Should USFS and BLM channels be listed differently in RRDB

Paysonscanner

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Trust me - you are not unheard. It isn't negative, it's constructive. You are applying any info/suggestions or corrections as "constructive" and as long as the mods read it as "constructive" then we all can have constructive dialog and understand each other's goals and limitations. Some mods were/are flat out rude and destructive - I agree. It's why I rarely contribute to the DB, and only if it's solving an unknown puzzle like some new Fed P25 systems etc. I've been burned one too many times and told to follow all these limits and arbitrary rules for no reason. Dude, it's a hobby. Finally a mod messaged me later and explained why they were limited, hands-tied etc. Awesome, now we can work together and figure out how to present the intel I have, within the confines of The DB.

I'm here lurking and nodding in agreement with both Peter (Z's?) and Payson's posts. There's a LOT of room for improvement. The Wiki is the absolute lazy way out of this mess. The wiki does nothing to introduce this hobby to new people and all the zip-code scannists out there. They have NO idea what they're missing when they enter their zipcode and Fire Dispatch and press Scan. And those that do realize they're missing something, then might not realize how to ask/formulate the question or figure out the USFS channels and how to add those to their scanner.

Continue on - hopefully this is one more small step towards some improvements, and thinking WAY outside the established box to how things could possibly be presented...
Thanks for your comments! I'm glad I'm not the only one who has problems with administrators and the Wiki. I would love to edit it, but I stopped just as soon as I hit edit. What a mess!
 

inigo88

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Thanks for your comments! I'm glad I'm not the only one who has problems with administrators and the Wiki. I would love to edit it, but I stopped just as soon as I hit edit. What a mess!
Despite the problems and constructive criticism, I'm happy to see CA receiving generally favorable reviews in how we've interpreted and listed federal and statewide agencies. We've made big pushes over the years to structure agency pages like USFS, National Parks, BLM, and statewide agencies like CHP, and more recently CA Dept Parks and Recreation and CALTRANS based on their area/district/regional structure.

As for alpha tagging, I've had some differences of opinion with other admins in the past who wanted to editorialize the alpha tags so much that you would lose the actual name and meaning of the channel/talkgroup. Thankfully I think our DB admin handbook (which is open to the public) is extremely well written on this topic now, and takes a very reasonable approach while recognizing that there is no "one size fits all" solution.


In particular: "Alpha tags should reflect the actual talkgroup name as shown on a radio transceiver programmed for a specific conventional or trunked system, unless that name is unreasonably difficult to understand." However, the alpha tag must stand alone since it is independent of the category/subcategory architecture of the database.

For example, I might receive a submission for BLM Central Desert District from an insider who tells me the actual alpha tag on their radio display for a channel is "FIRE NET" (I just made this up for this example). By the document above, I will try to minimally edit this alpha tag to include the agency and district since the RR alpha tag must stand alone, so I will change it to "BLM CDD FIRE NET". This is exactly 16 characters long (the limit) and reflects the actual channel alpha tag while still being able to stand alone and tell the scanner user who that fire net belongs to and where when it pops up on their screen. I don't want to alienate our dedicated submitters by departing from what is 100% accurate, but I think this policy strikes a reasonable compromise between what is on the actual radio display while making that information usable to everyone else who doesn't share that same level of insider info. For those die hard fans (myself included) who want to see the verbatim radio channel fleetmaps used by these agencies, the wiki is the most appropriate place for that, and is editable by everyone (though I recognize some pages can be hard to find).
 

zerg901

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indigo 88 - can you comment about the "geo tagging" of federal channels in the Radio Reference Database? Does every entry have longs and lats attached? Do the lats and longs depict the actual transmitter sites and/or the agency office locations?
 

inigo88

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indigo 88 - can you comment about the "geo tagging" of federal channels in the Radio Reference Database? Does every entry have longs and lats attached? Do the lats and longs depict the actual transmitter sites and/or the agency office locations?
Sure! From the link above:

Geographic tagging of conventional frequency subcategories and talkgroup categories is used to indicate the “service area,” e.g., a city center point and diameter (representing a circle to approximate the area of the city) – not necessarily the actual area of radio reception. The purpose of geographic tagging is to facilitate location-based scanner programming.
This means I can only geo-tag a group of frequencies at the subcategory level but not individual frequencies. You should be able to hover your mouse over the little arrow next to the sub-category name and click view subcategory details, which will show you a map of the geotagged coverage area which is defined by a lat/long for the center of the circle and a radius.

