Shooting Yourself (and Everyone Else) in the Foot by Kip Edwards W6SZN

There is a relatively new phenomenon that has attacked DXing and DX
pileups. I’m sure you’ve all heard it. It is the non-stop calling when the DX
station is listening for calls and goes back to one and the related pernicious
practice of sending your call when the DX station asks for a call that bears
absolutely no resemblance to yours.

Here’s what I’m talking about (and the call signs are fictitious): VK9AA
works a station and then sends QRZ or TU or whatever the operator is using to let
everyone know that he’s finished with that QSO and is looking for calls. K7XXX
calls but VK9AA goes back to someone else. Nonetheless, K7XXX continues to
call, sometimes sending his call three or four times without listening. Meanwhile,
VK9AA has worked someone else, finished that QSO, and again solicit calls.
K7XXX calls again but loses again, as VK9AA goes back to someone else.
Undaunted, K7XXX pushes the button and sends his call again, multiple times.

I am at a complete loss to explain what K7XXX thinks he’s accomplishing.
VK9AA is obviously working someone else, so all K7XXX is doing is to create
QRM and make the completion of the current QSO more difficult, perhaps
requiring repeats until VK9AA is satisfied that he has the call sign of the station
he’s working correct. It also makes it much more difficult for those in the pileup
to find the station that’s being worked so you can decide where to place your
signal. In my 50+ years of ham radio, I don’t recall ever working a station while I
was transmitting, and unless you have 100% duplex capability you have no idea
what’s going on while you’re transmitting. All you can do by engaging in this
practice is to delay getting your call (and the call sign of everyone else) in
VK9AA’s log.

Please don’t tell me that you’re trying to “tail end” the current QSO. I bet
not one guy in a 1,000 knows how to tail end correctly. Even if you’re that one
guy, very few DX stations accept tail enders, for a very good reason: if they do so
it will encourage the other 999 to attempt what they think is a tail end but
isn’t—and now all you have on frequency is an undisciplined bunch of callers, a
mass of stations calling incessantly and rarely coming up for air. For the DX
station, it just means more delay as he tries to get the call sign of the current QSO
in the log correctly.

A disclaimer here: I am not talking about getting out of sync with the
pileup, i.e., when VK9AA does not come back to a station in the normal time for a
reply and you call again—and maybe again. This happens all the time and even
the very best operators end up calling when VK9AA is also transmitting. An
example: VK9AA finishes a QSO and sends TU. The pileup calls, and you send
your call sign once (you all do that, right?). Then there’s silence—VK9AA comes
back to no one. So everyone calls again, right? Of course, and hopefully VK9AA
comes back to someone and the rhythm of the pileup continues. If the DX station
does not maintain a predictable rhythm, he invites a second round of calling and
the chaos that ensues. Back when I went on one or two DXpeditions each year, I
learned very quickly that maintaining the rhythm of the pileup was critical. I can
recall instances where I literally could not get even a single letter of a call sign,
both on CW and phone. On most DXpeditions where I was one of the operators,
especially from Clipperton and Rotuma, there were many times when all of the
stations calling were about the same signal strength (except for the guys with 6
over 6 and a legal limit amplifier, or more). There were many times when all I
could hear was a buzz. I think it was Rusty, W6OAT, who taught me the trick of
going back to someone in order to maintain the rhythm of the pileup—I used
JA1USA when working JAs even though I was pretty sure that JA1USA was not
calling. Getting out of sync is unavoidable—but that’s not what I’m talking about

Even worse from an ethical standpoint is the following: VK9AA manages
to get a partial call from the pileup and sends “WB5?” — and 10 or 15 stations
proceed to send their calls: K1XXX, WD8AAA, AG9XX, etc. What can explain
this? If the stations calling other than the WB5 are not copying what the DX
station sends, then in my opinion they have no business being in the pileup.
Assuming the stations calling know that the DX station is trying to get the WB5’s
call, by sending their call signs they are deliberately creating QRM and slowing
down the process. Stated otherwise, these stations who presumably want a QSO
and get in the log are actually making that goal more difficult to achieve.

What motivates this behavior? Perhaps these callers think (or hope) that the
DX station will give up on trying to work the WB5 and instead work one of them.
This is a foolish hope. Many DXers and DXpeditioners are also contesters.
Because all contest rules severely punish a busted call, it quickly becomes
ingrained in contesters to do everything humanly possible to get the call correct
before logging it. And all DXpeditions that involve more than one operator keep
track of the accuracy of each operator, so there’s plenty of peer pressure to be as
accurate as possible. Finally, the QSL manager who has to deal with emails and
telephone calls involving busted calls in the log will make his views known to the
group leaders about who on the team is accurate and who is not. Bottom line:
sending your call hoping the DX station will give up on the WB5 and work you
instead is simply not going to happen.

Dick Norton, N6AA, is a world class operator and DXpeditioner and at one
time held most of the contest world records for both phone and CW. Dick told me
a long time ago that the ideal pileup is to have one station calling at a time. That’s
not likely to happen in the real world but anything the pileup does to delay the
orderly working of stations is counter-productive. Presumably the stations in the
pileup want to work the station they’re calling. But calling all the time and, even
worse, sending your call when it bears no resemblance to the call the DX station
is trying to get is really shooting yourself in the foot—and doing the same to the
other stations in the pileup.

What I’ve said above is, of course, just my opinion. If you have a different
view of this or perhaps have an innocent explanation for what I’ve described, let
me know. With your consent, I’ll publish any comments in the Tabloid.

by Kip Edwards
Editor: WWDXC Totem Tabloid