- Amateur Radio (Ham Radio) Community

Call Search

New to Ham Radio?
My Profile

Friends Remembered
Survey Question

DX Cluster Spots

Ham Exams
Ham Links
List Archives
News Articles
Product Reviews
QSL Managers

Site Info
eHam Help (FAQ)
Support the site
The eHam Team
Advertising Info
Vision Statement

[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

The DX Mess

from Don Keith, N4KC on June 20, 2017
View comments about this article!

The DX Mess

By Don Keith, N4KC

Copyright 2016 by Don Keith

The bands being what they have been lately—something about “coronal holes” and “solar wind,” which sounds painful in a proctological sort of way—some of us tend to start looking for issues to create and things to heatedly discuss as opposed to trying to find some particles in the ionosphere off which to bounce a little RF. I admit the idea for this article came, not from an on-air QSO, but from an email exchange with a ham friend who had just suffered through a traumatic experience, trying to make a simple contact with a recent DXpedition.

“Have things gotten worse?” he asked. “Are there more jerks calling incessantly in the pile-ups, even when the DX op specifically asks for another station to complete his call or requests callers only from a specific geographic area? It certainly seems to me, after a lot of years on the air, that good operators have gone the way of the Dow-Key antenna relay and it is now the %&#$%@& jerks that rule the airwaves. And that it is those &^#$@$% who so often get the contact when those of us who follow the DX code to the letter end up trampled and QSL-less. What do you think, Don?”

Having had similar experiences myself lately, especially with the recent Niger and Tonga operations, my first thought was, “Absolutely! Things are at least 9-to-12 db worse than they were back in the good old days, when everybody was polite, waited their turn, never called unless asked, used minimal power necessary to make the QSO, and were more than happy to delay the precious contact if there was any chance at all he or she might step on another hopeful contact seeker.”

Then I considered it for a bit. The title of a country song I once wrote crossed my mind: “It Never Was the Way It Used to Be.” It’s human nature to remember much more vividly the good things about the past and to notch-filter out the less pleasant stuff. I do recall some of the same antics being present way back then. Also, I know of no definitive study on the subject, and I am a data guy. We have no count of how many jerks were in the pile-ups back in the ‘70s as opposed to the quantity now busily hosing up 20 meters. Any discussion would have to rely on a small sample and anecdotal, biased testimony.

I decided to come at this thing from the other side. If things are not scads worse now, what would make my buddy and I think they were? A few reasons popped right out at me, but at the same time, as maddening as it can be, I can also see how there might really be a greater percentage of %&$*#$ in those pileups than there was in 1975.

So, I am conflicted on the question. Maybe you can think of more reasons why either position is correct. Maybe you would like to do something about the growing “problem.” That is, if you have a clue what that solution might be, other than committing a capital offense or complaining about the situation in the comments section on amateur radio web sites, and either action could follow you around for the rest of your natural life.

Or you could ratchet on about how DX is a waste of time and frequency spectrum that might be better used for ragchewing/contesting/antenna experimenting/nets/SSTV/QRP/satellites or whatever yanks your particular crank.

Reasons jerk DX operators might not actually be any more prevalent today than in the halcyon days:

Number 1: We can hear them so much easier now than back in those days. “Huh?” you glibly ask. Back then, it was a real chore for callers to listen to the frequency range where the DX was listening. Shoot, you actually had to turn the receiver or transceiver dial to see what was going on up there where you and the rest of the world were screaming away, not just hit the SPLIT button. Then, after hearing the mess, you had to tune back down and try to find the DX station again. We were mostly ignorant of how badly the mob was misbehaving. Today, it is not only a snap to listen to the pileup, you can even SEE it! Many of us have a band scope and can watch W6JERK sending away every three seconds, even when the DX operator is working somebody else, calling for Europe, or taking five for a cup of coffee and a sedative. Ignorance was bliss!

Number 2: Back in the glory days, “DX spots” was an itchy dermatological condition. Nowadays, they are either the greatest aid to working thirty dozen entities or the ruination of an otherwise fine hobby. Many guys assume if they see a rare one on the cluster, all they need do is start yelling or pounding away “UP 5” or wherever, the frequency that was so kindly given on the spot where the rare one was supposed to be listening. The hope is that the DX will eventually hear the every-three-second-calling station while tuning past or while trying to work someone else. Or maybe even that the calling lunkhead may eventually hear the DX. Yes, some of these over-biased LEDs are calling even though they cannot hear even a whisper of the desired DX station. They figure if they call often and long and loud enough, the band will eventually shift and the DX will magically rise up out of the noise. And if he does, old lunkhead will be the first to be heard. Never mind how many hearts and spirits the screwball may have broken in the process.

On the other hand, I can think of some reasons why it might actually be much worse in those pileups today than way back then. I mean beyond there are simply many, many more of us around the globe than there was in the mid-70s. -- And many, many more running better radios, superior antennas, and more power. And maybe even a greater percentage of uncouth dimwits in the population as a whole.

