(to be revised)
Here are some of our operating procedures, mistakes and general things to consider.
First and foremost, the idea behind each of our SOTA activations (or other portable activities), with the occasional exception, is to work as many chaser stations as we possibly can. In our 15+ successful summit activations to date, we made contacts with everyone who wanted to talk to us as long as we could hear each other. So far, we always stayed on the summit until there was nobody else looking for us on the radio waves. Yet, some people just don't have the patience and become annoyed and annoying when, for some reason or another, we don't pick them quickly from the pile-up.
Remember that we're portable, operating in less than ideal conditions and positions (wet, cold, wind, heat, etc). On some occasions we'll run out of battery juice or freeze so badly that we'll pack it up earlier than we'd like to. It happens! But our goal is to make as many contacts as we can. You can count on it!
Before setting it in motion, we tune in on some frequency and listen for a few moments. If we can't hear anything, we ask if the frequency is in use (several times). Then, if it's still quiet, we start calling. CQ-ing is usually done like so: "CQ SOTA, CQ SOTA in 20m, this is YO8SBR/P with SOTA activity from YO/EC-572".
Sometimes we forget to state our callsign and reference for a while, especially when there are many stations calling and we make contacts one right after the other. We'll try to improve on this in the future, to make it more of a reflex and say these details at least once every few QSOs.
About posting ourselves on SOTAWATCH... we know that some people don't see self-spotting as a honest practice, but since there are opinions and opinions, we'll leave it at that. It certainly isn't regulated by the SOTA team. We know both points of view and we haven't made up our mind about it yet. We use it, partly because it's winter and we want to avoid unnecessary pile-ups from non-SOTA clusters and prolonged exposure.
Changing operators (and bands) is a thing we almost always do. We usually hike together and we both activate the summit the same day. We'll take turns activating. Once one of us starts calling it'll be about 10-15 minutes until we change the operators (with a brief pause of about 1 minute). Exceptions might occur, but we always try to announce what's happening next. Changing bands will take longer, 5 mins or so. Summit 2 summit contacts take priority and we'll both try to make such contacts, whenever they occur, so this means we'll be changing the operator only for that particular contact (unless otherwise stated). After a switch, we'll always state the full callsign and SOTA reference of the current operator. Chasers should always listen and ask for the callsign and reference, if needed, and never rely on the SOTAWATCH spot for this information. Many mistakes appear in the logs, so please make sure you copy the correct callsign of the station you're talking to.
Some mix-ups are bound to happen, but we want to assure you that nothing is planned / intentional. Sometimes two stations will overlap on the same frequency, or QRM will make copying impossible. In this case changing frequencies seems like a decent option, but on some days you can't find a nearby frequency that's not in use. Sometimes there's a contest and people are rushing in without realizing we're not participating in the contest. Other times we'll get distracted or confused to such a degree that we'll be copying a callsign at the third attempt or worse, even when their signal is 59+.