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Author Topic: Wither paper QSLs?  (Read 4800 times)
WX2S
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« on: August 05, 2012, 03:38:34 PM »

After a frustrating afternoon trying to sort out who manages whose QSLs for what number of green stamps each, and who just refuses to send them, I predict that, within the decade, paper QSLs will have the same place that vacuum-tube receivers do now.

Don't get me wrong. I like paper QSLs. But LotW is far less cumbersome, once it's been set up. (Can't speak to other services.)

Any takers for this prognostication?

73, -WX2S
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73, - Steve WX2S.
I subscribe to the DX Code of Conduct. http://dx-code.org/
KY6R
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« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2012, 03:56:19 PM »

I wonder if the ARRL DXCC program would sponsor one new QSL route - which is to let you download and print a QSL online for a DX operation where you have received a LOTW credit. Its already been "authenticated" because you have that LOTW credit.

For those who still like a professionally printed QSL - they could still play the postage game . . . .
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WS3N
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« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2012, 04:30:27 PM »

I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish with the online QSL. You will already have the confirmation from LoTW. Is the downloaded card just a pretty picture or do you want the QSO information, too? If the confirmation is going to be online-only then a card - or even some sort of document with a printable card and pictures and text about the operation - can be requested and sent electronically when you enter your call on a website. I suppose the card could be marked in some way to show that's it's not a confirmation, but it really wouldn't matter since the DXCC system would know that only LoTW confirmations would be valid for that operation.
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KY6R
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« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2012, 06:19:23 PM »

I think between the world wide postal service problems and the cost to send anything these days, the way we QSL is going to change. It seems inevitable.

I have three objectives:

1) Get LOTW credit towards DXCC Honor Roll
2) Get a printed card (I'm OK with printing it on my color laser printer on my own card stock - with the QSO info - so I can put these in my "QSL Memento Binder")

I do want a professionally designed image and QSL card data to download

3) Give the dx-pedition the $3 or $4 US dollars (on top of whatever donation I would already give them) - and not give any to any worldwide postal service

I'm guessing that the first casualty of the higher postal service costs will be the DXCC Challenge. It is already way too ridiculously expensive to participate in. I can't imagine anyone who has a tight budget bothering with DXCC Challenge.

I will retire in 12 years - and at that time - would not be able to afford a lot of this. I can see the day where a QSL card for a band fill costs $10.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2012, 07:12:06 PM by KY6R » Logged
N7SMI
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« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2012, 07:01:25 PM »

I fairly new to all this, but think the whole QSL card process is terribly convoluted, complex, and antiquated.

Beyond the many hours I spend handling QSL cards, my direct paper QSL rate thus far has only been 20% for overseas cards sent over 6 months ago - that's an awful lot of time and greenstamps for nothing.

If the ARRL were to centralize a paper QSL service, I think it would be wildly popular, and profitable.

A few thoughts:

- Combine outgoing bureaus and our terribly antiquated incoming bureaus (mine requires a paper form and check to be mailed in order to get cards that are several months behing in processing and still take 6+ months to get here from an adjacent continent... in 2012!). Also create a new, centralized direct paper QSL system.

- Paper QSLs exchanged via the bureau or this service should automatically be confirmed as a QSL in LoTW for the party to whom the card is sent. Having a card checker confirm a card that has already been routed through ARRL HQ seems silly to me. With a standard format or bar/QR code, cards could be scanned and QSLs semi-automated.

- Allow hams to customize their own cards based on ARRL specifications. You'd pay a card printing fee, a few cents for an envelope, and a small handling fee. Maybe $1 or so total for each card. And you'd also pay the bureau fee or appropriate postage if sent direct. You could also pay a few cents for a return addressed envelope (if required) and any required return postage/handling amount (greenstamps). A few clicks and the card is on its way.

- Overseas folks could set up an account with the ARRL and only pay printing, handling, and domestic postage for their QSL (or even require the person requesting the QSL to pay it). Joint collaboration between ARRL and other overseas services could remove much of the international postage expenses - just print the card near where it's being sent. Imagine getting a rare DX's high quality card in 3 days printed and shipped from ARRL HQ, and that it would only cost you or the DX $1 or so.