Number 1: A corollary for Numbers 1 and 2 above, with the ease of checking the pile-up and with DX clusters, many more of us can see where the DX is listening and who he is working. Then, some of these micro-micro-farad-IQ ops figure if they just keep sending, even if the DX op is trying to work somebody else but can’t establish contact, the DX guy will simply stop trying and pick up -Micro-IQ instead. Most good DX operators take the opposite stance, though, and either call out the jerk or simply ignore him or her until the weaker station can be picked up successfully. (The band police call the lids out, too, but that whole subject is best left for another article.)

Number 2: Most of us now have the ability to record our call signs, regardless the mode, and just sit there and hit a button that keeps broadcasting it over and over and over and over and over. No numb sending hand. No onset of laryngitis. No keyboard stenosis. So maybe the DX will finally get tired of hearing your recording, work you, and move on.

Number 3: There is more competition nowadays to try to land at the top of the Honor Roll or to show up atop the Club Log list for every way a DXpedition can be worked. That means guys feel the need to work a DXpedition on every band and mode available…to show they can…and are disgustingly addicted to doing just that, regardless what it takes to do so or who gets trampled in the stampede.

Number 4: People who donate money to these DXpeditions sometimes feel like they own the opportunity to work them, no matter what. Kind of like me at the all-you-can-eat buffet…I’m going to get my money’s worth so don’t get between me and the roast beef!

Frankly, I look at out-of-turn callers, constant transmitters, and their ilk as just another challenge to overcome, like lack of sunspots or a DX station using an S-38E receiver (some of you know what that is!). It merely increases the challenge. Whether the problem is getting worse, staying the same, or getting better, we still have to work through the dolts to try to get that precious contact and QSL. But so does everybody else who does it the right way.

But I admit I have been tempted to look up WA3BIGLID and drop him an email: “What makes you think you can keep blathering away, incessantly calling the DX, even as the poor guy is pleading for everyone except ‘the Victor Echo seven’ to stand by? Maybe you should check with your neurologist and see if you have a tumor or something. Otherwise, why would somebody be so brain-dead?”

I don’t, though. It is only a hobby. Such lid-ness only makes me appreciate more the contact if and when I finally make it.

Besides, I can always assuage my frustrations down at the all-you-can-eat buffet. Unless, of course, that obese jerk is there again, rudely shoving everyone else aside so he gets first dibs on the boiled shrimp and crab legs.

(Don Keith, N4KC is a long-time active ham and former broadcaster. He is also an award-winning and best-selling author with more than thirty books published, fiction and non-fiction, on a wide range of subjects, including three books dealing with Amateur Radio. His novel Firing Point is now in production as a major motion picture under the title Hunter Killer, starring Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman. He recently received the Bill Leonard Journalism Award from the ARRL for an article on the hobby he wrote that appeared in American Legion Magazine.

Don’s web sites are and The latter site features numerous articles about our hobby. Don also blogs on the subject of rapid technological change and its effect on media, society and Amateur Radio at

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
The DX Mess  
by G3RZP on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Agree wholeheartedly with Don.

One thing I notice over here that there are even members of my DX Club who have been licenced longer than I have (54 years - most of it DXing) who no longer stick to the 'old rules'. The DX station says 'The SM4 only' and even these long licenced guys from G, GM etc are calling. I guess they figure that they may as well act like everyone else. There are also the 'traffic cops' and, sad to say, the DQRMers (Deliberate QRM). These are the guys who have worked the DX and don't want anyone else to, or haven't a good enough station to work DX and so don't want anyone else to do so. I find this especially bad from Europe on 160, and is a relatively new phenomena.

One other thing that has complicated matters is the fact that the number or even prefix in a US callsign now means very little. I've worked KL7s located in Pennsylvania and a KH6 who was in Maryland. This makes it a bit hard for the DX station trying to work by numbers to give a fairer shot: if he says 'West Coast only', there can be legitimate W1 calling from the West Coast, who at best gets told off and at worst is ignored.

The secret of working DX eventually has to be to operate enough, live long enough and be patient. It took me 52 years to reach Top of the Honor Roll, having missed the 1993 Navassa expedition because of a business trip.
The DX Mess  
by KA2LIM on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
You nailed it with #2.
"I Want It --- And I Want It NOW…!!!"  
by VE3CUI on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Perhaps the BIGGEST reason for the deterioration in pile-up behaviour to-day, IMHO, is the "...instant gratification" society that surrounds us all now: we see something we might like, or want, in a store, and WHOOSH: out comes the ever-faithful ol' VISA card to buy it…

Or, ZOOM, we slavishly heed the DX cluster on-line & instantly materialize on the spotted frequency, wailing away our call sign with high hopes of adding a new one to our personal DXCC tally.

