Is pileup behavior getting worse?

Posted: August 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

Pileup behavior is often being discussed by hams these days. Many of us (but not all of us) are growing more and more concerned at what we perceive as a rapid erosion of civility/decorum on the bands.

This reduces the fun and enjoyment of this hobby that we otherwise enjoy.  Some notable Dxers attest that a proper operator can control or manage any pileup and that the behavior of the pileup is a direct reflection on the operator’s skill. 

I think this statement was truer some years ago when there was more civility on the bands but someone making that statement today makes me think that they have not operated from a rare and highly sought after DX location in a long time!

If you have a rig with dual receivers or if you have the ability to use the REV function, you can monitor the pileup and the operator.  These days you will hear many stations calling out of turn. The DX says “who was the N8?” and a K9 station continues calling. It’s even worse over in Europe. I have participated in a number of DXpeditions where we were beaming across Europe to our target areas.

While some of the European noncompliance seems to be related to language difficulties or misunderstanding the operator’s instructions, I also believe that there is less respect among some in Europe for their neighboring countries and they tend to operate their radios in the same wild and reckless fashion that they drive their cars in their country. Have you ever noticed the correlation between the way a country operates and the way they drive? There is something to be studied there.

I also believe that behavior is much worse now in what I call “run of the mill” DX.  Regularly, I hear poorly behaved pileups for entities that are not rare. There is a sense of desperation among the callers. What is even more interesting is that many of the callers are Top of the Honor Roll guys. It seems for some that the pursuit of CQ Marathon Points, IOTA points or DXCC Challenge causes them to throw all civility and respect for others out of the window.

You may wonder, what can be done about this?   Some have suggested that the operator call out the offender during the pileup or establish a “black list” and refuse to work the worst offenders. I suspect that calling out an errant caller is just inviting them to tune on you or otherwise jam you.  I cannot get comfortable with black listing Dxers either. Sometimes things happen for a reason. Mistakes happen. We have all made mistakes now and then and without any chance to clear the air, no one should be black listed.

I believe the proper response to a poorly behaving pile up and for the operator to manage as best they can and not let anyone overly affect them. This is what I’ve seen the best operators do. If it gets really bad, I suggest to “QRX for ten minutes” and take a break. This gives the pileup time to settle down. It can be like pushing the “reset” button at times.

I think some peer pressure is also appropriate if we hear our friends or fellow club members calling out of turn or acting improperly on the bands. As for the European situation, that one is a tough problem. Having operated from EU many times I cannot ever get used to what I hear. It makes me glad to come home to where things are not quite as bad. Better still are the Japanese. Politeness and respect are central to their culture. This carries over into amateur radio. It is much less common to hear an errant JA operator in the pileups. Perhaps we should all be more polite and respect each other more.


  1. Bob - W6OPO says:

    Good comments and perception Paul. The idea of QRX for ten minutes seems the best tool for the DX operator to regain control.

    But the central theme is to be respectful of others and obey the DX operator’s instructions. And if you can’t hear the DX operator don’t call him!

  2. KY6R says:

    I have seen a big “uptick” in what I call “ravenous” pileup behavior. I think it has to do with several things:

    1) More DX-ers are retired and are able to DX 24 x 7
    2) There are more DX-ers
    3) New activities like Diamond, Marathon and increased interest in IOTA and others
    4) More DX-ers are using code readers
    5) More DX-ers are trying the low bands

    I don’t think #4 is that big of a deal, but it does contribute. What has surprised me is how “garden variety” DX that would never have had a pileup of any size in 2001 – now has size-able pileups.

    2012 had an amazing amount of rare DXpeditions, and 2013 has had few as far as DXCC is concerned – but it seems like the IOTA activations are on the upswing.

    Since I have always been a little pistol, I have always used propagation as my #1 skill. Especially the morning grey line on say, 40 and 30M and in the winter. I have sometimes gone up to 17M at night – when everyone is trying to talk to those same 3 or 4 guys in the ME – and lo and behold – 17M has some decent DX on – and I feel like I have that DX to myself.

    In the past, 20M always seemed crowded and kind of unruly. That seems have propagated elsewhere.

    The “DX Code of Conduct” is cute, but I don’t see all the posting of that doing much good at all. The name of the game is strategy and skirting around the noise and garbage on the bands.

    Work smarter, not harder. The lids will always be there . . .

  3. KB1JZU says:

    Hi Paul, Just came across your blog. One thing that I have seen in these unruly pileups is that if the operator stays on message it really helps. I know its hard when one is trying to hold a high rate but if when you call for someone and others jump in just keep calling until most shut up and a clear contact is made. We learn real quick that getting through quickly is inversely proportionate to the number of times a DX operator has to do this. In addition if there is no response then ID and call QRZ. Picking up the next loud ham who continues to call just makes it worst. Just my thoughts mostly from an SSB & Digital perspective. Looking forward to working you on your next one. 73 /bob

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