Generic Stuff and Irritations

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Tumblr: Pulling the Plug At Last – I’ve had a blog over there for ages. I’ve put up with all of the nonsense they’ve pulled for far too long now. The company’s various attempts to make money off the service have done little except alienate the bloggers who made the service successful in the first place. Things have gotten much worse over the past year. Advertising is so invasive I can’t even read my dashboard without my ad blockers running full on. The service now seems to be in the process of being taken over by fake automated blogs that don’t have an actual person behind them. Most of these seem to be automated systems that “harvest”, so to speak, cute photos from Tumblr or other internet services, then offer them up on the blog, interspersed with dozens and dozens of fake posts that are links to advertising. The porn bots, the automated porn blogs that were “following” random blogs in the hopes of generating page hits were bad enough, but these new fake blogs are even worse. I’ve had about 50 new followers over there in the last couple of weeks and every single one of them has been one of these automated advertising systems.

I’ve had it with the whole mess over there. I’ll keep reading the blogs of people I follow over there, but I’m not going to be posting anything there any more.

Not sure what that means for this blog. You’ll probably see an increase in activity here. Maybe?


Amateur Radio Irritations Part One: “Contesting” or “Radio Sport” – The first time I heard someone use the term “radio sport” in amateur radio I almost fell over laughing. Until I realized they were serious. What they are trying to do is rebrand various contests as some kind of sport, and failing miserably. But I wanted to talk about contesting, didn’t I? So let’s get on with this.

Let me explain what contesting is in the amateur radio world for those of you who aren’t familiar with it. The basic idea is you have a limited amount of time, 48 hours, let us say, to contact as many other amateur radio operators as possible using a specific mode of operation; CW, SSB, digital, etc. The rules vary from one contest to another. Some are restricted to specific frequency allocations, some restricted to specific operators like the Rookie Roundup, etc. You get points for every contact, with some types of contact being points multipliers. And it’s just – well, it’s just silly. I’m sorry, but it just is.

The two print publications still catering to the amateur radio market, QST and CQ, make a Big Deal out of contesting. They claim it is wildly popular, fun, etc, etc, etc. And while it may be fun for those who enjoy that kind of thing, popular it is definitely not. One of the “big” contests was just reported on in the last QST magazine. They devoted four pages to the thing. How many participants did it actually have? About 4,500 if I remember right.

Now, there are something like three quarters of a million amateur radio operators in the US alone, so 4,500 participants world wide when there are around 750,000 operators in the US alone isn’t exactly popular by any stretch of the imagination. That’s a participation level of – what? About 0.006%?

Now don’t get me wrong. Contests are just fine and dandy if you get into that kind of thing. I can certainly see how someone might even enjoy it. But popular? I’m sorry, it just isn’t. When less than one percent of the total number of a particular group of people do an activity, it is not “popular” by any stretch of the imagination.


Amateur Radio Irritations Part Two: Own Worst Enemy – If you get on the amateur radio websites or read the letters in the magazines, there seems to be one question: Where the hell are all the new amateur radio licensees? We know they’re out there. People are getting licensed in droves. But you never hear any of them actually on the air. So where are they?

If my own experience is any indication, the biggest problem is that the amateur radio community isn’t exactly very welcoming to newcomers. I know there are many exceptions to this, but first impressions count, and when your first experiences are as difficult as mine were, well, you have to have a thick skin to deal with it.

Join a club, they tell you. Well, first of all, good luck even finding one. And if you do, chances are good you’ll have the same experience I did when I joined the Fox Valley club. I dutifully sent off my check, my email address, call sign, and all the other stuff they wanted, and heard — nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not even a confirmation they got the check. The only reason I know they got it was because it was cashed. No email reply, no information about membership, nothing. Meetings were scheduled when I was working so I couldn’t get to those. Emails to them asking about my status never got a response.

The local ARES group was more responsive and more helpful. But the only thing they care about is emergency communications, an area where amateur radio is increasingly irrelevant and unwelcome, only ARES hasn’t figured that out yet.