Hams have seemingly hung-up their listening skills and abilities in the need to "consume" --- in this case, to consume desirable DX stations. And the malaise is obviously NOT limited to any inexperienced youth who might be in our ranks, either: practically everybody that I chew the rag with on the air is at least my age (65), or a decade-plus, older…so it's not as if bad manners are anywhere even CLOSE to being a "newbie" sort of thing...
The DX Mess  
by AH7I on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
The DX op controls the pileup. If bad behavior did not get contacts, people would be more polite.
73, -Bob
RE: The DX Mess  
by KC7MF on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Very thought provoking article. I particularly agree that we really aren't sure that things are worse now than before. That said.

I do a net as net controller a couple of times a week. Frequently we have pile ups. So I had to ask myself the question...Am I doing what I ought to do to handle the pileups correctly? Granted our net is not rare DX so there are no "consequences" but when people call they ought to get a fair chance. It is altogether too easy for me to grab the 'loud' ones and let the others go. After all, who knows what the net control/Dx station is actually hearing?

The net control/DX station can do some little things. For example, not answer anyone not giving his/her complete call sign. This is a pet peeve of mine. Another technique is to slow down. Rather than try to rush contacts go slower and take the ones who politely wait for their turn to put their call sign out. Or even write down three or four call signs and contact them before throwing out QRZ. This rewards the polite stations.

It seems to me that some of the "blame" if that is the right word, goes to the DX operators who, as you point out, perhaps just through frustration, reward poor operating technique.

Thanks for the article. It is right on target.
The DX Mess  
by K8QV on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
That all makes perfect sense to me. Good insights.
The DX Mess  
by NY7Q on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I agree. Also, I remember DX chasing as PANNING FOR GOLD. TODAY, I stay away from it. The newbies, untrained as they are, took over,sadly
RE: The DX Mess  
by N9AOP on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
It would be a real slice if the DX station would give a report to the lids and just not log the contact.
RE: The DX Mess  
by G3RZP on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
VE3CUI has a point about 'instant gratification'. Years ago, most people spent at least some time as a listener, imbibing proper operating procedures. They also studied the technicalities to some extent - in contrast, look at the some of the basic questions asked on by people with an Extra callsign, who have obviously just memorised the question pool with no understanding of what they are answering.

I wonder how long it will be before the exams for the pilot's licence or yachtmaster's certificates get pushed the same way?

N9AOP, good idea BUT it must not be announced until after the DXpedition has finished or it will attract even more deliberate QRM!
RE: The DX Mess  
by NO9E on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
DXpeditions give us excitement. As the technology progresses, the pileups are more intense. But also more satisfaction.

Ham radio in US is slowly dying from less efficient antennas due to HOA, etc., and high local noise levels. One can see that when looking into empty bands, with much less activity than in the EU. That propagation is not dead is evident from loud digital signals (PSK, JT65) and from many RBN spots when calling CQ. Dxpeditions keep ham radio alive more than create a "mess".

Ignacy, NO9E

RE: The DX Mess  
by KC7MF on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Here we go again, blaming the new people for our problems. Here is an observation. Anyone who has been a net control station can tell you that the new people are not the problem. It is cantankerous old timers who are more rude and tend to jump in. New people are generally quite polite.

Then. Note to old timers. Quit complaining and start helping. Have a class at your radio club about DX etiquette. Gently discuss problems when you see them. At field day make sure everyone is playing by the rules. Don't take short cuts yourself and expect new people not to emulate you.

Ham radio is not dying because of HOAs. Local noise is an issue but not insurmountable.

There is a myth out there that "back in the day" all hams had towers and massive antennas. The only beam antennas I remember sprouting from the roof in my 50's neighborhood were pointed at the local TV tower. Did we all forget the articles in Ham magazines about how novices were "ruining ham radio"? Go look. We have HOA's, they had Sky Buddies, DX40s and crystals. The fact is that the good old days were not so good as the memories.

So we get annoyed when we can't work the Cook Islands on the first call. We can be part of the solution if we set our minds to it. Blaming new hams is just wrong. They are most decidedly NOT the problem.

