Radio W4KAZ

Thanks for stopping by the virtual KazShack. Feel free to comment - I often approve them.

CW Skimmer – Top Ten Reasons Skimmer is the Same As Packet

The proof is in the pudding.

In the grand scheme of contesting, I’m just an ankle biter, but when one of the Big Dawgs barks, it’s worth noting. W4PA posted some notes in his journal, dated 7/14/2008, that confirm every speculation made by folks who argue for making CW Skimmer fall into the “Assisted” category. Scott operated the IARU contest with CW Skimmer up and running(actually he used six).

Quoting W4PA, (emphasis added is mine):

  1. “”Does it work? Absolutely.”
  2. “”It looks just like packet spotting””
  3. “”The callsign quality was good, I’d say 90% of the calls spotted were correct“”
  4. “”The Skimmers also alerted me to the 10 meter opening in progress””
  5. “”On 20 meters early on I had 600 available calls to be worked at one point spotted by the Skimmer””
  6. “”Does it look and feel like packet? Definitely“”
  7. “”If I didn’t know what it was, I would have assumed I was looking at packet spots“”
  8. “”Is it different than unassisted traditional single op? Sure.””
  9. “”Is it an advantage over unassisted single op? No question.””
  10. “”It may even be better than packet, because it gives you ALL the callsigns for the whole band. “”

Reading what I’ve written previously, you might come to the erroneous conclusion that I think skimmer is bad. I don’t. I just think the rush to allow it in the ‘unassisted’ category is bad. The tool itself is inanimate. It is the ethics of thecategorizationof its use that I question. Read W4PA’s whole post.

It walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, makes messes in the grass like a duck….it’s a duck.

5 comments to CW Skimmer – Top Ten Reasons Skimmer is the Same As Packet

  • If contesters want to penalize the use of the Skimmer they need a new category for it as “assisted” just isn’t right. “Assisted” means help from other operators — like the packet cluster. CW Skimmer is a standalone software tool. If it goes into the “assisted” category then so too should using a rig with DSP that is software that “assists” in digging out weak signals and the use of contest logging software that “assists” in preventing dupes, etc…

    73 de Jeff

  • That’s been my point all along. The term “assisted” is the problem, not the technology. To start, the term is a contraction of the term “packet assistance”, and was later broadened by contest sponsors to include telephones, seances, im, twitter, e-mail, telepathy, and other forms of acquiring information about finding stations. It was not broadened to mean using paddles instead of a straight key. (Real Men use straight keys, paper logs and pencils, right?)

    In short, “assistance” is a poorly chosen term to describe having information about other stations provided to you from outside sources. O’course, everybody likes cheating better. Its so much easier! EVERYBODY’s doing it!

    As W4PA points out, not only does skimmer provide information equivalent to packet spots, but you are being given information about all stations – not just those being spotted. Plus, it is all stations that can be heard at your actual QTH. Plus, no one else is privy to the information.

    It is a far bigger advantage than anyone is willing to admit, and is so different from conventional S&P operating as to be a larger advantage than the spotting networks have ever been.

    O’course, contesting is much like golf. The proper approach is to improve upon one’s own performance. I’d do myself a disservice to try and compare my scores using outside info against scores where I S&P conventionally. The spots and skimmer will make it much easier to round up mults by poking spots, especially in the low power category. It would be apples and oranges. Such a comparison would give me zero information on what matters – did I do better or worse.

    Based on Scott’s assessment, a true contest robot is a lot closer than most seem to think possible. If I “operate” using my robot, am I still SO unassisted? If my friends come over, and we watch a ball game while the robot runs stations, does that put me into the multi-op category? If my robot can manage 20 stations simultaneously, am I still SO or SO20R?

    You may think the questions foolish, but they are the obvious ramifications from the direction the technology will logically follow. Programming the logging is a lot easier than the initial hurdle of programming the CW decoder.

    Sooner rather than later.

  • Jeff, KE9V

    I agree — it is all about what you call it. Top contesters will use every tool at their disposal to do well in a contest. If there is going to be any peer pressure to not use the Skimmer, then there should also be the same pressure to not use high power or big antennas, etc.

    I too think the completely automated robot station is in the immediate future of the hobby. Once again, contest sponsors will have to come up with a category for it and decide how to score it… If they want to keep humans in the game it will be easy enough to give them a points advantage…

    73 de Jeff

  • We’re not that far apart now. W4PA is a good example. He’s written that he’d like to see it classified as packet assisted, but if it is not he will use it to the full extent. I would expect his direct experience reinforced both opinions. And I agree with his reasoning – if it is going to be allowed, use it.

    I guess I don’t see how there is any pressure being applied. What’s the stress involved in being SOA versus SO? I just don’t get it. If you don’t want to be in the high power category, just un-plug the amp. If you don’t want to be SOA, don’t click the spots. Seems simple enough.

    In every contest, there is only one single ‘winner’. All of the rest of the ‘winners’ are fictional creations of a data sort methodology. And all of the rest whose scores are not so big lost, regardless of the other guys assistance, antennas, budget, or superior geographical location.

    The current categories simply serve to help group those with very roughly similar circumstances and they are in no way ‘fair’. It is not a level playing field, but how the game is rigged does count for something.

    But should the game be rigged only for the advantage of those in the very top tier?

  • Steve K9ZW

    Skimmer is a technological leap forward, an automation of tasks, on a scale that is outside of the station expectation for Unassisted.

    As a software/hardware “Robbie the Robot” it is true there is not a “person” helping a station running skimmer, but rather a computer bank doing much more than any group of human helpers could produce.

    Perhaps Unassisted will need to divide into “Traditional” and “Automated,” with software limitations (or perhaps even no shack computer or SDR for Traditional.)

    It would be more reasonable to do this, or put Skimmer into Assisted, than to expect these two now distinctly different capability levels of stations to compete.



Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>