I tried to find a good description of “Spotting Networks” but finding little information, I decided to make a feeble attempt at describing them and adding some links for a convenient way to access these sites and decide if “Spotting Networks” are something you may be interested in.
First there are several schools of thought about the use of Spotting Networks as tools, toys, cheater sites etc. Some Amateurs call them “Cheating” or “Making Hams lazy” but the same is said about waterfall displays on HF radios. Others say they are a useful tool for spotting that hard to locate DX station you may need for your century award. Most contests do not allow “Self Spotting” which is a way of checking your own propagation which is certainly a method of cheating.
As far as what these Spotting Networks do? Many have maps that show in near real time stations making contacts in whatever map, frequency and mode you have selected. I am partial to digital modes so I mostly use “PSKreporter.com”. It includes a greyline visual shadow clock for propagation.
Others simply post callsigns and the contacted station callsign, I will try to add links to as many as I know but feel free to send us a message for additional sites that should be included.
I personally haven’t used them for operating but I keep several different sites on a monitor just to see how active different bands/modes are at different times of day and it makes a great conversation starter about radio when friends and relatives come by, especially my grandchildren.
As I mentioned, there is controversy about Spotting Networks and I have added a link to an eHam.net article on the subject: Using the Spotting Net
There are not just “Radio Spotting” networks but also “Storm Spotting” networks:
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