Re: Grid chase 2022

Gordon Beattie, W2TTT

Hi Folks,

Please consider these thoughts and refrain from flaming.  It's unbecoming, tiresome, and doesn't accomplish anything.

Let's be clear that the ARRL CEO, Dave Minster has extensive academic and operational leadership experience in entrepreneurial environments.  It begins with an IT degree from Ohio State and progresses through a long, successful career where he has managed customers, products, employees and shareholders with excellent interpersonal and technical skills across a wide-ranging portfolio. 

Here's Dave's LinkedIn page.

Anyone who has contested or DX'd with Dave knows of his skills, competitiveness, and grace when dealing with complex technical and interpersonal challenges. 

The timeframe of the LOTW development has spanned the terms of four CEOs, some of whom did not manage effectively.  Often their effectiveness was driven by issues on the ARRL Board. The Board is the CEO's boss along with the membership.  The Board's own collective style, perspective and skills have recently been evolving to the betterment of the ARRL membership, but change takes time.  Some decisions will be unpopular, but a revised roadmap for LOTW has to be considered in the broader and more important context of a roadmap for the ARRL and Amateur Radio. 

The priorities of different segments of the Amateur Radio community vary according to how one operates.  Lifestyles, physical circumstances, age, and other factors drive different activities that impact LOTW, ARRL membership, and the overall attractiveness of our wonderful hobby and the ways we pursue it.  The ARRL CEO, the Board, and HQ staff balance the diverse needs of the membership and sometimes our favorite aspect of the hobby is not on top of the worklist.  This is not to say that there is no progress, but it may be at a slower pace, or include elements needed to address the needs of other members. 

Arguing about prior decisions, architecture, and business requirements when most of those involved in the process are no longer on the scene, makes little sense and is a waste of energy that does not advance the cause.  "No point in crying over spilt milk." 

Gordon Beattie, W2TTT

From: ARRL-Awards@... <ARRL-Awards@...> on behalf of Dave AA6YQ <aa6yq@...>
Sent: Saturday, November 27, 2021, 22:02
To: ARRL-Awards@...
Subject: Re: [ARRL-Awards] Grid chase 2022

+ AA6YQ comments below
               What is an “SAP Database Engine”?

+ A database is a mechanism that stores large quantities of data in one or more tables, and facilitates its rapid retrieval. For example, LoTW's database has a table that stores the QSOs each use submits, and an indication of whether that QSO is confirmed for DXCC, VUCC, WAS, WAZ, and/or WPX. A database engine is the mechanism the provides this storage and retrieval functionality. SAP is a company that develops and sells database engines. The develop of LoTW chose to incorporate SAP's database engine in LoTW rather than take time to develop his own.

                What is an “ODBL Interface”?

+ ODBC is an abbreviation for "Open Database Connectivity". It's an industry standard way that an application like LoTW interacts with a database engine. An application that interacts with a database engine via ODBC can replace one vendor's ODBC-compliant database engine with another vendor's ODBC-compliant database engine with little or no change to the application; such a change might be made to increase capacity, increase performance, or reduce cost.

                What is a “Proprietary Interface?”

+ The version of the SAP database engine that the LoTW developer chose did not support an ODBC interface. LoTW interacted with it  through a specific set of invocations that were unique to SAP. Thus this database engine could not easily be replaced with another vendor's database engine. In the SAP case, LoTW could not even upgrade to the currently-supported version of the SAP database engine because that currently-supported engine employed an ODBC interface, not the proprietary interface used by its predecessor.

                What is a “Cloud Oriented Database Engine?”

+ "The cloud" is a term used to refer to computational resources accessible via the internet. Companies like Amazon, Google, and Oracle maintain large datacenters around the world and sell access to these resources to companies who would rather rent these resources on an as-needed basis than maintain them. Besides eliminating the need to maintain a data centers, computational resources in the cloud are elastic, meaning that they can expand and contract on an as-needed basis. Instead of maintaining a data center with enough computational resources to cover the largest conceivable load - around this time of year for online retailers, for example - one is only charged rent for resources actually used.

+ A company cannot acquire a database engine license for use on a computer in its data center and then deploy it in the cloud, unless the license explicitly permits it. The SAP database engine cannot be licensed for use in a cloud-hosted application. There are many database engines that can be used in cloud-hosted applications.

                What is a “Radiosport Interface?”

+  The "Radiosport Web Experience" refers to the proposed design of a set of web pages optimized for use by DXers and Contesters. Today's "LoTW Web Experience" is accessible here:

+ It is implemented with primitive and obsolete technology, making it difficult for ARRL personnel to update. It forces LoTW users to be aware of implementation details, like the need to link an LoTW account to a DXCC record. It provide little personalization. For example, you can't "inform" it that you're only pursuing DXCC in CW; it assumes that you are pursuing DXCC in every mode and on every band. Furthermore, it doesn't inform you when the latest ARRL DX News indicates that a station in a DXCC entity you haven't yet worked in CW will be QRV next week.

                What is “GetSimple” Content Management?

+ A "Content Management Engine" is a tool used to create, store, and manage the information that can be displayed by a web application. GetSimple is a specific Content Management Engine that was included with the tools the ARRL acquired to create and maintain everything accessible via It provides a small fixed-sized window in which raw HTML must be composed; HTML is the language that a web browser interprets to display a web page.

In one post, the author stated that “Step one was completed in 2016” but was interrupted by various programing tasks for unique events. Grid Chase was one mentioned. Grid Chase was not even held until 2018. How does this interfere with a task that was completed in 2016?

