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SOTA MT Meeting, March 2017

Since the dawn of SOTA, the Management Team have regularly held meetings to discuss the direction and general business of SOTA. Another meeting was recently held on March 17th, 2017. As the team has expanded globally, it’s become harder to do so physically, but this year we utilised videoconferencing software, and for the first time had global representation at the MT meeting.

We’ve prepared this summary to keep the SOTA community informed of what’s coming down the pipeline for SOTA in 2017.

Attendees:
G3WGV, G4ZFZ, MM0FMF, GM4TOE, G4TJC, G8ADD locally,
YO6PIB, M1EYP, N7UN, VK3ARR via video-conference.

MT Structure

The original MT structure was flat, with everyone doing a bit of everything. As we’ve grown, that structure has become a little unwieldy and it was decided to streamline the main functions of the MT into a number of groups, each responsible for their particular areas.

  • Summits Group: Led by Simon G4TJC, responsible for checking and surveying new associations, providing new AMs with lists of candidate summits that meet P150 criteria, verifying and pushing new changes into the SOTA Database.

  • IT Group: Led by Andrew VK3ARR, responsible for all infrastructure used to run SOTA: sota.org.uk, SOTA DB, RBNHole, SOTA Shop website, reflectors, etc, and how they interact with each other.

  • Publicity Group: Led by Tom M1EYP, responsible for all SOTA publicity, including Newsletter, media releases, etc.

  • Awards Group: Barry GM4TOE, responsible for management of all awards and merchandise.

In addition, each region will pick up a regional representative to handle local queries. This was being done informally already; for the Americas, it will be Elliott K6EL with Guy N7UN helping, and for Asia/Pacific, Andrew VK3ARR with Warren ZL2AJ helping. Europe and Africa will continue to be covered by the existing local MT members.

Each group will be making an announcement as to their priorities for the year and what the SOTA community can expect.

Awards/Merchandise

As announced by Barry in the last newsletter, a key decision was made to make PDF copies of awards free of charge, as SOTA gains little benefit financially from PDF awards once Paypal has taken its share.

IT Group

Over the past year, the SOTA MT have started making a concerted effort to improve both hosting and management of SOTA servers to reduce the workload on the MT and improve the service to the SOTA community. The biggest example of this is the Discourse reflector, which is maintained from a software perspective by Discourse Hosting.

We will be examining other ways of streamlining the IT used to run SOTA. As part of this, the MT is seeking a Webmaster: see the reflector post regarding this if you are interested.

General Rules updates

A number of clarifications to the GRs were discussed that are in the process of being finalised for public consumption. These are largely based on discussions held by the SOTA community on the reflector, and in most cases we will be incorporating the amendments as suggested, or close to it.

ARMs

A lot of discussion has been happening in the MT both before and during this meeting to discuss how we handle ARMs. ARMs were originally used to submit a new association but have long since stopped serving this purpose and are now a general repository of information on an Association. Maintaining and updating ARMs after an association update continues to be an issue, and even if most changes only involve summit changes, it can take a long time for the ARM to match the current association state.

A lot of this information is stored in the database already, so a decision was made to convert ARMs from being a static document generated by an AM, to being a dynamic document generated by software. To this end, over the next few months, we expect to begin the process of auto-generation. There’s a bit of backend work to go before this is a reality, but we anticipate this will save the MT a substantial amount of post-association-update work, and give consistent ARMs to the community.

YOTA

SOTA once again has become a Super Sponsor of YOTA. The MT see SOTA’s participation in this program as essential to the future of amateur radio, by increasing participation of young people in the hobby. The MT recognises that YOTA is a primarily Region 1 activity, and welcomes suggestions on other ways SOTA may be able to encourage young people to get out into nature (preferably armed with a radio).

Cheers,
Andrew
VK3ARR
o/b/o SOTA MT

11 Likes

As someone who has been involved in various voluntary activities over many years, I know how much work goes into just “keeping the wheels on the bus” with something like SOTA.

To stretch the metaphor probably a bit too far, it seems you are also investing the time into ensuring the bus follows a good route and picks up plenty of passengers in the years to come.

Thank you.

3 Likes

Totally concur Gerald. Well done the MT and associates :relaxed:

Cheers
Jack(;>J

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Yes, a good opportunity to thank the MT for their hard work and those who attended the meeting in person or via the internet. I should think almost everyone would strongly support the YOTA/ SOTA tie-in. Just a glance round the local radio club shows that we need this and other initiatives ASAP if our hobby is to continue. 73, John.