RE: The DX Mess  
by KI7DG on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
From my experience it is more of the old timers who are the biggest offenders. I have worked many a pile up and the rule I tell others is "your game your rules" if you can't control the pile up it will control you. If I hear a ham calling our of turn, repeatedly calling or a tail ender I do not work them. When working as a W1AW/7 station I was calling for VE's and this W4 just kept calling so to make him disappear I acknowledge him with "the W4XXX/VE3 to which he replied no no I am not a VE" So I apologized and confirmed that I was only working VE and he was not in the log. Never heard from him again. Pile ups are like a moth to the light their are those who just have to see if they can bust the pile up, you know them when they make the contact and then ask what is your call even when i repeat mine after each contact. geeesh! Bottom line is if the jerks are successful once because some DXpeditions poor op let him he will continue to do it. ON a really bad jerk I am not above sending an email pointing out his bad.
73 and good DX
The DX Mess  
by W8RXL on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I remember reading some QST issues printed back in either the 30's or 50's with the same complaint. Something along the lines of the same issues with pile ups and the same comments about the new hams and lids then as now. As one old time ham warning me if I get my ticket at a young age, I would face the same criticism as he did when he was licensed in 1937 and he added as somethings change, most everything stays the same.
RE: The DX Mess  
by W3TTT on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
One solution might be to have DX stations check in to directed nets like the 3905 Century Club. The nets are directed so that only one station calls only one other station at a time. This gives everyone a fair chance. I like the directed net process and I participate there. Instead of everyone pounding away constantly sending their call, in the directed net everyone waits their turn. Much more enjoyable. I do wish that more DX stations would check in. We even operate split, with the Stateside stations on one frequency and the DX in the Extra band. The 40 meter net meets on 7267.5 khz at 0000z daily. It takes about a half hour for 50 or 60 stateside stations to check in. Then if a DX station would check in, that would be great!
The DX Mess  
by AA4LR on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
The best policy about this is not to worry about what poor operating others are doing.

Your best bet is to focus on how YOU can work the desired DX station.

You do that by listening, not transmitting. Very likely, those LIDs aren't going to get through the pile. If you use your skill, you likely will. It will take a little longer with the lids, and it may be that the DX gets away.

Don't sweat it.

Here's an article I wrote a while ago about how to bust a pile-up:
RE: The DX Mess  
by AH7I on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Working "directed net" DX is like claiming you've caught fish that's come from the market.
RE: The DX Mess  
by NN2X on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
What is strange about the behavior on the Ham bands it depends on the band or mode one is on...

Try 17 meters, (Gentleman band), The other is different digital modes like Olivia (500/8), on 14.072..All civil polite and the rest of it..

There is plenty of DX on the above modes and bands.

The phrase that comes to mind is "social cognitive theory'

Basically you do as your neighbor does, however, in the ham community it is based on the band or mode, quite fascinating actually!

See you on the bands!
The DX Mess  
by ONAIR on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Hearing more "You're 5-9s" than actual QSOs! Hmmm...
Could it be all those former CBers and no coders? :)
RE: The DX Mess  
by K3VO on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
The first big problem with DXing is the internet posting where the DX is No more search and pounce like the old days. It took a keen operator to work DX and often you are surprised by some rare country coming back to your CQ. In those days it was fun. After 61 years in the hobby I quit looking for DX after working 275 countries . Many I worked are not available any more.
I was a DX station back in 1958 for a year. Everyone was polite. SSB was just coming in and I worked many a guy with a CE 10 barefoot exciter.Thats a 10 wattPEP rig for those who have not familar with it.
Today many ops run more then the legal limit drowning out the little guys.
Also 5 Band DX messed things up. Now you have to work a rare one not once but 5 times
The DX Mess  
by W6CAW on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
You can thank the liberals for this problem. Free speech for them chaos for the rest of us.
The DX Mess  
by WB4M on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
"Here we go again, blaming the new people for our problems. Here is an observation. Anyone who has been a net control station can tell you that the new people are not the problem. It is cantankerous old timers who are more rude and tend to jump in. New people are generally quite polite."

Here we go again, blaming the old timers. Sheesh, more of the blame game yourself.
The DX Mess  
by W6HB on June 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Good article Don. Having been on the "other side" from E5 the past 4 years, I can see a trend even over that short period. This last trip saw me going back to specific stations in the pile and the din did not subside for at least 5 minutes. The called station eventually made the Q with no thanks to many and more specifically to an IK8 and an SV. As these two eventually got my goat I made sure they were known to the pile when I QRT'd. The wolves jumped all over them!
RE: The DX Mess  
by G3RZP on June 21, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I can just see a DXpedition making (or rather not making)60,000 QSOs in a three week trip if they did it all on a net!

The late GW4BLE had a pin that he wore - "Lists are for Lids". There's a lot of truth in that.
RE: The DX Mess  
by G3RZP on June 21, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I can just see a DXpedition making (or rather not making)60,000 QSOs in a three week trip if they did it all on a net!

The late GW4BLE had a pin that he wore - "Lists are for Lids". There's a lot of truth in that.
RE: The DX Mess  
by KE7FD on June 21, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
N9AOP said: "It would be a real slice if the DX station would give a report to the lids and just not log the contact."

I think this is a good tactic. The LID never knows if he's on the real log or a blacklist until the DXpedition is over, and will never get confirmed. Not by a card, eQSL or LOtW, nada. Work the LID and let him move on with nothing to show for it. Will it enable the LIDs to keep being jerks? Sure up to a point but after a while when no one is confirming their QSO's they might decide to either play nice or even get out of the hobby. Let's face it, in order to brag that you've work such-and-such station, you need confirmation. Otherwise it's just hearsay. Anyone can put pins in a map.