Here’s an example: RadioReference.com - Scanner Frequencies and Radio Frequency Reference Database

Since each agency is categorized slightly differently we have to geo-tag the intended coverage area of that entire sub-category, rather than any real repeater or area office locations (though I will use those when it makes sense to do so). For the example I linked above, the entire BLM Central Desert District is shown, because the subcategory is for BLM CDD and each channel listed has numerous repeaters accessible by operator selectable tone (OST) on the radio.

In the case of national parks it would be a circular region covering the whole park, and for USFS it would be a circle covering the whole national forest. Other federal pages vary depending on how they’re categorized.

As I said above I am often personally interested in where the repeaters are physically located, but that information is better suited for the wiki. (There is also a subcategory notes feature where you can provide a short description which will show up under the subcategory name, but the key is to keep this concise.) Since the geo-tag feature is intended to make someone’s GPS based scanner work and represent the coverage area of the sub-category, this is probably why you see larger coverage areas than expected.

However if a circular geotag region is ever blatantly wrong (doesn’t reflect coverage of the sub-category name it belongs to) you may absolutely make a database submission correcting it. In that case a lat/long in decimal format for the center and radius in miles is appreciated.
 

norcalscan

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Despite the problems and constructive criticism, I'm happy to see CA receiving generally favorable reviews in how we've interpreted and listed federal and statewide agencies. We've made big pushes over the years to structure agency pages like USFS, National Parks, BLM, and statewide agencies like CHP, and more recently CA Dept Parks and Recreation and CALTRANS based on their area/district/regional structure.
I've definitely noticed the cleaning and tightening up of the CA page over the years. A lot of work and we appreciate it! I personally think it's pretty good considering our size, and the confines of the structure you're working in.

For example, I might receive a submission for BLM Central Desert District from an insider who tells me the actual alpha tag on their radio display for a channel is "FIRE NET" (I just made this up for this example). By the document above, I will try to minimally edit this alpha tag to include the agency and district since the RR alpha tag must stand alone, so I will change it to "BLM CDD FIRE NET".
I'm an old school scanner guy, who can spout off the bulk of calfire and R5 USFS freqs by heart, along with norcal sheriff channels etc. It's taken a dang chunk of my brain up over the last 30yrs, and I didn't really ask, it just became. :geek: Can't remember my kid's name though. When I got my first Alpha Tag scanner, I wasn't pleased at first to visually convert numeric to alpha, but it eventually rubbed off. I say all that to identify any potential bias here. Every alpha-tag capable scanner I have ALSO visually shows a System and/or Group Name on the screen, above the channel name. That means in my BLM CDD Group Name, I have a BLM CDD FIRE NET below it. Or bigger picture, a BLM Group, with BLM CDD FIRE NET as the channel name. Duplicative visual noise as it displays both the group/system/whathaveyou, and the channel name below it. On top of that, the raw meat of that name, FIRE NET, (or even CDD FIRE NET in a BLM group) is potentially cut off the screen, waiting to scroll, or at the very least, where we read left to right, is the very last thing we read. Scanners are for listening, not reading. I want my eyes off that screen as fast as possible.

Do you have any thoughts to that? How often is the case where the channel alpha has to stand on its own, and is not supported by at least a secondary heading?
 

inigo88

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Do you have any thoughts to that? How often is the case where the channel alpha has to stand on its own, and is not supported by at least a secondary heading?
I have owned a GRE PSR-500 for about a decade and just finally upgraded to a Uniden SDS-100 due to P25 simulcast distortion issues. My personal understanding is that the 16 character alpha tag is intended for older scanners like the PSR-500, Pro-96 etc which only have one line and limited character space to explain what you are hearing (there is no text showing what scan list you are in, only the alpha tag).

On the other hand the new HP style Unidens are structured with the RR database in mind, and the screen shows you a 3-tiered system name (or category), department name (often frequency/talkgroup subcategory) and channel name. I’ve noticed for my SDS-100 that Uniden Sentinel software defaults to showing the “description” field rather than the “alpha tag field” for the channel name, and this makes a lot of sense... unlike the alpha tag which must stand alone, the description does not have to and should not duplicate any of the category or subcategory details above it.

