For better or for worse, the DX cluster has been and will continue to be a part of this hobby. You can love it, you can hate it, you can write tirades about its merits or its evils — but it will still be there, quietly churning out spots to thousands.
In this blog post, I won’t tell you if I love or hate the cluster. Frankly, I think my feelings are immaterial because they won’t change anything; the cluster isn’t going anywhere. I treat it as a tool, just like the processor on my radios or the grayline map on the wall.
Alternatively, I’ll propose a list of etiquette tips. Some of you may be running afoul of a few of these, but I’ve found it’s often because we forget there are operating techniques out there different from our own.
- Stop with the “can’t hear him” -spots. You may log into the cluster by telnet (or RF) and read each spot. In your case, you might receive a benefit from such a spot. However, you represent less than 5% of the cluster users. The rest of us see spots in a bandmap for our logging program or other application that strips away the “can’t hear him” -comment. In our case (which is the clear majority) your spot is a false spot. The easy solution for this is: ONLY SPOT WHAT YOU CAN HEAR. That’s the whole point of the system, no exceptions.
- No brag spots. Spot what you hear, not what you just worked. Don’t bother spotting with a “TNX 4 QSO” -comment. The DX isn’t watching the cluster. You know he isn’t. We know he isn’t. We know that you know he isn’t. So you’re just blatantly sending a brag and wasting all of our bandwidth in the process. The truth is that nobody — and I mean literally nobody — cares who you just worked.
- Please DO spot (especially on phone). The proliferation of CW skimmer has caused a decline in “human-originated” spots, even on other modes. Be sure to post spots if the DX is useful. Don’t post spots if they violate #1 or #2 above.
- Maybe self spot. This one might surprise a few of you. With the birth of skimmer, self spotting has become a non-issue. A few guys might get their feathers ruffled if you do it, but they’ll be unable to articulate a reason beyond involving their own emotions. Remember that most contests forbid this behavior, so certainly avoid that, but if you’re running on 10m phone at dusk on a Tuesday night when the band is empty, I’d appreciate the spot so I can work you. Don’t do it all the time, don’t do it during contests, and only do it when it’s helpful; ask yourself “is this a weird opening everyone is missing?”
- Avoid mobbing one node. Certain large, reliable nodes seem to absorb most of the telnet traffic for planet earth. K1TTT is certainly one of them, AB5K might be another. But there are thousands of DX cluster nodes available. Try another one! Spread out the traffic and decrease stress on the system. The sysops will thank you.
- Don’t bother with an announcement. To think that you have anything interesting enough to post to 100,000+ people is pure arrogance. In two decades, I have never once found a reason to use the announcement feature. When I was running a node, I actually blocked all announcements from coming in. They’re silly, rarely helpful, and sometimes just offensive. Also, please don’t make false spots to serve as announcements (see “T0ALL” in the image above). You’re messing with our bandmaps and you look like a fool. Nothing (and nobody) is important enough for that.
If you have any tips or tricks to add, be sure to fire away in the comments below!