(by Paolo Cortese, I2UIY / NH7DX)
Generally Speaking | EU Sprint Log Checking
Generally SpeakingWhat is a contest? It is a competition, a race - it is obvious - and it is a nice kind of competition for several reasons. It is nice because it is 'open' so the big guns and the little pistols can compete together. It is nice because each participant can enter the competition from his own place or from a site he likes. It is nice because each one can decide when he wants to start and when he will finish and - if he likes - he can stop at any time. It is a competition that leaves to the participant a lot of freedom. As it happens in any kind of competition, there are some rules to be obeyed and the Contest Committee is in charge to guarantee that each entrant respects the rules.
Checking the logs Someone still believes that the Committee should just open the envelopes and collect the scores. Then this list will be published as the results listings. The point is that if this is the Committee's task, why should a Committee be needed at all? And why should the entrants submit their logs? It would be enough sending a short note with the score: less paper around and faster results. Someone says that it is "unpolite" to check a log and that the claimed score should be accepted as a sign of respect for the entrant. In each kind of competition there is a sort of 'log checking', implied by the presence of judges or referees, because it is a part of a serious race, no matter if we are talking about contesting, soccer, chess, sailing, boxing, tennis, gardening, knitting, or whatever.
Cheating and mistakes Before going on it is necessary to make a clear distinction between the mistakes (that can be commonly found in every log) and cheating. Yes, someone cheats. We know it and several times someone has been already disqualified for this reason. It happens in any kind of competitions and it happens in contests too. Luckily the percentage of these guys is really small but it must still be considered because - usually - who decides to cheat does it to try to win. The problem is that when some regular mistakes are removed from a log, the entrant might believe that the Committee and who else will read the results might think that he cheated. This is crazy but it happens frequently that someone feels uncomfortable by being penalized. People must understand that someone cheats, even badly, but the great majority of entrants are deeply honest. Everyone can make mistakes in a contest, there are many statistics showing the mistakes' percentages for each category. This is absolutely normal. Big guns have mistakes in their logs and little pistols have mistakes in their logs. The task of the Committee is to offer to ALL participants an impartial log checking so the best ones will come up. Being the best means also having fewer mistakes in your log. I guess that even "casual contesters" would appreciate a fair treatment of their log and would love to see the list of their mistakes so next time they will pay more attention. But PLEASE do not believe we label you as a cheater just because we detected some mistakes in your log.
Who checks the logs and who does not? Log checking is a real lousy job. It takes a lot of time, it might be expensive, everybody will complain about it and nobody will ever remember who did it. So there are still some Committees that believe that it is much better to avoid it and to make all the 'customers' happy. This is a very challengeable opinion but I must admit that there are still many contests where nobody takes care of the logs. This behaviour is easy to detect: just look at your score. If you made a reasonable number of QSOs and your listed score is unchanged, it is really suspect because everybody makes a given percentage of mistakes. You might be a real genius (you lucky) but the other possibility is that nobody checked your log. Recently someone made his opinion clear to me: if we are part of a Committee, the participant is our customer and the customer is always right . This means that, if you want keep your 'customers', it is better not to waste your time with something not very much welcomed. Do I need to tell you that I do not agree with this statement?
At which level do you do it? This is another good question because there are many levels of log checking. Many opinions here, too. Someone says that you must do it only for Top Scores. Someone else enlarges the range and checks about fifty percent of the logs. Some others check only the logs in electronic formats like those sent through Email or on a diskette. None of these behaviors is fair and, sometimes, it might even bring some troubles to other contest Committees. Listen to this: it happened that someone entered for many years the big contests where, in the past, only the Top Scores were checked. These entrants were, relatively, little pistols so they never ended in the high rankings but they were very proud seeing their scores untouched. When they entered a smaller contest, their score was good enough to qualify for a prize but they had been penalized due to some mistakes. You cannot imagine how much they felt bad! So they accused the Committee of the small contest to be incompetent as they had always been very good operators when they entered the big contests! It seems funny but it is true and it happened more that few times to me.
A serious check. It is not easy picturing how a log checking action should be to be named serious, it might depend on many elements. Each contest has its own properties and - this is important in the smaller contests - most of the times the word "Committee" hides just one or two volunteers that offer their free time to handle the contest. So often it happens that the lack of help restricts the quality of Log Checking. There are two main points: the first goal is to check ALL the logs in the same way; the second point is deciding which data in the log must be checked. Usually a log includes some data like:
- Exchange Sent
- Exchange Received
Tools In the past, but not many moons ago, the only tool that a log checker could use was was a red pencil. The computer arrival - it seems strange - did not change too much the log checkers' work. This is because developing a real good log checking software is absolutely not easy. If on one hand a contest logging software could be used world wide, on the other hand each single contest has different needing for log checking, so each Committee must build his own tools. Having a kind of universal software would be - theoretically - possible if all the logs would be submitted exactly in the same format but this is a pure dream since each contest requires different exchanges and data and because all the software writers will never agree for a common output from their programs. If the Committee is really interested in log checking, something can be done but this is not always true because most of the times it is not easy to find a real good software writer to torture in order to get the desired program.
