A Question of TIme

Whilst browsing another topic (I forget which) it stirred a question in my mind about the use of UTC as the measure of time in the database. It maybe that the database does handle timezones and conversions correctly, in which case the question becomes irrelevant.

Also, it is NOT a complaint on the scoring as I’m just interested in my personal score and the logic behind the scoring system/database workings.

I’m going to describe a scenario and my reading of the rules to work out the points scored :-

On the 30th November, activator W7WAA sets out on the arduous task of activating W7W/CH-007 Dragontail Peak, a 10 pointer in the Washington State. They arrive on summit and set-up for activating and make their first QSO at 15:50 local time (23:50 UTC). Over the next few minutes, but before 15:59 local (23:59 UTC) , they make 3 QSOs, one of which is with their friend W7WZZ again to inform them of their safe arrival.

The 4th Qso takes place at 16:01 (00:01 UTC) and 2 more subsequent qsos take place, the final one being with W7WZZ again, to inform them of their immenent descent (on the same band/mode as previous qso).

On reading the general rules the points awarded would be :-
W7WAA (Activator) - 10 points for valid activation + 3 winter bonus points (even though locally all qso’s had taken place before the winter bonus start date)
W7WZZ (Chaser) - 20 points for 2 valid qsos on different dates (in UTC 30- Nov and 1st Dec)

To my mind the Activator score should be 10 points and the chaser score should also be 10 points.

Does the database recognise the local time/utc time difference and adjust or would the scoring be :-
W7WAA - 3 points for winter bonus (even though they had made 6 qsos during the expedition and none in the winter bonus period locally)
W7WZZ - 20 points

Whilst I can see that, if the database did adjust automatically, the time zone for each summit would be mathematically possible to calculate from its lat/long (or even just another field), the time zone for a chaser would be near to impossible and would be an impressive feat.


I’ll let Andy @mm0fmf respond to the specific logic given you threw in the added complication of winter bonus periods, but the database scores entirely in UTC, it doesn’t take into consideration local time zones (that’s your job when you or a chaser submit your logs) and calculating timezones mathematically is for all intents and purposes impossible (cf Singapore, Chatham Islands, and various other “wrong” time zones for given longitudes), but there are a few libraries that do an approximation mainly using GeoIP or other location based services, coupled with a TZ database like tzdata.

In any case, the latter is irrelevant, because the database just deals in UTC, and UTC is consistent enough around the world for our purposes.

Hi Ian,
I think your query is more related to the rules than to the database. From your description, it seems to me that the database logic has performed correctly as stated in the rules. (e.g. the chasers get points before and after “UTC Rollover” if they are in the lucky situation of being in North America or Australasia and hence can have activators out at UTC midnight.)

As amateur radio is an international hobby, it seems to me that any international awards scheme’s should use the International time standard (UTC/GMT) as SOTA does.If you used different time zones and had a contact between two summits, one in each time zone (eg DL and VK) - how on earth would that contact be scored? Better for everyone to stay with UTC.


In this example we see three QSOs before the GMT date change and three QSOs after the GMT date change. It seems to hinge on how these QSOs are recorded in the database. Either this is recorded as one activation, or two activations on separate days. If the option of recording it as two activations is taken, then the score is just three points for the winter bonus on the second date, neither date showing a qualified activation. If the option of recording it as one activation is taken then the score is just ten points, the database seeing the activation as taking place before the bonus period commences.

As others have pointed out, the database will assume that all contacts have been recorded correctly as GMT (UTC) so no adjustments will take place.

As for the chaser score being twenty points, that is correct being in accordance with the way SOTA is set up. Don’t grudge chasers their points, they are kept sweet for the benefit of the activators!

Well Brian, now I have observations - and questions. And I assume that this is a theoretical activation. We are not discussing an actual activation.

I thought I knew the rules here, but I went and looked again to be sure I remembered it correctly. And basically I did, but now I wonder if I understood what I “knew”.

First, I understand that the General Rules are under review again? Any number of clarifications are possibly due in the next publication, but …

3.7.1 Criteria for a valid Expedition #4 “(Typically the contour line is 25 metres below peak height of the summit).” What exception(s) to the rules make the word TYPICALLY necessary?

