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The Treatment of Unique Callsigns in the CQWW RTTY and CQ/RJ WPX

from Glenn Vinson, W6OTC on October 5, 2001
View comments about this article!

At the RTTY Forum in Dayton, 2001 and again recently on the various RTTY reflectors contesters have been discussing the treatment of unique callsigns in the log-checking process for the CQWW RTTY and CQ/RJ RTTY contests. In general, such uniques are given zero QSO points and no credit as a multiplier. Since there are valid reasons to support or oppose this policy, I will outline the rationale for the policy.

Until CQWW RTTY 2000, all log-checking for these contests was done manually, meaning that the sort of careful review that the CW and SSB contests have long received was not possible with RTTY. With the introduction of computer log-checking, a true UBN ("unique, bad, not-in-log") report could be created for each log and its contents considered in log-checking. The log-checking software is written by WT4I with Eddie, W6/G0AZT, as a principal beta tester for the software. Unlike the software used for log-checking the CW and SSB contests, this software is available to anyone who wishes to purchase it, making the log review process fairly transparent. Eddie is also the principal log-checker for these contests, and is preparing a more comprehensive description of the log-checking process for publication in The New RTTY Journal.

Where a unique is also a bad call, all seem to agree that it ought to be excluded from a score. Examples include calls that are not legal or that do not in fact exist. For some contesters, this is as far as the inquiry ought to go, meaning that unless a unique is also classified as "bad", it should have no impact on the score. Some, including the ARRL, are prepared to go even farther and to allow a "bad" call to be counted so long as it is inaccurate by only one character (as determined by comparison to a callsign database) in the logged callsign. I fail to see the logic in this policy. Is it sufficient to say that, "This contact should count because I almost copied the call correctly"?

One problem with thus ignoring uniques is the potential for imaginary contacts to be logged. Eddie and I have already seen such a log where the contestant appears to have used a list of callsigns from a particular area and to have entered them into his log in alphabetical order. None of these callsigns appeared in any other logs. This case is but an extreme example of the problem that uniques are unverifiable.

Another problem with accepting uniques is that a large number of mistakes are ignored. The callsign database used for RTTY log-checking is not any published list of calls but instead is created automatically from all of the logs actually submitted in a particular contest that year. One may log a callsign that is not "bad" in the sense that it exists. However, if that call does not appear in any other log, should it be counted? For example, HC8A does exist and in fact has won CQWW SO in SSB. However, he has never made a RTTY contact in his life. If HC8A appears in a RTTY contest log, the very high likelihood is that it is a busted call and should have been logged as HC8N. At least 7 variants of HC8N appeared as uniques in 2001 CQ/RJ WPX, any of which were legally permissible callsigns and some of which were issued-but only HC8N was in the contest. Should all of these claimed contacts be credited because the claimants almost got it right?

By the way, often these "almost got it right" entries can be traced to erroneous postings on DX packet cluster systems.

The vast majority of uniques are of this type, namely busted callsigns, only some of which are also "bad". As I noted at Dayton, and as appears in the CQ/RJ WPX RTTY report in July CQ Magazine, of the 8,137 calls logged in 2001 WPX, only 2,686 appeared in three or more logs. Most of the 5,451 "uniques" were in fact busted, bad or both rather than unique but theoretically good callsigns.

One interesting question was raised at Dayton by a DX station who is often sought by JA stations. Since he is difficult to work outside of contests, he suggested that during the JA openings in the contest he would be called by JA stations wanting to work only him for a DXCC counter. If they were likely to be uniques (as guessed in WPX by their low serial number), logic would suggest that he change bands and not work them, but instead continue working other stations elsewhere that would count. This is an interesting and difficult argument that seems plausible. However, in the UBN reports for 2000 CQWW and 2001WPX we found no significant number of JA uniques in the logs of this DX station.