So in the BLM example in the previous posts, I might call the alpha tag “BLM CDD FIRE NET”, but the category will be “Bureau of Land Management”, the subcategory will be “Central Desert District (CDD)” and the description will be “Fire Net”. This way we are able to display the information to both the old and new style scanners in an equally useful way. If you are finding your Uniden 3rd line channel name to be redundant, try switching your programming software to use “description” instead of “alpha tag”, and if it’s still bad it might be worth shooting us a submission so we can bring it up to par.

Finally, the opinions I’ve expressed here are my own and not official communications on behalf of radioreference. The DB admin handbook is a living document and evolves over time, and the DB admins are volunteers who do our best to interpret its guidance in a unified way. But you guys were having a pretty civil discussion about some big picture concepts about the way we’ve structured the database, and while there isn’t ever a one size fits all solution I thought I could provide some insight into what has worked well for us in CA and why we’ve made some of the decisions we’ve made. It’s always a work in progress and like most things YMMV. :)
 

Paysonscanner

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One thing that annoys me greatly is the use of abbreviations in the description column of the database and not having them spelled out. I might go to a large city police department and see this in the description column: ICIDS 2. Sometimes that is what is in the alpha tag column for that frequency or talkgroup too. The description column is pretty long, certainly enough to explain what ICIDS 2 means. It is preceded by ICIDS 1 and is followed by ICIDS 3. I'll make something up: Incident Command Interdepartmental Designated System. This will fit in the description column. I met a former member who brought this issue up on a California forum and the database administrator/moderator replied with a link to a 4 year old thread that explained it all. I wonder why someone, if they knew of the 3 year old post, did not define the abbreviations if they had such right in front of them. This is really poor communications, it assumes everyone can figure out all the abbreviations. The former member said that a bunch of people posted he should just use Google to search all the abbreviations if he needed them explained. I've tried that many times and haven't found anything close on most.

These abbreviations are all over the database. Can you imagine someone like Bob Kelty, Gene Hughes or Dan Rollman trying to sell a frequency directory (when they were popular) with a bunch of abbreviations not explained? They would not have been successful. The RR DB put the printed directories out of business, yet it is not meeting the same standard. If anyone suggests that the abbreviations should remain and that the Wiki should explain them, that isn't helpful, the Wiki is a mess and it's tough to find anything. Some fairly large city police departments and such don't even have a Wiki page anyway.
 

Paysonscanner

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It's interesting to see the BLM California Desert District on that map. The western state administrator I mentioned did not want to list the BLM District's saying that someone who programs by zip code or GPS would then be forced to listen to things from a long way off. If a district has district wide frequencies aren't people being forced to listen to things from a long distance? If districts have a north net and a south net, or have 2-4 nets, one for each field office then the map has a smaller circle, thus allowing them to only hear what is in the immediate area. I sent some long messages with my submissions trying to explain this and got exactly nowhere.
 

ecps92

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RR did not put "us" out of business, it was the Internet where it became FREE and the increasing costs of printing.
Many guides stopped publishing long before Radio Reference came of age

IF the wiki is a mess, HELP fix it.

Bill - former Editor of "Official Scanner Guides" aka the white books
These abbreviations are all over the database. Can you imagine someone like Bob Kelty, Gene Hughes or Dan Rollman trying to sell a frequency directory (when they were popular) with a bunch of abbreviations not explained? They would not have been successful. The RR DB put the printed directories out of business, yet it is not meeting the same standard. If anyone suggests that the abbreviations should remain and that the Wiki should explain them, that isn't helpful, the Wiki is a mess and it's tough to find anything. Some fairly large city police departments and such don't even have a Wiki page anyway.
 

Paysonscanner

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RR did not put "us" out of business, it was the Internet where it became FREE and the increasing costs of printing.
Many guides stopped publishing long before Radio Reference came of age

IF the wiki is a mess, HELP fix it.

