/ update

Let's open the gates to Terms of Service knowledge!

Our crowdreading tool, Phoenix is entering a new phase! After months of hard work, the ToS;DR team is very happy to present a new version of Phoenix. Thanks to your support during the Duckduckgo privacy challenge, we were able to sustain the work on this editing tool in order to allow better development of the ToS;DR database.

The tool has grown a lot since its first release in November 2017, when basic features such as "creating, reading, updating and deleting a point" were still coming short. We needed to integrate with the complex rating systems implemented in tosdr.org few years ago and integrate the changes received by tosback.org. Here is a summary of the features we implemented in the past month and during two hackathons that took place in Utrecht and Brussels:

New services

Any user will be able to add a new service for people to rate. We had many queries on this one and we know our database is far from comprehensive, given the thousands of services that exist on the Internet. Well, now you can add whatever you want, even the least-known service of the Internet!

Cases

We realised over the years of working with terms of service that many different services have similar points in their terms. To keep the ratings consistent, we decided to generalise those points into what we call cases. So when you encounter a certain type of point in two different services, they can share the same type of rating, topic and description. We hope that this feature will make the review of terms faster and more comprehensive.

Rating

On the first version of Phoenix, every point had a rating of 1 to 10, while our understanding of the rating of points is limited to Bad, Blocker, Neutral and Good. To keep this consistent, contributors will now only choose from those 4 categories when submitting the points.

The main ToS;DR website also has a more complex way of giving a class to a Service that weighted the overall ratings of its points before declaring its class. We also implemented this in the new version. Every service's class will go through this formula before having a Class: num_good - num_bad - 3 * num_blocker.

Tosback integration

Also, we integrated Phoenix with our Terms of Service change tracker application called ToSBack. This means that you can see what part of the Terms of Service have changed and review a specific part of the text directly in the Phoenix interface in case the service is tracked on ToSBack.

Design

There has been a lot of work on the design, mainly oriented toward making the website easier to use and trying to make the submission form more simple to understand. Although it is still a work in progress, we are confident that users' feedback will help us to make it more comprehensive and simple. So don't be shy, come talk to us about the issues you have using our platform and we will do our best to answer you!

Future and direction

When we first developed Phoenix, our goal was to try to help the contributions to the ToS;DR database that has been growing since 2012. The development of the tool came during a reboot phase of the project and we weren't sure if people would still be interested in our work, so we didn't really plan on a long term basis.

Nonetheless, after the successful crowdfunding campaign, we realised that you want to put up with us for a longer time and this is amazing! We deeply thank each and every one of you.

Concerning the work, Phoenix (ruby on rails app) is not going to replace the website tosdr.org (static website) for these reasons:

  • Our website tosdr.org is hosted graciously by 5apps and considering the large amount of views it receives, we cannot afford to host it on our own due to a lack of people doing sysadmin in our team and because we prefer to allocate our funding to the development of the app,
  • We identified two type of user types for our work: people who want to see the ratings and those who want to contribute. As tosdr.org has been proven a good website so far, we prefer to concentrate on developing an app that will answer the needs of the contributors instead of making one single website that will answer none of both needs.

For example, this is the reason we changed the home page of Phoenix. It doesn't display the ratings of Services with some features Points but an explanation of what it is and the latest changes done by the contributors in order to put forward the work done by the community.

The future plans are to make Phoenix is usable and used tool for contribution. We are going to spend the summer testing, correcting bugs and until then, we will stop adding features to the platform.

In conclusion, we are working hard on this tool and our team is growing! Vincent (an historic contributor to tosdr.org) and Madeline (one of the first member of the Phoenix team) joined Michiel and Chris in this effort. We are proud of the work we have done so far and we hope you will enjoy it too!

You can follow our work on Github, Twitter and Mastodon.

Chris, Madeline, Michiel and Vincent