What We have Achieved So Far

by Shane on August 27, 2015

As we approach three and a half years since beta launch, I just wanted to take a moment to put together a post outlining some of our achievements.

The biggest of which is the fact that rbutr is still the most widely used web annotation plugin online, and has been for a while. You can see our Chrome plugin user count in the Chrome webstore. We also have the Firefox and Opera plugins which add another few thousand to that count.

For context I want to point out that rbutr has had zero investment. We received some funding from the Startup Chile program in the beginning (around $20k because I was originally accepted for a different project, then swapped to rbutr after arriving), but beyond that everything else has been done by volunteers, Craig coding part time, and myself sort-of-full-time.

Given such a scattered, unpaid and ad-hoc team, I really think that the following accomplishments are quite remarkable, and I really want to thank everyone who has participated in this journey and helped out along the way. rbutr continues to be a community effort, and always will be.

rbutr Features

  1. Core rbutr functionality in 3 minutes including: rebuttal alerts, registration, submission, twitter reply widget, rbutr Frame.
  2. Reddit Reply BotA++ Mod Approved in Bot Watchman
  3. The best of rbutr – coming back soon with community participation!

Competitions and Awards

  1. Semi Finalist in the 2012 Knight News Challenge (52 selected out of 1078 applications)
  2. Scholarship winner to attend the 2013 Creative Innovation Conference.
  3. Winner of SXSW Win30s competition for Best Bootstrapped.
  4. Third place at the 2014 SydStart pitching competition.


  1. A New Web Browser Plugin Makes It Easy to Follow Debates by Linking Arguments to Counter Arguments Online
    25 July 2012 –  William Bull, Skeptic
  2. How to Make Money in Tech
    27 June 2012 – Erik Sherman, Inc. : “Talk about a brilliant idea”
  3. Spotlight on: rbutr: Facilitating Online Discussion
     26 June 2012 – European Journalism Centre
  4. Rbutr finds contrary opinions for stories you’re reading (IJNet, Mashable, Richard Dawkins Foundation)
    14 June 2012 – Tracie Powell, Poynter
  5. rbutr Tries to Burst Your Digital Bubble
    13 June 2012 –  Scott Finn, WUSF News
  6. rbutr: A Simple Way To Follow Online Debates
    5 June 2012 – MakeUseOf.com
  7. [REVIEW] Can a Browser App Pop the Internet Filter Bubble?
    1 June 2012 – Dave Copeland, Read Write Web
  8. rbutr Helps You Follow Online Debates
    30 May 2012 – Adam Pash, Lifehacker
  9. Opening Up Scientific Discourse Online
    29 May 2012 –  Marie, The Strange Quark
  10. Avoid Being Misinformed with rbutr
    29 May 2012 –  Pallab De, Techie Buzz
  11. 10 Startups That Could Change The Face of News Forever
    20 April 2012 – Martin Carsten, Memeburn 
  12. Tool to sift truth from web of lies vies for media innovation award
    17 April 2012 – Andrew Colley, The Australian
  13. RBUTR is the newest tool in the skeptic arsenal
    2 April 2012 – Tim Farley, SkepTools
  14. You’re Wrong! There’s an app for that
    6 September 2012 – David Wilson, Sydney Morning Herald
  15. Someone’s Wrong On the Internet
    27 February 2013 – Maynard, ABC Newcastle
  16. The Internet Argues With Itself
    23 january 2014 – Susanna Freymark, Daily Telegraph
  17. Rbutr makes it easier for anyone to flag misinformation on the Web
    17 February 2014 – Paul Sawers, The Next Web
  18. rbutr – The Critical Thinking Plugin
    22 May 2014 – Oliver Lovell, Post Growth
  19. rbutr – Being Intellectually Robust on the Internet
    27 June 2014 – Jonathan Pearce, SkepticInc

Organisational Supporters and Advisors

  1. The James Randi Educational Foundation
  2. The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
  3. Michael Shermer and The Skeptic Society
  4. Aubrey De Grey
  5. Paul Willis and the Royal Institution of Australia
  6. Richard Saunders and SkepticZone
  7. Skeptical Science

Podcasts and Interviews

  1. The Skeptic Zone, Maynard. October 2012.
  2. The Token Skeptic, Kylie Sturgess. October 2012.
  3. EvidenceMag, Armi Legge. June 2013
  4. Diffusion Radio, Ian Woolf. October 2013.
  5. EvidenceMag, Armi Legge. June 2013
  6. Meet the Amazing TAMers – Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Filmed July 2013.
  7. Battling Misinformation with Shane Greenup of rbutr, Bentley Davis. August 2014.
  8. NYRD Radio, Alexis Ohanian. November 2014

Public Presentations

  1. TAM 2012 Workshop – The Future of Skepticism Online: Crowd Sourced Activism. Las Vegas, USA, July 2012.
  2. Australian Skeptics National Convention.Melbourne, Australia, November 2012.
  3. CFI London – Journalism, Churnalism and Media Bias. London, UK, December 2012.
  4. Sydney Atheists – Think Again. Sydney, Australia,  March 2013.
  5. Sydney Skeptics. Sydney, Australia,  April 2013.
  6. TAM 2013 Workshop – Crowdsourcing Skepticism. Las Vegas, USA, July 2013.
  7. TAM 2013 Main Stage – The Great Global Discussion. Las Vegas, USA, July 2013.
  8. Reason4Reason – Crowdsourcing Critical Thinking. San Francisco, USA, July 2013.
  9. European Skeptic Congress – The Great Global Discussion. Stockholm, Sweden, September 2013.
  10. Ignite Sydney 2013 – Crowdsourcing Critical Thinking. Sydney, Australia,  November 2013.
  11. Nerd Nite – The (mis)information Superhighway. Sydney, Australia, March 2014.
  12. SydStart 2014 Pitching Competition – Third Place. Sydney, Australia,  September 2014.
  13. Melbourne Biohack Meetup 2.0 – Closing the Gap. Melbourne, Australia, May 2015.



