I had the opportunity last weekend to participate in a unique radio event that bridged the gap between social media and ham radio in a useful and exciting way.
I’m on all the main social media sites, but I rarely use them. This past summer, a friend challenged me to get off Facebook for a month. I accepted the challenge, deleted the shortcut from my browser, deleted the app from my iPhone, and never looked back. About two months later, I wandered back onto Facebook to make sure I didn’t have any messages waiting for me. Once I confirmed it was the same tired wasteland of snark, crappy photo memes, targeted advertising and banal updates, I closed the browser and decided Facebook wasn’t something that really interested me anymore.
I got on Twitter way back in 2008 (I think). I recall using it with my old Motorola flip phone. Sadly, I never really built up a tribe of followers. I abandoned it, came back to it a bit later and eventually abandoned it again. I got back on Twitter after it was baked into iOS, with the intention of using it to only follow photographers, and that lasted all of about a week.
I guess I fail at social media. And that’s not surprising, because I’m not a very social person on or off the net. I find it hard to maintain interest, search for and add new contacts, or think of anything clever to say to the world.
It wasn’t until this last weekend I actually had fun using Twitter. The “Worked All Twitter” QSO party kicked off during the Thanksgiving holiday, so I signed back up on Twitter (@KK4DSD), created a search for the #WATwitter hashtag, and tried to make some contacts.
- I got started quite literally by accident. I stumbled across K5PO’s big signal on the 15 meter band Thursday afternoon and heard him calling “Worked All Twitter” in his CQ. Oh yeah! That’s going on this weekend! I remember reading about over at NR4CB’s blog. I quickly went over to Twitter and created my new account, fired up my logging program, and threw my callsign out. What luck … I hardly EVER work this band because my antenna isn’t resonant on 15. K5PO came back to me and we had a brief chat. First #WATwitter QSO in the log, and the first SSB contact in ages…
- I got lucky on Friday again. I kept an eye on the #WATwitter hashtag and noticed some folks “self spotting” their frequencies. I managed to grab a 20-meter contact with NT1K, who runs an excellent blog I first discovered back during the summer.
- Around that same frequency, I received a call from Chuck, KC9ICE, whose tweets I’d been following via the hashtag. Got him in the log!
- I was trying to work NR4CB and AB4UG (yet another blogger I follow) on 20 meters, but I think my RF was sailing right over them. Apparently it was landing in Canada, as I received a call from VA3QV. We managed to make a very brief contact before conditions become too noisy.
At this point, I was adding contacts to both my log and my Twitter friends list. When we make contacts, we’d tweet the QSO and the frequency we were on, which is actually one of the most practical uses of social media in regards to ham radio.
I really enjoyed being able to “QSL” or confirm the contacts in near real-time over Twitter. In fact, those of us who use HRDlog, also receive e-mail confirmations of logged contacts. As I was receiving my Twitter QSLs, I was receiving HRDLog QSL reports! BTW, I upload my logs to Logbook of the World, but they are 6-7 DAYS behind on processing at the moment. DAYS??!?!?!?! Good grief ARRL!
But back to the action!
- Some guys were hanging out on digital modes. I had no luck finding them on PSK frequencies, but I did locate KK4CIS on 40-meter JT65. We had a successful QSO, and confirmed the contact on Twitter. While I was on frequency, I fired off a CQ and the Italian station IZ3XEF came back to me on the first shot. Two for the price of one and good DX as they say! (On 40 meters no less!)
- Sunday I decided to try for another #WATwitter contact and I saw WW1X (another great blogger) self-spot on Twitter. I tuned him in on 20 meters and completed the contact for my 6th and final Worked All Twitter QSO.
Overall, a really fun and memorable weekend on the radio; this is what I needed to get me excited about the hobby again. It was nice to interact with bloggers I admire and look up to, and be able to actually tell them that on air, all while leveraging the Internet to confirm contacts, make new friends and find hot spots. It was also refreshing to break free from the normal Sturm und Drang of ham radio: the pointless 59 exchanges, annoying DX pile-ups, contesting and endless ragchew about antennas and gear.
This is definitely an event that needs to happen more often!