+ You are correct; implementing the Grid Chase Leaderboard did not adversely impact the LoTW Server improvement project.

Another comment made was that in 2018 we (the ARRL), hired staff with development tasks for LoTW, but were quickly reassigned to other duties, which have not been completed.

+ You misunderstood. The ARRL Board authorized the hiring of two dedicated developers for LoTW in 2013; it took several months to recruit, hire, and on-board them. One of them left after a year or two, and was replaced. Those two worked on LoTW until early 2018, when they were re-assigned to other projects unrelated to LoTW.

No mention of their release for the incompetence of those “other duties not completed,” so I presume, perhaps wrongly, they are still in employ by the ARRL.

+ What leads you to the conclusion that duties were not completed, or that these developers were incompetent? Neither is correct.

 Why are we paying them if that is the case? If one works 4 years for an organization and cannot complete their task, they should be certainly fired, and the salary expense associated put to better use.

+ If a developer does not complete a task because management directs them to stop working on it and instead work on a different task, it's not the developers fault that the original task was not completed. If management interrupts a developer in the middle of one task by asking them to work on another task, then management should expect that the first task will take longer to complete than if the developer had been allowed to complete it without interruption. Interrupts are the bane of software development, as a developer must keep large amounts of context in mind while working; if that that context is lost to an interrupt, time must be taken to re-establish it -- and that process is often imperfect, leading to an increase in the number of defects.

+ None of the developers hired to work on LoTW are now ARRL employees; my understanding is the one of them is willing to provide help on a contract basis.

Why is a “Radio Sport Web Presence” have priority to improvement of LoTW? Would that not be better addressed on the Contesting Web Pages of the site?

+ The proposed "Radio Sport Web Presence" is a replacement for

+ and thus would provide a significant increase in LoTW's usability. Extending it to support contesting as well as DXing is justified by the many common needs of DXers and contesters, and the fact that many users engage in both activities.

Having an IT Director would have a positive influence on LoTW. It has been implied that we are failing to move in that direction even though the job position has been posted for some time.

+ It's a fact that more than a year has elapsed since the new CEO came on board, and that no IT Director has been hired.

Could the lack of hiring be related to salary considerations, relocation, qualifications, or any combination? Reading the posting the criteria to meet position requirements are stiff, narrowing down the field of eligible prospects. Those few may find that some of the above criteria to be too demanding in their stage of career development. Hence, much harder to find a suitable person. Which would be the best solution: Lower our standards to get a warm body on board, or keep looking until we find someone immensely qualified and suitable for our needs?

+ Lowering standards to get a warm body on board is the worst possible course of action. Hiring competent software engineering leadership is extremely challenging, particularly for a non-profit organization that cannot offer equity (stock options). Well-led software companies develop software engineering leadership talent in-house, and provide a culture and compensation that retains that talent.

I too would pay extra, (not to be confused with membership dues), for enhanced use of programs such as LoTW. Surely, one who enjoys working with legacy equipment would not. We all have our niches.

+ If competently managed, the ARRL's Awards business, of which LoTW is a component, could easily be cash neutral or better. They don't even try.

It has been said a clear road map for LoTW was created in 2016. Even with my lack of training in computer science, that map could be used for a dumpster fire, as this is late 2021 and technology has marched right along.

+ No. The roadmap did not choose specific technologies. It refers to an ODBC-compliant database engine, not a specific database engine; there has been no significant change in database interface technologies since 2016. It refers to the selection of a user experience framework, not the use of a specific framework; better frameworks have become available, and we remain free to choose the one that best meets our needs.

The ARRL exists because of the inflow of substantial amounts of money through endowments, gifts, donations, fees for awards, classes, publications, membership, and profits from the ARRL Store. It also takes a large amount of money to cover the operational expenses. That being said, information exists that it has substantial amounts of investments. What are we holding the money for? As a suggestion, could a little be used towards LoTW? Not for paid staff or recurring expenses, but the one-time purchase of equipment or services. Or do we have plans for those investments, aside from those that are designated funds? What was this video about LoTW needing donations to operate? For viewing where would one find it?

+ Since Board Meetings are confidential and Board Meetings Minutes contain little information, your guess is as good as mine.

It seems like every positive suggestion that is posted is shot down by the recurring argument that it cannot be done, by a few naysayers who cite the past as a reason we cannot move forward.

+  That's false. The disagreement boils down to "take LoTW forward by incrementally improving what we have to achieve what we want", vs. "keep using what we have now while a new team spends several years building want we want". I advocate the "incremental" approach, consistent with the ARRL-LoTW Committee's roadmap. The ARRL CEO advocates starting over from scratch.

 Can’t we move forward with ideas making use of current resources (or those of the near past with “tweaking”) and doing the best we can with what we have?

+ There are no current resources. If we had resources, it would be critical to align everyone around a consistent set of objectives and constraints, from janitor to CEO to Board members. "Do the best we can with what we have" does not provide that alignment.

 Grid Chase: Maybe I’m wrong, but an insertion in the rules to eliminate robots and use the honor system, and updating the headings in the template could hardly take more than a day of LoTW time. Surely, we can handle that.

+ Congratulations, you've fallen into the pit of estimating how long it will take to do something about which you have zero understanding. There are plenty of skeletons around you.

+ I spent months using GetSimple to develop

+ so I have a very good idea how long it takes to make changes.

     de AA6YQ

Join to automatically receive all group messages.