For #13 - There is a word missing in that one.

Now back to the question at hand. I was unaware of this one activation, two activation “option”. Where is that option spelled out in the rules?

You said "If the option of recording it as two activations is taken, then the score is just three points for the winter bonus on the second date, neither date showing a qualified activation.

So contacts beyond a UTC rollover are NOT cumulative for activation points. This is how I understand the rules.

But contacts beyond a UTC rollover ARE cumulative for the Seasonal Bonus? Where is that spelled out in the rules?

On my initial read of the question, I had the Activator scoring ZERO points, and the chaser scoring two valid contacts - one each on two subsequent days.

I will be monitoring the discussion for the official “ruling” on this.

Glenn AB3TQ

Maybe the question should be how sota is scored?

I am a walker not chasing sota points but who carries a radio and is happy to give a summit to any chaser. I do find it odd that the activator needs four QSOs to obtain points and the chaser only one QSO? It’s the activator who drives to the summit, walks for a few hours to reach it’s peak carrying all the necessary radio gear and food while the chaser sits in a nice warm dry shack.

As I said above I’m not collecting sota points or awards I just enter my log for anyone to check they have worked me.

Darrell GI4KSO

I have never questioned the 4 QSO rule for Activators. The number is clearly written. I understood that and accepted it when I “signed on” to SOTA. It requires you to be on your game, and at times optimize your skill and your equipment. It is fine exactly the way it is. I don’t think I have ever heard an Activator complain about it.

As an Activator, I know how important Chasers are. I would not change a thing about Chaser scoring.

SOTA is mostly non competitive. We do compare at times, but there is NEVER any competition between Activators and Chasers. They help us. We help them. The points are totally different. The system works.

Glenn, if in the example the activator had logged the change of date into the database Then the database would have recorded two activations though I suppose that really it was only one. Now this is the strange bit: if the activator did not log the change of date then the database would log the 00:01+ contacts as being earlier the same day rather than the next day. Whatever your view of the legality of this, it gives the activator the option of compressing two database activations without score but with a bonus into a single database activation with a score…but no bonus. I don’t think this is spelled out in the rules, it is just a result of how the database works, and if it is regarded as a loophole that should be closed then it opens up the theoretical question of whether there was really one activation or two…it also could open the question of how we could legislate this oddity out of existence!

I don’t think it needs further spelling out, once the rollover has occurred the second date is valid for the bonus.

But the activator cannot qualify his activation without the assistance of chasers. Why discourage them? Would you have chasers wait until they have worked four activations of a summit before claiming the points?:grinning:

I dont begrudge anyone any points. They are what they are at that point in time. In fact if the activation took place on 31st Dec and made 4 qso’s on either side of the UTC rollover then the activator would score 26 points for a single activation. The question is just a metal excercise in the rules and database workings.

I pondered which category to place it in when I was typing it.

I agree. UTC should be used. In your example of DL to VK summit to summit I guess they would happen on different local days. The scoring would be correct although an * would not be given against the chaser/activator entry.

Perhaps that is a solution to the “has it become too easy” thread? :wink:

As I mentioned before, its just a mental excercise, rather than disputing any rules or scores.

Thanks fors the opionion and suggestions so far



On the matter of the one activation or two activations, I now understand the unwritten “option”. The option is to lie or to tell the truth. If the rule was that you can combine all QSO’s within a 24 hour period into ONE cumulative Activation, I would be fine with that. I am not fine with lying about an Activation. And it would be obvious what you did by logging those contacts nearly 24 hours apart. For every one of my Activations, I have had to acknowledge that I have entered truthful data. Truth is an option? Lying should not be a loophole.

And are we actually reading the original question the same way? I have to believe one of us is confused. The way I read it, there were 3 contacts before the rollover. There were 3 more contacts after the rollover. Spread out over 5 Chasers.

At exactly what point did the Seasonal Bonus points kick in if they were truthfully entered that way? That is what you meant by the two activation option, correct? The truth.

