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 been achieved with less than $40k funding back in 2012, and a core team of 2 people, only one of which might almost be considered full time. (That’s me.) Craig has always had to work in other projects to make money, developing rbutr around those paid jobs. Harry and Joe both volunteered with us for a while, producing the Firefox plugin and improvements to the rbutr Frame respectively. And I have just stayed poor while I focus all of my spare time and energy into this project, because I really do believe the concept behind it is not only important, but actually crucial for transforming the web into the reliable information source that it could be (rather than the impossible to navigate swamp of treacherous misinformation and manipulation that it currently is).
As proud as I am of our accomplishments, I won’t be happy until the concept behind rbutr, one way or another, is as commonplace in Internet use as Google search or Facebook use. Until everyone has access to corrections, critiques and rebuttals for every webpage they find, the ultimate purpose of rbutr will not be fully realised (it is something of an emergent property, and one which takes place over time – I will finally explain this fully when I get my book completed).
Anyway, I am writing this blog post because you may not yet realise that all development on rbutr has come to a halt as our main two developers (Craig and Joe) have recently joined forces on another startup which has a very good potential to make money. They are both still fully committed to the success of rbutr, and there is good potential that the success of this other startup will enable Craig to provide personal funding for rbutr, but for the meantime, we have no developers, and thus no progress, no refinement, no bug fixes and no growth hacking.
Lacking this ability to make rbutr itself better, I have changed my focus to communication. This has included writing a book, writing some articles (which we should start to see published over the coming weeks and months – here is my first attempt at a long form article), and now, putting more effort into communicating and interacting directly with you.
Including asking for what we need, and letting you tell us what you want us to do.
We Need Help
Do you want to help? What can you do to help? Do you have any ideas you want to share with us or work on with us? What matters the most to you as a rbutr user?
First and foremost, rbutr needs development to resume. We have a huge list of features which need adding, bugs to be fixed, refinements to be made, and tools to be developed. Some of these developments are very exciting and will be quite revolutionary when implemented. But they take time and require work.
Therefore, we need coders who are willing to dedicate the amount of time necessary to work on such a project.
We can also always use designers. Especially of the usability kind. rbutr isn’t the prettiest app out there. Nor website. And it isn’t always obvious to the user what they should do. We know this, and we would love to fix it. But fixing it, again, requires a designer AND a (front end) coder to put time into fixing it. We don’t have any money to pay people at the moment, (though that may change if Craig’s other startup goes as well as expected – but that will take another 6 months at least) so we are looking for volunteers.
To this end I have put together a short questionaire which is designed to help us understand whether anyone out there actually wants to help rbutr, and under what conditions one might be inclined to do so.
For example: Do you have skills which we can use? Would you be willing to volunteer those skills, or would you require some form of payment, and would that change if rbutr changed to an open source and/or non-profit organisation? (not that we have any formal structure at all at the moment)
Help with Web Standards Procedures
One more thing – Do you, or anyone you know have experience working with web standardisation? We’re very interested in making rbutr more generally accessible to third parties across the web, and were wondering if it would be possible to formalise a standardisation of interacting with the rbutr database so that it was of a known reliability so that other organisations would start using it (ideally Google, Mozilla, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter etc). I will be submitting an email to the
Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group, which I believe is the appropriate way forwards, but any advice or mentorship on this path would be greatly appreciated.
I’m also going to organise a few Google Hangout sessions which will allow you to come and talk with me directly. I can layout our vision quickly, and then you can ask questions, and then maybe we can brain storm options for making progress, and possible projects we can organise the community into completing. Or whatever happens. The hangouts will be largely unstructured and all about making it easy for you guys to get questions answered and find ways to help ensure rbutr is successful in its goals.
I will announce the times of these events here and over facebook and Twitter when I organise the times, and I will do a few, at a few different times (to cover all possible timezones). And if it goes well we will make it a regular event.