Bill - former Editor of "Official Scanner Guides" aka the white books
The Wiki operating system is terrible. Like I've said before it is based on hieroglyphics and I don't have time or the desire to work on it. When a simple well known text writing/editing app is installed I might be able to find some time, which is becoming increasingly scarce for me.

So it wasn't RR that put the books out of business, it was the internet. Radio Reference came into the picture about 2002? If the internet did not have a nationwide database the books would still be in demand. My preference is to have some Kelty and Rollman books (current) nearby. Bottom line--it's hard to distinguish whether RR or just the internet put these out of business, to me they are one in the same in that effect.
 

zerg901

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Going back now to the original question - "should usfs and blm channels be listed differently in the rrdb?"

let me give my short and sweet answer

Monterey County, California (CA) Scanner Frequencies and Radio Frequency Reference - this is the RRDB page for Monterey County in California - the is no Quick Jump for "federal" - but Los Padres National Forest (LPNF) covers a large area in Monterey County - as does Fort Hunter Liggett - so I would suggest creating a Quick Jump labeled as "Federal" - and place the LPNF and Fort Hunter Ligget channels there - or just place some text there - saying for example - "for LPNF channels - see Santa Barbara County" - or provide a link to wherever the LPNF channels can be found in the RRDB - or maybe provide a link to the RR Wiki - or do whatever can be done to give a heads up to the casual scanner user that LPNF and Fort Ord are big players in Monterey County

[Looking at the Monterey County RRDB page again - how about changing the 'Military' QJ to a 'Federal' QJ and adding the LPNF freqs there]

This suggestion probably wont help anyone that uses a gps or zip code based scanner; but it could help all other scanner users.
 

wa8pyr

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These abbreviations are all over the database. Can you imagine someone like Bob Kelty, Gene Hughes or Dan Rollman trying to sell a frequency directory (when they were popular) with a bunch of abbreviations not explained? They would not have been successful. The RR DB put the printed directories out of business, yet it is not meeting the same standard. If anyone suggests that the abbreviations should remain and that the Wiki should explain them, that isn't helpful, the Wiki is a mess and it's tough to find anything. Some fairly large city police departments and such don't even have a Wiki page anyway.
Please submit these so they can be corrected.

We strive to make the database as accurate as possible, but quite a few things like this date back many years; our administrators cannot know every detail of every entry in the database for their area (an impossibility), and if they don't know where the problems are, the corrections can't happen.
 

Paysonscanner

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Please submit these so they can be corrected.

We strive to make the database as accurate as possible, but quite a few things like this date back many years; our administrators cannot know every detail of every entry in the database for their area (an impossibility), and if they don't know where the problems are, the corrections can't happen.
I can't submit the meanings of the abbreviations as I have no idea. The group of people that assembled the database for a large number of radio systems probably knew, but chose not to write the meaning or didn't know themselves.
 

Paysonscanner

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Going back now to the original question - "should usfs and blm channels be listed differently in the rrdb?"

let me give my short and sweet answer

Monterey County, California (CA) Scanner Frequencies and Radio Frequency Reference - this is the RRDB page for Monterey County in California - the is no Quick Jump for "federal" - but Los Padres National Forest (LPNF) covers a large area in Monterey County - as does Fort Hunter Liggett - so I would suggest creating a Quick Jump labeled as "Federal" - and place the LPNF and Fort Hunter Ligget channels there - or just place some text there - saying for example - "for LPNF channels - see Santa Barbara County" - or provide a link to wherever the LPNF channels can be found in the RRDB - or maybe provide a link to the RR Wiki - or do whatever can be done to give a heads up to the casual scanner user that LPNF and Fort Ord are big players in Monterey County

[Looking at the Monterey County RRDB page again - how about changing the 'Military' QJ to a 'Federal' QJ and adding the LPNF freqs there]

This suggestion probably wont help anyone that uses a gps or zip code based scanner; but it could help all other scanner users.
Are you saying you would like to break the federal listings down into the county pages? I can't think of many national parks, national forests and BLM districts that are located in a single county. The exception being some of the very small NPS units, such as Tonto NM close to us and all the ruins, historic and memorial sites. We are often in one county and hearing radio traffic from several counties away, especially on federal and state systems. When I think of Yosemite National Park, it does it matter it is in Tuolumne, Mariposa and Madera Counties are in that park? It is an exclusive jurisdiction, the state and counties have none, except when Congress gave some specific and limited jurisdiction in the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. There aren't any county building codes and such. The CHP and the county sheriffs offices have no jurisdiction unless the NPS needs them for mutual aid under coop agreements. The same is true for Big Bend NP. The State of Texas and Brewster County, the largest by area in Texas, don't have jurisdiction in the park.

I have a couple national forest examples, one "just over the hill" from where late Hubby and I lived in California, the Inyo National Forest. We visited there for some great backpacking, 4WD travels and cross country skiing. The lands of that forest are located in Mono, Madera, Fresno, Inyo and Tulare Counties in California and Esmeralda and Mineral Counties in Nevada. Do you propose to redundantly list the Inyo National Forest system in each page of those 7 counties? The Humboldt-Toiyabe NF was just over the hill also, it is located in 6 counties in California and 13 in Nevada for a total of 19. The forest's system, with 4 nets, should be listed separately in all 19 counties in two states?

Late Hubby and I took a GPS scanner that someone else let us use on one trip. It was a mess! We missed traffic from repeaters that we could hear on our own radios from 100 or miles away. Think of the Central Valley of California with the Sierra Nevada rising to the east. When you are in the flats, say in the area west of Fresno, you might pick up many repeaters on the Sequoia National Forest, up to some on the Mendocino, the El Dorado and everything in between (sometimes repeaters on the Los Padres), including 2 iconic national parks. How do you take advantage of the opportunity to hear so much from a GPS scanner. Oh, and one repeater site, common to both the Angeles and Los Padres NF's could be heard all over the Central Valley.

In the entirety of the database we have large bins, federal and state systems for example, and we have small bins, one for each county. It sounds like you want to take the pieces in the big bins and dole them out to be put in the small bins. Do you want to remove Yosemite NP out of the federal listings and put it in each of the 3 counties within the park? Then the Inyo and Humboldt-Toiyabe NF's into 26 county listings?
 

zerg901

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" Are you saying you would like to break the federal listings down into the county pages? "

no no no no no ............ no

I am trying to find deft way to link the county layout and the fed info together.
 

ecps92

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It is a rather simple [if so archaic, why is it more in favor than html?] format, until you get to tables, however there are plenty of WORD and EXCEL converters.



ecps92, it is sad that I can't find time to learn and work in the Wiki? I'm not alone.
 

wa8pyr

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I can't submit the meanings of the abbreviations as I have no idea. The group of people that assembled the database for a large number of radio systems probably knew, but chose not to write the meaning or didn't know themselves.
Just submit the fact that there are abbreviations in the Description field. The administrators can follow up from there.
 

Paysonscanner

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It is a rather simple [if so archaic, why is it more in favor than html?] format, until you get to tables, however there are plenty of WORD and EXCEL converters.
Some use of computers is simple to some, but not to others. To call the Wiki simple does not agree with what I experience. If it is so simple why is the data hidden under a tab called "collaboration" on the main page? Like I mentioned before I could not find the main listings because collaboration is not a title for data listings, it is a list of people who helped develop the page, similar to the contributors page of a scientific paper or a non fiction book. Because of that perspective, I didn't find the main listings for a year after I joined here. The situation continues to get worse as I continue into the Wiki site. It's hard for me to understand the logic behind many features of this site, but as a retired nurse, we struggled with applications written by IT folks, who didn't understand the nitty/gritty of patient care. I'm used to it, but I just don't have the time to work with the Wiki application. Members here are not all electronic and IT techs and are challenged by many of the website's features.

BTW, I don't know what "html" is and don't need to.
 

Paysonscanner

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Just submit the fact that there are abbreviations in the Description field. The administrators can follow up from there.
I don't understand what you are saying. I'm supposed to just make a member submission and state there are unexplained abbreviations used in hundreds, if no thousands of places in the database? Or are you saying to go after each abbreviation line by line and ask they be defined. As lead database administrator you know of the issue, why should I go through every listing and make a submission? My late Hubby raised this issue around 2005 or there abouts. It really frustrated him. He tried doing Google searches, visiting agency websites to find explanations and whatever else could help. In most cases he hit a wall and it was too time consuming for him. What you are suggesting is too time consuming for me also.
 
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