Another approach might be to "Take a number". The rough draft goes something like this. You hear a DX station, who as part of his "preamble" instructs you to go to his website to get a number and register. Provided propagation is still good, the DX operator simply reads off his screen that KE7FD is next. We work and then onto the next station. You can't register to get in line if you can't hear him. Can this be abused? Sure, but ask yourself, How's the current method working out for you now?

It’s easier to get a license (in the U.S. anyway) than it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Has the lowering of the requirements also made it easier for slack-minded dimwits to get on the air? Don’t get me wrong, there are some excellent operators among us who’ve only been licensed for a short while, and I’m glad to count them as my friends. But in my observation, we have more slack-minded dimwits now than we’ve had in the 40 some years that I’ve been licensed.

Thanks for the article Don.
Whither Self-Policing…?!  
by VE3CUI on June 21, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

Some years ago I wrote to the ARRL & suggested that they return to a policy that they hadn't practiced since the 1920's in QST magazine, i.e. a monthly column possibly entitled “Prehistoric Practices”...

This would be an off-shoot of their old 1920's “Prehistoric Signals,” which was a listing of the call signs of station heard the previous month that were NOT in keeping with technological updates that the then-version of the FCC was imposing upon Hams to improve signal stability, signal tone, eliminate raw AC, etc. etc. etc.

It was, in effect, a method of publicly shaming delinquent amateurs into improving their techniques & equipment.

My idea was to list the current call signs of stations known to violate accepted DX protocols --- or the calls of DX-peditions that practically invite bad behaviour through their own mis-handing of pile-ups...

Seemed like a good idea to me --- but the League nixed it.
RE: The DX Mess  
by KC7MF on June 21, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
..."It’s easier to get a license (in the U.S. anyway) than it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Has the lowering of the requirements also made it easier for slack-minded dimwits to get on the air? Don’t get me wrong, there are some excellent operators among us who’ve only been licensed for a short while, and I’m glad to count them as my friends. But in my observation, we have more slack-minded dimwits now than we’ve had in the 40 some years that I’ve been licensed...."

Again. This is a straw-man argument. On air procedures is not rocket science. Making someone learn Morse Code or Diagram a circuit freehand will not make them better operators. So you ask yourself. Should the test include a section on working rare DX? No. The FCC does not have a dog in that fight. Besides. If you go back to the 'old' days, the same complaints were in the magazines. One person has pointed out that "in the old days" we did not have computer spotting of rare DX. There is little doubt in my mind that this is contributing to the pile-up problem. But what is the solution to that? Tell people they can't post the information? That can't happen.

So the only remaining answer is for the DX stations to take the initiative and simply not work those who violate good operating procedures. That combined with articles and training on the subject are all that can work.
The DX Mess  
by KA3JLW on June 21, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I agree that a DX station would be good to log them to move them out of the way. Then don't confirm the contact...

BUT...when not confirming, the DX station needs to explain why. This might be in the form a pre-printed card or whatever- but they have to explain why they are withholding QSL.

The idea is simple: if the LID isn't told that they were acting incorrectly, they will think that the real issue is with the DXpedition. The result is that for the next pileup, they will try to work the DX 2 or 3 times across the same band/mode, simply in an effort to ENSURE they get in the log - since that was the issue last time. Not confirming their QSO, and not telling them why, only serves to push them to more LID behavior, right?

73, Jay W3MMM
RE: The DX Mess  
by W4KVW on June 21, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
So many who don't listen,can't hear the DX but calling them anyways,have no clue what Split is or how their rig operates in Split,don't know their own call sign since they answer the DX who is calling a station who has a call sign nothing like their own,& pure old Intentional QRM. Those are the biggest issues in short & the rest is just Pure Stupidity that of course we can't fix because it's been tried.

RE: The DX Mess  
by K0IZ on June 21, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
1. DX Clusters. It used to take tuning and listening to find the DX. So it took time for the mob to find the DX.

