rbutr has just made a new change to its methods. It now displays a picture of a random cute animal for 3 seconds before taking users to the rebuttal they have requested. There is even scientific reasoning behind this change!

Read the blog article announcement here: Read Rebuttals, Get Kittens

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I just published a new article reviewing an academic paper on the rbutr blog:

 

Review of The Promise and Peril of Real-Time Corrections to Political Misperceptions by Garret and Weeks

by SHANE on APRIL 17, 2013

Research published in the Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) Journal shows that apps which highlight incorrect information and provide real time corrections may actually be less effective at changing the minds of people who have a pre-disposition to agree with the incorrect information, than time-delayed correction techniques are.

Here I will review the paper, and then reflect on its findings from the perspective of our efforts (rbutr) to create an alternative system of ‘error correction’ in the form of a semantic linkage between claim-rebuttal webpage pairs.

 

Read the rest on the rbutr blog.

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 | Posted by | Categories: Philosophy, rbutr, Shane Greenup |

Just a quick update from Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand. We’re 4 days in to our 2 weeks stay here, which is just a stop over on our way back to Australia where I can get back to work with Craig on rbutr. Really excited about getting back to work on that because it has been so long since we have been able to really get any work done on it, and we have had some really good statistics lately in spite of the lack of work and efforts to get publicity. Specifically, last week saw twice as many people as usual adding rebuttals, and we got an article in the Fox News website directly reference rbutr. Oh, and I am also quite excited about having made a contact with a professor who specifically researches computation and programs designed to refute erroneos information online. So there is lots happening there. Can’t wait to see where it all goes.

But for now, it is chill out time in Thailand. Cheap beautiful food, amazing activities, warmth, swimming, massages, rock climbing and kayaking. And probably a few big nights.

Not sure I really have a point for this post. Just thought I would write something while I had a chance. I should be uploading my photos to facebook instead I guess :p

 

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It was back around 2005 I think. I was reading a book called The Field, by Lynne McTaggart, which was explaining how science is starting to show that there is a ‘field’ in the universe which connects everything in a conscious and health-related way. It was dabbling in quantum mechanics and refering to studies related to the memory of water, the ability for people to perform remote healing (with thoughts and/or prayer), and even went in to the potential for tapping this field to draw free energy from it.

It was an intriguing book, and I found myself, quite proudly I will admit, thinking of how all of ‘those skeptics’ out there wouldn’t read a book like this.

“They would probably dismiss it out of hand. Arrogant jerks. Not me. I’m open minded, and willing to give anything a go. Afterall, who is to say that we can’t draw power from quantum fluctuations? Seems reasonable enough to me! You know, that is what is wrong with those skeptics – they dismiss ideas too quickly without really giving them a chance. How do you know you won’t miss an amazing breakthrough because you dismissed it before you gave it a chance??!? Better to be open minded and give everything a chance…” I found myself thinking…

It is funny what a few more years of open minded thinking and genuine investigation will do to you. I have no become one of those arrogant jerks. At least, that is how I am perceived by people who haven’t yet completed the journey I have.

You see, at the time I was reading the book, I was studying Molecular Biology at university. Since completing my one year full time research in a lab, I have also gone on to teach first second and third year university student lab techniques and basic science. So I was able to really engage with one part of the book directly – the section which discussed the amazing research done by Jacques Benveniste, which claimed that water had a memory, and that when serially diluted to infintesimal amounts, the activity of the ingredients would increase. The book claimed that his research had demonstrated it. I could actually go and access his published papers. I could actually test the claims. More importantly, I understood exactly what was being claimed, and was able to consider it in an informed, detailed manner.

And unfortunately, it was pretty clear that the whole thing was a load of shit.

Basically, the claim was that one of the most basic, constantly run of the mill aspects of scientific daily life – that if decreasing activity with dilutions, suddenly reversed itself at some mystical magical dilution point. To help visualise this, here is a line graph of the basic principle:

As you dilute an active reagent, it has less activity!

As you dilute an active reagent, it has less activity!

