[amsat-bb] The Tragedy of the commons

Bob Bruninga bruninga at usna.edu
Tue Feb 24 05:31:47 PST 2009

The situation on AO-51 is called the "tragedy of the commons" and is as predictable as day and night and an inescapable result of human nature. See 


No amount of grousing and complaining, and high minded condemnation of others is going to change that.  What we need to do is not try to change human nature (my wife has been trying to do that her entire life with little to show for it), but either live with it and take advantage of it, or change the paradigm.

I have been recommending for years that we solve it like we do any amateur radio net.  That is, operate with volunteer net control operators that take checkins by region or other discriminant for the duration of the pass.  On each exchange, he announces the next narrow selection and takes checkins.  Ever mindful of the satellite location on the map.

Examples from a pass from Sandiego to Maine:
"This is N6XXX taking checkins from K6's in SOCAL"
"Now W6's...  Now A6's.... Now N6's.  
"This is N6XXX taking checkins from HT's in SOCAL
"now W0's... now K0's, now ...
"Handing over to Net Control in the Central States...
and so forth.

How do you define Net Control?  Easy. the first guy with the most power and stamina.

Can you think of problems, sure! There are all kinds of complaints and issues and why-not-me, and how-could you limit my rights... etc... that we will hear, but operating as a net has always been the method in radio to gain some semblance of order, and we should be proud of our tradition in that regard.

What about contesting and points, and scores, etc?  That is easy.  We define a contact as a 2 way between every person that got his full call and grid or location through.  After all, that is what a net control does, facilitate the many-way exchange of information between all users.

If net control hears of a DEMO, or DX station or special event, or emergency traffic, or island expedition, he can then give that station the attention it needs.

Anyway, this method cannot be worse than what we have now (which is a free-for-all which is setup to fail as the tragedy of the commons).  We operated PCSAT2 FM voice repeater sometimes with a net control and it was nice and orderly and fun.

Anyway, there is the solution.  Either try it, or keep complaining forever...

Bob, Wb4APR

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