2. Band Fills. No longer good enough to work the station once (on any band).
The DX Mess  
by KC1GCG on June 22, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Well said Don. I see the copyright date is 2016 but I feel the same way here in 2017 and I only started in the hobby 8/2016. In my limited experience it has gotten markedly worse just since I joined the hobby but maybe that's just me getting more and more air time.
Still it seems like, this year, that every pile up I find myself at has one or two nitwits that have the strategy of making a nuisance of themselves. I guess they figure that way the pile up operator will answer them simply to make them go away! And in my listening experience it seems to work.
I FINALLY heard one operator last week tell a specific call sign that he was not going to answer him because of his poor operating practice! I nearly got out of my chair to high five the air! First time I have heard someone say that. Usually I just hear the station operating the pile up answer the "biggest mouth" and move on.
My approach is that if you are proud of your ham accomplishments by operating that way I just feel sorry for you.
Best advice I have heard so far on the hobby is "STD". No.... not what you are thinking though some analogy could be made... "Spin the Dial".
I don't really enjoy working pileups that much for this reason (I always have said that in life you can "mostly" choose who you associate with and this hobby is no different) but I love finding them as I can then set up 5 or 10K away, call CQ nearby and usually start my own little pile up feeding off their traffic. Much more fun than dealing with nutcases trying to contact someone on the Ilse of the Middle of Nowhere.
So .....operators stop answering those jerks in the pileups. In fact call them out and tell them you are specifically not going to answer them. EVER. If you let the loudest and rudest get your contact you are feeding the problem.
For us mere mortals , - STD - it will make you feel better and maybe if some of these pile ups dissolve the jerks will go away and the pile up "owners" will do the right thing also to get their traffic back. Ya I'm dreaming but its served me well for 6 decades so......
John K1JRF
RE: The DX Mess  
by W9OY on June 22, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
That "work em but don't log em" is a REALLY BAD idea. It will only promote everybody working them 20 times to make sure they actually get confirmed. I don't find DXing any different than 50 years ago except I can work stations only 1-2 db out of the noise now, and the filters are SO AMAZINGLY GOOD and receivers are so quiet with SDR's, which I think is a huge plus compared to years ago.

73 W9OY
RE: The DX Mess  
by K1EBU on June 22, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
1) DX Clusters
2) Poor Propagation means more congestion on the bands that are open.
3) DX Challenge
4) CQ Marathon
5) Just a lot of idiots out there. Period

73, Gary
RE: The DX Mess  
by N4KC on June 22, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

W9OY, I think you hit the mark. And I think most DX ops don't call out jerks in pileups because they are afraid they will get peeved, go anonymous and really do some serious mischief.

All this being said, I hope it was clear in my article that I don't believe things are any worse now they've ever been, even with roughly three times the number of hams licensed (and, I assume, active) as there were when I got birthed into the hobby.

Bottom line: I still enjoy jumping into the middle of a pile-up and trying to work the rare ones. I just wish there were more of 'em!

73 and good DX,

Don N4KC
Author of the books RIDING THE SHORTWAVES,

RE: The DX Mess  
by WO7R on June 23, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
DX Clusters, via Packet Radio, has been around since the mid 80s at least.

The internet is not to blame, here.

And, there was "phone a friend" before that. Back when there were fewer operators to start with.

All before we realize that if there was ever a top 20 station on (even if there was no "rare DX list" and there always was) people would stop and investigate.

This romance of the slow tune up the dial, which we love to talk about (especially as it is safely in the past), did not save us from crap on pileups. We just choose not to remember.

Finding really rare DX, the kind that causes bad practices, has never been a problem in any era.

The only thing you can blame the internet for is medium rare DX that now gets ruthlessly found and spotted. But, the crap in question here is minimal for such stations and always was.

Oh, and "get off my lawn". "It was better in the good old days". Now, I fit right in.
RE: The DX Mess  
by K3BR on June 23, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Very poignant and perceptive article, OM.
Thanks for posting.
73 de K3BR
RE: The DX Mess  
by ZENKI on June 23, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Simple population dynamics. The massive increase in active the ham population right around the world.

The biggest contribution to the DX CHAOS is frustration.

Many DX-peditions behave like there are only 3 areas in the world to service, JA, Europe and North America.

You see this stupidity time and time again where they beam over massive areas of the ham population who they ignore for the big 3 regions of the world.

How can it be fair to the rest of the world to constantly standby for these areas of the world when on many occasions the propagation window of opportunity is very small or just about the same as the favored BIG 3 donor regions!

I also doubt that many dx'peditions even have a great circle map on near their operating table otherwise such an strategic error would not be made. Which further adds to the desperation and non stop calling even when the target is having a QSO's.

While many might say that the pileup concept is right and those with the big stations always win. It does not even become fair when people patiently standby following dxpedition operators instructions to standby when their country or region is not called. What makes these incompetent dxpeditions and operators look bad, is that they will even call for JA and NA even when there is no propagation and tell 3/4's of the other parts of the world to standby. Then they forget to come back to these small ham population regions and go into another propagation dead zone by say calling Europe when there is no propagation. On so many dxpeditions their geographic stupidity is palpable. It could be fixed by printing out a great circle map with call areas on a piece of A4 paper and stick it above the radio!

Then there is this more moronic stupidity. DX'peditions who try and create new laws of physics. Their operators are the only hams in the world who can make 2 and 3 element directional antennas omni-directional. On so many occasions I have heard operators calling for new call areas or regions on the back and the side of their beams and think that its fair for other operators to compete fairly with a 20 to 30 db penalty. This stupidity is incredible. When they hear nothing then they think that there is no propagation and move back to the 3 favorite areas exactly where there beams are pointing.

