DX Code of Conduct

This post will deal with a phenomena that is occurring more and more frequently, I believe.  But it hasn’t been noticed by me alone, it was also noticed by Jim K9JV, who posted about it on QRP-L this morning.  I touched upon this  in my recent post about pile up behavior; however,  this is a very important topic, so here we go again.

Jim was trying to work both P29NO and 9M4SLL.  The pileups were big and unruly.  While it is the domain of the DX to try and control the pileups, it remains the responsibility of those trying to work the DX to do so in as “professional” a manner as possible.  Jim pointed out that several stations continued to throw out their calls, even though the quarry was clearly calling for a station whose call was in no way similar to those of the perpetrators.

This is maddening!  K9JV was furious (and justifiably so) that when  P29NO was calling “K9?V”, a KØ, a VE and a W2 kept plaguing the aether with their calls.  I had a similar experience a few years ago when I was trying to work an Iraqi station.  I was one of those competing in the pileup, and the Iraqi station suddenly began sending “W2L?”   He meant yours truly of course, yet I was obliterated by a W4 station, and no, it wasn’t a W4Lsomething (I could have accepted that) – the station didn’t even have an “L” in their call at all!  Jim was lucky as he ended up working P29NO. In my case, the Iraqi station subsequently went QRT and I never got him in the log.

What causes this kind of behavior?  Are people truly that stupid and discourteous?  I don’t know the answer to that, although I am tempted to offer an unfounded and uncharitable guess.

But I think part of the problem may lay in the way that I think DX is encountered today.  At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, in the days of old, we used to find DX by twiddling the dial and listening for it.  You spun the dial knob, up and down – back and forth, straining your ears to find that foreign amateur radio op.  If you were lucky, you were able to hear him, you worked him and you were good to go.  Or you listened for a pileup, and you located the station they were all calling, determined if you needed him, and then you joined the fray.  But in essence, YOU had to locate the DX station yourself, either by dial twiddling or by locating the goal of a pileup.

Today, things have gotten immensely easier; but at the same time, we have invoked “The Law of Unintended Consequences”.  Allow me to explain with this scenario:

A station twiddles the dial – he finds and hears (for example, we’ll use a DXpedition that just concluded) TX5K.  He works him.  Then, proud of his accomplishment, he posts TX5K to the Internet (in the days of old, the PacketCluster), wishing to share the bounty. Immediately, on the screens of Amateur Ops the world over, it appears that TX5K has appeared on 18.073 MHz (for example).

Nowadays, with the myriad of the logging programs and rig control programs available, an Amateur Op can just point and click with his mouse and “Viola!” there they are, on TX5K’s frequency.

I think the problem is, that many (but by nowhere near all) ops don’t pause to listen to hear if they can actually hear TX5K.  Or may be they can, but they hear him only marginally at best.  In fact, they hear him so marginally that if they were tuning across the band on their own, they wouldn’t have been able to tell that it was TX5K in the first place – but hey, their computers tell them that he’s there, right?  So what do they do?  They start throwing out their calls in the hopes that somehow he’ll magically get louder and that they’ll be heard in return.  Heck, in many cases they can’t even tell that he’s working split!  So they call right on the listening frequency, which then invokes the ensuing cacophony of “UP”s and “LID”s being sent.

It gets to be one, big frustrating mess.  And this doesn’t even take into account the zoo that can occur if some quack, who literally enjoys jamming DX operations, gets involved.

So what should be done about this?  Closely and completely adhere to the “DX Code of Conduct” – that’s what!

The DX Code of Conduct was formulated by Randy Johnson W6SJ.  You can read about it here.

I will listen, and listen, and then listen again before calling.
I will only call if I can copy the DX station properly.
I will not trust the DX cluster and will be sure of the DX station’s call sign before calling.
I will not interfere with the DX station nor anyone calling and will never tune up on the DX frequency or in the QSX slot.
I will wait for the DX station to end a contact before I call.
I will always send my full call sign.
I will call and then listen for a reasonable interval. I will not call continuously.
I will not transmit when the DX operator calls another call sign, not mine.
I will not transmit when the DX operator queries a call sign not like mine.
I will not transmit when the DX station requests geographic areas other than mine.
When the DX operator calls me, I will not repeat my call sign unless I think he has copied it incorrectly.
I will be thankful if and when I do make a contact.
I will respect my fellow hams and conduct myself so as to earn their respect.