So basically, if you have some molecule which reacts in some measurable way, then when you dilute the original sample to half concentration, you get half as much activity out of the same volume. der right? If you use half as much detergent on your dishes, it has half as much cleaning activity! Try using 1/10 the amount of detergent next time you wash up. Then try doing taking 10ml out of the sink, and using that to provide the detergent for the follow load of dishes. Obviously, the activity of the detergent is going to become useless. There simply isn’t enough to do anything.

So anyway, the claim was that if you keep doing this, suddenly, water would remember its active agent, and would act as if it had it in it. It would ‘remember’ the active agent, and be active itself. Basically, the claim was that it would do this:

memory of water

dilute something far enough, and it gets more active again!

This was the claim. Dilute an active agent far enough, and the water itself suddenly starts being active again, despite the fact that there is actually zero particles of the active agent in it.

The book very clearly made it sound like this research had been done, had been demonstrated, and was an amazing break through. not only did water have a memory, but apparently it could be activated over the phone. Hooray. Praise science!

Unfortunately, no one else has ever been able to replicate the findings. And this principle is so easy to test, that really, anyone can do it. It just doesn’t work. It is false. it is wrong, and it is a lie to act like there is something here. There isn’t. This is the fact. But when I read the book, I had no idea that this was the supposed principle behind Homeopathy. I had no preconceived notions. I wasn’t dismissing anything out of hand. I had no idea how homeopathy was claimed to work, and I read the entire thing in good faith. It sounded fantastic, and I wanted to believe it. It just failed to live up to its claims in the end.

I had an open mind. I approached it genuinely. And in the end, with investigation, and a reasonable approach, it was 100% clear that the whole concept was made up. Someone lied. Simple. So now, whenever someone talks to me about the memory of water, I feel very confident in my appraisal: it is nonsense. Complete rubbish, based on wishful thinking with zero science to back it up. And by extension, homeopathy falls apart without this most surreal claim. So that, combined with numerous other events and readings and discussions I have had over the past 6 or so years leave me in a position where I feel justified at concluding: homeopathy is nonsense.

So now I am a closed minded jerk skeptic.

And that was just the memory of water part of the book. Around the same time I spent an hour next to my uncle’s wife in a car talking to her about her psychic powers. She is a real psychic. She gets paid to do psychic readings, she has a slot on the radio – she even TEACHES people how to be psychic. She is the real deal. I wanted to believe. I wanted her to give me something, something real, something to show me that she really could …read minds? see the future? whatever it is that psychics are meant to be able to do. I really wanted it!

Instead I found out that she just lets her mind wander, and lets images come to them and tells people what she sees. It was all underwhelming at the time, and I left feeling pretty meh about the whole thing. Again, in the years since then I have come a long way in my education and understanding of the world. I have learned about psychology and the human mind, and all of its terrible terrible failings. The studies which have shown how susceptible people are to believing things, and assenting to perceived authority figures. About people filling in gaps, and detecting patterns where there are none. I have watched Derren Brown and other mentalists demonstrate the techniques which psychics use (whether they realise they use them or not), and do so far better than any psychics can. I have seen too many of the most famous psychics be shown up as frauds by investigators like James Randi. I have seen too much. I have learned too much. I didn’t start out closed minded. I didn’t decide psychics were bullshit. I started out hoping to be shown something real. I wanted to believe. The evidence, the facts, and the information just got in the way.

So now I am an arrogant jerk skeptic again. So closed minded….

And the person who lent this book to me way back then was actually reading it because of the implications about power generation. See he was an entrepreneur and home inventor. He had invented a power generation system in his garage and was attempting to make generators from it. You may have seen similar generators online – they use magnets and coils and generate more power than you put in them to get them started. I watched this thing working in his garage, and he showed me dials showing how the voltage coming out of it was higher than the input…. and I knew that you could change the voltage without there being more power, but fact is that I am not an electrical engineer, and I am quite ignorant about electricity in general, so I couldn’t really question it. He was sure they were generating power, so I trusted him. He wasn’t an electrical engineer either. Or a physicist. But those egg heads didn’t understand it. They were all too invested in their paradigm, and couldn’t see the truth when it was put in front of them.