This kind of stupid operating procedure was standard practice on several of the recent Mega dx-peditions. Operators who were geographically very stupid and who were almost robotic in calling only for JA, Europe and NA. Even when they call an area like JA they ignore the rest of SE ASIA when their propagation window is close to the same peak as the JA's. With WEBSDR receivers in so many places now you can easily monitor this daily dx-pedition stupidity that creates these mega pileups of unfairness because of their own operating bias and ignorance.

Its easy blaming bad human behavior and nobody can excuse such bad behavior. However when this chaos is created by the DXpedition organizations and operators poor operating practices it, should also be called out for what it is. Its unfair, ignorant and stupid planning that also causes these problems.
RE: The DX Mess  
by K6CRC on June 23, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
'that obese jerk is there again,'
Oh, you have been to a Ham Swap lately?
RE: The DX Mess  
by K6CRC on June 23, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
In my limited time on the air ~10 years, I have worked most of the DXpeditions, barefoot with a vertical. The ops are generally excellent and very patient.
I try to get on the air weekdays before the shifts at the manure recycling plants/software development sites are over so the only other hams are quite professional.
Weekends? I go hiking or something non-ham. If I tried to work new ones on the weekend, I change hobbies.
The DX Mess  
by VE3WGO on June 24, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I like N4KC's comment about “It Never Was the Way It Used to Be.” How true. I have a stack of old QSTs from a hamfest, and I recall skimming through a few of them, where the editorial was lamenting the fact that Ham Radio was dying. You would think I am talking about QSTs from the 1990s or 2000s, but no... they were from 1933! Go figure....

I have been a ham for about 25 years and was a ham-band and SW listener for 20 years before that. I think pileups in "the old days" sounded like a cacophony of callsigns, and pity the poor DX op who didn't have anything more than average period equipment.

In the 90s I recall patiently waiting and finally working through a pileup to snag a CU-something (I have the QSL around here somewhere) in The Azores. Instead of the simple 59 exchange and stopping there, I decided to ask him about his QTH. To my surprise, he happily answered in detail, told me about his QTH, antennas, even his village overlooking the Atlantic, and then asked me about mine. I knew I was probably causing seething frustration for the other DX chasers, but the DX op was genuinely interested in learning something about me and my QTH in Canada, probably giving himself a much-needed mental rest in the process, and we exchanged pleasantries for about 10 minutes or so. Then we let each other go, and he went back at the pileup.

It taught me something. I guess being a DX op isn't always fun, and we have to remember that they are only human, they might have only an average station not equipped with multi station slicing and dicing processors to dissect the pileup, and they might want a break now and then. I used that approach when I operated portable /VE8 about 12 years ago from Iqaluit.

I am not so sure that things are worse now than before. We can hear more and see an awful lot more now, and the problem was probably always there, but we just didn't know.

73, Ed VE3WGO
The DX Mess  
by K1VCT on June 24, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Perhaps Yogi Berra said it best: Nobody goes to that place anymore, its always too crowded.

Or something like that.
The DX Mess  
by KH6KK on June 25, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
No calling CQ. Just spin the dial. Hunt and pounce, then STD.
RE: The DX Mess  
by W0AEW on June 25, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
It's just entropy. Eventually it will be all TX and no RX.
The DX Mess  
by W4HM on June 26, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I think that some of it is lack of operating skill on both sides of the pile up by newer hams as compared to the many many seasoned DXers of the past that have long gone SK. And I'm not dissing the newer operators, it's just a reality, with time most will gain the necessary DX pileup busting skills needed to be a successful DXer.

What get's me though is the guy with the big signal that calls the DX and says things like hi Bill good to work you AGAIN. Your signal is even stronger today than yesterday or last week. To me that's a really selfish thing to do.

Thomas W4HM
RE: The DX Mess  
by AE4MM on June 27, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I have to admit I've found myself getting annoyed by those operators as well... A rare DX, I can hear him well, very excited to try to work him, but there are 50 guys running 1.21 Gigawatts with heavy processing calling over and over again, and when they get through, they say, "nice to work you again." Really???
Oh well, keep trying. It's all the more satisfying when my little 100 watts gets through over the 440 to the shack guys. I love hearing a QRP station make it through a pile up too.
RE: The DX Mess  
by K9MHZ on June 27, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Not sure what value if any, this anecdote has. Field Day seemed to go very well this year. Most ops who were working weaker signals and trying hard to get a valid report, were very courteous, as were those waiting for a chance to call. Might just be what I heard, but I was very happy with the operating this time.

RE: The DX Mess  
by WM5L on June 28, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
"It would be a real slice if the DX station would give a report to the lids and just not log the contact"

The DX Mess  
by W9ZIM on June 28, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
So reading the comments, it sounds like there is plenty of blame to go around, and we shouldn't be blaming any particular segment of the hobby.
RE: The DX Mess  
by N3HKN on June 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
The ARRL must shoulder some of the mess with its obsessive focus on CONTESTS and COMPETITION. They set the stage and the like minded Hams seek the glory the ARRL promises by seeing YOUR NAME and CALL at, or near, the top of the list of winners when actually some of those people are actually losers!
RE: The DX Mess  
by GM1FLQ on June 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
One problem is non ham radio specific.

