They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we agree.
Recently, we discovered RFinder had used an automated scraper to retrieve data from Repeaterbook.com and published it within their products. We wanted the amateur radio community to be aware of this, because we believe it proves that Repeaterbook data is so exceptional, it's worth taking.
Repeaterbook has always been a FREE resource. We don't sell the data and we never will. Yes, there are ads on the site, but they pay the bills that are generated from hosting a web site. But we don't charge anyone to view, or export the data.
We really wanted to let you know about how this impacts our over 80 volunteer admins, located all over the world, who work tirelessly to cultivate data and bring it to you. It also deeply affects the users who come to the site to simply browse the data, export it to their programming applications, or even provide updates. It's a huge disincentive to have the data piped in to a for-profit, commercial application with an annual subscription fee.
Imagine for a moment that this activity got to the point that Repeaterbook had no choice but to turn the lights off. If RFinder was able to take our best data and convince you to pay for their app and Repeaterbook's web traffic dropped to the point we could no longer pay the bills, we would disappear. If the admins and users started questioning the benefit of providing this data that was then being piped to a pay application that they received no financial reimbursement from, would they continue to volunteer their time? If they stop working, then the data goes stale and bad, which is death.
You see, we believe the quality of the data is the most important thing. No matter how many bells and whistles you have or how many programmers you employ, if you have bad data, you have no product. Yet, it is nearly impossible to have perfect data on amateur radio repeaters. There is no central licensing or information collecting entity in the United States, and technically, there is not even a requirement to coordinate a repeater. In some countries, such requirements to register a repeater are required and the data collected, but this is not true for the vast majority of repeaters. But this makes it difficult to obtain the data and countless hours are spent collecting it. The vast majority of our data comes directly from the people who browse the site.
Here are some stats:
- There are currently 31,216 active repeaters in the directory. To this number, we do not add repeaters that have been reported as removed. It is an honest number.
- In the last year, we added 1,376 repeaters.
- In the last year, we received 9,409 requests to update a repeater.
- In the last year, we completed 19,534 updates.
- In the last year, users submitted 352 repeater reviews.
- In the last year, users created 1,465 propagation reports.
The ARRL has tried for decades to gather repeater data from coordination councils. Like me, you may have grown frustrated with the quality of the data, which was not the fault of the ARRL. They were just publishing what they received. It was a great service they provided, contacting all the coordinating entities and gathering repeater data. Unfortunately, the data that was received was not always the most accurate or had become outdated. Where we gain an advantage with the web presence and app is the ability to update repeaters in real time. Once a directory is published as a hard copy, it's frozen until the next cycle. We complete updates daily.
Enough with the preface. We will now show you the evidence of our data appearing on RFinder:
| Everything in the RFinder "Description" field was lifted directly from Repeaterbook.
Repeaterbook uses hyperlinks to link to additional information. The scraper took the text of "Repeater Coverage Map", and "jfindu lookup - dstar-users lookup" but not the hyperlink itself. Without the hyperlink, the data has no value for RFinder.
Everything below the "Gain" field is easy to prove as originating from Repeaterbook. The text is work for word what is above minus the hyperlinks. Even the "in memory" item, personally added by our own admin as a tribute to a sk, was taken and posted.
Our Kansas admin does an interesting thing where he puts the name of the linked system into our Landmark field, which is added to the location field, even though it is not a landmark. This is something he has come up with on his own and the data is not submitted to the ARRL this way.
It has shown up on the RFinder program in their location field as well. See the three repeaters to the left in this listing.
So, you be the judge. Did RFinder use data from Repeaterbook to supplant its own data?
If you agree that they did, then don't bother purchasing a membership to view Repeaterbook's superior data for free!
Update: On 5/23/2016, we noticed RFinder was making correction to their app and pulling down the most obvious data that they had of ours. At least related to the screen shots on this page. So, we did another check in other parts of North America and there was still a lot of our data on the web version of the site. We will keep watching to see if they scrub all of the data.
Update: 4/3/2018, Repeaterbook is based out of the USA in Oregon. After a review of ORS 164.377, theft of data, whether copyrightable or not, is expressly prohibitted and is punsihable as a class C felony. Even though the perpetrators of theft may not live in the state, if criminal charges were pursued, Oregon could request extradition from the state where the perpetrator(s) currently reside.