse viewpoint, opinion, identity, individuality, sensitivity and passion. How much have any of us thought about – or addressed – any of these factors? What do we mean when we talk about “Europe?” We often talk about Europe as though there was just one single European character. When we think about it, we should easily realize that there is simply no single, characteristic “European.”

And this is all just the tip of the iceberg. We have discovered that to point a finger at EU and make a single assertion doesn’t really accomplish anything useful. Try sitting down and making a list of all of the factors that might affect the QSO rate between Europe and US-based DXpeditioners…and when you have analyzed that one, try the same exercise with QSOs between a US pileup and Europe-based DXpeditioners.

N7NG

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