Another proposition raised on the reflector is that RTTY log-checking ought to follow the policies of CW/SSB. While the great experience of log-checkers in these contests is indeed valuable (and I do in fact consult with people knowledgeable in this matter), RTTY contesting is young enough that it need not be bound by practices rooted in decades of manual log-checking, and, in recent years, by non-public proprietary computer log-checking.

The hard cases, which are in fact relatively rare, are the uniques where, if asked, no one would really question that the contact was made. For example, N4GN's first contact in 2000 CQWW RTTY from EA8BH (where he set a new world record as SO) was an FO with whom he had been ragchewing before the contest began but who did not want to participate in the contest. No one suggests that Tim did not in fact make that contact, but it was a unique and unverifiable. Many other reputable contesters have said that they did in fact make one-off contacts with their friends, or mateys, as G0AZT calls them, and are indignant that such contacts have been disallowed. However, we must either allow uniques (so long as they are not "bad") from everyone or have some uniform standard for rejection. We cannot apply a different standard to different operators. The easiest cure for this problem is to ask the mateys to make a few more contacts.

In these instances one must re-visit the basic purpose of log-checking. Surely, it is to apply in a consistent and uniform manner a fair set of filters or rules which, after the contest, help insure that the event is scored as fairly as possible. In this respect, computer checking is far superior to any manual checking. We no longer even care if you submit a score since the log-checking software will re-score your log in any event. The question is what one considers to be fair. Should the careful or more skillful operator not have an advantage over the sloppy or less skilled operator? In the single operator categories particularly, the winners have relatively few uniques. This result does not occur by chance. It happens because the winners generally are excellent operators. Indeed, this is the primary purpose of providing UBN's-to improve the skills of contesters.

Finally, even if one believes that "uniques" ought to be excluded from scoring, one must determine what is a "unique" callsign. Some suggest that an occurrence of two is sufficient not to be unique; others have argued that in a major contest an occurrence of ten is reasonable. In the 2001 CQ/RJ WPX Contest we applied an occurrence test of three. This test hardly amounts to a message to casual operators that, "if you're not serious, get off the bands" as one posting suggested. Making three contacts probably amounts to an effort of less than five minutes. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to work in every contest. Indeed, the competitive stations depend on contacts with casual operators for many contacts in every contest. But contestants also want fairness and equality of treatment. So far as we can tell from our limited experiences with computer log-checking in the RTTY contests, none of the top five finishers in any category would be changed with or without eliminating uniques, although absolute scores might be a little higher.

This brings me to a final point. Log-checking policies in CW and SSB have varied over the decades with the result that a score made in one year (when stan dards were relatively lenient) may not really be comparable to one made in another year (when standards were relatively severe). Some CW and SSB records from the 1980's continue to exist only because the manual log-checking then was, of necessity, laxer than the computer log-checking of today. We have not seen this problem in the younger sport of RTTY contesting because the introduction of computer log-checking has corresponded with having an unprecedented number of participants and high sunspot numbers. New records continue to be set in all categories (except the low bands, which is in line with what one would expect at the peak of the solar cycle), even with more accurate log-checking. Accordingly, the reported RTTY results of today need not be incomparable to future reported results.

Most contestants, regardless of their opinion of any particular rule, have said that clarity and certainty are more important than the content of that rule. In that spirit, I have described above the log-checking policy for RTTY CQWW and CQ/RJ WPX with respect to unique callsigns. G0AZT will expand on this description for other aspects of RTTY log-checking in these contests with the aim of keeping the RTTY community informed in advance of the rules and procedures that will be in place for these contests.

Member Comments: Add A Comment
The Treatment of Unique Callsigns in the CQWW RTTY Reply
by KH7U on October 6, 2001 Mail this to a friend!

I can see and understand the problem. I also understand that the sponsors and volunteer log checkers of the contest can and must do what they feel they must.

However, I am sure there are a minority of people, such
as myself, who are not RTTY enthusiasts, per se, but enjoy contesting and are willing to try other modes to check it out and perhaps add more to the contest if we can.

