From time to time allegations surface, both on the Reflector and elsewhere, that the SOTA database is being “manipulated”, followed by demands that the MT “do something”. Certain contributors claim to have “evidence” but seem reluctant to make direct accusations. However, the same people are quite keen to accuse the MT of somehow being complicit in the alleged malpractices. The time has come to make a statement!
First of all, please note the disclaimer in the header of the database page that states “SOTA is not inherently a competitive activity, it’s about individual aspirations and working towards a goal at your own pace. However, it can be fun to see how your progress compares with that of others, hence we publish our Honour Roll on the internet.”
The prime intention of the database is to provide an easy method for each participant to keep track of their individual scores, and its secondary function is to allow easy submission and cross-checking of claims for the various SOTA awards. Because each participant may have different aspirations, there is no inherent obligation to enter each and every SOTA contact, especially for chasers. Some users may only enter QSO data for a particular band or mode, or from a self-selected starting date, whilst others routinely add everything, even the zero-point QSOs. Such behaviour is entirely at the discretion of the user, and entirely within both the rules and spirit of SOTA. It is also worth noting that the claimant’s database record is scrutinised whenever an award claim is made, and any discrepancies will be referred back for clarification/correction.
Having taken the above into consideration, it is clear that the database is still full of erroneous data. There can be many reasons for this, and it is a natural result of allowing humans to access the database! Elsewhere in amateur radio, contests are regularly used to examine operating and logging skills. Even the most adept participants regularly lose points by mishearing or mislogging the essential data. How much more likely are such errors when paper-logging on a cold, wet and windy summit? Add to those difficulties the inevitable clumsy fingers when updating the SOTA database, and it is no surprise that much of the data is flawed.
Some participants regularly attempt to “clean” their personal record by checking for obvious, and not-so-obvious, mistakes – things like entering GW3BVE or G3VQ0 instead of GW4BVE or G3VQO. A useful way of tidying is to view your chaser record and note which entries do not have the confirming * symbol. There can be many reasons for this, but, where the claimed QSO is with a frequent activator, a check (now possible since the database became fully visible) of the corresponding activator log may reveal the problem – not-in-log, wrong date, wrong time, wrong band, wrong summit, wrong callsign logged, etc. Many of these can then be corrected, or referred to the activator for possible correction where appropriate. There will also be cases where, despite a belief that a valid QSO took place at the time, it is clear that your callsign was just not logged by the activator for whatever reason. Such pseudo-QSOs can be deleted.
Once again, it must be stressed that such errors are not attempts at “manipulation” of the database, and there is no loss-of-face involved in tidying up. If everybody took the above steps the database would become a much more reliable source of statistics.
Having made the MT position clear on the limitations of the database, hopefully many questions have now been answered. However, if anybody has clear evidence of cheating (i.e. breaches of SOTA rules), they are requested to make the facts known to the MT, in strict confidence, together with any supporting documentation. Clear, proven, breaches of SOTA rules could ultimately result in exclusion from all SOTA-related activities (Reflector, database, etc). Please note that anonymous accusations or “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” comments on the Reflector are not welcome.
Les, G3VQO obo SOTA Management Team