Some exciting new additions to RBUTR have been announced in the last few weeks. The folks on the team behind this skeptic favorite have been busy!
RBUTR is an excellent skeptic tool that I’ve written about here before. It is a service that links web pages to other articles which rebut them (hence the name). Skeptics could do well to both evangelize the tool to the general public, and to populate it with links to good skeptical content.
RBUTR works via a browser add-in: a small piece of software that adds new functionality to your web browser. When you navigate to a new web page, the add-in looks up whether there are any rebuttals to that article or content and gives a visual indication at the top of the browser window.
One limitation of browser plugins is each one is usually only compatible with one browser. Since its launch, RBUTR has only been available for Google’s Chrome browser, which limited the product’s reach. Statistics on browser usage vary widely, but Chrome’s market penetration varies somewhere between 15% and 40% depending on whose numbers you believe. But whichever set of numbers are correct, the majority of Internet users are using other browsers.
Now the RBUTR team have made several new additions that significantly widen its reach – two additional browsers and more.
Plugins for Firefox and Opera
The new browser support includes both Firefox and Opera, with a few caveats on the latter.
Firefox support was added by RBUTR in January, and is a full fledged plugin just like the one for Chrome. Simply download the .XPI add-in file and Firefox will prompt you if you want it installed. It works just like the plugin for Chrome.
Meanwhile, the new support for Opera is a little different. That browser recently got an architectural revamp in which it shares some of the technology used by Chrome. This change has allowed it some compatibility with the addins for Chrome as well. It’s not 100% compatible, so there may be issues. Further, installing requires you jump through a few hoops which RBUTR explains on its blog. But this brings the browsers supported to (almost) three.
But what if you could take advantage of RBUTR without using a browser plugin at all? That would be great for outreach. Well, that’s been added too.
The RBUTR Toolbar
On February 14, the RBUTR team revealed a Valentine for skeptics in the form of the RBUTR toolbar. This is a new way to expose people to rebuttals without first asking them to install anything.
It actually uses simple HTML capabilities available in any modern browser, to display a black frame or toolbar at the top of the page. From this bar you can click to get access to rebuttals and more, right from the original article.
Not only does this extend RBUTR’s reach to unsupported browsers, but it extends it to whole new platforms such as smartphones and tablets. Most of the browsers on those platforms simply don’t support plugins, so this is a huge extension of RBUTR’s reach.
The new toolbar is very simple to use. Al you have to do is take the URL to the original page, and prefix it with http://rbutr.com/ So for instance this URL to a horrible Daily Mail article about climate change:
See the bold addition at the beginning? That’s what adds the toolbar. Try clicking those two links and see the difference. The second one should give you a display with a black bar at the top, where you can access the rebuttals for this page and other RBUTR features.
There’s one further use for the RBUTR toolbar that is not obvious, but makes it a slam dunk for skeptics. Remember that tool called “Do Not Link” which I recommended a while back? I explained how it could be used in cases when you need to link to misinformation or pseudoscience on social media, but don’t want to give the site a social boost.
Well the RBUTR toolbar can now be used for that same purpose! It uses the exact same methods as Do Not Link to prevent search engines or social media sites from following the link for use in metrics. And of course, you get the added benefit over the other tool that anyone who clicks this link will also get a chance to read rebuttals.
Finally, to pull it all together for new users, the RBUTR team has released a brand new demo video that shows all the product features, which you can watch here.
With these new additions, RBUTR is considerably more attractive to skeptics and others. And as a result the product is getting some well deserved attention from the technology press.
Skeptics need to make sure to give it our attention too. That’s because those rebuttal links RBUTR aren’t added by algorithm or magic – they are added through crowdsourcing. That means skeptics like you and me logging in to RBUTR and adding back-links from pseudoscience and other misinformation to skeptical debunkings.
I hope skeptics will continue to support RBUTR in this way, and by recommending the plugins to others. Next time you see a good skeptical article or debunk, navigate to the article it rebuts and make sure RBUTR has the link. If not, add it! That’s crowdsourcing in action.