4 Likes

Dear Andrew,

congratulations! You have accomplished what I have been missing in SOTA for many years: This is the first time I read about the results of a MT meeting.
To carry on with @MW0WML’s methaphor: Even if the MT is putting much effort in the bus following a good route, the passengers want to know where the bus is going to.

Keep the reports about SOTA administration going!

73 de Michael, DB7MM

1 Like

Thanks Andrew and the rest of the MT. All very sensible stuff and helpful to know what the plans are.

YOTA is a worthy activity and maybe it should be expanded into other regions.

IMO there needs to be a means of sparking interest at an earlier age ( 8 to 12 yo) and a SOTA activation might be useful if run in conjunction with other existing activities.

JOTA is of course well known and a world wide activity but I’m not sure we are getting the best out of that.

We also have in the scouting movement, JOTT, Jamboree on the Trail. This gets youngsters, Cubs mainly, out and about. There is an AR component in that there are typically 3 check points with Rover Scouts and an AR operator checking off participants as they pass. Of course the check points are an OH&S focal point as well. The Start/Finish is the Control. While I think most of the participants are too young for an AR program they can see a little bit of it in action. The older others on the check points in particular can be encouraged to seek a Foundation Licence so they can become control stations for next year or larger walks. SOTA can be a bait.

Locally we have a Schools Amateur Radio Net which gives school age children an introduction to AR. It requires a teacher with a licence and the activities take place at lunch time. It covers some general electronics and simple kit building as well as on air experience. See www.sarcnet.org/

Local Clubs can also run training programs. These work best if they support vocational training and therefore get parental involvement. My local Club has started one such program.

A SOTA activation could be done as a a special treat for participants in these initiatives.
SOTA activators could help by leading an expedition to a peak but it needs to be done as part of the scouting activities or other programs.

Where does the MT come into this apart from support of YOTA in region 1? Dunno but I’m sure something will be considered.

73
Ron
VK3AFW

Andrew,

Thanks for providing this report on the MT meeting.

Re the ARMs, I have been thinking recently that with the evolution of the summit lists into online databases, the role of the summit list in the semi-static ARMs could be questioned, and I was recently discussing with Andrew VK1AD the idea that the ARM could be collapsed down to the local information necessary for newcomers and visitors to understand local requirements (access legalities, specific local weather considerations etc) and the summit list could be defined as the one master summit list in the database.

The database can be maintained for error corrections somewhat more readily than the document can. And duplicating the summit list on the database, the home sota rules website and the ARMs, not to mention copies downloaded into various apps, means that we already have too many copies of the summit list. As soon as something is copied it is potentially out of date.

No doubt that has also been considered by the MT, but I’ll put it out there as a possible step in the evolution of the ARM.

73 Andrew VK1DA VK2UH

That’s part of the plan Andrew. We spent a lot of time discussing whether we wanted a document or could it all be online. The idea now is that instead of a partially free-form document, there will be a fixed set of topics that every ARM must have such as the AM name and callsign, AM contact details, the national radio society name and contact info, the licensing authority, CEPT rules, right of access to land/privacy/trespass rules and so on. All of these items get saved in the database just as items of data for association X. When someone asks to view the ARM on the website, the data for that association is fetched and rendered in some “pretty” format on screen. It’s possible to automatically generate a PDF from that data, so if you want to download the ARM, it’s converted to PDF, then all the summit info for the association is fetched and appended to the PDF. The result is all ARMs look the same, are stored the same, contain the pertinent information and most important, are simple to update. The maintenance of the ARMs is a massive job that nobody wants to do and this should make it easier.

Unfortunately the possibility to pass the microphone to unlicensed youngsters during a SOTA activation has been prohibited in the General Rules. “Supervised operation is not accepted” has been added to rule 3.7.1 clause 1 in the most recent version of the General Rules.
I wonder how exciting just listening to the licensed guy doing a SOTA activation may be for a youngster?

I second this question.

73 de Michael, DB7MM

Hi Michael,

The actual activity of “supervised operation” can take place in an activation. It is just that the points can only accrue to the supervising licensed amateur, ie the holder of the callsign being used, and not the supervised person.

As an example, a few years ago, when my son Jimmy M0HGY was M3EYP with a Foundation Licence:

Suppose we were on holiday in France and we went up to a French SOTA summit. M3EYP would not be permitted to operate in France, but I as M1EYP could supervise Jimmy operating under my callsign. But the station would still be F/M1EYP/P, and any activator points would be logged and claimed by M1EYP, not M3EYP.

As it was we never did any non-UK SOTA activations while Jimmy was M3EYP or 2E0EYP. We have done several since he became M0HGY though and was able to operate under his own authority and not under supervision.