It is more difficult to compete from some areas of the world due to the distance from the multitudes of multipliers that Europe (in our case) present. Though we work feverishly to try to minimize the disadvantage by trying to get the highest QSO count possible. We know that in most DX contests it still boils down to us "getting lucky" with propagation and getting our share of EU mults.

Fortunately, the prefix contests balance it more for us since, in our case, we are closer to Japan and the
mainland U.S. which are great sources of prefixes. In those and other contests we are lucky to draw the attention and QSO's of casual DXers who take the opportunity to add a new one to their log. You should see the number of serial 001 QSO's we get. We sometimes ask people to work us even if they are not in the contest to help with our QSO count. No, we don't change modes to do so.

I believe it is imperative that some method of validating uniques for all stations be developed so that you don't penalize those DX stations like us. It would be nice if the volunteer log checkers didn't have to do it manually at all. Also, that if the only way this can be done is by doing a detailed manual check of every log may not be acceptable.

I do not have experience checking contest logs so if my suggestion has little practical merit I understand. I assume you already have the means of computer screening for logs that may have "grossly" doctored logs with uniques. I am sure this might involve several comparisons with "lists" of known RTTY users and/or contesters plus other filters.

If you are not concerned with the cheater that puts a few fake QSO's in the log then you might want to just see if you should accept the uniques for a log based on faith and sample check of those uniques. Could a selected number of uniques, both mults and common QSO's be compared to carefully established databases of callsigns to see if they are at least valid callsigns? If you add the usually time of day versus band and location checks you might be able to say that the log is probably okay. The person is not likely cheating. Add whatever other known tests you like.

Shouldn't that be enough to accept the uniques for the whole log? While still maintaining log checking (which is a must to keep a contest "honest")should we err on the side of making things a positive (experience) versus a negative?

If not, I can see how DX stations may chose not to participate in the future as they are penalized (regardless of how evenly) for being wanted DX.
So the rarer the DX, the more uniques are likely. The more that station shouldn't bother to participate.
Or do we have to put a disclaimer in our exchange saying that unless you go make at least two other QSO's with other "loud" stations that you shouldn't bother asking for a QSL card as we won't count you either. Of course, that will mean that I want to know exactly which QSO's were removed so I can be fair to deny these people their QSL cards for "not in log" QSOs.

Oh, and particularly rare places will get a lot of double mult uniques to boot! Even DX chase DX.

You may as well make it a real level playing field and require all stations who plan on being in any contest log to pre-register into a valid database. Then it will be a simple matter to just remove all non-registered callsigns from everyone's logs.

I don't mean to ridicule "well intentioned" decisions or rules. I just hope there is a way I can "have my cake and eat it, too." For those of us who try to be honorable in the log department it is a real "let down" to see your score reduced unexpectedly.

I just did SOSB 40M in the recent CQ/RJ WW RTTY
contest. It is the first time for me with my call.
Shouldn't I expect a number of people wanting a new band-mode contact to have worked me just for that?
How about my friend, Mike, AH6R, who did SOSB 80M?
Do you think HE will have some uniques?

Forget me doing a contest DXpedition... It just wouldn't work.

Kimo Chun, KH7U (K5K, 3B9R, XU1A, K7K and one op of KH7R)
The Treatment of Unique Callsigns in the CQWW RTTY Reply
by vr2bg on October 8, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I make nearly 1k Qs in the contest - everybody who worked me has a safe zone 24 & VR mult, provided they don't bust my call.

Too bad some of the zone & country mults I worked aren't so certain - my own country mult & no doubt several others.

Ding me for my mistakes - great. Get me focused on uniques that might turn out to be mistakes so that I will only log them when I'm certain the Q really took place. But don't ding me for uniques just because the call of the other guy doesn't appear in enough logs.

I only work RTTY in contests. My interest is in contesting. Others who work me may also be interested in the contest, or perhaps is only after a new "one". If they were a unique, then the Q didn't count for my contest entry - how about I refuse to QSL such contacts? I thought we worked, but it didn't count for me - so sod it, it ain't gonna count for you, mate!