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Making rbutr Open Source

by Shane on August 3, 2015

After no small amount of deliberation and consideration, we have decided to make rbutr’s code open source.

In order for this to happen we will need one or more people willing to take on the responsibility of ensuring the quality of rbutr’s code is maintained, and new developments do not break the system. Making rbutr open source doesn’t mean it will now build itself. It requires a community effort to get the work done, but without experienced coders taking on the leadership roles, even the most active open source community can end up achieving nothing, or worse, breaking everything.

So first and foremost, we are looking for experienced coders who want to see rbutr successfully become open source and build an a vibrant active community of developers regularly fixing, improving and adding to rbutr. People experienced with Java are ideal, though anyone with extensive coding experience and a desire to make this happen will be great.

Craig, our CTO who built rbutr from the ground up, will be able to provide some assistance in this process, but all of the work required to make the code accessible to an open source community will need to be done by this team (or individual). For an idea of what work is going to be involved in this first step, see this article.

So, if you want to be part of this team and want to help lead rbutr into the open source community, then please join our facebook working group, and/or email : shane at rbutr, and let us know that you are keen to help make this happen. If you want to jump in and have a look at the rbutr code, just email Craig your public key and he will give you read access of our current code on git. You can reach him through craig at rbutr.

Feel free to join that Facebook working group even if you aren’t able to take on the leadership role, but still want to participate in the open source development or volunteer in other ways (for example, we will soon be releasing a system which will allow volunteers to curate rebuttals into the ‘best of rbutr’ emails we were sending out last year, so that we can continue to provide that service once again).

As soon as we have the code hosted online and all of the infrastructure around that setup (changelog, issue tracker etc), then we (mostly me, I guess) can get to work building an even larger community of developers participating in rbutr’s growth. I will make a public Trello page of all of the development which needs to be done, and features which we are looking forward to having. We will organise a central community discussion platform (either the rbutr subreddit or I will install a forum for it here on our website.) where people can organise themselves into working groups, or claim specific jobs, or suggest new features, bug fixes, improvements etc.

This is the plan, and all we need now is a few key leaders to step forward in order to make this happen.

I look forward to working with you…


PS: You may want to know about the languages and structures used to operate rbutr. The backend is java on JBoss with Postgres as the DB, and the MVC is managed with Webmacro (like Apache Velocity).


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Some Survey Responses Are In…

March 9, 2015

So I went away for the weekend (I got to watch the Eagles in concert) and came back to 60 responses to our survey so far. There are still some more coming in, and feel free to respond if you still haven’t, but I just wanted to thank everyone who has responded so far, and let […]

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Article: Memetic Immune System for the Internet

March 9, 2015

I just published my most thorough explanation of the rbutr concept over at my medium.com blog the other day. It already has over 16,000 views. You can see it here. I take the time to explain why we need a system like rbutr, explaining why none of the other methods used so far to fight […]

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Opening Up – rbutr needs your help.

March 4, 2015

Please fill out our short questionaire! The rbutr Beta launch happened 3 years ago on the 1st of March. Since then we have grown to a peak of roughly 20,000 plugin users, 30,000+ rebuttals mapped, and constant daily activity from committed members who want to see rbutr succeed as much as we do. All of that has […]

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rbutr is about more than rebuttals

March 2, 2015

I’ve always loved the name rbutr. It works on many levels, and is very brandable. But unfortunately it very strongly ties us to the word rebuttal – which is really just a part of what rbutr does. rbutr is about mapping contrary responses to the pages they respond to. Contrary responses may include corrections, debunkings, […]

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Net neutrality, Taylor Swift and a more inclusive KKK – The best of rbutr #12

November 14, 2014

Welcome to the 12th edition of the Best of rbutr email! Click here to subscribe to receive The best of rbutr via email. The Internet needs an immune system to stop misinformation from spreading to new minds and taking root. rbutr is a critical part of that immune system. Source Articles Response Articles Net Neutrality […]

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Shuttle explosion, vaccination, and police corruption – The best of rbutr #11

November 7, 2014

Welcome to the 11th edition of the Best of rbutr email! Click here to subscribe to receive The best of rbutr via email. rbutr is peer review for the world wide web Source Articles Response Articles Space Space Tourism, the New Frontier? SpaceSpace tourismTechnology Space Tourism Isn’t Worth Dying For – Wired.com A Rebuttal to […]

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Teach critical literacy with these real web argument pairs – Society

November 3, 2014

We’re looking for feedback from teachers who require good examples of arguments and counter arguments on various topics to use in classrooms, usually to teach critical literacy to their students. Below you will find a list of curated content where the left hand side is an article making an argument on some issue, and to […]

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Life on Mars, racist architecture, and the Pope vs evolution. The best of rbutr #10

November 1, 2014

Welcome to the 10th edition of the Best of rbutr email! Click here to subscribe to receive The best of rbutr via email. The idea behind rbutr is to fix the Internet so that it no longer just passively presents information, but instead actively teaches critical reflection on the information presented, while also ensuring the […]

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