What is rbutr? The Long Version…

Currently under development, rbutr is gong to be a browser based app which will alert you to ‘Rebuttals’ which have been written in response to the web page that you happen to be browsing. Click through the app, and ou will be taken to that rebuttal, free to continue reading, or where possible, follow on again to the rebuttal of the following article!

Finally, it will be possible to follow quality online discussions in the correct direction!

Why Is rbutr Needed?

Because without it, there is no easy way to follow a discussion ‘forwards’ on the internet. That is, if you come across an article which is replying to an opposing view, that article usually will link ‘back’ to the article it is replying to, but the article it links back to will almost never link to it (and no one expects it to).

rbutr provides a third party method to link these rebuttals to the original articles so that the readers can choose to follow the discussion forwards…

Without rbutr, your only options to find rebuttals to an article you are reading, are to google it and hope to find something. But if you are reading a very recent article, then Google is usually useless for this. Or if the article you are reading has been cloned hundreds of times across websites (often happens from press releases on contentious topics) – Googling the subject only finds all of those clones. And even if you do manage to find a reply to the article, the fact that it is high in Google says absolutely nothing abou the value of the rebuttal, or the real relevance to the original article. Google’s criteria for ranking has to do with keywords and inboudn links, not quality and specificity of argument!

Meanwhile, for the Authors, Bloggers and Content Creators out there, rbutr provides a tool for you to use to connect with your target audience. If you occasionally (or regularly) write rebuttals of articles, who else do you want to read your rebuttal other than the people who are reading the original post? So as soon as you write your rebuttal post, add it to the rbutr system and finally people reading the original article will be able to quickly and easily click straight through to your reply to it! No need to wait for indexing by Google, or trying to compete with every other website on the net – this is specific content delivered to a specific audience who wants to see it.

How Does rbutr Work?

It works incredibly easily… any rbutr user can submit a rebuttal page to the system. While you are reading a rebuttal page, just grab the URL of the page it is replying to (reply/rebuttal articles usually link to the article they are replying to) and click on the rbutr icon and submit a new ‘rbutl’ to the system. As soon as you have added the connection between the ‘original’ and the ‘rebuttal’ pages to the system, any other rbutr users will immediately be able to see that rebuttal from the original page.

Once the rebuttal connection has been made, users can then ‘vote’ for that rebuttal. A vote basically indicates that you think that ‘this rebuttal is a great rebuttal’. You aren’t necessarily voting for the website, for the author, or for the opinion – you are voting that the rebuttal is a good argument. It makes valid points, it deals with the points raised in the original article, and it is worth reading (even if you disagree with it!).

This voting process allows many people to submit rebuttals to one original article – so lets say some very well known newspaper publishes a story on a very topical subject, and straight away you have 10,000 bloggers all around the world writing articles reacting to the article. Some of them are just angry and abusive, some of them ramble, but some of them are very coherent arguments against the opinions expressed in the original article – by allowing users to vote for rebuttals, the best arguments are destined to be the ones which float to the top of the rbutr list. And therefore, from this massive mess of internet ‘noise’ – thousands of articles written in reaction to a topical issue in the media, rbutr has quickly and easily focussed the discussion down to a strong reply.

All that needs to happen then, is for thousands of people to reply to that rebuttal, and allow the process to separate the good from the noise and then the next step of the conversation may be followed… and so on.

Facilitating online discourse.

That is what rbutr is all about. Filtering the noise of the internet, to refine out golden streams of coherent, logical discussion.

rbutr’s Place On The Web

In the beginning, directories ruled the web. People categorised websites, listed them, and then displayed those websites based on keywords searched. This was the clunky awkward beginning of the internet – Google revolutionised it all..

Web Search

Google created a ‘democratic’ system for evaluating the relavance of webpages based on a system of inbound-links and keyword relevance. It was brilliant, and still stands to this day as the best go to resource for finding information on a subject that you want to know about.You indicate the subject matter you are interested in, and based on ‘votes’ by other websites, you get an ordered list of pages related to your search term. It is great for find ‘subject matter’ related to your search term – but it is not great at understanding complex intentions behind why people might be searching for that subject.

Social Recommendation System

Then Web2.0 came along, and the social scene exploded. Digg came out of nowhere. Delicious shared your bookmarks, facebook allowed you to share things with your friends, StumbleUpon allowed you to randomly discover things related to your interests which you never even knew about, and Reddit snuck up and took over the social sharing/voting/spreading system.

All of these systems use the basic principle that if lots of people say something is good, then it probably is. That, combined with evaluating your previous interests, the interests of people you associate with and subjects you say you are interested in – chances are, the ‘random’ stuff it delivers up to you is probably going to be pretty good.

These systems fulfill the role of “Serendipity” which Google took away. Google gives you exactly what you ask for. Social recommendation systems gives you stuff which you didn’t know existed – but are stoked that you now DO know it exists.

The Next Step…

Google takes us to subject matter – and it does it brilliantly. Social recommendation tools take us to ‘serendipitous discoveries’ – the stuff you didn’t know you wanted, but do. But in all of these systems, what do we use to find ‘the next step’? There is no well established system which allows you to specifically stay on this precise subject, but see more information, or competing information, or information which is lacking from this page etc. The closest tool we can use to that is still Google – but Google is really bad at staying on ‘the precise topic’ – or, if it can stay on the precise topic, it is no good at evaluating ‘the next step’ for the purposes of understanding. It can only evaluate which other websites on this precise topic are of ‘high pagerank’ – which doesn’t help us.

rbutr is the first step in developing ‘the next step’ approach to content delivery. And in doing so, rbutr is the first step towards creating the first ever system of channelling valuable content in to streams of discourse. To pick out the valuable contributions to topical discussions, and deliver them directly to the people who want them.

This will finally create a reasonable approximation of the ‘superhighway’ analogy which has for so long been used with regards to the internet – even though for so long it has represented more of a pile of toy cars in a “Game of Skill” claw game – all the cars are there, but they aren’t organised. There is just a very skillful claw operator (google) allowing us to pull out the car we want…

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