There follow a few analyses that have interested me. There is plenty of scope to use the files for further analyses.
Number of Logs
The raw number of submitted logs for SSB has been relatively flat for several years; the logs submitted for CW continues to show a fairly steady annual increase:
One not infrequently reads statements to the effect that the popularity of contests such as CQ WW has been increasing for the past several years. Certainly it is true that, for CW, the number of logs is still increasing, but the above plot shows that the same cannot be truthfully said for SSB, for which the number of logs has shown no systematic variation for the last lustrum or so.
By definition, popularity requires some measure of people (or, in our case, the simple proxy of callsigns) -- there is no reason to believe, a priori, that the number of received logs as shown above is related in any particular way to the popularity of a contest.
So we look at the number of calls in the logs as a function of time, rather than positing any kind of well-defined positively correlated relationship between log submission and popularity (actually, the posts I have seen don't even bother to posit such a relationship: they are silent on the matter, thereby simply seeming to presume that the reader will assume one).
However, the situation isn't as simple as it might be, because of the presence of busted calls in logs. If a call appears in the logs just once (or some small number of times), it is more likely to be a bust rather an actual participant. Where to set a cut-off a priori in order to discriminate between busts and actual calls is unclear; but we can plot the results of choosing several such values.
First, for SSB:
Regardless of how many logs a call has to appear in before we regard it as a legitimate callsign, the popularity of CQ WW SSB in the past couple of years has fallen to a level rarely (if ever) seen in the public logs.
Conditions were quite bad for the 2016 running of the contest; nevertheless, while poor conditions might reasonably be expected to have a major bearing on metrics related to the number of QSOs, it is not obvious, a priori, that it should have a substantial effect on the raw popularity as estimated by this metric. It seems that there were simply fewer stations QRV for the contest in 2016 than in earlier years. This seems to be borne out by the numbers for 2017, when conditions were considerably improved over 2016, and yet the number of distinct callsigns seems to be more or less the same as in the prior year. It is certainly difficult to argue, on the basis of the above plot, that this contest is now more popular than it was at a similar point in the last solar cycle -- indeed, it appears, on its face, that the opposite is true.
[I note that a reasonable argument can be made that the number of uniques will be more or less proportional to the number of QSOs made (I have not tested that hypothesis; I leave it as an exercise for the interested reader to determine whether it is true), but there is no obvious reason why the same would be true for, for example, callsigns that appear in, say, ten or more logs.]
Moving to CW:
How has the geographical distribution of entries changed over time?
Again, looking at SSB first:
Zone 28 seems to be continuing to show a slow but sustained increase in the number of logs submitted. Nevertheless, compared to the behemoths like zones 14 and 15, the number of logs from zones such as 11 or 28 is miniscule. This can be seen more clearly if we plot the percentage of logs received from each zone as a function of time:
On CW, most zones evidence a long-term increase:
But the relative increase seems to be spread more or less evenly across all zones, with the percentages of logs from each zone barely changing over the years 2005 to 2017:
Total activity in a contest depends both on the number of people who participate and on how many QSOs each of those people makes. We can use the public logs to count the total number of distinct QSOs in the logs (that is, each QSO is counted only once, even if both participants have submitted a log).
The total number of distinct QSOs in the current inter-cycle doldrums is essentially the same as at the same point in the last solar cycle.
And for CW:
On this mode there appears to be an underlying upward trend (on which the effect of the solar cycle is superimposed), although this suggestion must be regarded as merely tentative, as it is essentially based on the minor uptick in 2017. Still, it is noteworthy that, despite the claims I see that CW is an obsolete technology in serious decline, the actual evidence, at least from this, the largest contest of the year, is quite the opposite. (This is a good reminder that when someone makes a claim whose truth is not self-evident, one should examine the underlying data for oneself. I have found that all too often it transpires that no defensible evidence has been put forward for the conclusion being drawn.)
Running and Calling
On SSB, the ongoing gradual shift towards stations strongly favouring either running or calling, rather than splitting their effort between the two types of operation, continued in 2017:
I have not investigated the cause of the continued decrease in the percentage of stations strongly favouring running, although the public logs could readily be used to distinguish possibilities that spring to mind, such as more SO2R operation, more multi-operator stations, and/or a reluctance of stations to forego the perceived advantages of spots from cluster networks.
On CW, 2017 saw no real change in the percentage of stations that strongly favoured running; there was a very slight decrease in the percentage that strongly favoured calling (I leave the determination of statistical [in]significance of the 2017 numbers to the interested reader). The split between callers and runners continues to be much less bimodal on CW than on SSB, although there is no room for doubt that the long-term trend on both modes is towards what used to be "search and pounce" but is now "point and click":