In CQ/RJ WPX, should I just say "SRI, NO QSO" anytime someone gives me a number less than 004? Instead of calling new mults when S&Ping, should I dupe people so that they at least show up in my log three times?

We're loosing pefectly good Qs just because the other guy didn't make enough contacts - this tells me I made about 1k too many.

73, VR2BrettGraham
RE: The Treatment of Unique Callsigns in the CQWW Reply
by AH7R on October 8, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I already have sent replies in SASE's provided to
four QSL cards from the contest for 80 meter
RTTY contacts. I would find it most unfair if any
of those four contacts for which I hold QSL cards
were eliminated from my log...

Mike Burger AH7R
PS Kimo got the callsign wrong, it is a 7. Not
even a vanity call, just the one I was issued when
I upgraded to amateur extra some years ago.
The Treatment of Unique Callsigns in the CQWW RTTY Reply
by w2up on October 9, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Removal of non-busted uniques is inherently unfair. It's guilty until proven innocent.
Part of the thrill of contesting is finding or "cultivating" a non-contester into giving an exchange, even moreso a thrill when it's a new multiplier.
One of the Committee's arguments is it is impossible for them to verify unique QSOs - they could be contrived contacts. How does one verify other forms of cheating, such as hi vs. low power, illegal power, packet vs. no packet, more than one signal on the air at a time in single op, more than one operator claiming single op, and so on?
The Committee can look at the percent of uniques in an individual log as compared with other similar scores in the same category. If it is out of line, then an attempt to verify some of the uniques (e-mail, etc.) can be done.
In the recent CQWW RTTY, I recall working one station who gave me a 599-001. I explained the correct exchange to him, and also asked that he please work a few other contest QSOs, so his QSOs with me would count. How absurd is that?
Barry W2UP
Who cares, as long as we all know the rules up fro Reply
by N6NZ on October 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
What is the difference, as long as the scoring process
is transparent and we all know up front what counts
and what doesn't?

1. It makes no sense to get credit for "almost correct" copy.

2. What is so hard about getting your "mateys" to make another easy QSO or 2 or 3 so that they are not unique in submitted logs? They don't even need to send in a log... if they work a couple of other big boys who will be sending in a log your mateys will not be unique. Spread the word and, *poof*, problem gone. And a few more Q's for all, I might add.

Getting every last QSO point is not important. Knowing up front how the log is judged is absolutely important -- can you think of any other competitive endevour where the competitors don't know up front
how they will be judged?

73, N6NZ
N6RZ, you either don't get it or are not an " Reply
by KH7U on October 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
You said, "1. It makes no sense to get credit for "almost correct" copy."

Granted, busted calls may be the majority of uniques in most logs. Fine, use databases of known legal
callsigns or from "all" contests for a period of time as a second filter and any more you care to use that make sense. Don't use a "cluster bomb" to apply to a problem that a "sniper" can do almost as well. Speaking for myself, I make real sure I've gotten the call and exchange right (and resend if I have any doubt that they don't have mine right)when I make any mult or double-mult contacts. I've already made my point as to why "these types" of uniques which are more prevalent for DX stations should not be "thrown out (like babies) with the bath water." It makes no sense to NOT to get credit if we both copied everything correctly.

You said, "2. What is so hard about getting your "mateys" to make another easy qso..."

Who said anything about working friends (if I understand your reference correctly?) Of course, you can educate your friends (if you're prearranging QSO's before the contest) to work a few more people. Personally, I don't do that any further than asking them to get on the air and make a few contacts and include me if they do -- and then, only if I happen to be talking to them before the contest and "think" about it. Where's the challenge in scheduling QSO's before the contest?

You seem to have missed the point about "now" having to send an "educating" paragraph (in RTTY) or waste another half minute or more exhorting people to "make sure you work two or three others so our QSO counts..."
Unless the QSO has a serial number (like 001) in the exchange. How do we know (except for obvious situations) who we need to "teach"?

