... The worst is when there's a whole horde of callers zero-beat with each other! ...
This is exactly my feelings from Morse Runner @ WPX mode. Callers often call on the same frequency even if it is 100 Hz up or down from my freq. This is probably most frustrating thing for me. But painful preparation and training makes for easy ultimate performance. Fortunately, in real on air pile up I'll be allways on the other side.
Very interesting! Using Morse Runner you are now realizing things that 90%+ of S&P callers have not yet put into practice!
I think there's a lot to learn by having been on both sides of the pileup. I don't think one can be a good S&P'er until you've been CQ'ing in obnoxious conditions. And the other way around too. Many of the best contesters are completely bored if they aren't doing both S&P and CQ at same time using SO2R!
The S&P stations really could learn to spread out a little bit and help not just overall rate for the CQ'er, but also help their own rate just by going off zero beat by a few hundred Hz one way or the other.
The CQ'ing stations, can learn how to work around the thinner fluffier edges instead of the thick dense center. Most do pretty well but there are a few who just dial their filter narrower and narrower on the center of the pileup instead of working around the edges.
You might think there's a certain synergy possible, but unfortunately the bulk of the pileup will have just clicked on the spot and have no clue what it sounds like on the other end. That's usually OK by me, as their ignorance is my advantage when I'm S&P. But as a CQ'er in a contest, it is a huge pain to have everyone zero beat with each other.