Please do not post spots in an attempt to communicate with activators. Recent example:
But if we expand the spots then we see that KX6I didn’t post that spot and was in fact on 30 meters:
There are a lot of different ways that people get spot notifications, and not all of them include the comments. I saw this spot and thought KX6I was on 10 meters when in fact he was on 30 meters.
Do not assume that people will see your comments. If you absolutely can’t stop your self from abusing the spotting system, at least use fake frequencies and modes. For example, 28.000 and mode ‘other’.
This goes for ‘QRT’ and ‘QRV in 20 mins’ types of spots… please PLEASE use frequency/modes that make it clear that it isn’t a real spot. I can’t tell you how many times I have stopped what I was doing to listen for someone who spotted on ‘14.063 CW’ only to later realize there was a comment like ‘QRV in 20 mins’ that I didn’t notice. Worse, I’ve seen this kind of spot cause major confusion when there was a POTA station on the spotted freq, and suddenly all the regular SOTA chasers show up and start calling because they think the spot was real!
Related occurrence: a Sota station who has been on a spotted freq for awhile goes QSY and another Sota person on a different peak takes over that freq while rarely identifying. Happens to me at least once a week.
Yes spotting could be improved and hopefully your comments will be heard and acted on
However it always necessary to hear the station before calling. Spots can have errors so confirm don’t assume it’s correct
I had a moment of fat fingertips on a recent summit and miss-keyed my own callsign. Cellphone coverage was patchy and when I saw my error could not edit it. One chaser insisted on using the wrong call. Obviously I was not Q5.
Of course specifying a frequency may also cause the activator to be locked out of RBN spotting for 10 minutes if the frequency you choose within that band is near to but not the one they end up on, taking them longer to be spotted and qualified.
Assuming of course the activator even has sufficient cell coverage to see the comment.
I assume others use this as I do when I’m headed for a peak and about to lose mobile coverage, or when you need to walk some distance to get coverage to spot a QSY. Posting for an invalid freq in this case would be pretty pointless.
The issue to me seems more with the failure of s/w (EDIT: by s/w I meant ‘software’ (apps), not sota-watch) to display the full spot, than with creative but effective use of the spotting system.
When in coverage I also do appreciate the ‘could you try 40m again?’ type spots to let me know there are people who missed out - though as discussed above only if they indicate my correct current frequency. I do wonder if Andrei, requesting a QSY in the OPs example respotted the wrong old spot by accident when making his request.
How about alerting specific frequencies with realistic ETAs, then spotting an obvious fake frequency whilst telling us you will be 20 minutes late, if necessary? Freq not available? No problem. Go 3 Khz off if SSB or 500 hertz if CW. My favorite trick is to alert the top of the band and then down a bit if already taken, e.g. 14.347, then down.
The issue at present is not busy frequencies (expect for maybe an hour a day if greyline is active). Oh how I long for busy frequencies!
It’s calling for hours into a silent band whilst you leach warmth, enjoyment and will to live. From experience, unless bands are open to QRP DX, the chances of someone stumbling across a random CQ CQ is maybe 10%, even with an alert. The only way to reliably qualify a summit it to spot the frequency you are on. You do what it takes to achieve that.
SOTAmat certainly helps, but we need a denser network of gateways in this part of the world. I’m lucky to have the luxury of InReach satellite messenging, but that comes at $24 a month plus $1.80 a spot (and a 5-10 minute average wait for it to send). But for those who don’t have those options, let them do what works for them.
The issue here is that some people have chosen to use software that does not display comments in spots. That is their choice. And that is fine. And I fully support them in their choice. But they should not expect the rest of the word to be hamstrung, or change their operating procedures to suit that fact.
SOTAWatch is not the only way that chasers get spots. That’s my point - there are many ways to get spots and many of those ways do not include the comments. This is not a failure of SOTAWatch. As an activator you should be aware that when you post a spot chasers may not see your comments, and they generally will tune to your spotted frequency and listen for you.
It sounds like a very different environment over there. Here on the west coast of the USA, the bands are very busy and there are loads of SOTA and POTA activations going on almost all of the time, 7 days a week. Perhaps you can get away with posting a spot on a specific frequency 20 mins before you are QRV, but around here there is a good chance you just sent a mob of chasers after some poor POTA op who doesn’t understand what just happened.
My comments are mostly aimed at activators operating in NA. We generally don’t have any trouble getting spotted and there really is no good reason to post a “QRV in 20 mins” spot with a specific frequency. Especially when you have no idea if that frequency is in use or not.
I have no problem with people posting these kind of spots, but use a frequency like “14.000” so we can easily tell it isn’t a real spot, even if we can’t see the comments.
Hi Josh, As this is not a fault with SOTAWatch software but rather how it is being used, I have moved the thread into operating procedures.
Discussion around what SOTAWatch is used for comes up from time to time and the examples you give are similar to how some people use the DX Cluster when seeking contact with a DX station.
The example you give highlights the fact that there is no universal “back channel” for chasers to request a contact on a particular band or for the activator to inform the chasers that he/she is now QRT. While the “activator is king” and doesn’t need interruptions from chasers telling him to move frequency, polite requests from chasers may be followed by the activator if there is enough time and he/she has the capability to move to another band - I agree with you that if you don’t display the comments in these messages you would expect the activator to be on the new frequency (HamAlert I believe does this alert on the spot when it comes).
