Like other QRP ARCI members, I received an email today from QRP ARCI requesting my thoughts on a variety of topics regarding QRP ARCI’s contests. Presumably, contest participation has been lacking and they would like opinions as to why that may be the case and what might be done to fix it.
I think the single biggest factor may be the momentum of recent solar conditions. And by recent, I don’t mean the great conditions of the past few months but rather the sorry conditions of many previous years. When conditions deteriorate, QRPers are among the first to notice. Activity declines. Maybe more building and QRP-L’ing takes place but contesting suffers and that slow-moving train takes a while to get back up to speed after conditions improve.
Fair or not, contests are judged generically by potential participants. For example, if I participated in a “QRP to the Field” event and a decent follow-up by the sponsors wasn’t forthcoming, I may be less inclined to participate in future contests including those sponsored by other organizations. One outdoor-type weekend event sponsor lost logs, another failed to provide contest results for a year. This poor performance takes a toll across the board and sours people on contesting in general.
Log submission requirements for QRP ARCI are unnecessarily complicated. One recent contest required participants to break down their log into number of members on the continent, number of non-members on the continent, number of members off the continent, number of non-members off the continent, etc. I want software to do all this so I can Click & Submit. I don’t want to write a Michener-length novel after 12 or 18 hours of dot-dashing my way through a headphone-wearing weekend. Perhaps QRP ARCI can use a simple program that would do the acceptable grunt work for all their contests and sprints. That would make it equally easy for the participants and the contest manager.
Contests are also poorly advertised and this is not the fault of Jim K9JWV (QRP ARCI’s contest manager). I’ve seen his timely announcements to various YahooGroups, QRP-L and other places. The problem is, the announcements grow stale rather than taking on a life of their own like a “KX3 vs FT817″ thread would. A solitary post, unresponded to, is a lonely thing. It informs but it doesn’t generate the all-important enthusiasm necessary for good participation and a lively contest.
Ditto for post-contest chatter. There ain’t much of that, but there sure used to be and it was fun as hell to read. Folks who participated were glad they did; those who didn’t made it a point not to miss out next time ’round. Call it pre-motivation.
In other words, much of the responsibility belongs to us would-be contesters to promote and enthuse our fellow participants. Rather than being passive about the endeavor, a bit of active online pre-contest enthusiasm may go a long way toward contaminating our brethren ;-)
I know QRP ARCI publishes results in the Quarterly but this is the internet age. Supplement the paper results with something more instant…the score or the soapbox; one online, the other published in the Quarterly. Photos are good and easily made available online.
Could one or two issues of the quarterly have a beyond-the-basics article on contesting? Maybe Bob N4BP or other top-scorers can be sweet-talked into writing something to educate, inspire & motivate? By far, most of the articles in QRP Quarterly are on stuff rather than operating technique…soldering this and that, winding a coil more easily, etc. Those articles put people at the workbench, either actually or “in spirit”. How about some articles on technique that will put people in front of the rig come ‘test time.
I do like the variety of contest offered by ARCI. My all-time fav is the Fall QSO Party. And the sprints offer a “less filling, tastes great” way to enjoy the fun without dedicating a weekend to it. Of course, all this depends on other’s participation.