Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Keeping Us Straight

It's 0001Z Monday morning. Around the world, contesters are rejoicing in joy or sighing in relief as they end another weekend of contesting. The contest is over.

But not for a dedicated group amateurs intent on insuring all participants in the contest played fair. The Contest Score Investigators (CSI) are gearing up to investigate evidence of cheating by radio-sport competitors. They will spend countless hours in the succeeding weeks, perhaps months, scouring logs of cluster spots, and audio recordings looking for evidence of rule infractions, whether those of the station's country radio rules or those of the contest sponsor's. This dedicated team committed to the strict rule of law, will continue even after the official results of the contest have been release, meaning their work may go on for more than a year. In contests where competitor's logs are released publicly, the CSI team will dissect the individual logs of competitors suspected of cheating, looking for evidence. Instead of spending hours in front of a radio, the CSI team members spends them in front of a computer screen, running statistical analyses and looking for patterns of suspicious behavior in IP trace routes.

The CSI are not paid by the hour, administrative lackeys, tiny cogs in the giant machinery of justice. No, their mission is entirely self-appointed. No contest sponsor asks for their assistance policing the sport of radio contesting. Their findings carry no weight, except in the court of public opinion, usually on the CQ-Contest reflector. Are their findings anticipated for their insight? Hardly. Almost every report from a CSI analysis results in additional, conflicting analysis from other CSIs. Rarely is a consensus reached or action taken as a result of any CSI analysis. Discussions, or arguments, about them rage for months after the contest or even the final results. While the CSI analysts slice and dice the data from the last big contest, the competitors have moved on and operated several more. Meaning that the CSI's work will never be done.

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