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I was reading about EchoLink and came across this rule under "Access Policies":

2. No "SWL" (listen-only) access is permitted. EchoLink is a two-way system by design, and there is no mechanism to validate listen-only stations.

I'm pretty sure that by "SWL" they mean unlicensed/public access, but I'm not entirely sure, as I've read in several forum threads that it isn't appreciated when you connect to an repeater/node and don't identify or say something. I suppose this is because the EchoLink system announces when a remote user connects through the system, but doesn't necessarily announce the call of the connected station.

So is there any reason why I shouldn't use EchoLink to "just listen"? Or is this just a misconception/misunderstanding on my part?

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  • $\begingroup$ I inadvertantly break this rule a lot, by logging onto an interesting repeater/reflector/server and then forgetting about it. Six hours later, I will see that I'm still logged on and many times I'm the only one still there. Oops. W1AMJ $\endgroup$ – Pete Miller Sep 28 '20 at 12:37
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The full access policy states (my emphasis):

No "SWL" (listen-only) access is permitted. EchoLink is a two-way system by design, and there is no mechanism to validate listen-only stations.

The last part is key. You can't use the echo link system without being a validated licensed amateur. You logistically can not listen to this system without also being allowed to talk on it. Contrast that with "traditional" short wave listeners. Anyone can buy a radio and listen without being licensed to talk on it and there is no way technologically that you can prevent them from listening.

My interpretation of the policy is

"We don't support a way for a non licensed station to listen only."

I don't think that they mean that you aren't allowed to connect and not talk. I hear stations connect to nodes regularly without saying anything.

Perhaps the policy would be clearer if it were written this way:

No "SWL" (listen-only) capability is supported. EchoLink is a two-way system by design, and there is no mechanism to validate listen-only stations.

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    $\begingroup$ Friend of mine connected and was told "Now that you've connected you need to say something".. So apparently it's an "unofficial" rule in many places. $\endgroup$ – Seth Apr 30 '14 at 18:26
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Wow, in response to the comment above, when has listening ever been considered rude? Most consider it a critical skill to use in ham radio. With so many repeater groups jumping down people's throat for transmitting on their repeaters, is it no wonder that many choose to listen for extended times before jumping in to initiate a contact on their own? So many grumpy people so fast to say what's rude. I thought ham radio was about learning. One of the ways people learn in this hobby is by listening. Why in the world would that ever be considered rude? Each repeater and group can have its own culture, so to speak. That can take more than 'a minute or two' to get a sense of. Here's a case of one person trying to be polite and another getting all judgy with the response. Blacklisting? For someone LISTENING? Wow. Ooohh, feel the power. No wonder people are hesitatant to broadcast; sadly, we see similar responses on the air all the time. Less judgment, more patience and mentoring please.

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    $\begingroup$ LIstening isn't rude. Using echolink directly on a repeater where you are announced when you connect and then refusing to talk when directly addressed is rude. If you want to do that, use a conference server. Amateur radio is not a broadcast medium where you are expected to only listen. It's a two way street. If someone walked into a restaurant, stood in the middle of the dining room and just stared at people, do you think that would be rude? I'm not blacklisting for listening, but for a) refusing to talk when directly addressed and b) repeatedly connecting and disconnecting. $\endgroup$ – user10489 Mar 11 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ "More patience and mentoring please" I'd love to. But I can't mentor people who refuse to talk. $\endgroup$ – user10489 Mar 11 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ Hello and welcome to ham.stackexchange.com! $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 Mar 15 at 16:45
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As a repeater owner, people who connect and say nothing are beyond irritating.

When you connect, you are announced. Now you won't talk to us? Why did you bother connecting. And now you're going to drop the connection without saying anything? That also is announced. So all these "listen only" users are constantly connecting and disconnecting, getting announced each time, and not saying a word.

Additionally, many repeaters have a limited number (sometimes only one) of available connection slots. So you are going to now sit there and just listen, taking up a slot that a real live person could have used. And I can't call out while you are connected either, even if there are multiple slots.

Yes, connecting without saying anything is rude. If you are not going to talk on this two way medium, why are you bothering to participate at all? To say the least, if I see you connecting to my repeater and disconnecting and not saying anything when directly spoken to, you're going to end up on my blacklist and not allowed to connect at all. You wouldn't walk into a restaurant, stand in the middle of the dining room, and stare at people, and then refuse to sit at a table. You shouldn't expect to connect to a repeater via echolink and refuse to talk either.

Similarly, why would you connect and then immediately disconnect? If you're having technical difficulties with your audio, use the echolink test server until you have it fixed. If you're disconnecting because you connected and didn't immediately hear any activity, you're doing it wrong. If you want activity, put out a call. Maybe conversation just paused when your connection was announced. If you immediately disconnect without talking first, you'll never know if people were talking before you connected or if people are there but listening.

As an alternative to connecting to repeaters and listening, find a conference server instead. Conference servers have a very high number of slots, and I think they don't announce when you connect and disconnect, and won't prevent anyone from dialing out. Also, if you want to exercise your language, I can understand not wanting to initiate a conversation, but at least try to respond if someone talks to you. Amateur radio is all about communication, and I'm sure if you try you can find someone who is willing to help you stumble through and improve. Mentoring is a big part of amateur radio, but if you refuse to talk, we can't mentor you.

It is good amateur radio practice to listen before speaking. So if you connect, wait a minute or so, and then say something, that's perfect. Just don't sit there for hours, or connect and then disconnect right away, especially if someone tries to talk to you.

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    $\begingroup$ I've grappled with this as a listener. I'm learning Spanish and I'd love to connect to a repeater in South America and listen in on the conversation, and certainly don't feel confident enough to try and talk with the natives. I'd like to sit and listen, but decided that would be rude. $\endgroup$ – Duston Sep 29 '20 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ As an alternative to connecting to repeaters and listening, find a conference server instead. Conference servers have a very high number of slots, and I think they don't announce when you connect and disconnect, and won't prevent anyone from dialing out. Also, if you want to exercise your language, I can understand not wanting to initiate a conversation, but at least try to respond if someone talks to you. Amateur radio is all about communication, and I'm sure if you try you can find someone who is willing to help you stumble through and improve. $\endgroup$ – user10489 Sep 29 '20 at 22:14
  • $\begingroup$ @user10489 Would you please edit your answer to include your "As an alternative to connecting to repeaters and listening..." comment? It seems to me that that's important information that belongs in the answer. Comments are meant to be temporary. After you edit the question, please delete the comment, and I'll delete this one ;) $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 Mar 15 at 16:43
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I do not consider it rude if I listen to see if anyone is online. I do the same with my 2 meter. It is called "common courtesy". If there is someone online, and talking about something that is of interest, I will join in if possible...otherwise I will listen to see if I have anything to add to the conversation. Again..."common courtesy". In fact, there was a "node" in Alaska that said LISTEN before first transmission to make sure the frequency is clear.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hi William, and welcome to ham.stackexchange.com! $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 Apr 1 at 2:42
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We all listen to our radio parked on a certain frequency, that may happen to be a repeater output, we may or may not jump in, all the time.

Echolink is just a different implementation of the same thing (IP instead of RF).

Echolink may announce the connecting party, which i guess where the question of etiquette comes from.

There's nothing official, but i don't think it's rude, others may disagree (which is fine).

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    $\begingroup$ According to @user10489's answer what's really rude is not responding when people hail you. There is also the issue of taking up a connection slot. Personally I had no idea until I read his or her answer... $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 Apr 7 at 15:27

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