What is wrong and what is acceptable? Assuming to have the required tools to check the logs at the decided level, it will be necessary deciding what will be considered a mistake and what could be accepted even if it is not perfectly correct. This is not a tools' or computers' problem but it is a personal decision, nothing can help you except your personal feelings. My opinion is that everything which is not correct... must be wrong. I know, it seems stupid but I can assure you that someone else still believes that some incorrect data could be accepted. This is known as the 'P40V09' debate. The question is: someone logs a station as P40V09 because he forgets to press the space-bar before typing 09 (we are talking of CQWW Contest, obviously, but the same situation could happen in any contest). Is this a mistake or not? I think this IS a mistake and I think so for a simple reason: after the contest there is one full month to submit the log. If the participant does not use this time to check his own log, I think it is right penalize him for ANY kind of mistakes found in his log.
Penalties or not?When a mistake has been detected, what happens? That QSO is lost and this is obvious but it is not enough. If the only penalty for a mistake is the loss of the QSO, it could sound like a cheating instigation. Unfortunately there are some stations that cheat to win a worthless prize, we know this. We do not need to push these guys showing them that there are no additional penalties other than losing the wrong (or false or busted) QSO. In the same time, for the honest participants (which are the great majority) this will be a stimulus to be accurate (more accuracy equals less penalties). So the penalties are necessary (with few exceptions) but how much is enough? In a big contest like CQWW, a mistake is usually penalized with the loss of 3 additional QSOs and if you have too many of them in your log (usually the limit is between 3 and 5%) you may be disqualified. Someone would like to increase this limit to force more accuracy but I think it is reasonable.
What does 'mistake' mean? I always used the word mistake to make it easier but there are many kind of mistakes:
- a wrong callsign is a mistake (I1UIY instead of I2UIY)
- a not existing callsign is a mistake (QQ7AA)
- a wrong received serial-number/data is a mistake
- a QSO which is not in the other station's log is a mistake
- an unverifiable (unique) QSO/callsign is a mistake
- a QSO logged on the wrong band/mode is a mistake
- a QSO logged at the wrong time is a mistake (usually the tolerance is +/- 5/10 minutes)
EU Sprint Log CheckingUsually this is a contest with about 70-100 entries. Half of them are diskette/Email submissions so each manager, with the help of few good souls, cares to computerize all the paper logs so ALL logs can be processed together and at the same level. This number of entries means that everyone who made at least 15/20 QSOs sends his log: a real paradise for log checkers. The pratical result is that almost each QSO can be checked. One of our computer gurus, Ben - DL6RAI, wrote a log checking software that takes care, in seconds, of most of the work. Ben wrote some utilities to convert into "our" format the logs that should have been submitted in other formats (mostly K1EA and N6TR). This is the base for a fair log checking. In EU Sprint, the exchange consists of serial-number and name. So the software checks time, band, callsign, serial-number and name automatically when it is possible. For the logged Time we accept a tolerance of +/- 5 minutes. Sometimes the software cannot decide if a received name is right or wrong (this is when that station did not submit a log) because there are some participants that got that name in a way and several others that logged it in a different way. So the log checker must decide what is wrong and what is correct. The same happens with unique callsigns that can be really unique or busted. The software offers few choices to the log checker but he is in charge of the decision. When I wrote about penalties, I stated that penalties are necessary but with few exceptions. EU Sprint is one of these exceptions because we think that in this very particular kind of contest where practically everything can be checked and where almost everyone submits a log, removing the wrong QSO is enough. Please consider that in EU Sprint there are no multipliers and the final score is the number of the valid QSOs. So a loss of say 5 QSOs can already mean a big penalty in itself.
One thing you can do managing a contest like EU Sprint, is to give to ALL entrants a complete report about log checking with all the possible clarifications about the actions taken.
This is a typical EU Sprint Log Checking Report automatically generated by our software. In the last right column (Error/Correction) we list the reason why the QSO was removed and the correction. This report is sent, together with final results, by Email to the operators who submitted their log in this way and by regular mail to everyone else.
The content of this page was last updated at 6th Feb 2005 at 20:36:45 UTC
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