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Activators: Please post Alerts!


#1

I am regularly frustrated by checking the spots and discovering an activation for which no alert was created. To expand, I am referring to my experience chasing North American activators on SSB, the majority who reliably post informative alerts. Nevertheless, often I see a spot with no accompanying alert after the activation is finished, and I missed an opportunity for an activator, association, or high point summit that I would have chased. If I’m not too late, I still have no way of knowing if the activator intends to operate on other bands or modes.

I recognize that there may be a good reason for not posting an alert, and perhaps there is less incentive to create one if self-spotting alone guarantees a comfortable number of contacts. But as an occasional chaser, I depend on alerts to decide when and whether to devote time to chasing. I appreciate activators who take the time to post alerts, and encourage the few who don’t to make it a part of their SOTA routine.

73,
Peter KD0YOB


#3

I agree. It makes sense to post an alert because

chasers
are probably interested in

  • contacting their friends on activations
  • collecting new summits (e.g. for Sota Complete or Uniques)
    … so it is nice to have information about the approx. time the activation takes place

activators

  • might not want to climb a mountain and meet other activators on top (unless it is planned)
  • like to have summit to summit contacts
    … so information in advance is very helpful

73
Peter


#4

Hi Peter

You are not alone in your frustration with folk who don’t realise the value of an ‘Alert’. Besides offering the opportunity for all chasers, be they local or DX to earn summit points, alerts are a valuable tool for planning S2S contacts.

IMHO S2S contacts are the pinnacle of this wonderful hobby.

Cheers

Andrew VK1AD


#5

Just for your information, this forum is not like Yahoo (rumoured to be changing its name shortly) as used by NASOTA and VKSOTA.where once you post something, that is it, fixed. With this reflector you have the ability to edit and correct a post for 86400 minutes which equates to 60 days. Just click the icon below your post to edit it.
Hope this helps.
Jim


#6

Just to put a different slant on this -sometimes it can be “exciting” to just call CQ and see if you can get a contact, instead of planning contacts and making it more certain that an activation will work. I’m not suggesting this is always the case (certainly not for me), but I have made this conscious choice in the past.


#7

It annoys me to discover that an activation probably within range has just ended.

If I am going out for SOTA I always put up an Alert unless my location has no WiFi and no phone signal. On a longish walk I may carry a radio (2/70 FM handy) with the intention of spending no more than 10 minutes on a summit and hoping for a casual s2s - NO Alert for that.

Seems to me like a sensible compromise.

73,
Rod


#8

Andrew,
I share your enthusiasm for S2S contacts. It’s always encouraging, when posting an alert, to see that other activators anticipate being on a summit about the same time, and to look forward to the possibility of some S2S contacts.
Peter


#9

In my case, I tend to raise an alert most of the times, but often not much in advance, as it’s sometimes difficult for me to know due to many variables concurring like WX, XYL and family plans, availlable TIME…
Sometimes it’s just a question of unexpectedly finding the planets aligned in a moment, then grabbing the SOTA kit and going out somewhere, anywhere…
But, of course, I’m with you. It’s better having alerts raised the day before in order to organise, if possible, when to be in the shack for chasing or in another summit for S2S.
73,

Guru


#10

We tend not to post individual alerts, though may note on the Reflector when we’re about to have one of our SOTA expeditions so that chasers know we may be about. The main reasons we don’t post alerts are because we do a lot of uniques, and aren’t good at estimating when we will be at the summit (it’s usually later than we hoped), and because we often make the decision about which hill we are about to do very late. We have been known to change our minds after we have started walking!

Caroline M3ZCB.


#11

I do understand what you are saying, but that isn’t quite the case because of the way this topic was framed. If you really were looking “to just call CQ and see if you can get a contact”, you also would NOT put up a spot.

This discussion is why put up a spot, but not an advance alert? I was immediately curious to see how the SOTA community would respond.


#12

I often don’t put up a spot. Chasers sometimes ask if I want a spot, I usually say “yes” at that point.

This is about 50/50 and depends on how “planned” the outing is. Very often I am making decisions on the day, or even by the hour about where I am going. Factors like the WX play into this.


#13

The excuse I hear often is “I’m not sure I can get through the gate, or time unknown, or frequency might be used by a net” Just post it. We know you will move if the freq is occupied, and we know it will be a downward move if you posted the golden freq of 14.347, or an upward move if it was 14.061. Once in a while I encounter a missing alert because the climber is not registered… why not? If you don’t have time to post, or forgot, call a friend whilst en route. I have a list of 38 cell/mobile numbers representing climbers who have sent a text/SMS to me en route for help posting an alert, altering an alert, or announcing an aborted activation. Some of those numbers I used to coordinate my own S2S contacts, of which I have more than a few.

Failing to post an alert is far less troubling than failing to post trailhead and climb info on a summit resource page after doing the initial climb of a virgin peak. That info could save a serious injury.

Elliott, K6EL


#14

Hi all,
Agree with K6EL’s wisdom, above.
A little perspective: In much of Southern AZ, which is without cell coverage,
an alert, (or RBN, or kind chaser that stumbles across your signal) is all one has to get spotted.

All best, Ken


#15

In areas with no cell coverage, you might be able to do an SMS self-spot on 2 meters with something like Rucksack Radio Tool, using your phone and an HT. It all depends on who’s monitoring 2 meters within range. Worth a try, anyhow!

Bruce
WB8OGK


#16

I have been wondering about this. And I’d really like some advice.

