Is Better actively being made better?


#1

Before committing to Recurring Donations, I was curious how much time and effort each day is devoted to making Better better? A question for both the devs and other users who notice if newer ads/tracking/block-detection get updated to Better in reasonably timely manner? And to the devs, please use my donation only for making Better better rather than diverting it to fund your new Chat app (Heartbeat), etc. Thank you.


#2

Hi @PC, I’ll make this a detailed answer in case anyone else has the same question! :relaxed:

Straight-forward stats-driven answer

The Better group activity on our repository gives you an idea of how often we are pushing code on Better. We push code almost every day.

We’ve been working on a big update for the last few months, which keeps having little extras added to it (there’s always just one more thing!) which is why there hasn’t been an update in the News section for a while. But since launching Better for iOS in June, we’ve had 4 major app updates (including introducing the Mac app) and 20 mass updates to the blocking rules.

Human answer

In terms of what we’re doing when we’re not coding and pushing code, we are:

Designing for the future of Better

As anyone who has seen the walls of our office would know, @aral plans out everything in a reasonable amount of detail before touching any code. We also design and mock-up in other mediums. Working on Better also has a habit of being our main topic of conversation when we are eating/out for drinks/supposed to be relaxing. It is not a side project, it is our lives.

Advocating for the issues around Better

Aral and I both give talks about the principles behind Better at conferences and other events. This takes up maybe four days a month, depending on whether it’s conference season. Giving talks has the dual purpose of a) informing people of the surveillance capitalism problem, and encouraging them to support/build alternatives, and b) providing us with income to support us until we are making enough from Better to pay our rent/buy dog food.

Updating the blocking rules

Very few blockers have visible and actively maintained blocking rules (and even fewer base their blocking on ethical principles!) In the last few months, we’ve had fewer updates to the blocking rules (what we call “content updates”) and that’s because we’ve been focusing on the features of the Better apps.

We are still working on the basic features that the Better apps need in order to do the best job, and to meet people’s expectations. Once we are satisfied that we have those features covered, we will be able to dedicate more time to keeping the block list up-to-date, also making it easier for others to help us too.

Once we are providing frequent updates of the rules, and we are confident that we can provide reliably frequent updates, will we start looking at making Better subscription-based. Any funds provided to us via ind.ie/fund goes towards the work that we as Ind.ie are doing, and right now that is working on Better. (At the moment, the funding we get from patrons almost covers Better’s monthly hosting bills!)

Heartbeat and the network of the future

As those of you who have been with us for a long time will know, our long-game is to build what Aral now refers to as an “internet of people.” Aral’s recent article on Encouraging individual sovereignty and a healthy commons explains the why and the what in more detail.

Heartbeat was an early prototyped client for this (and really not intended as an alternative to Signal). Better is an approach from the other direction, trying to prevent these corporations from tracking you—a form of digital regulation—while the alternatives we need do not exist.

And all the other stuff

It’s probably fair to say that Aral dedicates 95% of his time directly working on Better, whereas I’m more like 75%. When I’m not working on the web and graphical elements of Better, I do most of the support and running the social media accounts, which is sometimes tangential. But then the rest of my time is spent doing the stuff that keeps Ind.ie ticking like accounting, organising events, other necessary business logistical bits n bobs.


To other folks: please feel free to chime in on your thoughts regarding updates etc! It’s important for us to know your expectations, and what you need from Better :blue_heart:


Laura’s Diary — Thursday 2nd March, 2017
#3

I understand the wish for funds to be used efficiently and I think it is important that they are not used for purposes substantially in conflict with supporters’ values.

Having said that, I would like to give my slightly different perspective.

My reason for backing is a desire to see Indie’s long-term goals fulfilled, which I think is fair to say are about more than just a chat app. Better is less interesting to me, as I am on a different platform, but I don’t mind if my donations are used in part to develop and maintain Better. The long-term vision will not materialize unless Indie reaches some kind of financial sustainability, and I believe Better is part of that. It is also aligned with my values about privacy in this brave new world of ours.

So, personally, I trust Laura and Aral to make the best decisions about how to use their time and funds. I also respect if someone wants things done differently, but I hope Laura’s detailed reply makes you all feel good about continued support.

Have a nice weekend, everybody!


#4

Hi, I’ve indeed noticed more frequent updates to the tracker-blocking list prior to the shift of resources to the development of the next versions of the apps. With respect to the response time to reports, this, for example, was a report by me fixed within 10 days (https://source.ind.ie/better/content/issues/460).


#5

I think the next step after the release of the next versions should be to prioritize working on the open issues for some time, especially on broken sites and reports concerning very popular sites (like YouTube). Moreover, I think that being always as up-to-date as possible in this area is important, as the ramifications of broken sites or problems on popular sites are felt directly and widely.

While I also can think of some useful extensions to the apps, I personally believe that it is time to shift more resources into maintaining / expanding the blocking list. If I remember correctly there were ideas around more detailed regional lists and ways to help you maintaining these lists. I think that those ideas are worth exploring, as, for example, I’ve seen uBlock Origin blocking more regional trackers which are right now not blocked by Better.

Speaking of uBlock Origin (and as already indicated via a recent Tweet) including a malvertising list (like the one from Disconnect that is also used in Firefox) could be an interesting idea. Having seen that ads have tricked my parents into some unwanted subscriptions I would welcome any kind of protection in this area.


#6

This is exactly what we’re planning to do.

We’re also looking into this, using an existing list :slight_smile: