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JS8 Ragchew vs. Heartbeat

Post Updated 9/9/21 to address comments both here and on Facebook that had some great points! Updated again 12/28/21 so as to avoid quoting an on air QSO.

While monitoring JS8 on 40 meters I saw a QSO in progress that seemed to be going nicely, a long “rag chew” in the works. You can imagine my dismay as things went a bit down hill when one of the participants commented that those doing JS8 heartbeats rather than having active QSO’s should use other modes instead. This isn’t the first or last time we’ve heard such a sentiment, and rather than pick on the words of the person who said it, I want to take a moment to discuss the idea that if unless somebody is using JS8 for rag chews, they shouldn’t use it. So to that I say…

Say What!?

I am mostly a heartbeat station due to limited time and simply not being the rag chewing type. I chimed in and replied that I’d be happy to just retune everything to 11 meters and be on my merry way. JS8 is neat that way- you can address another station without interrupting their QSO. Of course I was joking and said as much, but what motivated this person to say such a thing?

I actually don’t know what his reasoning was. I only saw part of the conversation, but the attitude that came out sounded like “You don’t use JS8 the way I do, therefore it is invalid.” Of course, most sane people would object to that, and I realize that I saw just once sentence in a longer discussion. Again- I don’t know. But the comment bears discussion.

Diversity: The Beauty of JS8Call

What I find fascinating is that JS8 can be used either way, and users of either type are unaffected by their opposites. It shows the beauty of JS8. It’s a multi-mode mode. Rag chew? Sure. Mesh networking and propagation checking? Yep. High power? Why not. QRP? Heck yes.

My point is: Don’t assume that because others don’t use it the same way you do that their way is somehow less valid. Stay positive and appreciate that others are using JS8. FT8 has its own uses and is a neat mode too, and without it we’d not have JS8. So no hating on that, either! 🙂

Ragchewers: Automatic stations are for you!

How so? Look at the heartbeats and responses and you’ll get a feel for propagation as it’s happening. You’ll see new stations come online as propagation picks up through the day, and you’ll eventually know what constitutes good propagation per band and per time of day.

Another use for automatic stations is relaying through them to complete a QSO you might not be able to make otherwise. Lastly, you can have conversations with other hams through these relay stations by leaving messages. When propagation picks up, or when they’re online, the messages stored on the relay will be delivered. It’s a wonderful way to get messages to others.

HeartBeat Stations: Do your Part

So you automatic stations: I’m with you! I don’t have time or desire for long ragchews. It’s just not my style. I do need to work on being a bit more sociable and have a QSO or two a week. But beyond that, I use JS8 to watch propagation, test out relaying, and just enjoying it for how I use it. And I’m not harming anybody by doing that, and neither is anyone else as long as we:

  • Stay at or below 1000hz on the waterfall as designed when doing automatic communications
    • Heartbeating above 1000hz might step on QSO’s in progress. Don’t do that 🙂
  • Turn on Auto so that other stations can relay and store messages on your station
    • If you aren’t on Auto, you aren’t part of the awesome mesh networking JS8 enables

Ragchewers, keep your conversations above 1000hz on the waterfall, and it’s highly unlikely that automatic stations will interfere with you. Keep an eye on the heartbeats and responses and learn who your peers on the air are, and it’ll help you get more QSO’s too.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments. 73 de W7RLF


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    • Paul on September 8, 2021 at 11:30 PM
    • Reply

    Your post spurred me to fire up JS8Call for the first time. I may leave it running for a few days to observe the action and act as a heartbeat. 🙂

    1. Hi Paul, see you on the air! Be sure to set your station to enable auto-reply so others can relay through ya 🙂

  1. Well said Ryan.
    73 de Demetre M0SUY/SV1UY

    • Kirk on September 9, 2021 at 2:53 AM
    • Reply

    Hey, Ryan,

    Not a hater, just leaving a comment. 🙂

    I’m obviously much more of a traditionalist. If I want to relay messages to other hams in lieu of QSOing them, I’ll set up on HF packet, use the interwebs or send SMS. From my semi-elderly perspective, if I want to check propagation I’ll look in on WSPR or FT8. With so much “automatic non-QSOing” going on nowadays, I look to JS8 as a “conversational mode,” perhaps somewhat replacing what we lost with the demise of PSK31, and not yet another (unnecessary?) example of automata. There’s already plenty of that.

    My biggest issue is that much / most of all of this automatic non-QSOing is in violation of FCC rules regarding unattended digital operation at HF. Unattended stations frequently start transmitting without any control operator listening on frequency, etc, etc, etc, QRMing other users.

    I don’t mind keeping unattended operation restricted to reasonable (compact) parts of each band, but this stuff easily gets out of hand.



    1. Hi Kirk, Thanks for the comment. As always there’s two sides to everything and I appreciate you taking the time to articulate your own objections. 73!

    • Ken on January 26, 2022 at 8:07 AM
    • Reply

    Real questions, in a very calm voice.

    I’m not looking to sound in the least bit sarcastic here… rational conversation is how we really learn from each other.

    How is JS8call in auto relay mode any different at a high level from HF packet doing a forward, with regards to non-attended stations?

    Even 2-meter APRS has cases where people will host internet relays from personal stations…. That is a personal, unattended station that is broadcasting traffic that originated from a 3rd party.

    It sure seems to me like this is very long settled reality in the US, and is accepted.

    Who has been given a fine for JS8Call auto relay from the FCC?

    A single one?


    I would also state that for folks in remote areas generally operating on NVIS type systems on 40 and 80 meters, the auto relay is very effective at promoting communications.

    Now, if someone is saying that all of the auto stations are really, really causing a problem actually using JS8Call, then that is a perfectly reasonable concern. But that is not what I hear folks saying. It’s more of a philosophical “This mode is for rag chew only”, or “Unattended stations are not allowed” conversations. It’s not that there is an operational problem with this setup.

    If that’s not true, I would really want to hear and learn more about the issues that people see out there.


    • To, on February 6, 2023 at 5:15 PM
    • Reply

    HF packet? Packet is incredibly inneficient on HF as its not a weak signal mode and well theres probably only like 5 people active on HF packet!

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