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Frequently Asked Questions

Common Objections

Frequently Asked Questions

What is rbutr?

rbutr tells you when someone somewhere else on the internet disagrees with the webpage you are looking at, providing you with a simple way to get a different perspective, more information, and a critical analysis of the page you were just looking at.

rbutr is a browser extension in Chrome or Firefox, or a Toolbar which can be called within the browser by adding “rbutr.com/” to the beginning of any URL. It is also a website which lists all of the claim-rebuttal connections which are made, so you can browse current debates which are taking place across websites all over the internet.

rbutr is NOT a discussion forum. It is not a message board. rbutr is an internet mapping system which connects webpages to each other on the basis that one webpages argues against or contradicts the other. It then uses those connections to tell people “The webpage you are currently looking at has been disputed elsewhere on the internet”.

I don’t use Chrome or Firefox – Can I still use rbutr?

Absolutely – you can check any page by adding “rbutr.com/” to the beginning of any URL. For example, add it to the beginning of our homepage URL and you get: rbutr.com/rbutr.com – which will show our homepage within the rbutr frame.

You can use these URLs (“rbutr.com/<Webpage of interest>”) to share questionable content over social media within the skeptical framework that rbutr provides, and do so without fear of benefiting the questionable content.

You can use the website to browse the rebuttals and the requests which have been submitted by people. In the future we will have a website based system which will also allow you to submit rebuttals and submit requests no matter what browser you use.

We will eventually expand to cover internet explorer, Safari, and hopefully even Opera! However we can’t say when that will happen, because we have a lot of other development to be completed first.

What is your Privacy Policy? Can your extension see everything I look at?

Our privacy policy can be found here.

The short version is that our website uses Google Analytics (like every other website on the internet) to give us insights about our visitors, including how they find us, and how they use our website so that hopefully we can improve the experience for everyone.

The rbutr app itself, after you have installed it, needs to check every website you visit in order to know whether it has been rebutted or not – but don’t worry, we don’t see what websites you are visiting because your browser app ‘hashes’ the URL before it sends it to us. That is, the app changes the URL to a unique, irreversible string of characters, then checks that against our database of websites. We can’t know what websites you have visited, other than the ones which have been previously been entered in to our database as rebuttals or requested rebuttals.

Otherwise, generally, we collect some usage data about app usage, but again, this is all done just so we know what is working and what isn’t so that we can continue to improve things.

Can I use this to submit rebuttals I have written myself?

Absolutely. In fact you are the best person to submit your rebuttal because you know what inspired you to write it, and exactly what your rebuttal is about; so you can connect it to the claims page and write a comment for it faster than anyone! We want every rebuttal on the web to be in rbutr one day – so please, submit everything you write, and everything you find.

For further clarification on adding rebuttals in general, have a quick read of this article: So You Want To Be A Good rbutr?

 What is the difference between a General and a Direct rebuttal?

Direct rebuttals are what rbutr are really all about. They are the articles which directly refer to the content, or at least directly respond to the precise subject matter in the source page (the page being rebutted).

General rebuttals on the other hand, are any articles which generally contradict the source page. They can argue against it, or simply present evidence which contradicts the claims made in the source page.

There is some grey area and some overlap, but this element doesn’t have to be perfect. It is just useful for identifying when a response is going to directly respond to the claims being made, or if the reader will have to figure out how the response contradicts the arguments being made for themselves (because general rebuttals aren’t necessarily written as rebuttals, but are in fact just written to make an argument or claim or truth.)

See more on this blog post: How are rebuttals added to rbutr?

What are the grey numbers to four decimal places on each link?

They are just a simple score we calculate from vote count vs the age of the rebuttal in an attempt to keep the browse list varied and interesting. It is similar to the algorithm used by Reddit to sort their posts, but we show the actual score because we’re still in beta and you can see everything!

 Why are you making this?

We’re building rbutr because we see a desperate need for something like this, and we think we have hit upon the right balance of simplicity, functionality, and highest impact on users.

My goals for rbutr are not small. I believe it can have an immense impact on global discourse and dissemination of information – keeping more people around the world more informed than they have ever been before. Not just more inundated with information, but genuinely more informed – more knowledgeable about facts, the truth of the situation, and the reasons things happen. Not based on what some biased source tells you, or what your friends think, or what the media wants you to think – but based on readily available sources which have exchanged conflicting ideas so that you are able to assess all points of view and all arguments quickly and easily.

I want rbutr to make the world a better place.

For a complete explanation of  my personal goals with rbutr, watch my recent talk about it: Think Again with rbutr

How can I support rbutr?

We have put together a page just for this question! See all of the options available to you on our page “How you can help rbutr“.


