Wednesday, July 27, 2022

When is it not fun anymore?

This is a personal "rant" and all my own humble and probably misguided opinion, but I'm going to commit it to print, anyway. I'm probably totally wrong, and not many will agree with me, and I'll probably get some hate mail, but so be it., and here it goes: There are some things in Amateur Radio that started out as great ideas, intended as fun, but seem to have morphed into and have taken on lives of their own.

A case in point - NPOTA in 2016. Now don't get me wrong - I absolutely LOVED NPOTA and I have often stated that 100 years from now, it will still be one of the best things that ever came out of the ARRL. It was designed to be a celebration of the Centennial of the National Park System - right? Go out, get some fresh air and have some fun, enjoy being in the Great Outdoors and maybe learn a thing or two about the park or entity that you were operating from - right?

Well, soon it became how many entities can one activate in a day, or a weekend, or a week. I guess the roving thing is fun for you competitive types, but it seemed like it was missing the point to me. When I mentioned this to one Ham of Facebook, who was lamenting that he was not able to activate as many entities in one day as he had planned, I was summarily told to "go jump off a bridge".

The same thing seems to be happening to POTA, another program I dearly love. Look on social media and there are just so many posts of people griping about pileup behavior, ops calling other ops "lids" and the like. How can it be that much fun if you're getting your panties all bunched up in a wad?!? 

I look at FISTS, the SKCC and the NAQCC and sometimes it seems like the QSOs have become just a hunt for operator numbers for awards. Not that there's anything intrinsically wrong with that, but each of these organizations were founded to provide a FUN way to promote the use of CW, QRP or in the case of the NAQCC - both.  Exchanging member numbers is fine, but that shouldn't be the end all of the QSO.  I can't tell you how many times a QSO has ended shortly after I have given away the coveted piece of info - my membership number.  Whatever happened to the art of the rag chew? I have to state for the record that some of the best rag chews I've ever had never had a membership number as part of the conversation.

I guess I'm just not the competitive type.  When I enter QRPTTF, or FOBB or even when I came up with the idea for the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt, I didn't and don't go out thinking that I'm going to win or even place high in the standings. I go out with the idea of enjoying the ability to get outside get some sunshine and fresh air, have fun and forgetting about the everyday worries of life for a few hours.

I know, I'm weird. Please forgive the rant.

73 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!


  1. Anonymous11:24 AM

    I'm with you on this one. (end of comment rant). 73

  2. One club I've been active with has been PODXS 070 - dedicated to PSK31 operating, which I happen to really like. One of the best things about it is that it is very much *fun* focused and friendly. 'Contests' are very low key, 'awards' are called endorsements and the members actively help one another earn endorsements. I've earned a lot of the possible awards. One which I particularly liked was the 'Ragchew 3/30' - to earn the award you need three QSO's that last 30 minutes or longer.

    I don't much care for contesting, but there are a lot of people who seem to have a great deal of fun with it. In my book, that's nice - there's something for everyone. We don't all need to like the same thing.

  3. And, I thought it was just me who thought that way. Rich, WD3C

  4. Larry, I teach Technician license classes, and I always tell my students that ham radio is the hobby of a thousand hobbies. Regardless of what you like to do, there is something in the hobby that will fit your needs/wants exactly. There is nothing wrong with the “stamp collecting” approach of collecting numbers and parks and states and DXCC entities, just as there is nothing wrong with wanting to get more out of a QSO than a number. And of course there are those who never get in the air and just like to tinker and build and test and then move on to the next project. Nothing wrong with that either. Our hobby is what you want it to be. de K5KHK

  5. Like you, I loved NPOTA and love POTA now. I suppose during NPOTA, I had a bit of a fire in my belly to make the most of it while it lasted (knowing it would end on 12/31/2016). I never intended to be first at anything, but I immensely enjoyed having an excuse to play radio outdoors on nearly a daily basis. What fun! I agree that it's the best activity to the ARRL has ever hosted.

    I play POTA as much as I can when it doesn't interfere with my family activities. Indeed, what's so wonderful is that it often compliments my family's activities.

    I honestly couldn't tell you how many parks I've activated this year. I don't even have a vague idea. It's easy to find out on the POTA site, but I intentionally only check that at the end of the year. Numbers simply aren't a motivator for me. Neither are awards although POTA has done an exemplary job of making those accessible and achievable by all.