I believed him. I wanted it to be true. I mean, seriously – a free energy generator. And I know the usual complaint is that you can’t get energy for free! Well yeah, but solar panels can harvest energy from UV radiation, so who is to say that this generator isn’t harvesting energy from ‘the Field’ like the book implied? Seriously – it is a valid point. Maybe one day we will invent a power generation system which takes power from the micro fluctuations in quantum particles. Well at least so my completely ignorant mind still wants to believe. Anyway, how awesome would it be to know the person who invented cheap free energy for the world? You know, like Nikola Tesla did before he was sabotaged….

But for the seven years that I was involved in this persons life – the whole time of which he was working on this project – one thing continually bothered me. If it really generated power – why wasn’t he using it to power things? I believe there were reasons, related to the dirty outputs or something (fluctuating waves or something – again, more shit I didn’t understand!) but seriously, we’re looking at going on to almost 10 years now, and I have still heard nothing about any progress on this project. I don’t believe they have any power units being produced, nor have they expanded in to large scale power stations.

I am disappointed. I still want to believe in it. I still want it to be true. But there is a point at which you have to stop living in the fairytale world where wishing things would be true makes a difference, and accept that the likeliest thing here, is that they simply don’t understand the facts of the situation. That they keep finding excuses to justify failure, when the experts simply understood the entire situation from the beginning.

This is really one of the biggest things I have learned over the years as I worked my way towards miserable old arrogant jerk skeptic, is that at the end of the day, someone who is genuinely knowledgable about a subject, can dismiss ideas out of hand sometimes. Or if not dismiss ideas, can at least call Bullshit on someone attempting to spin jargon, and getting it all outright wrong.

Being somewhat well trained in biology and philosophy and the history of science, I have studied evolution more than most people out there. I understand the biology of it, I understand the philosophy behind it, and its history. I have literally studied all of those elements, as well as engaged with every other aspect of it in a more casual discussion format. So I get evolution. Really well.

So when someone comes up and says that Humans were placed here by Aliens, I can VERY confidently dismiss that idea completely out of hand. Because I know how much evidence we have for the fact that humans evolved from apes. The idea that we were placed on this planet with so many nearly identically related species, with intermediate fossils scattering the area clearly found to be our local origin point, our historic migratory pattern our of africa, always found with epoch appropriate technology, all discovered with numerous lines of completely independant verification – when you actually understand this stuff, and know that there is well founded evidence behind it all, then dismissing some guys idea is the only reasonable thing to do. It is not reasonable to pay their ignorance of the evidence the same credibility as the weight of knowledge of evidence on the side of the expert. This is not arrogance, this is reality.

It is like taking your car to a mechanic because it broke down after you put sugar in the fuel tank and arguing that sugar is a carbon based material, like petrol, therefore it works, so therefore it must be something else which caused it to break down – and then getting indignant when the mechanic out of hand dismisses your claims. How dare that mechanic be so arrogant as to ignore your arguments? He should at least check to make sure other things aren’t broken! He clearly hasn’t seen the same information as you. Maybe you should take him to your sugar-as-fuel youtube videos, and he will see the light!

No. The professional understands more than you do. His knowledge isn’t brain washing. It is experience. It is accumulated knowledge of a reliable and trustworthy nature.

Yes it is true that sometimes people can be self-assured and be wrong – but as a whole, as we move forwards in scientific research, these areas are getting smaller and smaller and more and more detail orientated. Scientific paradigm shifts of the sort seen back in Galileo’s day and with Darwin happened in the past because the scientific bodies were establishing themselves then. Science, as a human endeavour, was being born. There were birthing pains as the old ways of dogma (typically religious) were being over thrown. Yes dogma still exists, and yes some people are still arrogant. but as a whole, NO, evolution is not just as realistic as creationism and not just as likely to be overthrown by some new theory. NO, atomic theory is not just as likely to be over thrown by a new theory as the theory of phlogiston was. Or as Isaac Assimov very clearly argued in this great paper, our understanding of the shape of the earth is not just as likely to be wrong as a belief in the earth being flat was.

We are not swapping one arbitrary belief for another – we are gradually ratcheting our understanding of the universe closer and closer to the truth with accumulating evidence.

Skepticism is, in my opinion, just a label for people who, like me, have been through a journey where we all end up realising this same simple fact. That evidence doesn’t change. And when you actually consider all of the evidence together, the scientific leaders of each niche field actually do know what they are talking about. Far better than anyone else. No one of them is right. But the peer-system of research, review and revision works really well over the long run. And things which have been around for a while, and independently verified and tested – they are pretty much here to stay, tried and tested, facts.

And when someone comes out of one field, and claims to know more about another field than the people in that field – if the people in that field dismiss their claims out of hand, it is usually because they are dismissable. They are nonsense. Being a doctor does not equip you with knowledge about quantum mechanics, no matter how smart you are. If you want to disrupt another science, then you still need to go through the process of studying it and genuinely understanding the history and research, and reptition which has got it to the situation it is in. Not just make wild statements and expect people to accept them because you have some authority in another field.

Sadly though, the general public have no idea of this, so when people like Deepak Chopra do exactly this, declare “I am a doctor! I must therefore be very smart” and then proceed to talk about things related to quantum mechanics despite having been told numerous times by professional physicists that what he says doesn’t make sense, and simply doesn’t work that way, the public have no way of understanding this conflict, and so trust him (he IS a doctor afterall!), and thus buy his books, attend his talks, and make him shit loads of money, while he flat out lies to them.

So here we are again, i am that arrogant jerk of a skeptic who outright dismisses someone who lots of people love and adore and surely isn’t doing any harm etc. But fuck Deepak. He is an arsehole who peddles bullshit for profit at the hands of ignorance and he knows it.

I have believe in, and slowly been educated out of so many false beliefs I feel like I should feel ashamed. I feel like a fraud skeptic whenever I go to conventions. It seems like everyone else has always been so smart and not fallen for this shit. But I kept trying things.  My current girlfriend has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). This is a disease that is so poorly understood, that there is no concensus even where to do the research on it! What do you do when trying to treat a disease which has no known cause, and no known treatment? You try everything. To this day, while I am steeped in my skeptical position, I still encourage her to try things which I am 99% sure won’t do shit, but fuck it right – maybe the placebo affect will help at least? So we have been trying variations of vitamin and dietary supplements. We even tried buying an oxygen machine to try pumping a higher concentration of oxygen in to her lungs. We went to a clinic where she was taught the Emotional Freedom Technique – which basically comes down to tapping on parts of your body whenever you feel stressed, in order to reduce your stress.

It sounds like complete BS from the outset. But you know what – I still give it the benefit of the doubt. I still wonder whether the simple act of distraction can play a significant role and reducing stress and anxiety – two experiences which are very much of the mind, and as such could be distracted from. And maybe if we could distract anxious and stressed minds from their anxieties and stress, maybe that would calm them, and in doing so, stop any cascade affects which come from the stressed state and cause harmful states in the body? Maybe this treatment will help?

But here is the real problem isn’t it? This is one of those areas where BS peddlers get in: We are talking about a subject which exists in an area of genuine ignorance. Not only do I really really not understand how the brain works, and how physical activities and chosen behavioural patterns affects the brain, let alone how the brain and activities in it can cascade down in to real physical chemical changes in the body – but sadly, neither does anyone much else. Doctors know a lot more than I do, but this brain-body-psychology cross over is still just too damn complicated. This is why disease like CFS and depression and many others are such a large problem. If we don’t understand the system in its natural state, how the fuck do we fix it when it is broken?

So I will keep hoping these people who claim to have a cure are right – but the reality is that they are just making shit up, and selling it without any real evidence. And they get away with it because hope is a powerful thing, and because the placebo affect exists, and people can’t differentiate correlation from causation. Oh, and they attribute causation to whatever they want to, rather than attempting to identify the actual cause. So when someone does come out of a bad CFS period, they attribute it to whatever new treatment they had started, despite the fact that it may well have been a spontaneous remission, or a result of a lot of contributing factors.

This is why science matters. Rigorous, independent investigation which identifies the real causes of things make a difference. They progress understanding, and create repeatable technolgies. Cures. Fuels which work. Microwaves which cook. Data transmission around the world.

Bonus points if you can identify the science in question

From XKCD

While people who sell lies for profit undermine the evidence based system which works. By tricking the public in to thinking that their ignorance is just as good as the knowledge of experts, it makes a public question the value of science, resulting in political weakness. Science gets less funding. Education gets less focus. Society stagnates and we all suffer. I wish we had a machine which could do one of those ‘Ghost of Chistmases yet to come’ deals and show what the world would be like if we really did just throw our hands up in the air and say that the Deepak chopras of the world had the same claim to knowledge and information as all of the actual experts.

So yeah, now I have become one of those people which I once fancied myself better than. In my ignorance I was sure I was better than the people who had ‘made up their minds’ and were ‘arrogant’ and missing opportunities. Now, in my state of less ignorance, I am much more clearly aware of the flaws of so many more claims that I can cut through the crap much faster. With less ignorance, I see that most skeptics are not close minded – they are just more informed. Because sometimes information really can exclude possibilities!

 

 

 

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 | Posted by | Categories: All, Philosophy, Shane Greenup, Skepticism |

We’re just making the final adjustments now, and running some quick tests to make sure things work before we send out the emails to all of our Beta tester registrants. If you have not entered your email address for the beta testing, then you will not be able to participate in this first round, but we will be accepting more registrations in preparation for a larger second wave of testers.

http://rbutr.com is where you can register for participation! You should :)

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 | Posted by | Categories: Entrepreneurial, rbutr, Shane Greenup |

Repost from the rbutr blog, titled: The Ultimate Objective of rbutr

The ultimate objective of rbutr, is to help bring online discussions to the best possible conclusion available with the known information.

The method used to achieve this could be called “Forced Principle of Charity” whereby the Principle of Charity is manufactured by finding and presenting the best possible rebuttal to a claim rather than needing to ‘assume it’ or ‘fill in the blanks’ on behalf of the claim.

Through iteration of this action, the discussion is necessarily forced towards some sort of a conclusion.

I see it working this way: There are thousands of different entry points to an argument, but most of the time when having one of these discussions, you inevitably wind your way through all of these random peripheral claims and positions and inevitably find yourself at one of the (or several of the) core principles/claims/beliefs which underlie the main difference of opinion.  Ideally, how rbutr will work, is that through a combination of direct rebuttals, and general rebuttals, all of these peripheral arguments will eventually be step-wise redirected towards ‘the best rebuttal possible for the core tenants of disagreement’. Once this mythical article is written and voted up by the community to take its place as the hub point of all of the online discussions on this particular subject, then the real discussion can continue.

With ‘the best possible rebuttal to the core points of disagreement’ in place then there should be an active ongoing competition between people who disagree with that rebuttal to write ‘the best possible rebuttal’ to it. The community will vote, filter and select their way through the rebuttals until they find it, and then we have rebuttal number 2 of the conversation. And so on, down a path of direct rebuttals until the most reasonable conclusion is reached.

I need to find an animator to work with on this, because I think we could make an incredibly effective visual representation of this process.

Problems (obviously)

So yeah, obviously the description above is set in an ideal world, with sufficient users all motivated by the search for the truth – which is rarely representative of the human population. Although, that being said, we don’t need to worry about ‘the human population’ too much. We just need to worry about the culture of our users, and do our best to make sure all of our users are motivated by the quest for the truth. That will go a long way towards ensuring our results are as close as possible to this ideal world view.

 

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Update:

http://rbutr.com is now a reality. This was the post which made it happen. Go to rbutr.com now and register to see the vision in action!

The Minimal Viable Product

A browser extension which allows people to link “Rebuttals” to specific web pages so that when other users view that specific webpage, the extension indicates that a “rebuttal” webpage exists, and by clicking on the extension icon you will taken to it.

Real world exmple:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2003824/Earth-facing-mini-Ice-Age-years-rare-drop-sunspot-activity.html
The Daily Mail posts a story that “Scientist’s Say Mini Ice Age is coming”.

In response, Potholer54 makes a video: http://www.youtube.com/user/potholer54#p/u/19/adAvYK1O-ic which provides a strong rebuttal to the article (and the numerous spin off articles which copied the fabrication verbatim).

But anyone who gets directed to the original article has no idea that the headline of the article is a complete fabrication, and tend to accept it as true (since it comes from a ‘respectable’ source – not just some blog, for example). So for all of the great work that has been done debunking the ridiculous article by Potholer54 and the hundreds of other bloggers and scientists and youtubers out there, people who see the original article have no indication of any of that. So much great work, effectively wasted because they cannot (easily) reach the target audience!

Hence the need for a tool like this. With this browser extension, if you have the tool installed, when you get directed to this article by some misguided friend on facebook, as soon as you land your browser will clearly indicate that rebuttal(s) have been submitted to this article. When you finish reading the article, you are then free to click through and read the rebuttal to it, and likewise, click through again if there are in turn, more rebuttals to those rebuttals.

Why Make It?

The purpose of this tool is to facilitate ‘forward’ moving discussion. Whenever someone posts a rebuttal style article online, they always link to, or at least indicate the article that they are replying to. It is necessary. You have to let people know what it is you are replying to in order to reply to it! So whenever you come across one of these sorts of posts online, it is easy to look ‘backwards’ through the discussion, but wherever you enter this debate, it always seems like it is ‘the last word’ on the subject. But it rarely is.

This tool will show where the discussion has gone, rather than just where it has been. It will allow people to follow discussions forward through time, rather than just backwards. It will help reduce ignorance by providing internet users with a way to look beyond the information they find themselves presented with.

The internet is a huge mess of information – organising that information into a USEFUL format is one of the biggest challenges of the internet.

  1. Search engines were the first major breakthrough on that front, and they are still great – within their bounds.
    Find what you are looking for, roughly.
  2. Social Tools were the second major breakthrough, with clever systems of recommendation based on subject. StumbleUpon, Reddit, Facebook etc.
    Discover stuff you didn’t know you were looking for/Discover stuff similar to what you already like
  3. This tool – this concept – could be the third major breakthrough by providing a ‘threading’ system to internet subject matter. Discussion based direction to the web.
    Discover the next piece of information you need.

The long vision (below) will go in to more details on the following stages of development and on how this simple idea could be rolled out to acheive far more of this information-organising function.

Reaching the Market

This is the biggest difficulty with this idea. There is no organic-growth model. There is no content creation, so no SEO based traffic. There is nothing inherently viral, or recommendable about the technology. It isn’t particularly cool, so people won’t share it on Reddit or Facebook or Stumble Upon. And unlike StumbleUpon’s toolbar (a very similar technological concept in many ways), this lacks any on-page presence. ie: People add “Thumbs Up on StumbleUpon” badges on their websites as a way of attracting more Stumble traffic to their site. This tool has no such ability.

The only people who might want to promote this tool are the authors of rebuttal style articles, but ironically, they need to promote it to the readers of the ‘opponents’ – because their own subscribers don’t need to the tool!

Variations on the Basic Idea

The idea of creating a system of organising topical discussion threads throughout the internet seems to be one of value to me. Instead of toolbar, it could be taken to google or internet regulatory bodies as a tag which indicates relationship. Just as Rel=”No Follow” was created as a way to combat spam, so too perhaps could a tag be invented which allows websites to indicate that they are rebutting/replying/agreeing with websites they link to. For example, something like this might be written:

Yesterday, the website which I disagree with wrote this article: <a href=”url” rel=”rebut”>Article Title</a> – but it is so wrong, because it said X, but Y is demonstrated by this reason.

or equally:

Last night, the website of a friend published this article: <a href=”url” rel=”agree”>Article Title</a> – and I just want to restate how important this view is, because it said X, and Y is a real problem that X deals with.