Having wonderful tools at your disposal does not abrogate your responsibility to operate in an unselfish manner. You must still be courteous to your fellow Hams.

I am so taken by this credo, that I am posting the DX Code of Conduct badge on the side of this blog, to be a reminder to myself and others.

Oh, and QRP Fox hunters …… your situation is a bit different, so let’s adapt these:

Fox Hunter’s Code of Conduct

I will listen, and listen, and then listen again before calling.
I will only call if I can copy the Fox station properly.
I will not interfere with the Fox station nor anyone calling and will never tune up on the Fox frequency or in the QSX slot.
I will use full break-in if at all possible.
I will wait for the Fox station to end a contact before I call.
I will always send my full call sign.
I will call and then listen for a reasonable interval. I will not call continuously.
I will not transmit when the Fox station calls another call sign, not mine.
I will not transmit when the Fox station queries a call sign not like mine.
When the Fox station calls me, I will send ONLY the required exchange of RST – S/P/C – Name – Power out
I will be thankful if and when I do make a contact.
I will resort to attempting duplicate contacts only if I am very certain that I was not heard the first time.
I will respect my fellow hams and conduct myself so as to earn their respect.

If we all do these things, life on the bands can be much more pleasant.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

Larry Makoski, W2LJ, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

12 Responses to “DX Code of Conduct”

  • GB KC5GB:

    I agree with your comments about clusters. The thrill of the hunt is, for the most part, gone. The idea of having the frequency, and the call without any effort is akin to a ‘canned’ hunt. Captive DX is no more sporting than shooting a tethered deer.
    And while pileup behavior has never been the best, it does seem to be going down hill rapidly. My pet peeve is intentional tuning on DX frequency.

  • BOB AF2Q:

    Ham Radio is going down fast but it’s not only lids.
    Times are changing and many hams are working the world via the Internet.
    I did get 7 of my students to go for the TECH ticket but they just don’t seem to want to go on the air unless were out doing SAR.
    I have no idea to save the hobby.
    I see now some are dropping the QRP hunts.
    Maybe Sun Spots will get dormant hams back on the air
    BOB AF2Q

  • Cliff Fox KU4GW:

    In my opinion a lot of it comes with the dumbing down of licensing requirements by the FCC that has brought all the 11 meter riff-raff to the amateur bands! Not that the ham bands didn’t already have a few idiots already, but they were much fewer and far between before the code requirement was dropped!

  • Fred ka4rur:

    I was following this on QRP-l – What I have came up with is what I call “Appliance Operators”, as you stated all they have to do is point and click an Viola they are on frequency keying and not listening. To work DX you must listen and be considerate of all other stations. When a new ham get he or she license they should be given a copy of Chapter 9 of the ARRL Operating Manual for Radio Amateurs, this might help out some …..

  • john kd5srw:

    Great comments. I fully understand and appreciate you take on the LIDs. I for one have put up with these that call and call with little regard for others trying to work a DX station. I call once using my complete call when the DX station has clearly call CQ. I resist the urge to just use “srw” as it waste the DX operators time as he has to ask for your prefix…this should not have to happen.

    As for the code issue and operational behavior, one should always be a considerate operator code or no code as the case may be. I am also in favor of a DX station calling only QRP’ers, regions (5, 6, 7 etc or areas) and for Dx’er to respect the DX stations request to work JUST those areas.

    In the end, all we as good operators can do is to ignore the LIDs and freq police as best we can. Patience will win out in the end, I believe.

    Now for my final comment,

    On using the clusters, I sort of like them as a tool, but I also like the fun of the hunt. I think IMHO that each has its place.

    Good hunting and remember that which has been said (here in Latin)


    As good of advise in DX’ing as in life.

