We’re nearly half a year into the ARRL International Grid Chase event and I’m still not certain that I totally grok what it’s all about. I assume it’s mostly aimed at getting more hams to use LoTW as the scores are automatically determined.

For certain it’s yet another ham radio event where those scoring in the top five percent are so far ahead of the rest of the pack that it’s ridiculous. I find most radio contests to be that way. I’ll sometimes have a very productive radio weekend and be surprised and delighted to discover that I earned 330,000 points. Later, when the complete results are announced, I see that the top station had 57 million points…

I really don’t want to congratulate these top scorers so much as I want to ask them if they actually have a life because, I’m highly skeptical.

The Grid Chase is like that. I’m enjoying an above average year in terms of logged HF contacts. I typically put about 1,000 contacts in the log each year. At my current pace, I expect to work 1,500 over this entire year, a significant increase. Meanwhile, the top station in the Grid Chase already has well over 28,000 confirmed QSL’s.

Overwhelming odds and the fact that I can’t make every station I work use LoTW are why I have so little interest in this event. My score will be whatever it will be and I won’t finish in the top 5,000.

Still, I find the leaderboard useful to spy on the activity of others. The LoTW angle makes it non-definitive, but I can get a pretty good idea about how active you are simply by checking your score.

For instance, it’s interesting to discover that many of the top-shelf DXers are inactive. I suppose these are only looking for one or two more elusive stations which aren’t on the air at the moment. But if those near the top of the Honor Roll only get on the air when someone goes to Heard Island, or if they’re just waiting for North Korea, should we even consider these elite operators to be “active” radio amateurs?

Same goes for many ham radio bloggers, podcasters, and video producers who talk a good game, but apparently don’t actually spend much time on the bands.

This is disappointing, not because so many of those we assumed to be active aren’t, but because it convinces me that we will never be able to create an accurate definition of an “active” radio amateur and without it, how will we ever measure if activity on the bands is rising or falling?