Visitors to our webpages, friends on Facebook and our followers on Twitter get a “consolidated” reality from the plethora of information from DxCoffee about DX. We are aware of the fact that we are certainly not the first to explore the concept of talking about ham radio on-line. Colin McGowan, MMØNDX, founder and owner of DX-World.net has been on the web since 2007. Convinced, as we are, that a positive attitude is paramount (while at once maintaining deep respect for ham spirit, a concept to which we feel ourselves bound) and always striving to improve ourselves while learning from others, we put together some questions which were not only gladly accepted, but were responded to in anything but a haphazard way. The result is a 360° “big picture” view, not simply a “tool” meant to keep us OMs in the loop on-line but in the loop on ham radio, the health of the hobby and where it’s going.
This is, in as much, well worth reading, as what is said by one who has blazed new trails, is always important.
When did you become a ham operator? What got you interested in the hobby?
In 1989 I started out as a SWL. Constant listening, logging, QSL’ing. In 2003, once the morse requirement was dropped, I decided to go for the ticket.
What led you (and when) to put together a DX news site?
DX-World.net was originally a blog called “hamspirit” in April 2007. It then grew and developed into DX-Hamspirit.com approximately one year later. DX-World.net was born in January 2010.
Always being interested in DX and geography with a limited knowledge of blogging, I decided to try to combine them all.
What inspired the architecture of your site?
Credit must go to Stan SQ8X and Christian DL6KAC who developed the site layout. Stan designed the site. With much feedback between the three of us, we wanted the site to remain quite simple but modern. None of us particularly wanted to see it “overloaded.” The layout has hardly changed since January, 2010 with no plans for any major changes in the future. The site is also advert free – as long as I run DX-World.net, there will be no (annoying) adverts.
How many people are involved with you in the maintaining of DX-World.net?
Eight people overall are involved. As mentioned, Stan and Christian are the technical guys who fix any issues, maintain updates etc.
The content is 99% my own doing, with the occasional post published by Propagation Analyst Max, IK8LOV.
Soundbites content is 95% based on Igor, RA3CQ sending through files he records, more or less daily, this proving a popular place to visit, and more recently, other ops are providing recordings too. The actual Soundbites page probably needs a shake-up and categorized into each DXCC or IOTA listing. However, that is a large task which needs a lot of devotion. At last check, there’s almost 1000 recordings uploaded from nearly 50 pages.
DX Chat is popular and moderated by Thomas, DL2FCB. It’s a good bunch of people who visit there sharing DX news or just chatting.
DX-World/twitter page is 95% looked after by Luis, EA1CS. He is very good at using Twitter, so has free reign to use the Twitter account.
Mehdi, F5PFP provides Polar news – he has many contacts within Arctic/Antarctic circles, so any ham news relating to bases or rare IOTA within these regions, he alerts DX-World.net.
How many hours per day does it take you to update the site?
Difficult to say. Certainly, I try to update as much as possible – even on Xmas Day! Daily updates usually occur, sometimes with as much as a full, brand new first page; totally different news from how it was 24 hours previously. Of course, the more news received, the more time spent on-site updating.
Checking comments, looking for spam, adding tags, writing posts (with links) including images can be time consuming, but always enjoyable.
What are the main difficulties of being the boss behind so much information?
If the site goes down or off-line for a period it is always a “difficult” time. Thankfully, it rarely happens and when it does people are understanding. In truth, there are no real difficulties in running the site if it’s constantly checked and updated.
How do you select people who work with you at DX-World.net?
Nobody was really “selected.” I guess they all came onboard over a period of time, each giving something they excel in to enhance DX-World.net.
Today your site is one of the most reputed ones. Did feedback come all at once, or has it been more of a gradual thing? When, and on what basis, did you notice that you were headed in the right direction?
There was always a fan base from the early days who watched it grow and change. Feedback came at the beginning as the new site was unveiled. Today, occasional feedback is given, but I think most people now just take the site for what it is intended to give – DX News. The stats suggest the site is very popular.
From your point of view, what kind of news and information is most sought after today by the ham community? What are the five most read categories?
General news, IOTA news, Soundbites, QSL corner, Send News. It is also very noticeable that comments are appearing more and more.
One of the activities which many hams seem interested is that of DXpeditions. How hard is to provide information on that subject?