  • Joe KB3PHL:

    Sadly bad conduct is indicative of the world we live in right now. Most of the people who behave this way don’t even live by any code of conduct in their daily lives, let alone on Ham radio. They have the attitude that they can do whatever they want, whenever they want & no one can tell them otherwise. So it’s not a big surprise that they won’t abide by any DX code of conduct. But I agree that something needs to be done to coreect the problem.

    Joe KB3PHL

  • Mark GØNMY:

    Well all I will add to the comments is lead by example.
    If all hams stick to the code of conduct, others will get the idea.
    At the moment any newcomer to the hobby thinks that is how it is done a free for all calling over and over and not listening!

    And the idea of NOT in the log would only annoy and provide fuel to jammers.
    What could/should be done is when a qsl card is issued, a comment could be added I only worked you to stop you causing qrm over others I was trying to work.. could you please read the code of conduct and use it!

    Just an idea however as has already been mentioned some just dont care about other users (self self selfish)


    cheers Mark GØNMY

  • KK4ITN:


  • P29NO (Nao Oishi):

    I am the station P29NO.
    I looked through my log, but I can’t find the call sign K9JV. I missed his call sign. If you know Jim please tell him my apology. The noise level is high in low bands, and we have heavy jamming here you know. As you were saying some people go on calling their call signs during other QSOs. But I think most of operators keep good manner. I will manage to be active on every band. Please call me if you catch my call sign. 73/88

  • Biff:

    I’m responding to this anonymously because what I have to say isn’t up for discussion, but it is food for thought. 🙂

    KK4ITN: Really? That’s your contribution? I think that only works for folks who believe in santa claus and the easter bunny.

    P29NO: Classy response. Thanks for stopping by!

    Everyone else: The way I deal with this is that I use an anonymous email service (they’re free and web based, just google it!) to let them know their operating practice leaves a lot to be desired, and I include a copy of the DX code of conduct. That way they get some indication of how they are being perceived by others. I do it with an anonymous mailer because usually these folks feel they’re better than everyone else and I really don’t want to read two pages of someone cussing me out via the internet.

    Will this help? Well, who knows, but I’ve done something. Some people are just jerks and will be that way their entire, pathetic lives. Just check out 14.313 for an example, or above 3.800. Sadly, 1.990 is inhabited by the same. Generally decent group there, except for one guy in Dallas who is a bitter, bitchy old fart that does nothing but complain.

  • BOB AF2Q:

    I personally feel there to many clubs such as SOTA.
    Seems no hams can work CW today unless he is working SOTA and to make matters worse more and more hams want their own SOTA manager status.
    About a month ago I worked 2 other hams,one in NC and the other in OH.
    We were on close to 3 hours as a 3 an CW round table.
    No points,no on line logging,no BS,just straight get on the air and work CW.
    I see now many FISTS members are crying they want to only work FISTS members.
    Fine with me.
    I turn my VFO,listen for some DX ham calling CQ,give him/her a call and I get another Country.
    Right now i’m trying to work OH6BI.
    Just get on the air and do it.
    As for FM repeaters I have received reports from hams via CW that their very active repeaters are now almost never used
    Use it or lose it and stop praising others because their SOTA managers or worked so many FISTS or other club members.
    It’s nothing but an indirect compliment,saying i’m better then you.


    I was poking around and you have some award winning blogs.
    I located this.
    Thanks to Paul NA5N, I learned more about this road than I ever knew before (isn’t Amateur Radio a wonderful thing!?!). I have seen some street signs along Route 27 that still call it “The Lincoln Highway”, but I had never bothered to investigate its history before. But where does the BOGO come in you ask? It comes in here – as Paul states: “Many old historic trails are also today’s super highways (like Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, etc); we don’t expect you to operate from an Interstate junction! Find a nice operating spot within a couple of miles if you can to ensure your safety.”
    I did service work in that area and it was always RT 27 they sent me to.
    I never heard of the Lincln Highway but there is the Lincon tunnel.
    I’m looking to operate off the top of MT. ROSE and that shouldn’t be far from you.
    Looking at the top from google Earth it is wide open from North East to South East.
    Good for over the pond DX when conditions allow.
    BOB AF2Q

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