Everything not specifically prohibited is mandatory

In a post to cq-contest, Hans K0HB made the suggestion for a new universal contest rule:

"Rule XXII:  Everything not specifically prohibited is mandatory."

During my ethics presentation at CTU in Dayton, I specifically made the opposite point.

Contest sponsors have deliberately chosen to keep rules relatively simple. Perhaps to follow historical precedent or keep the text to something that will fit in a magazine. To fully cover every situation, our rules would look like Formula 1 car racing or top level sail boat racing and be hundreds of pages long.

We would then need judges, a commissioner, and an organization to manage the rules (not to mention more lawyers). We don’t have a big TV contract or big $$ sponsors, so contesting remains largely an honor sport.

This means participants have to consider two elements when making a decision about whether an action is permitted or not. 1) Is it in the rules? These are the “easy” ones. 2) Is there an accepted norm that deals with the issue? This is what keeps the cq-contest reflector humming.

The challenge for contesting is that the accepted norms vary from one culture to another, from one local group to another, and they change over time! Many times they are passed through word of mouth. Remember the game of telephone where you give a sentence to one person and then see the final result after it has been through many retellings?

At CTU, I suggested norms in contesting have 3 main objectives:

  • Just because its not specified in the written rules doesn’t mean you can do it!
  • Keep the contest on the radio and within the contest period
  • Don’t give or take unfair advantage

I am sure Hans was speaking tongue in cheek, but I really would prefer to continue enjoying a competition where people are following the rules and not always trying to find the outside of the envelope.

Randy Thompson, K5ZD

(This post was originally made to cq-contest reflector, June 6, 2009)