How else are we to "Spread the word..." as you put it, to the many DXers who don't subscribe to mail lists or follow contesting closely? Which leads me to your third point...

You said, "Getting every last QSO point is not important..."

That is a matter of opinion. Avid contesters fight for every last QSO. That's what competition is all about. Otherwise, why bother with certificates and plaques for so MANY categories? Are you saying, "Just compete and don't aspire to win and don't be disturbed that another station beat you by ONE QSO." In fact, "Why bother to compete at all? It's not important."

You said, "Knowing up front how the log is judged is absolutely important-- can you think of any other competitive endevour where the competitors don't know up front how they will be judged?"

First're absolutely correct. Second part... mostly true except in sports where subjective artistic qualities of performances are judged, like figure skating. It would take too long to explain but anyone who "knows" this sport knows what I am talking about.
I'm not putting the sport down and yes, you do "generally" know the rules. But the "rules" don't always force a judge to FOLLOW them. Seems to me that Olympic Boxing also comes to mind....

Honestly, sir, I think you've missed our points. We have no problem with knowing and operating under the rules. Can you think of any other competitive endeavor where the competitors DON'T work to change unfair rules or change things for the betterment of the sport or competition (yes, in their eyes)? Yes, before and after the contest.

And like any other competition, if the potential competitors don't like the rules they can very well "pack up their toys and go home." My point, again, with this is, why keep some rule that discourages rare (and not so rare) DX from participating due to potentially lop-sided effects on them due to this rule. If that doesn't matter then make all the contests, continental NA and EU and forget the rest of the world. It'll make the logs easier to judge.

How many mults or double-mults do you have to lose before you don't like it?

Think about it. I'll be thinking about whether I want to participate (compete) anymore. (Real)Life will go on. :-)

Aloha, 73 Kimo Chun, KH7U

The Treatment of Unique Callsigns in the CQWW RTTY Reply
by K4WW on October 13, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I am not "rare" DX and don't suffer their "unique" problem! Few, if any, "sporting" events allow "unregistered" participation! While "pre-registration" is encouraged, late entry, for whatever reason, is allowed. A "closing date", prior to the contest could be established and published within the rules, with allowance for "late entries", but registration would be a requirement. This, possibly, wouldn't be an "instant success", however,with proper publication, I believe it would be beneficial "long term"? I see no reason why this "concept" could not be applied to "radiosport" events? One could simply "pre-register" with the appropiate contest manager for any/all contest activity for the year? Being "pre-registered" for any/all contest activity would assure that all contacts could/would be counted? As participation in RTTY contests increases, education of the, very important, "casual" participant is necessary, not only to decrease the number of "unique" calls, but to insure their continued participation! I will continue to work any/all that call me or that I hear, and if they, for whatever reason, choose only to work me, will still be satisfied that I gave a contact to someone that may become a "regular"!
I applaud the contest manager and log checker for striving to apply the log checking process in a consistent, while sometimes seemingly unfair, manner! I believe that some "wise person" once said: "who said life was fair"? This is really not "life or death", but a continuing effort to have fun and be satisfied with knowing that "I did my best"? Knowing that my log will be checked in the same exact manner as all others, removes any doubt of "good ole boy" application to the process!
My call has appeared in countless logs for CW/SSB contests in which I didn't submit a log, however, I have never made one, and only one, contact during those contest's!
C'Ya, Shelby
RE: The Treatment of Unique Callsigns in the CQWW Reply
by MI0BME on October 14, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
RE: The Treatment of Unique Callsigns in the CQWW Reply
by NH6XM on October 14, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
In the last WPX contest I lost some Q's due to busted calls and a couple of 'uniques'. I also lost 10 Q's, 4 of which were multi's because the other stations copied my call wrong. As Brett so aptly put it, ding me for my own mistakes, but please not someone elses.

73 John NH6XM
The Treatment of Unique Callsigns in the CQWW RTTY Reply
by vr2bg on October 14, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
The rules of CQ WW RTTY do not mention that a valid contact requires that the station worked appear in three other logs.