Without a separate universal “back-channel” these messages and requests have nowhere to take place. (on a regional basis DL/BW use a Signal channel). Perhaps if SOTAWatch is used for such messages (which the MT has ruled it should not be, in the past) it would be better to leave the frequency and mode set to what is in use by the activator and the chaser to put the requested new band / frequency / mode only in the comment section. For “I’m going QRT” messages the activator could set the frequency to 7.000 or 14.000 or whatever and mode to other - so that it is clear that this is not a valid spot rather an announcement.
That’s just my two penneth. I’m sure others will have other opinions but without that backchannel, I suspect this will remain a problem.
73 Ed DD5LP.
UPDATE; Here’s an idea:
If a new option under the mode field in SOTAWatch could be added “MESSAGE” - all spot alerting tools can be set to which mode(s) you are interested in and if you do not include the “MESSAGE” mode you would not get these messages triggering the indication that an activator is on a new band.
Of course, this would depend upon how complex it would be to change the SOTAWatch web code (and possibly the other independent apps) but it could be a solution that both sides could live with. - again just my 2penneth.
I suspect we just need to file this under ‘regional variations’ in SOP. See the attached screenshot of the most recent history ZL/VK spots across all award programmes: maybe 15-20% depend on the viewer reading the comments to make sense.
So let’s acknowledge that those for whom this is normal practice - be aware that some users choose to use software that does not show comments. But don’t be surprised if people from parts of the world where this is the norm continue to use spots in this way.
I disagree with those traditionalists who say alerts and spots are a form of cheating. I bet they have never sat at a mountain summit in winter weather randomly trying to make contacts in marginal Condx with a QRP radio and compromise antenna. So, I alert and try to self-spot every time I activate and I’m very grateful for RBNs and for chasers who have obviously checked with SOTAwatch.
However, once I start working a particular band I don’t try to check SOTAwatch again. I rarely do ‘hunt and pounce’ style of operating. CW activating especially in a pile-up takes 100% of my brain and hands. Even when things go quiet - especially at this time of year - I’m racing against the clock before my old hands and brain freeze. So, unless I’m QSYing to another band (and try to self-spot again) that’s it with the phone.
I wonder how many activators like me don’t check their phones (even if they have reception on summit) so would never read ‘request’ spots from chasers. Although not an old school purist, I dislike excessive reliance on the phone during activating – for me the pleasure is the interaction via my radio.
If I have mobile reception on a summit (and I often don’t once I’ve sat down huddled in my tarp) I do keep an eye on SOTAwatch. I check that I have been spotted by RBNHole and will look for S2S. But if I am getting lots of calls I probably won’t check it that often and would probably miss any messages to me. I agree that any use of SOTAwatch for messaging must be unambiguous so the use of frequencies such as 14.000MHz is essential.
When I started on HF in 1983 there was no cluster and no SDR so the only way to find QSOs was to tune around. I am sure that SOTA would have worked just fine back then. Activators would tend to use the same frequencies (e.g. 14.055-14.065MHz) and the chasers would have tuned around this region. But since spotting is the modern way we have to fit into that way of doing things.
Me too, or do I mean me neither. The smartphone is used only to spot myself to alert others I’m QRV … or sometimes, yes, I may have arrived late at a summit (and being old and very stiff it takes a long while to setup) and post a “QRV in 20” or whatever, giving a frequency I’ve already checked is not in use. I don’t feel that this latter type of spot is a misuse of the spotting system: it’s easy to underestimate (or do I mean “misunderestimate” ) the time required to get to a summit top.
Again, that’s my way also. I personally dislike smartphones very much indeed, so I use mine + sotamat in a very minimal fashion. And yes, calling CQ without a spot or alert here (DL, EU) is likely to get one zero SOTA chaser contacts: not many tune around these days.
Because in the past Sotawatch spots have been abused, to the extent of sending misleading, threatening and abusive messages. The General Rules states that “The SOTA spot and alert boards are not general message boards for anything other than providing key frequency, mode, time and callsign data. Persistant abusers may face sanctions.” AFAIC things like polite requests from chasers, or activators sending information like “summit in 20min” are within the purpose of Sotawatch but at busy times may drop down the screen out of sight very rapidly and be missed by the intended recipient.
My practice is very similar to yours, except for the fact that even for a single CW contact I have to use 200% of brain and hands and even so I fail miserable.
Here in Brazil, if you are late in the summit according to your previously posted alert, even for just 5 minutes, chasers begin to call you!!! Earlier they called or sent WhatsApp messages or made fake spots asking for QSY for their own QRG. It was an unnecessary stress, as I tried to “serve” them although I was in precarious conditions in thick forest, full of insects, in dense closed trails and so on.
I can understand that chasers are a little bit anxious when hearing only the other chasers making contact with an activator, but not hearing the activator himself. It occurs here for example when I’m doing some DXs with Europe or USA in 10m while in a summit, but fellow chasers in a city nearby hear just the European and North American chasers. In this case I used to receive a lot of phone calls, messages and fake spots.
But after talking with the colleagues and mainly after fully ignoring incoming calls and messages during the activations, people began to avoid contacting me by other means than by radio when I was activating.
I just use the cell phone now to make a spot in the band I will work in that moment and if there’s no cell signal I rely on friends that know which QRG I will use (as written in the alert) and stay listening. After we make a QSO they’re very kind and send a real spot to me.
In my early days of doing SOTA I used occasionally to post similar self-spots if running late, but I was rebuked (albeit mildly) on this reflector - as I recall by a MT member - for adding unnecessarily to the large number of spots, so I don’t do it any more. Fortunately, using my Excel planning spreadsheet (with its estimated or past drive and walk times) I’ve got better at arriving on summit usually +/- 15 minutes.
Do you alert with a specific frequency? I only ever alert with the band, e.g. 14-cw