So I get it now and it's fun.I worked my first DX station too.
Welcome to the fray!
Ive read the rules for some others and have a few questions:
1. What is a "checklog"?
In addition to the previous answer, the contest scorer may reclassify any submitted log to "checklog" status if there are too many errors or the entry is disqualified for some reason.
2. what are the serial numbers for?
Just another twist in the rules for the exchange that give certain events their flavor. November Sweepstakes also use a serial number as part of the exchange. In this case, the number mimics that of an NTS message number that increases for each formal message origination.
3. I submitted my logs online for the IARU contest, is this required for the other station to get their points?
No. However, if you had only worked one station in the 'test and had not submitted your log, the log cross-checking software would flag you as a "unique" in the other station's log. Too many "uniques" can result in a penalty or they are simply removed without penalty depending on the contest/sponsor. By sending in your log, no matter how paltry, you're assisting both the contest sponsor and the stations you worked.
Many uniques are legitimate but most are probably busted calls (calls not logged correctly) where the log checking software cross-references each log entry against the others and can determine based on date/time what the correct call should have been. Some time after the contest each entrant can request their UBN (Unique, Busted, Not in Log) report from the log checking software. That gives a good indication of areas that need work, particularly in CW contests.
4. At this point, i'm finding the appeal in making lots of contacts with brief, defined, exchanges. I'm not so interested in points. Can i still participate or is this frowned on?
You're absolutely encouraged to participate. Most of us are competing against ourselves in terms of beating last year's score, QSO count, States/sections/DXCC entities, etc. Sometimes it's just about competing with your buddy across town. Once in a while we surprise ourselves and win our section! It's also just a good way to improve our operating skills in terms of being able to copy in QRM or learning how to use our transceiver's features to mitigate QRM and so on. Then there is the value in learning about propagation, antenna patterns, and on and on. A contest is a great environment for this as stations are on the air from all points on the compass.
Then there is the personal aspect. Can you listen to the din for hours on end? I can't, I need breaks so I'll never do a continuous 24 hour stint in the chair. Is that faint signal really a juicy DX multiplier or just someone in my skip zone that I'm hearing via back scatter. Does the propagation path favor the vertical or horizontal antenna? Sometimes there is little difference and at others there is a lot!
In short, have fun, and it appears you're well on your way.