Anyway, I know it's all pie in the sky, but I think a lot of folks would happily pay for a convenient and reliable service like this. Or maybe this simply takes the challenge, spirit, and frustration out of QSLing.
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KH6DC
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« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2012, 07:27:29 PM »

I use LOTW exclusively and upload daily.  I also upload or confirm eQSL maybe once a quarter.  However I collect paper QSLs and either go the OQRS or direct with $USD or IRC.  Stations I need for DXCC credits I usually send a SAE with $3 or 1 IRC or whatever the qrz.com info prescribes.  I'm sure there's many QSL card collectors out there that I don't see paper qsls going out anytime soon.

73, Delwyn KH6DC
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73 and Aloha,
de Delwyn, KH6DC
K9NW
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« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2012, 07:28:01 PM »

my direct paper QSL rate thus far has only been 20% for overseas cards sent over 6 months ago

Without knowing who and how you QSLed, I can only offer that your low success rate is unusual.

I tend to QSL in batches.  A couple years ago I sent out around 150 requests in one batch.  To date only three of those are still outstanding (probably lost or pilfered) and about half of them were answered within 4-5 weeks.  After about 4 months only a dozen or so remained outstanding, and most of them slowly trickled in.

As to paper QSLs, lots of hams still like to collect cards.  It will always be that way.  Many bemoan the fact that paper QSLing costs money.  And many don't care....it's their money.
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N7SMI
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« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2012, 08:00:45 PM »

my direct paper QSL rate thus far has only been 20% for overseas cards sent over 6 months ago

Without knowing who and how you QSLed, I can only offer that your low success rate is unusual.

I hope so. I admit that I've only been at this a year and have learned a lot about QSLing (better packaging, how to check some confirmation rates, etc.) since the first few small batches went out last year - and most cards are not to major DX stations, just to interesting places and folks that had cool looking cards visible online or with which I had a memorable QSO.

My experience (again, not a large or long-lived sample) has been that those who do LoTW are more likely to respond to paper QSLs, even though I've already received a LoTW confirmation. This is followed by those who do bureau. But those who only do direct and require $2 or $3 for postage are by far the least likely to respond (at least within 6 months of getting my card).
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NU4B
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« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2012, 10:05:24 PM »

Wow, if you guys find sending off for a QSL card too complicated, tell me again how you got a license?  Grin

And if its so confusing, antiquated, and convoluted - why are you doing it?  Grin

In any case, at some point, I think the ARRL will have to figure out some system to accept an on line confirmation printed at home.
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WS3N
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« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2012, 10:36:45 PM »

It's not too complicated, just a PITA.

There are two reasons to send and receive cards. One is to confirm the contact, the other to get a pretty picture/memento. Something like LoTW allows those to be separated.

I'd like to see a system where everyone - individuals, DXpeditions, clubs, whatever - upload logs and images. Payments for confirmations, pictures and donations are integrated into the system.

Wow, first picture just back from the Mars lander. Why are we still sending pieces of paper through the mail?
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N7SMI
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« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2012, 11:20:14 PM »

Wow, if you guys find sending off for a QSL card too complicated, tell me again how you got a license?  Grin

Ahhh... the classic "if you don't do/understand/use X, then how did you ever get licensed" troll response. I've only seen that one maybe 100 times in recent weeks on these forums.

Quote
And if its so confusing, antiquated, and convoluted - why are you doing it?  Grin

This is precisely my point. It is this attitude and resistance to change that is causing most new hams to never even consider paper QSLs. It's the reason our paper QSLing system is pretty much the same as it was in the 50s.

I love paper QSLs. I just think the current process of getting/sending them sucks. Most new hams simply won't bother learning all of the nuances and complexities.

I'm a new and comparatively young ham (you've been licensed nearly as long as I've been alive). I've embraced and love technology. I write at most 1 check a month (nearly all transactions, shopping, etc. are done online) and if it weren't for QSLing, I'd be using the same book of forever stamps I bought 5 years ago.

