Configuration and Complexity Fatigue – Why Amateur Radio needs to have Simple Options

Configuration and Complexity Fatigue – Why Amateur Radio needs to have Simple Options

Last night I spend close to an hour on the phone taking the generalities of FT8 with someone who is a VERY qualified engineer. It was my take away that his extremely complex and involved work left him with a desire to not have to repeat working through similar levels of complexity in our hobby.

This was never about his ability – I think he has forgotten more about electronics and computers than I’ve ever learned, but was about “configuration and complexity fatigue.” His emotive willingness to set up another project was ready to handle a plug-n-play so he could get up and on the air, but was resistant to a multi-part project requiring multiple downloads from numerous sources and a lot of set up “tinkering” the system into operation.

How people learn is divided into those who can vicariously acquire new knowledge – whether by reading, being told the subject matter like watching a lecture, or other one-way on-boarding, then those who have to have a two way going like watching a demonstration where they can ask questions, and those who learn best when they are coached/mentored through the process. Literature seems to suggest that the conventional take is people are easily categorized and always respond to new learning in the same way.

My observation is that people respond differently if the learning is an extension of previously acquired personal knowledge or if it is personally novel to them.

Additionally I have observed that under pressure from circumstances, health, fatigue, under numerous distractions, or in emotional distress those people usually able to learn from one-sided presentation or two-way communication learning techniques become restricted and suddenly benefit from hands on mentoring. Their ability to respond to the more abstract learning methods is reduced, and the more finite techniques are what is left.

Not always in our regular lives do we recognize the familiar/novel differences and the personal learning state continuum in assessing our own abilities.

I have learned that when I am fatigued and working on a complex system, that I need to slow down, change only one thing at a time, and make notes (or backups) so I can undue a misstep. If fatigue truly sets in I am better to walk away returning to the problem when I am refreshed. And I know I should never do that “one last thing” that comes to mind when my main task(s) is completed, as fatigue is altering my risk assessment & judgement.

We all learn this about being a driver – if you are tired get off the road. Ditto if we pick up flying as a hobby.

Translating this into our hobby we have to question is it realistic to expect to configure a computer, several software packages, a remote connection brokerage service, possibly a VPN, and then configure the radio-through-antenna portion of the equation just to get on the air?

In the ham’s case configuration and complexity fatigue led to his bypassing a very nice SDR radio and setting up instead a fairly basic knob-on-box radio that needed only one USB cable and the addition of WSJT-X software to put him on the air with his laptop.

I think he was one the air in less time than my writing this account has taken.

Now is he getting the same capabilities? Potentially no way, but in the specific practice of knocking out some casual FT8 QSOs, he got ever capability he needed to get on the air and making FT8 QSOs.

Our hobby isn’t all about tinkering a bunch of gear and software, rather it si all about making radio contacts.

When I mention my ideas for a streamlined simple approach to the highly computer savvy with ample time on their hands I don’t think my suggestion comes through as a very important idea to them – and I can understand why those who are Wizards imagine that anybody could do basic tricks, if only they tried harder.

That is a normalcy bias of the technically proficient getting in the way of looking at other’s struggles with true empathy.

We can make things simpler and better by reducing complexity.



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