So, as an example, this sort of markup could be created and introduced to the internet, perhaps with the values of “Rebut”, “Agree”, “Review” and/or “Reply” (with strict definitions of each) and then the search engines, the browsers themselves, or other robots could use this markup to construct meaningful maps of online discussions. Hopefully even offering ideal pathways through the discussion…

The Long Vision

The tool described above is the MVP, and is very simplistic. There are a lot of improvements which could be made, and I currently expect they should be rolled out, roughly along the plan described below:

Stage Two

If any sort of market penetration is reached then the first people to really use the tool will be the internet marketers who will abuse it as a way of linking from popular articles to their own website. First improvement will be the ability for users to upvote, downvote and spam-vote the articles presented to them through the tool.

Repeat offending domains (repeatedly marked as spam) could be permanently blocked. And other obvious steps to reduce abuse would be implemented.

Stage Three

Implement a more detailed system which allows more types of replies to be entered. The MVP above doesn’t actually allow for agreements, reviews or other replies to be indicated (though it was mentioned in the variations section). So this sort of specification could be implemented, if it seemed desirable. Thus “n replies” would be indicated, and onclick a popupwindow would break down : “X Rebuttals, Y Agreements and Z Reviews” – at which point you choose what you are interested in.

Stage Four

The first major upgrade to the system: The creation of a way for users to delve in to the arguments themselves and provide analysis of the original article in relation to the reply through a side-by-side view with page-overlay highlighting. In other words, build a way for users who are particularly interested/involved in specific discussion the ability to bring up both articles connected by a ‘reply’ link side by side so that they can highlight sections, and visually connect those sections to highlighted sections in the reply, and comment about that connection etc. In effect, this component would not be too different to web annotation tools which already exist (http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/web-annotation-tools-research-annotate-collaborate/), but just used in a specific context and with a precise objective of facilitating discourse. ie: the comments should be made to highlight how the reply has actually dealt with the claims, rebutted points, and/or failed to address key points.

Stage Five

The super long vision:

Develop a sophisticated algorithms/intelligent software which learns to identify repeated claims and the standard replies to them. Automatically starts to provide ‘standard rebuttal’ options for false claims, bad arguments, logical fallacies etc on the fly while browsing. Turns the redundancy of millions of internet pages and posts on the same topic on its head, and focusses the results of all of the repeated arguments in to the one most productive outcome. Could sort of work like word’s grammar tool, but with bad claims/arguments. It would underline or highlight lines which are found to be repeatedly used even though they have been rebutted hundreds of times elsewhere, and onclick or onhover, provide the rebuttal and a list of resources for that false claim.

Feedback

Please leave feedback and comments to this. I would like to build it, but I am struggling with how to reach any sort of market penetration with it at all – and of course, with all of these sorts fo ideas: is it even worth making it? I think it is a cool idea, but there is never any way to know without trying, or at least without talking to people – which is the point of this post. Feedback!

So please, let me know what you think.

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Mobile wordpress, mwahahaha

20 January 2012

Ok, so I have finally installed mobile wordpress on my iPhone so that I can post while sitting on the train. Definitely not my favorite way to type out an entry, but better than sitting there staring out the window.

Hmm, new thought – find app which allows you to save online articles/pages for easy recall from your iPhone later. So many things I could be reading or practicing right now which I waste my time doing at a desk.

Anyway, work will be starting again on immortal outdoors on Monday, finally. I need to redo my notes doc for them, because a bit has changed and I’ve found more stuff that needs fixing.

Anyway, I have also decided to keep practicing coding stuff, and I am going to do it through the amalgamation if two ideas I have had – both which I quite like, and only just the other day finally realized how much they overlap.