    Like you, I'm just not the competitive type. Indeed, competition often takes the fun out it for me. I know for some, though, the competition is what makes it fun. To each their own, I reckon.

    I have noticed an increase of POTA activators that treat POTA like a contest in the field. Ops that run an activation as they would a contest: the shortest exchanges possible, as rapid as possible, with IDs only when they don't get an immediate reply from "QRZ?" I've heard this in SSB and CW. I've always assumed that these are folks coming from a contesting background who see POTA as another avenue for numbers and awards. Again, to each their own.

    In SOTA, I'm often asked when I think I'll achieve the much desired "SOTA Goat" status. At the current rate, perhaps 5-7 years? :) I could hunker down and plot out the shortest path to SOTA Goat status, but it's not me. It's less about the achievements, more about the journey.

    Cheers & 72,
    Thomas (K4SWL/VY2SW at present)

  6. Hi Larry. I can sympathize with your frustration. However, in 50+ years of ham radio, there's one thing I've learned. The hobby is very diverse, and there are many opportunities to enjoy different aspects of the hobby, whatever your interests may be. I loved NPOTA too and had a ball that year. POTA now is an offshoot, and I activate whenever I have a chance traveling, but only casually. The same for SOTA. I could care less about being competitive and paper chasing. I do it because it's fun and I can learn how to improve, particularly running QRP with various antennas. The only obsession I have is trying to improve my results in the Skeeter Hunt, HI ! So, it's a bit like politics. I've stopped watching and listening to the ranting and raving that we are constantly bombarded with from the various biased media outlets. I just ignore them and am much happier. I honestly don't understand why someone would want to sit there and yell and scream at the television out of frustration. The same for our great hobby. I've never been pigeon-holed. I enjoy a little of it all- contesting (casual), DX hunting, antenna building, QRP portable, satellites, QSO parties, Field Day, etc, etc. It's all fun. But when it stops being fun, I move on to another aspect of the hobby. Right now, the whole world seems to be on FT8 at the expense of other modes. That's fun too but it can get a little boring after a while. That's why events like the Skeeter Hunt are so enjoyable. Like minded quality Ops in a short sprint. I long forward to it every year. So thanks for giving me an opportunity to broaden my ham radio horizons. And when you get frustrated, try something else. It never gets old.
    C U in the "Hunt"
    Marc, W4MPS
    Clayton, NC

  7. Anonymous6:57 PM

    I am with you on this.

    I am also a contester, and deeply enjoy the competition, learning opportunities and relationships that take place in contesting. But, I also noticed the change in how POTA is getting more like a contest. I don't always want to contest. For me, I like to keep POTA casual, 18 wpm, paper logs, no memory keyer and QRP. Caveman POTA.

    Speeds have escalated, exchanges are more brief and hunters are really getting impatient.

    POTA is at its best when there is time for a 72/73, saying ge Bob, never saying QRZ and so forth.

    Sometimes, I need a break. That is when I go do rag chews for a few weeks.

    Jim KF9VV

  8. Anonymous9:12 PM

    I hunt POTA for a few minutes nearly every day, often during my lunch break if I have one (an advantage of working from home in a combined shack/office). Almost always CW. I find a wide range of activation styles, from the call-exchange-QRZ? contest style, to the slower, greet-everyone-by-name operators. I appreciate each and every one of them taking the time to activate. It's really up to the activator to set the tone and pace. When I come across an unruly pileup, I'll generally go elsewhere rather than add to the mayhem for the activator.
    I've activated a couple times myself, and the style I adopt really depends on how things are going. If I get a bunch of callers, I'll work down the pileup contest-style. If it's just a caller here and there, I slow down too, and might give a little more info about the park, my setup, etc. If I'm not having fun, I'll go do something else.
    I think any activity known to man can be turned into a competition by those so inclined...I do a bit of contesting myself, even though I'm not a very competitive person. My point being, it's all good! There's room for everyone to do their thing. If their thing is not my thing, I can always turn the big knob.
    I always enjoy your blog, even if I don't always operate QRP. My hat's off to those who do!
    73 de W0ZF