If I go to a tall Summit in June and make 3 contacts - then come back in December and make 3 more contacts (all this spread out over 5 chasers), I have not accumulated any Activation Points. But will the database give me the Seasonal Bonus.?

Hi Glenn,

I don’t think it is that simple.

It is one activation. The activator climbed and descended the summit once. But, if you enter the dates and times accurately, then you will be claiming it as two activations.

If you log the starting date, and then the end time, it looks as though you activated on two separate occasions on the same day, but it only counts as one activation.

There is no entirely truthful solution to this conundrum. There is some truth in both of the above possibilities. To call either activator a liar would be very harsh, though, in my view.

Maybe the rules could state something like “for a single visit to a summit, the activation date will be defined as the date on which the first contact is made”

That wouldn’t prevent someone from walking out of the AZ and then back into it a few minutes later, but it would be a clear rule perhaps?


Yes. Of course. If you only make one contact then you have activated but not qualified the summit. The bonus goes with the activation, not the qualification.

This is where it gets fuzzy. Were there two activations or just one? Did the activator climb the mountain twice? IN reality it was just one activation, and it is an artifact of the way the database works that it gets recorded as two. It is even worse in Australia where the SOTA day changes in the middle of the day so that many if not most activations get a double record. Perhaps it is easier for me because years ago I used to do a lot of variable star observing and we recorded our dates and times in GMAT (Greenwich Mean Astronomical Time) to make sure that the date did not change in the middle of a run of observations. Be that as it may, having the date change in the middle of a run of contacts is far from a good thing for activators well away from the Greenwich Meridian, leading to cases like the initial example where although there were six valid contacts on a single activation, they become two three contact activations scoring no points because of an artifact of the database. This is an unfair burden on activators well away from the Greenwich Meridian and it is only right that there should be a route to ameliorate this burden. That is my opinion, anyway. It isn’t a matter of lies and truths, but how the MT can deal with problems that were not anticipated when SOTA was first set up. How would you deal with it?

How would I deal with it? With a clearly WRITTEN rule.

Either the Database should accommodate activation entries with all contacts entered at the correct time (giving the points), or the database time shift workaround would be explicitly given the full support of the MT. In the rules, in writing. That is not a hard concept.

As far as your understanding of the Bonus rule. Now that we have clarified that you understand the question, I ask you to review my Activator log.

I visited W3/PD-002 (Clark Knob) on 12/Jan/2016 - I had Three contacts and was awarded exactly ZERO total points. I returned on 9/Mar/2016 and got the required contacts, at which time I was awarded 6 activator points and 3 bonus points.

I visited W3/PW-013 (Riansares Mtn) on 21/Jan/2017 - I had One contact and was awarded exactly ZERO total points. I returned on 18/Feb/2017 and got the required contacts, at which time I was awarded 6 activator points and 3 bonus points.

Have I made my case about how the database works?

I will write about all this later, in detail.

Right now though, the priority is the post-activation pint with Jimmy M0HGY. Which is about to move into the plural.

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Good post activation strategy Tom. Did you manage to work Andy, who was also out on a hill today.

Not to me, you haven’t, Glenn! When it comes to the inner workings of the database I am just another user. Andy is the guy to bend the ear of! I gave the facts as I understood them, but perhaps the maestro has waved his big stick!

OK, here goes. First of all, remember that the act of activating the same summit for no extra points again within a calendar year is still relatively rare among the global SOTA community; we are not dealing with a common behaviour here.

There has to be a point in time that the Database uses as a “cut off” - to separate consecutive activations of the same summit. It uses midnight UTC. Without this, then all activatoins of the same summit within a calendar year would run into one single activation - clearly not the case.

That then calls into question someone activating across the midnight UTC point-in-time. Do they enter as two distinct activations, or one? Well, the choice is theirs. Why?

Well, in several associations, for instance VK and W6, midnight UTC is in normal daylight hours, and an activation might quite normally span across midnight UTC. So that can be entered as a single activation.

But what about the opposite case? For example, I have, on more than one occasion, ascended one of my local hills after 2300z and operated through to 0100z. I have always entered the pre-midnight and post-midnight QSOs as two distinct activations. Why? Because I can. The Database has to have that cut-off point and I therefore use that to record an extra activation. These are repeat activations anyway, so therefore no points at all, let alone additional points are collected.