If you dare to get on the air, especially down on HF, watch out. The very first contact I made on 10 meters was to someone out in California who spent ten minutes telling me I was an idiot, I was doing everything wrong, that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, all because I hadn’t been required to learn morse code. A few days later I was talking to someone down on 75 meters when someone jumped in and launched into a long rant about how people like me were ruining amateur radio, how I was an idiot, didn’t know a resistor from a capacitor, how all us new operators couldn’t repair a piece of equipment to save our lives and had to buy everything we used. We dropped down to a different frequency and let him rant. He was still at it twenty minutes later.

I’ve been told that most newcomers don’t run into that kind of nonsense, that amateur radio is generally very welcoming. I was probably just very unlucky, at the wrong place and the wrong time. Perhaps. But it only takes one or two unsavory encounters like that to make people wonder if they should be looking at a different hobby.


The Future – So, what’s going to happen here at grouchyfarmer now that my other blog on Tumblr is no more? I’m not really sure yet. There will probably be more activity here in the future. Other than that I don’t know. yet.

4 thoughts on “Generic Stuff and Irritations

  1. Well that reception would have turned me off ever getting on the radio again.

    It seems too random, but as I was thinking that I realized it was really the first internet. But at least on the internet, real time communication isn’t required. And it still has that sort of distance of person that feels socially safe to me.

    I’m guessing radio operators are predominantly men.

    Like

    • Amateur radio is indeed dominated by males. That’s been changing, but unfortunately very slowly. It’s very unusual to hear a female voice on the radio when I’m tuning around. I think my wife may be the only licensed female amateur radio operator in the county, alas. The situation has certainly improved enormously. Many more women are getting their licenses now than just ten or twenty years ago, but they remain a small percentage of the total, unfortunately.

      I suppose in a way it was similar to the internet as a communications system, at least in the first 50 or 60 years of amateur radio’s existence. Much of the traffic on the amateur radio bands was the relaying of personal (non-commercial) messages. The traffic handling system is, it seems, still in place, but I have no idea why. It seems utterly irrelevant these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have not heard/experienced the kind of ham radio behavior you mention, so I hope that maybe you just had a run of bad luck. I think the reason there are seems to be little on air activity compared to the number of licensees is because a lot of people get a ham ticket so they can use their $30 Baofeng radio and never progress beyond that.

    Handheld radios, no matter what they cost, have a very limited usefulness and if it’s the only radio you own then it’s going to get real boring real fast. Ultimately, the fun fizzles out and we end up with a lot of people who are hams on paper but don’t do any actual operating.

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    • That’s a good point about the handhelds. Everyone points to them as being a cheap way to start out, but I don’t really agree with that. Their usefulness is limited and my experience with them is that they can be very intimidating to someone just starting out because they can be difficult to program. I think a lot of the newcomers, especially the tech class licensees, are doing it often for EmCom and storm spotting and aren’t interested in anything else. That’s fine, of course, but if they limit themselves to that they don’t know what they’re missing. I think someone just starting out would be better off spending the extra money and getting a transceiver that can cover HF, VHF and UHF like the Kenwood TS-2000 or one of the Yeaseau models. I’ve seen those used in the $500 – $800 range. A lot of money but most people spend more than that on cable TV.

      I don’t know if it’s just a local thing, but most of the newcomers with tech licenses seem primarily interested in EmCom and storm spotting. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but if they limit themselves to that and never get out of the technician class restrictions, they’re missing out on most of the fun.

      I suppose I’m a bit sensitive, but I still get a bit nervous whenever I venture down into the HF SSB frequencies even now. Probably why I generally stick with digital modes like PSK. I don’t know why. I haven’t had anyone go off on me like that since the first couple of months I had my general.

      I really need to get on the air more often than I do now. I had to take photos and get serial numbers etc of all the equipment for the insurance company and I was flabbergasted by the amount of equipment I’ve managed to accumulate over the last four years or so that’s pretty much just sitting and collecting dust. I need to either start using it or sell it or something.

      Like

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