Common Objections

There aren’t two sides to every story!

rbutr doesn’t present two sides, it simply connects responses to the pages they respond to. By creating a list of responses to any given page, that list could contain numerous types of responses from different angles and disagree in various degrees of severity. However, it is worth noting that rbutr is a ‘blunt’ tool and so there is a reasonable chance that some of the responses will be lost in long lists of responses and most people will simply view the ‘top’ response. We can’t get too nitty gritty with rbutr or else we risk making it too complicated and unusable. We also can’t stop human nature, so instead we are doing our best to work with it by providing people a way of seeing the best response to a page, rather than overwhelming them with numerous perspectives and complications. Ideally the best response will at least touch upon all of the angles itself.

Won’t this just get used by <other people> to push their agenda?

Of course it will, and we won’t stop it either. rbutr operates in a way which is surprisingly self-regulating in terms of how much ‘damage’ an agenda pushing person can do, while simultaneously being the most powerful tool one has to counter bad information.

  • People can spam hundreds of rebuttals at a single article – but at the end of the day, that only causes one alert to pop up, and most people will only read the top/best rebuttal or two. So it is more worthwhile to just find the best rebuttals than to spam hundreds.
  • People can use one rebuttal to counter hundreds of pages. This will reach far more people, but for all the work done to rebut all of those pages, it only takes one counter-rebuttal to refute that page to undo all of the effort by showing the flaws of that rebuttal.

At the end of the day, the best rebuttals will necessarily win, because people who are able to have their minds changed, will have their minds changed by the best arguments and the best evidence. If you believe you have the best arguments and evidence on your side, then submit those arguments to rbutr, and let the arguments stand the test. If you don’t have the best evidence and arguments on your side, then maybe it is time to consider changing your beliefs 😉

rbutr will forever remain a neutral tool which represents no position, no belief, and no agenda. If you feel like rbutr is over-run with people pushing one particular agenda you don’t believe in, then take advantage of that captive audience and get some friends to help you start submitting rebuttals to their arguments. You know you will get your arguments in front of lots of people who needs to have their minds changed. Now everyone has a level platform for open discussion.

For even more information on this question, see these posts:

Just because there is an opposing position does not mean it is worth sharing.

But who are you to judge? Who are WE to judge? Who has that knowledge?

Perhaps more importantly than the practical considerations of attempting to know what issues are settled and unworthy of further discussion, there is the fact that many people continue to discuss these issues whether you want them to or not. There are some issues of science, like the shape of the earth, which have been irrevocably settled for many years – but some people continue to make very strong arguments against that consensus. If rbutr asserts that they are wrong, then they will most likely choose to not use rbutr as it appears to be ‘biased’ against their beliefs.

By indiscriminately allowing all arguments in to rbutr we engage all people and all belief structures in genuine discourse. This is better for everyone and has the best chance of bringing about full engagement with the issues around complex subjects than taking an authoritarian stance and declaring the issue settled. An act which only ostracises and reinforces the beliefs of those who are told they are wrong.

rbutr isn’t about asserting true and false. rbutr is about helping the internet create genuinely progressive discussions which inform and educate its users.

And never forget the ‘peculiar evil’ of silencing an opinion

The people who need this the most won’t use it

Maybe that is true in some cases, but rbutr’s goals aren’t to trick certain groups of ‘stupids’ in to using rbutr so we can fix their thinking. rbutr is about using the internet more effectively to keep more people more fully informed. This is valuable for everyone.

We are also more concerned with what impact we can have on developing minds – exposing them to the idea of critical reflection and analysis as an everyday part of their lives. They are the people who need it the most, and if we can build this network map of discussions, than it will be possible to get rbutr in front of many many children all over the world in the years to come. That will have a huge impact beyond any attempt we make to get ‘people who need it’ to install it.

We don’t need this. People just need better educations…

While we fully support the assertion that people need better educations, this idea is neither new, nor unsupported. People have been trying to improve education for hundreds of years with varying levels of success, and are continuing to do so every day. That is the background noise that already exists. rbutr isn’t going to stop that from happening – but it is going to add another tool to the fight.

The idea that ‘we should just…’ anything is usually very naive because if it were so simple to ‘just do it’ – it would be done. Clearly there is some sort of resistance to it happening, or some negative consequence you are unaware of. Suddenly making all education systems on the planet perfectly good at creating clear thinking, evidence seeking rational thinkers is not going to happen any day soon. But building a tool which transforms the internet from a passive information delivery service in to a tool which exposes people to multiple perspectives and teaches approaches to critical analysis…that is valuable and potentially revolutionary.

Please, keep fighting for better education. But please also consider rbutr a part of that fight. Support rbutr and find a way to use it in education.


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