Big holes in the natural/social filtering net - much of that caused by increasingly easy/easier credit/finance.
The DX Mess  
by KE4ZHN on July 6, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Just one more reason to avoid pile up's.
RE: The DX Mess  
by AE4MM on July 7, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Some more observations from a relatively new ham...

Why don't people listen? Like many, I was trying to work GB13COL for the July 4th special event "contest." It was fun at first. Trying to work the station in England was often not so fun. Here's why, and if it pertains to you, I hope you'll re-think your operating procedure.

1. Lids tuning up on frequency. They've got the money for an amplifier, but no common courtesy.
2. Lids (usually with amplifiers) somehow not noticing that a station is working split. Tune up on frequency and then immediately start yelling their call sign. It never occurs to them to listen for a minute or five and notice that (almost) nobody is calling, because the station is working split.
3. More lids who don't listen, and just keep calling their call sign (or more annoyingly, just a suffix). They either can't hear the station (so why are you calling??) or they just don't care. They are talking over the station, and who is already working. It's like walking up to a group of people speaking and screaming your name at random intervals as you approach.
4. The lids who try to win by being the trailing call sign - except there can always be another trailing call sign, so the station you are trying to work is confirming exchanged data with another station and you are still trying to come in at the end with your call sign.
5. Lids again, who ignore (or can't hear) the station they are trying to work who is going by the numbers. GB13COL was frequently working by the numbers but I still heard every number calling, and Ray "please, only stations with a 3..." Or the called station says, "November 6 Whiskey, again, again?" and 50 lids jump in who have - literally - none of those three characters in their call.

All of this could be solved if we would LISTEN and THINK before transmitting. Can you hear the station? Are they working split? Are you on frequency or frequencies as the case may be? If the band isn't in your favor and you can't clearly hear the station you want to work, don't pollute the atmosphere with your pointless attempts to reach the station. If you can't hear them - even if you are sure your 1.21 Gigawatts will get through to wherever, you still can't legitimately work the station.

Whatever happened to the code of conduct?

AE4MM (turning into a grouchy curmudgeon)
RE: The DX Mess  
by N4KC on July 7, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
AE4MM: Well, me, too! I was listening to the mess on 40 meters last night. Though I still needed GB31COL for the clean sweep, thanks to thunderstorms the last five days, crummy propagation, and the lid-fest, I never even transmitted last evening. I bet most stateside stations at the time were unable to hear the station any better than I was, yet they continued to call--including partial, suffic-only calls--over and over and over on his transmit frequency, either because they were not able to hear his instructions or because they thought that through some miracle the British op would accidentally hit the split button on his radio and hear them screeching away on his transmit frequency.

I believe it may have been the latter since I heard copious helpful and "polite" stations screaming, "He's working split, you idiots!" There was no way the errant callers could have missed hearing that warmly rendered bit of information.

N3HKN: yes, you are right, of course. It's all the ARRL's fault that we have a small number of dunces out there who irritate we "get off my lawn, you dang kids" curmudgeons. The League, by the way, is also responsible for global warming, maddening telemarketing calls, and the heartbreak of psoriasis, all through their support of contests and competition.

Which this event ain't. Not either of them. Nor is it sponsored or endorsed by the ARRL. But why let facts get in the way of a good rant?

73, and thank you to the folks who gave up a portion of their holiday week to provide those 13-colony contacts for us.

Don N4KC

RE: The DX Mess  
by W3UA on July 10, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I totally agree with AH7I. When I am on the "right side of the pile-up", I try to stick to my initial pick, even if a louder jerks with wrong letters are trying to call. So if I picked an XYZ, I will ignore WW1LID and WW3JRK, if I still can hear at least a part of XYZ, until I complete the QSO with XYZ. This slows me down for a few seconds during one QSO, but after I keep doing that, JRKs stop calling me out of turn, and the overall rate increases significantly. The DX station is ALWAYS responsible for the pile-up behavior.
The DX Mess  
by KD8ZM on July 26, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
As a person who was like Rip van Winkle with regard to ham radio (i.e., I went to sleep 30 years ago and just woke up and got back on the air), it doesn't seem any different.
There are fewer contacts who make it through from overseas because the bands are crummy. Hence, more people chasing fewer contacts. That much is true.
On the other hand, I use a simple wire antenna (600 foot delta loop fed with home-made ladder line) and have no trouble reaching the overseas people with a reasonable (less than 5) attempts - despite my not having a yagi or running more than 100 watts.
Things aren't so bad.
Email Subscription
You are not subscribed to discussions on this article.

My Subscriptions
Subscriptions Help

Other Editorial Articles
The Truth About Echolink