The ideas are both on the subject of discourse, specifically debate mediation and resolution. One idea was a website that orchestrated organized debates between high level representatives of particularly contentious subjects, and facilitate a strict analysis and mediation of the debate.

But the second idea is the one I am mote excited about. The browser extension toolbar idea which allows crowd sourced creation of semantic information linking claim-reply-counter reply articles together.

To put that in simpler terms, the ability for authors of rebuttal articles online to indicate within this tool what article(s) it is rebutting. Users of the toolbar who then read the original article will be alerted to the fact that a rebuttal has been posted.

Not sure how much more detail I can go in to on this iPhone interface, but the initial MVP should be reasonably simple and effective, while the ongoing growth and development in to the most amazing argument resolution tool of all history is amazingly possible.

Anyway, I am going to try to build the MVP myself, while doing all the other stuff I am doing. Lol. Buy it is all related. I need to learn to code and build MVP quality tech. These are skills I need. So time to get on with it!!

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2012 is either going to be the best year of my life, or possibly a very difficult one. But I’m leaning towards far and away the best. So many things happening, so much potential within those things.

So straight up I have about 2 months left in Australia, and in that time I need to finalise some of the design elements of Immortal Outdoors in time to launch it publicly, and start organising events and meetings with key people in order to get it all off the ground in Australia. Simultaneously, I need to work with Elizabeth (my partner for The Traveller’s Trade) to re-record much of the video tutorials we did for TTT and rebuild the website (deisgn and development), setting up all of the necessary elements to create a successful online ecommerce business (as automated as possible) – also all within the next two months (though this timeframe is less crucial, and moreso a desire so that TTT can start producing an income sooner, while I need it more).

So the heat is on right now, and it is exciting, and terrifying and all that good stuff.

Oh, and of course, the fact that I have to be in Chile by around Mid March means that while I am working on those two projects, I also need to be making sure everything is in order to set up my life in Chile. So that involves getting visas, booking flights, finding accomodation, learning spanish (yeah, seriously, we’re learning spanish from scratch via audio cd’s etc) and all that usual stuff that goes with planning an indefinitely long trip overseas…

Once in Chile though, well, I have no idea how much pressure I will be under. Obviously I will want to get as much done as possible, but going through this process of getting Immortal Outdoors off the ground has made me realise moreso just how big a project this all is, and what I really need in order to make it all happen as I want it to. I have finally caved in to the idea that I am probably going to need some real investors, and I am going to need my own in house CTO. So I now have a new objective for my time in Start-Up Chile – Find the right investors (without putting too much thought in to it (too soon to do that properly), probably something like 1 or 2 million dollars worth of investment) and meet the right CTO partner.

Maybe I don’t “need” that – but what I want Immortal Outdoors to do, it probably will need that major amount of funding and a seriously good inhouse development team to rebuild everything from the ground up again, on a bunch of servers, with all of the stops out in order to really get what I want. The mobile platforms, the social network plugins, the seemless user interfaces, and all of the clever little automatic systems which are so easy to think of, but so challenging to make work smoothly… It will take time, and a lot of development from some great coders. And that is the new Start-Up Chile goal.

And that should take me through to about December. At which time the goal is to have a chance to head back over to the UK for Christmas with Vanessa’s family (and ideally mine too if we can afford it), and then NYE in London.

How is that not the best year ever?

PS: I forgot to mention, I contacted Sydney Skydivers today too – I am finally getting back in to sky diving, and after a quick refresher course, I should be starting on my B license… So of course, that needs to fit in to this final two month period in Sydney too…

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Immortal Outdoors is online now. Still much work to be done, but it is online.

In other exciting news, I was selected to participate in Start-Up Chile. Yay. Heading over to Chile at the end of March now.

Oh, and I almost forgot too – this was the first year my domain http://www.SydneyToHobart.com.au was live with some content on it prior to the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race, and it received about 5000 hits. ALmost 3000 hits today, which is more than any of my websites have ever received in a single day.

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