Like other CQ WW contacts, the RTTY contest rules state that taking credit for unverifiable Qs or mults can be grounds for disqualification.

I suppose we should be thankful we're not getting DQd for uniques here, but for the other CQ WW contests, uniques count. Uniques often are bad calls, but bad calls are reasonably proven to be bad (which can be challenged if one has evidence to support it) & come with a penalty. This drives the operator to log only Qs he's certain of.

When choosing to log that Q, the operator only has to judge his ability to get the call & exchange of the other station right. This is something that operator can be reasonably expected to do - even on RTTY, where I've found I can disregard bad print or even decipher what's printed based on what I hear with my ears.

But there is no way an operator can judge whether or not a Q will turn out to be a unique.

This is simply unfair & not in line with CQ WW log checking practice. The CQ WW Contest Committee has over the years honed log checking to undoubtedly the best in radiosport (short of WRTC). Perhaps some of us are wrong in assuming that through CQ's association with these RTTY events, participants could expect the same high standard.

73, VR2BrettGraham
The Treatment of Unique Callsigns in the CQWW RTTY Reply
by n6tr on October 30, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
The article says: "Some, including the ARRL, are prepared to go even farther and to allow a "bad" call to be counted so long as it is inaccurate by only one character (as determined by comparison to a callsign database) in the logged callsign. I fail to see the logic in this policy. Is it sufficient to say that, "This contact should count because I almost copied the call correctly"? "

This is not true at all. I am not sure how this was deduced. If any character in a call is busted, it is an incorrect call and will be removed with any penalty.
The Treatment of Unique Callsigns in the CQWW RTTY Reply
by vr2bg on November 1, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Seems like the DX side is willing to give these contests a miss.

A number of fairly active contesters have questioned the logic of excluding uniques.

And one respected gentleman who is involved in log checking for two major contest sponsors has pointed out a rather significant point about how one of those sponsors does _not_ give credit for busted calls, yet this is given as justification for throwing out uniques in CQ WW RTTY & WPX.

Time for a rethink. At the very least, CQ should disassociate itself with these events. If not, then let's see CQ WW RTTY & WPX contests apply its published rules & DQ those of us taking credit for excessive unverifiable contacts. Perhaps after DQing participants who regularly show up in the CQ WW SSB or CW Honor Rolls, someone somewhere will realize how silly things are with the RTTY events.

73, VR2BrettGraham
The Treatment of Unique Callsigns in the CQWW RTTY Reply
by K6PUD on December 17, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
This is a clear example of how computer checking has been turned on it's ear. Originally log checking was simply used to verify that you did what you say you did. Now it is being used to sleuth out cheaters.

I have in my contesting history dropped into a contest and made as fewer than 5 QSOs several times because of equipment failures, power outages or family emergencies. I'd hate to think my QSO's would be deleted.

I also have a good friend that is a DX'er who has worked almost all countries. He often makes only a handfull of contacts that he needs for new ones or band fillers. Sometimes only one or two I'd hate to think that his contacts would be removed.

Also I've had many, many, many instances where people have responded to my CQ's admitting they weren't in the contest and querried me as to what I needed for the contest. Some of them (especially those in the waning minutes of a contest) I'm quite sure decided not to make any more contacts. I'd hate to think that those contacts would be deleted.

We had a incident here a few years back during CQP log checking where a couple with similar KH7 callsigns were operating from a midwestern state. Neither submitted a log. The wifes QSO's were flagged since she made only a few contacts. Several log checkers dinged those logs since there couldn't be two stations with such similar calls in the midwest. They of course were perfecty valid contacts.

Log checking follow the mantra of the medical industry and "Do no harm." A valid QSO should never be removed from a log. There are enough hassles in getting your license, assembling your station, learning the ropes in the hobby, we don't need to add any further detractions to the sport. Contesting is the fastest growing segment of the hobby in a number of countries around the world. We need to make rules that encourage rather than discourage this.

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