RIF Publish - UX Focused Censorship Resistant Publishing

By Nik Page - UX Consultant
May 20, 2020

There is a crisis in the dissemination of truth. As dramatic as that sounds it’s probably an understatement. High-quality journalism, once the source of information accepted as an almost sacred font of this truth, is under attack from multiple angles ranging from customized search results in the big search engines to revenues based click-through advertising to questionable media to outright censorship and bot delivered propaganda. Sadly this is a shortlist of issues.

RIF Publish (a project of IOVlabs) recently launched a demo of its contribution to solving at least some of these issues, a deceptively simple-looking process that allows a publisher to post to decentralized, censorship-resistant servers with the help of either a drag-and-drop web page or a Wordpress plugin. The content is available to readers using their ordinary browsers with the help of another plug-in. This doesn’t tackle all the problems facing journalism today by any means but it is a first step that will lead to more robust solutions. Nor is it all new technology, far from it, it leans on several open-source elements.

User-Centric Design

A key aspect of what makes the RIF Publish approach different is its user-centric focus and drive to deliver a superior user experience for both the journalist/publisher and the reader. The team recognized that options exist from the technology point of view but observed that none had achieved large adoption by either target group. RIF Publish began its design work by interviewing journalists to learn how they do their work, what their concerns and unmet needs are, and what, if any, experiences they had with other decentralized and/or blockchain offers. The feedback they gathered was that current offers were too difficult, too expensive, or with unclear benefits. The choice to begin with censorship-resistant publishing was directly informed by these interviews which showed the problem and the benefit of solving it is clear to the target group.

The RIF Publish design team also considered the readers. They specifically wanted to avoid a dedicated app that might itself be made illegal or blocked. It was key to fit in with the habits and tools used by those on the consumer end.

Beautiful, Free, and Censorship Resistant

Viewable in an ordinary browser (Brave, Firefox, or Chrome), the resulting posts are web pages complete with formatting, media, and links. They are appropriate for branded publishers. Another important factor was the cost, so RIF Publishing doesn’t charge for posting nor are there any network fees as there are on Ethereum based options. There is built-in marketing via Twitter but links to the posts can be shared on any channel. The articles are hosted on IPFS (there are plans to incorporate SWARM soon) making it impossible for a government or anyone else to easily block the servers. The process from posting to reading is seamless.

Next Steps

In keeping with their user-centric approach, RIF Publish will decide on what steps to take next only after gathering feedback from journalists and readers. However likely options include:

  • Publisher dashboard for managing post persistence and tracking readership.
  • Team tools for larger organizations.
  • Payment options for readers to directly support writers/publishers.
  • “Source Confidence” tools to limit the influence of fake news.

RIF Publish will be live for developers very soon, look out for our official announcement!

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