Key is to make a simple, to the point headline in the post which will be easily found on an internet search. Of course, DX and expeditions are the main focus of the site, so it’s relatively easy to provide this news. To make the info “look better” is by adding images, links, tags etc.
What have been, in your opinion, the highest moments during the history of your website so far?
Just last week the most views for a single week occured. Tens of thousands viewed. It’s these kinds of moments which give the drive and determination to keep the site running. Not a single buck is made out of DX-World.net. To begin advertising or seeking funds would take the shine off the project.
How do you judge amateur radio’s longevity these days?
Some would say terminal decline. Others would say it’s healthy. I’m a bit in the middle. Yes, operating standards have dropped significantly, but on the other hand, in this era of modern technology, it’s still refreshing to see the hobby alive and well. Now that propagation/sunpsots are on the up, it’s already clear to see that ham radio is not going away anytime soon!
I asked these questions:
- Does the Dx Code of Conduct really help – is it not preaching to the already converted?
- Does Clublog actually make chasing DXpeditions less fun – does a “leaderboard war” bring out the worst in operating skills?
Two simple questions perhaps your readership could answer.
Social networks, clusters and plateforms like U-stream allow operators to share info on their own activity in real time. Will all this enhance the activity of news sites like yours, or will it spell the end of “news outlets” like yourself (and us)?
Difficult to say. Already people are turning off from using Facebook and Twitter, so what other prime social media platforms are they using? The answer is none.
I don’t really see an issue with this real time aspect. Each to their own, I guess. The (DX) cluster is either an evil or a god, depending on which way you use it! I’m happy to embed any videos which show expeditions in the same way I’m always searching other platforms for news which would look good on DX-World.net – there’s a whole plethora of info out there – taking time to search the internet can often be fruitful for additional news.
Despite technologies, many DX-ham publications are still going out on paper. Do you think they are still viable, or do you’ll think they’ll be definitely wiped out by the Internet soon?
A core group of operators prefer reading (by hand) than looking at a computer screen, but I think this percentage is probably quite low now. As a survey it would be interesting to ask various age groups within ham radio where they get their DX info. Paper or on-line?
What would you suggest to a young amateur webmaster wanting to start his own DX website?
Have a plan. Don’t become too ambitious overnight; it takes time to generate interest. Ask the question – what would you do differently from DX-World.net or Dx Coffee?
Is there a lesson you learned in all these years of work for DX World? If so, what is it?
Get as much information as possible before publishing. Check sources.
A recent example of this is news I received pertaining to Navassa KP1 2012. That info is truthful and to the point, but I’m forbidden to publish any more at the moment. Meanwhile, some groups/ops contacted me to say it was mischief making, when in fact all I had done was publish a very interesting DX piece I received – it’s not my problem if others don’t like it due to their own agenda or plans!
Ham radio is not growing in popularity among young people, at least in Europe. What efforts should be taken, in your opinion, to turn this trend around?
What efforts are the current “old timers” doing to avert the dropping numbers? Do they make “fresh blood” to the hobby feel welcome? It’s a Catch-22 scenario – the Morse requirement was dropped to make becoming a radio ham “easier” and increase numbers to the hobby, yet we hear / read bemoaning the fact from old school operators that it was the worst thing to do due to operating standards slipping. It could be argued that the hobby needs new operators to breathe life into the hobby, and at the same time get rid of the deadwood which still exists within.
Do radio clubs actively encourage newcomers? Has the internet, on-line gaming, social media, et al, prevented youngsters from being interested in ham radio?
I haven’t really answered this question very well. Perhaps a White Paper should be drawn up to see exactly where ham radio is going?
For DX information, the past was printed paper, the present is the net… and the future?
Reading about DXpeditions from other planets where life exists!
What’s some DX news you still haven’t talked about but would love to publish?
Probably a scoop on P5 North Korea about to be activated by young, keen, interested radio hams.
To end this interview: ham radio, and specially DX, why? What are the advantages for DXpeditioners to use news aggregators like Dx-World, DxCoffee and others despite the traditional weekly bulletins?
Since ham radio is so diverse, for me, it has always been about DX. Listening, chasing, spotting, working, QSL’ing DX stations. It made sense to build a website around that. Thus, at the click of mouse or key, new info is available without having to wait on a weekly paper bulletin or pay-to-read DX sheet. Really, why should money be made out of a hobby whereby 90% of DX news can be found on the internet?
Many thanks to DX Coffee providing these questions – it’s been a pleasure to answer.