The Big Project

Still zero dBm RF flying around. Last week’s CQ WW CW blowout was a tough nut to crack. And just as things go, Monday was a perfectly quiet day. Zero wind. Even the lightest branch on the trees wasn’t moving. And what’s left of the leaves did not move a millimeter. Fortunately I had something to work on last weekend. In fact I have been working on The Big Project for almost three weeks now. I lost track of the hours I already invested. And I still have no clue where it’ll end up.

Three weeks ago I noticed a small change in the UBA HF personnel. It wasn’t even announced but as an insider… I pulled the plug out of my UBA ‘career’ three years ago for several reasons, but since my heart belongs to amateur radio, I closely follow what happens there. Over the last few months, several people asked me what was happening with the results and scoring of the UBA DX contest. I must say that I didn’t know anything, at least not on the record. But rest assured: my ears pick up a lot of signals. I won’t disclose the little things I do know however. It would not be fair to throw things told to me confidentially out in the open. Sometimes, it might deliver some juicy content but that’s not the way I am.

The UBA DX Contest is a fun contest. And it is one of the biggest of the smallest. Especially the CW leg. The SSB leg suffers from the CQ WW 160 CW contest coinciding. But nowadays managing a contest means that the management needs to be sharp. Publish received logs on the internet. Publish scores and statistics as soon as possible. Tell some stories. Show some pictures. Send UBN report to the participants. None of that is currently happening for the UBA Contest. The main reason (there are others too) for that is that there is no software tool to do it. It’s virtually impossible to check logs thoroughly without some dedicated tool. The people behind the contest do their best but at a given point, you hit the wall of what cannot be found or checked without software. Or you need to find a kind soul who will print out 1400 logs with 20 000 or more QSO in total, and cross check each and every contact by hand. Ain’t gonna happen.

I know that the last person who volunteered for this job came across this piece of software. But it turned out to be a Russian mail order bride who presented herself much prettier than she actually was. So back to square one when it comes to the log checking software. I started thinking: what if I tried to put together such a software? I am not a real programmer but I can do some stuff. I already have bits and pieces of code that could be used. I know what a contest is. I know Cabrillo. I know what is normal and what smells fishy in a contest. I speak the three languages (Dutch and French for ON and English for Rest Of The World). I like to write contest stories. And most of all: I have an idea in my mind what should be done.

However: I DO NOT want to do it. The job itself, collecting and scoring the logs and reporting after that work is done, could be fun. You could plan the workload yourself. Writing the software is a challenge. I think (*THINK*) I can do it if I have enough time. But I DO NOT want to team up again in some form of ‘contest committee’. I DO NOT want to get involved and become a UBA official again. I DO NOT want to spend countless days in a year sitting idle on a table in useless meetings that create more work than can and should be done. I’m a Single Operator all the way, not part of a Multi Op.

But let’s look at things from a different angle. The way the contest is run now, will only lead to its downfall as I see it. And if everyone thinks like me, nothing would ever be done. What if N1MM had a plan but never started coding it up? What if Mister Yagi had a plan but never tried it? What if Marconi… So maybe, just maybe, I should stand up and raise my hand? Not that I compare myself to the names in this list. I know it sounds very blasé and believe me, I absolutely don’t mean it that way, but who in Belgium combines the skills for the job other than me? If you do, please stand up too! So I started writing code for hours on end. That’s a story on its own. I now have some ‘proof of concept’ that shows me I can pull it of. But there is a lot of work to be done to get my program working. I asked the much appreciated opinion of some of my buddies and they told me I should submit my proposal to the UBA. So that’s what I did. I proposed to become the free-lance contest manager for the UBA DX contest. Free-lance being not affiliated with the UBA other than a regular member. Let’s see what gives.

Speaking more generally, I think that is what is could be improved with ham radio in Belgium. We all have our lives, jobs, families. All our days are too short and our weeks do not count enough days. But each and every one of us has some skill he could put to use of the ham community in Belgium. Why does the UBA suffer from a gigantic lack of content for its magazine and web site? Because there is a gigantic lack of input from the Belgian amateur community. The UBA’s output is our input. So think of that next time you wonder why the website isn’t updated. Or when one visit to the toilet suffices to read the whole magazine. If you think you can help out, stand up and raise your hand. 73!

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