What is the shortest time ahead for an alert, that would still be useful?
Is only a few hours ahead useful?
Or does it need to be a day or more ahead to be useful?
Should I put an alert up and change it when I get closer? Sometimes I know enough to estimate time very well (though something unexpected can always happen), and sometimes I can be hours off.

I’m planning a 5 day SOTA trip in a couple weeks, I live in a state with no summits, so
Should I put an alert up for every summit before I leave home? If so, then if things go longer/shorter - summits might even shift days!!! Would wrong be better than nothing? I’m ok, with changing them as I go - what do you guys think?

Jill


#17

For myself, I think a day or even a few hours is sufficient lead time. I generally look at the alerts in the morning to see if anything interesting is coming up, and if I’m activating, to see if anybody else might be good for S2S or if we might clash frequencies.

You can set up the alerts days in advance with all the info in them, why not? You can always send a new alert if your plans change. We’ve all been there.

Congrats on your upcoming trip! Good luck!

Bruce
WB8OGK


#18

Peter,

Whether you withdraw your post or not, I agree with most of what you have written here. Of course there are many reasons not to post an alert, but for most SOTA activations, an alert is good for both activators and chasers.

For CW activations, one significant reason for an alert (apparently not understood by many activators) is that the RBN Hole will only spot you if you have an alert up on SOTAWATCH. Since the RBN Hole is working nicely now, it’s a valuable tool, especially when self-spotting is inconvenient of impossible.

Even if you change your plans and activate a different summit, you’ll still be spotted, but with the wrong summit ref; then you can state your correct ref as you work your chasers. This is far superior to no alert. Even better, post a wild-card alert, with the summit ref like W0C/FR-XXX; this is much more valuable than no alert.

I have missed chasing countless activations, because I don’t sit by the computer all day long, or look at a phone often - and I feel a sense of loss when I see that the activator has come and gone in only a few minutes, with apparently little care about those of us who would like to make contact. Many chasers are helping out by posting spots, but often they’re too little, too late, for a short activation.

Please remember the Golden Rule when planning and doing a SOTA activation.

None of us are perfect - we all compromise as we choose between our alternatives on the summit. Remember that the chasers are the other half of the pie, and making our chasers happy is good for us too - especially over the long run. Chasers really do remember activators who make 4 contacts and quit, who activate only one band and thereby deny coverage to dozens of eager chasers, or who consistently don’t put out a readable signal, whatever the reason.

Only by chasing can we understand the frustrations our brothers face as they try to find, hear, and contact us.

In many ways chasing is much harder than activating. Chasing comes with more frustration, limited options for dealing with noise and poor signals, and various conflicts inherent in operating from a developed area - plus not all chasers are free to chase all day.

Besides actually doing your activation well, posting an alert is the single most important thing you can do to help your chasers. If you can provide bands, frequencies, and somewhat reliable times, even better. Best of all, if you can stick with what you post, you’ll eventually develop a reputation for being reliable, and you’ll always have plenty of chasers waiting for you to tune up.

An alert posted only an hour or two before an activation is much better than none. Those of you who chase me know that I rarely post an alert more than a day in advance. This is mostly related to weather issues. Even an alert put up a few minutes before the activation can be really nice!

A few people are using alerts for spots - not sure they know the difference.

S2S is also my “favorite thing” about SOTA. Lately I’ve started activating summits I’ve already done this year, partly to get more S2S contacts. S2S can shift our priorities, since S2S contacts are generally more difficult than contacts with chasers. In particular, alerts are very helpful in knowing when and where to look for S2S contacts. I sometimes adjust my ETA to match alert times of other activators in the hope of making more S2S contacts.

Others here have covered the rest -

73

George
KX0R


#19

I’m a supporter of alerting. Agree with the comments above and I’d add that alerts can be edited.

I’m also guilty of alerting later than ideal - sometimes a situation arises where I suddenly get an opportunity to activate something, at only an hour’s notice. I’d rather be playing radio on a hill than sitting at home. But I still post an alert partly to make use of the RBNHole spotting for a Cw signal.

Other times, my alert times are hopelessly optimistic. If I arrive at the parking area and realise it will be 45 minutes before I can possibly be on the air, I’ll stop there and edit my alert time. It’s a bit fiddly on a phone but it can be done.

One feature of SOTAGOAT I was unaware of until only recently is the ability to delete an alert. So you can if you want to, clone the previous alert and update the time or othr data, then delete the previous alert. This might be easier than editing an alert using a small screen browser. The sotagoat problem with alert times being affected by UTC offset errors has to be taken into account when posting any alert.

Some activators have commented here and to me that they don’t feel they can guarantee being on the frequency at the exact time of an alert. My answer to that is that an alert is not a contract: it’s a plan. It gives chasers, some of whom are also activators, a way of planning their own activities.

73 Andrew VK1DA VK2UH
AM for VK2


#20

We say the activator is king. If the activator chooses to do without an alert, that is a choice that he or she has every right to make. Complaining about this choice on the reflector will change nothing.


#21

Hi Peter,
I post an alert 99% of the time, even when it may not happen (at which point I indicate TBC or similar), however there are times and one happened last week, when I woke to sunshine, grabbed my SOTA bags and simply headed out and activated. To turn the PC on to add an alert for an activation happening 2 hours later would have wasted my precious activation time. In this case I spotted myself as going to be QRV 90 minutes later from my phone and then again when I was operational.

There are also other activators who personally chose never to alert - as we say, it’s NOT mandatory and the activator is the boss - after all he (or she) is doing the hard work, the chasers simply sit back in their shacks and wait to be served!

73 Ed.