I know what you mean. Summit REFs almost never get exchanged and often people just read them from Sotawatch or a different cluster. On the other hand, the predictable character and brevity of SOTA QSOs in a pileup is something that has encouraged me (and many others) to learn CW. For now, it’s difficult enough for me to read the callsigns and the reports and the occasional S2S reference.
I feel much more comfortable when I know that in the worst case scenario people can read the REF on the web. And that I can do the same – if I don’t manage to read an S2S ref correctly. I can also type a request such as: “PSE QRS – CW beginner, stick to 17wpm or less” to my Sotawatch self-spot comment.
Of course it’s much more fun to exchange all the info over the air - which is what I always try to do. For the same reason I always transmit my Summit REF every now and then, so that I don’t ruin the fun for anybody who wants to have the complete info over-the-air only. And some chasers won’t even wait for me to play my OWN CALLSIGN after I finish a QSO. But I guess that is my job, as the Activator, to have order and discipline on my frequency. I learned to do it on 50+Watt SSB, I will eventually have to learn it on 5W CW. And of course - the regs state you MUST transmit your own callsign every now and then, so people who don’t do it at all are breaking the rules.
I’d like to express enormous appreciation for everybody who has the nerves to listen to my slow and broken CW and still works me. Outside - snow and ice get in the key, I’m in uncomfortable body positions, pencils break, get lost, log paper gets snowed or rained on, tourists stop by and ask what’s you’re doing when you’re in enough trouble trying to fish at least one callsign out of a heavy pileup… We’ve all been there! And of course, I still do a lot of SSB activations. It just feels more personal to me, to be able say hi and describe my working conditions.
As for SOTA CW activations getting easier and becoming more computer-assisted, I guess this is what happens with every activity, be it DXing, Flora and Fauna or SOTA. But because many people learn CW primarily to participate in these, the pool of people who know at least basic CW is growing. Among some of them you will also potentially recruit more partners for casual CW rag-chewing.