Many of us are really grateful for your hard work in restoring the RBN spots. I currently have no way to self-spot, and many of our wilderness summits in Colorado have little cell, VHF, and UHF coverage anyway. Getting spotted by the RBN makes our CW activations more fun and efficient.
Another big benefit is that when propagation is poor, a spot facilitates getting contacts in a much shorter time. When the RBN Hole has been down, I’ve sometimes called CQ for 10 minutes or more on 40 and 30M CW, and even though I’ve posted my intended frequencies in my alerts, no chasers found or spotted me. Each time this has happened, I later saw decent RBN spots that would have spotted me. The reverse has also been true - some of my sharper chasers often have found me on my Alert frequencies, spotted me, quickly, and made the day!
The effect of the automatic or self spots is especially important late in an activation, when we’ve contacted most of our eager chasers, but we’re still interested in making more contacts. This is what I call an extended activation. The RBN Hole makes changing to new bands - perhaps frequencies not mentioned in the Alert - a reasonable idea. Without the ability to get spotted on a new frequency, there’s little incentive to try to make a few contacts up on 15M or 17M, late in the activation, where no one is listening. Calling CQ into the void is not why we do SOTA activations. With a spot, it’s possible to get a surprise call from someone on another continent!
I especially want to thank you for sending the link to the original RBN Gateway Instructions!! I was not aware this information was accessible - I knew other activators were using the tools offered - but I didn’t know where to find these details. Perhaps at some point a link to these instructions can be provided from the page where we post Alerts. Perhaps it’s there and I never saw it…
I’ve saved this link where I can find it.
Your comments about which RBN spots to list and to ignore shows that your approach is very reasonable and balanced. You’re aware of the key things that we like and don’t like about these automatic spots - we know that some fine-tuning may be needed. I hope everyone will be patient as improvements are made.
Yes, some of the skimmers are not dead-on frequency. I’ve been spotted on frequencies I never was on! There are many small errors and occasional gross errors. As a chaser trying to find a weak CW activator deep in the noise on 40M, even an spot error of 100 Hz matters, with the receiver bandwidth narrowed down, and my brain processing near its limit.
You will be blamed for some of these spot errors, even though the individual receivers feeding the RBN are off-frequency or make glitches. Some of the comments today reflected that lack of understanding. Self-spots have errors too - especially errors in the summit reference - wrong letter, wrong digit, cold fingers, etc.
Others have said that not knowing whether the RBN Hole will be operational or not is much of our frustration, and I agree - yet we have to accept that this happens. Please continue supporting and improving this worthwhile tool, and know that we appreciate your work! Every time I’m doing a cold or windy activation, near the edge of my patience - or watching a thunderhead growing nearby - running out of time - I’m thinking what a huge difference getting spotted quickly makes.