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Mar 8, 2021

Trying to make the web more useful

We've released the Useful button to help people create and boost useful content online

Useful button cover image
Useful button 💪
This article is part of Precious Plastic, a One Army project tackling the plastic waste problem. You can learn more

Today we release a new powerful feature for the Precious Plastic Community: the Useful button. A button to mark useful content. This simple button is a big deal for us. There is a whole story behind it.

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I see what you're thinking, isn’t this just the same as a like button?
Yes, it kinda is.  It’s a way to show your appreciation to what someone else made. Technical wise, it’s almost identical. You click a button and a number is added to the database. But the difference between a like and a useful button isn’t in the function or the technical details. It’s in the meaning behind it. It’s a feature to support and promote useful content on the web. 

Gif of the useful button

Change the incentive

Let’s take a little step back. In 2021 many digital platforms on the internet used by billions of people focus on creating popular content. They don’t aim to bring useful content, they are about creating popular content. Content that engages people. Because the more time people spend on these platforms, the more business is made with advertisement. 

Take the classic like button, thumbs up or the little heart. People that upload something like to receive appreciation for their content. And in order to get something liked, you need to make.. likeable content. Just like a pizzeria needs to make pizzas. And the more people that like your content, the more likes you receive. Generally stuff that people like is popular and gives people a pulse of happiness. So creators and makers around the world make their only goal to get those likes up. Creating popular content. Tailoring their content so people like what they post. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, this makes the internet a very amusing place, a lot of fun stuff to find! You could occupy yourself an entire lockdown.  

However, we like to think that stuff could also be useful.

Make the magic useful

We see the internet as a very powerful tool. A tool to share knowledge, learn from each other and collaborate. An amazing tool our grandfathers would be so jealous of. It’s like magic. But this magic doesn’t run on pink clouds, it needs electricity, infrastructure and money to stay alive. There is a dark side to our data and we need to be conscious in how to use it. 

From our point of view, we collectively have produced enough silly stuff. We like to give some more space to stuff that is useful. Content that might be less catchy, less interesting, less engaging. But very useful. Useful to fix global problems, improve things and for someone else to build upon. 

Useful button interaction on the how-to page
Useful button on the How-to page

Future plans

There is a long way to go. And this useful button is just a small first step. Our little way of building that useful internet - the underlying philosophy of our Community Platform. The software we are developing to build communities. Shifting the focus from how to make popular content to serve advertisers to making useful content to work together on global problems.   

Special thanks for our supporters on Patreon for funding this feature + the development team for implementing! If you like to help coding follow our Github. For now, go to the community platform, check it out and let others know what you think is useful :)

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