Yet why should I be able to do this? Well, who’s to say I didn’t get up after my 2350z QSO, walk down to my car 8 minutes away and 80m vertically below the summit, then reascend to resume ops at 0015z? Not that I would need to do that. I would only need to go as far as just out of the 25m activation zone wouldn’t I? Maybe not even that. Consider “drive to” summits like Bishop Wilton Wold G/TW-004 where most activators park in the layby beside the summit and walk 20m or so to their chosen activation point. What would they do - walk to the car and back? Halfway to the car and back? One metre and back?

It’s impossible to define; mathematically you start dicing with fractals. You might say you should packaway all your equipment, then set it all up again. Fine. Mine is a VHF/UHF handheld.

So the Database needs to be able to separate daily activations (for more reasons than I’ve outlined above), but the activator needs a method to get the Database to interpret cross-midnight UTC activations as a single activation - if desired. Or not - if desired. This is all in place.

Regarding the seasonal bonus, I believe Brian is mistaken. I think the seasonal bonus is awarded with a qualification (4 QSOs) of a summit, rather than an activation (1 QSO). Activators submitting a seasonal bonus activation with <4 QSOs before midnight UTC, and <4 QSOs after, but with a sum of >= 4 QSOs, should ensure they do so in a way that the Database reads it as a single activation. Then they get all the points due.

Remember, on manual log entry, you are only asked for the date of the activation once. This is the date of the first QSO. On CSV import entry, all the dates for all the QSOs need to be set as the same as that of the first QSO for this to work. It is fine to use the actual UTC dates of each QSO - but this will cause the Database to split it into two distinct activations. Which, as explained, is not actually a problem, or a “lie” (harsh) because of the multitude of ease/difficulty with which you could leave, and then return to a summit.

The word “lying”, BTW, is way out of line - and in fact plain wrong. The date of an activation is the date of the first QSO, and all subsequent QSOs must be set to this date - for import entry.

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In view of Glenn’s experience I think you are right, Tom. Oddly enough the GR do not make this clear, and I think have never done so. Currently they read:

“3.11.1 Seasonal Bonus Option
A seasonal Bonus may be made available to all Activators undertaking Expeditions within an Association, at the discretion of the Association Manager in consultation with the Management Team…”

In this wording it is the Expedition that attracts the bonus. It does not make clear whether the Expedition should be an activation or a qualified activation. This must be clarified and the wording amended in the next issue of the GR.


As you can see, the month of January has been tough on me. There are even worse examples of zero January contacts that you will never know about. In any case, I had very strong evidence that there was a misconception being relayed about Bonus Points. My experience only confirmed for me what I suspected it would be, but as you have pointed out, it is not explicitly defined. I am always a fan of clearly specified rules. I look forward to the new verbiage to come that will remove any doubt. Thank You.

I made my point badly. I realize I have the luxury of never having to stretch an activation past the UTC rollover (unless I choose to). It seems that those caught up in the opposite circumstance realize they already have the blessing of the MT to time shift to enjoy the same summit experience as me, which they deserve. But I personally would have written it into the rules. That is just me.Then everyone would understand better, and I would not have describe the act of time shifting in that unflattering light. But I did say right from the very beginning, if it was covered in the rules, I am fine with it. The written rules, Not the unwritten rules.

You go to great lengths to justify the behavior like I don’t understand it. I quickly understood it just fine. The time shift is necessary for some to make their experience as normal as mine, but nobody thought it was important to make that clear in the rules. Then the original explanation about “options” was not elegantly crafted either. I think we all understand each other now. Those who are affected, know how to handle the situation. Those who are not affected by it don’t need to know about it. But there ain’t no bad guy here.

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Err, being in ZL I already have at least 1 “expedition” which had QSOs both sides of UTC midnight. I uploaded my log using accurate UTC date and time, and therefore was logged as 2 “activations”. I had no idea that there was another way to do it, and Tom’s statement quoted above has confused me further.

Did I do it correctly, or not?