The "Magic" of "k" !
This is a short "dissertation" on the use of the letter "k", specifically as applied to digital communications modes, including, but not limited to, Pactor, PacKET, VARA, ALE-400 and a 'plethora' of other digital modes; Olivia, Contestia, et al.
Have you ever been in a "QSO" on a digital mode and the "other" op sends you, say, a "question"? While you are compiling your answer, he sends you yet another question BEFORE you have had a chance to answer to the first one? Have you ever been composing a response to a "topic of discussion" only to have the "other" op introduce some OTHER topic, perhaps not even related to the topic to which you were composing your response? These situations can certainly be frustrating, to say the least, as well as leading to confusion.
Introducing (in case you have forgotten) the letter "k". We, as hams, have long acknowledged, and accepted, a "k" as an "invitation to transmit". What this simply means in "ham radio" talk is that, once you have made a statement, asked a question or responded in some way to what the "other" guy has said, the sending of "k" means that it is HIS turn to talk (transmit, speak, whatever). So, SHUT UP and wait for him to "have the floor", so to speak. As an analogy, if you were speaking to someone "in person" and you asked him a question, or made a comment, you would NOT interrupt him while he is trying to answer your question or otherwise 'respond'. That would be VERY rude!
Some modes/programs have, more or less, "built in" changeovers, albeit, they may/must be initiated by the operator. In any case, once you have asked your question, made your comments, whatever, please SEND a "k" (or a "btu") so that the other op KNOWS it is HIS TURN to speak (TX). Then, please WAIT for HIS response. Many of the digital modes will 'wait' to TX until a complete "line" has been composed (typed) before sending it; others will send each WORD as it is typed. In any case, HAVE PATIENCE! Give the other op a chance to compose his thoughts, put them into words and then SEND them. This, of course, makes it incumbent upon YOU to send a "k" (btu, whatever) at the 'end' of YOUR TURN to 'talk'!
Henceforth, if I am in a QSO with you and you don't send some kind of "changeover" I will simply WAIT until YOU let me know it is MY turn to TX. If we both just sit there and listen to "dead air" until the link (if there IS one) times out, OR, one or both of us falls asleep, so be it! And PLEASE don't TX to me unless and UNTIL you get a "k" from me. THANKS!