@m1eyp
Tom, didn’t you at one time, teach a class of 11 year children at your school to the UK Novice Licence level where you arranged for the children (not yet licensed) to have a QSO with an activator using your callsign? The licence requires practice QSOs and by letting the children chase a real activation they got QSO practice and saw SOTA chasing at first hand. The only difference to real chasing is they could not log the chase as it was supervised.

That agrees with what I was explaining above Andy. Yes, for several years I taught a class of Year 7 (11-12 year old) students the Foundation AR Licence as a timetabled subject. I am now doing supply teaching work fitting in around my gigs, and on some of these assignments I still get to run some AR activities. I love introducing and promoting AR with school students.

3 Likes

While it is right that SOTA should support initiatives such as YOTA or its equivalents in other parts of the world, I do not think that the MT should be expected to divert attention from their major task of extending and maintaining SOTA as an international award scheme and upgrading facilities wherever possible. This task by itself is taking the full attention of a committed group of volunteers around the world. Youth encouragement and training is itself a specialised task and I think we should stay clear of it at least until we have all the major countries of the world actively participating in SOTA. That is my private opinion, of course, and others may not share it, but I think it makes sense. We have to keep our eye on the ball!

I agree in sentiment, Brian. The YOTA sponsorship effectively outsources SOTA encourage of youth. The drawback of YOTA is it’s largely Region 1 only at present, so we’re not encouraging youth in other Regions through the sponsorship.

I don’t think SOTA is ever going to lead a youth engagement exercise that is primarily originating within the SOTA MT and/or community, but I can certainly see SOTA having a role as a vehicle for youth engagement, and sponsoring other offerings that help not only engage young people, but also grow SOTA.

In this case, I believe that YOTA will be having a SOTA activation day, as it has done in the past, but I’ll admit I’m not across the finer details of the scheme.

Yes. As I said at the MT Meeting, our funding is drawn from around the world so we should be alert for opportunities to support youth initiatives in other parts of the world as long as they have some potential for increasing the exposure of SOTA.

@M1EYP
Thanks for the interesting reply, Tom. Seems I have misunderstood the General Rules and I know I am not the only one here in Germany.
Perhaps the special situation of supervised operation here in Germany is promoting this misunderstanding. Personal calls like M1EYP or DB7MM may not be used for supervised operation in Germany. For this purpose a special training call starting with DN is issued to the supervisor on request. This call is used by one or more trainees without license. The supervisor himself does not use the DN-call himself as he of course holds a license.

For me this contradicts “Supervised operation is not accepted” of rule 3.7.1 clause 1. Why is a strict prohibition put into the rules if the actual activity is not prohibited? Please explain.

So the supervisor can take a trainee to a summit, the trainee does four QSOs and the supervisor gains the Activator points?
Again I am confused as rule 3.7.1 clause 11 reads “Activator points accrue to the operator regardless of the callsign used.” In fact for the example above, the supervisor is not the operator. Seems I need some explanation here, too.

@G8ADD
Brian, I fully agree the MT should focus on running SOTA and not on general promotion of amateur radio to newcomers. But while administrating SOTA the MT can create the prerequisites for it. As SOTA is such a great part of amateur radio SOTA participants all over the world can use it for fascinating interested persons for amateur radio in general.
My propable misunderstanding of the SOTA rules regarding supervised operation made me believe the MT is explicitly blocking this prerequisites.

73 de Michael, DB7MM

Michael, I think maybe you are confusing 2 things. SOTA rules and, in this case, German radio rules.

There is nothing to stop someone obtaining a DN call and taking trainees onto a summit and letting the trainees operate as if they were activating. i.e. a trainee calls “CQ SOTA” and has a QSO with a chaser, giving the summit ref and RST etc. To the chaser it is a valid QSO and the chaser can log it. The trainee, who had the QSO using the DN call, cannot log it for SOTA but they have taken part in a SOTA activation.

Similarly, the same person can obtain the DN call and allow the trainees to chase a SOTA activation taking place. Each trainee can have a QSO with the activator. The activator can log the DN call as it is a valid QSO. The trainee cannot log the call. The trainee has just taken part in SOTA chasing. (Note, the activator may have say 6 QSOs with different trainees all using the same DN call. The activator can log all 6 QSOs but the database will only count it as one QSO, the activator needs 3 more QSOs to get the points.)

SOTA rules affect how people using club calls, supervised operating, etc. score points. They don’t preclude assorted training schemes or perfectly valid operation taking place. The rules affect where the points go.

Man, so much work so little time.
Very clear minutes.
Thanks and good work ya all.