I can absolutely assure you that if exchanging QSL cards continues to be such a manual, convoluted, and unreliable process that take months and years for a possible confirmation, that it will, as the original poster suggested, go the way of the vacuum-tube receiver. And that would be a shame, with the blame entirely on those who resist change and instead suggest that if it's so hard, you should stop doing it or shouldn't have been licensed in the first place.
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N7SMI
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« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2012, 11:22:23 PM »

Wow, first picture just back from the Mars lander. Why are we still sending pieces of paper through the mail?

I had the exact same thought. We can get a digital photo of the Martian landscape within 2 minutes of a rover completing it's 154 million mile mission, yet it takes me 8 months to get a paper QSL card from Costa Rica.
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AF3Y
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« Reply #12 on: August 06, 2012, 06:00:08 AM »


 it takes me 8 months to get a paper QSL card from Costa Rica.

Perhaps you should take a course on how to apply for a QSL card from your contact.  I have not had most of the problems that people have had here.

I have had ONE problem in particular with a thief who lives in a middle Eastern country who we all know. I was stupid enough to send $$ to this person not once, but three times. I finally worked another ham in Lebanon, got a card easily and went on my merry way.

20% success rate? That tells me that something is obviously wrong with either your methods, or with the QSO information you send.  I have thousands of cards here and my success rate on DIRECT or OQRS method is at LEAST 98%.

With 308 DXCC entities in the log now, I dont send for cards very often, only for new DXCC, or for a bandfill needed for multiband DXCC awards.  But, when I do want/need a new card, I just do the submission, and usually in 4 to 6 weeks the card is in my mailbox.  Hope your luck gets better Roll Eyes. 73, Gene AF3Y
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AJ4RW
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« Reply #13 on: August 06, 2012, 06:51:56 AM »

I agree with Jared concerning paper QSLing except I hope it happens much sooner than a decade from now!  Instead of throwing our 2 cents in on his 20% return QSL rate, maybe we should share notes on how to correct the problem!  Here is how I achieve an 96% return on QSL's, 2% stupidity and 2% unaccounted for:
- I use a special 2 piece envelope system.  I get my mailing supplies from Wm. Plum DX supplies.
- I never put any info on the envelopes that might suggest this is about amateur radio ie callsign.
- I always securely tape the envelope where it seals.  I use a small piece of shipping tape.
- print all addresses on the envelope or if you use address labels, tape over them so they don't come off.
- I use a piece of thin cardstock on both sides of the greenstamps so individuals sorting the mail won't be able to feel the creases in the greenstamps.
- I also stamp my return envelope with the adequate postage and stamps from the country it's coming from.  I also get my stamps from Wm. Plum DX supplies and he knows what stamps you need and the correct postage required.

I keep good records and this is how I get a fairly good return on my efforts and money.  I welcome any other suggestions or comments to this method, I'm always open for learning! 

Randy AJ4RW
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KY6R
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« Reply #14 on: August 06, 2012, 07:28:15 AM »

Wow, first picture just back from the Mars lander. Why are we still sending pieces of paper through the mail?

I had the exact same thought. We can get a digital photo of the Martian landscape within 2 minutes of a rover completing it's 154 million mile mission, yet it takes me 8 months to get a paper QSL card from Costa Rica.

BINGO! Like I said - LOTW now seems to make it obvious that using and paying for expensive postage should go the way of the horse and cart. I'd much rather give the $4 that I would pay for postage to the dx-ped - to offset that guys costs and give him encouragement to go somewhere else and activate another one.

Hell - buy that guy a really good beer as a thank you even  Grin

I have never had any problems QSL-ing and my return rate for 8BDXCC, 332 ATNO's is 100%. There were maybe 3 or 4 stations out of 332 where I had to send QSL's with $$$ multiple times. The theory is stolen mail. No biggie. DXCC Challenge lags this a bit - 1800 received with about 20 QSL cards never returned - even though it cost me $1 USPS air mail plus $2 in the letter. So I lost $60 total in QSL-ing in 11 years of DX-ing.

The bureau (outgoing and incoming) became a total waste of time for me years ago, and I never used IRC's in any of my direct QSL-ing. eQSL was a total non-starter for me, but LOTW has really been a game changer for me.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2012, 07:31:55 AM by KY6R » Logged
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