@hostilefork thanks for your detailed reply it does correct some misunderstandings I'd had (e.g. I'd not realized Red was started before Rebol 3 was open sourced that's interesting).
I should say I'm impressed by the passion I see from you guys whether about Rebol 3/Ren-C or Red.
In my case I'd not even heard of Rebol till I heard Douglas Crockford say he'd gotten the idea for JSON from Rebol in a talk I saw him give at the Strange Loop conference some years back.
I've always liked programming languages in general and often learn just a smidge of different languages for fun and that's been the case for me with Rebol/Red so far I've just been sitting on the fence not really using either one but just admiring some of the language design choices.
Returning to my original question and some of what you replied - I started this recent surge of interest just because a. I happen to look at Red when I hadn't in a couple years and was pleasantly surprised there appeared to be some better progress than when I'd first looked at it and b. I'd had some days off work last week for the holiday and was bored.
I didn't know anything about the status of Rebol 3/Ren-C prior to that.
In the spirit of being open as you were with some of your comments, I can say I feel torn about these projects in that I'm really excited by their potential, but simultaneously frustrated neither Rebol 3/Ren-C or Red seem to be something I could/would really use in their current states. And it feels to me like progress on both of them is slow.
To be clear, for me the basic appeal is the GUI dialects if they could be used to easily do apps that talk to RESTful services and are able to run in browser, iOS, and android from a single code base.
It's ok if they're not the prettiest in the world, or not the fastest in the world (within reason), and I don't even mind that much if the executable file size is esp. big or small (i.e. as often mentioned about Rebol/Red).
For me it's just about productivity of building these types of apps on those platforms.
That's what led me to the thought of focusing my efforts on learning Rebol 3 or Red better with the goal of trying to become a contributor and see if I can help advance things.
But I'm torn. I did C/C++ for the first 15 years or so of my career (though it's been awhile now). And maybe that's biasing my view but for me the Rebol 3/Ren-C approach, in combination with Qt and emscripten, seems - how to put this - "pragmatic".
otoh I do see the community support around Red, yet I'm having trouble understanding where to begin. Maybe it's just because I don't know Rebol itself well enough yet. But otoh is there any kind of Red/System single step debugger? There's not right? i.e. Wasn't a lot given up with the decision to start from essentially nothing and not build on C as the bottom?
And yet I know it's a tradition to bootstrap languages esp. lispy languages, and write them in themselves. I admire the ideas, I'm just not sure, between Red/System and the choice to use only native widgets for GUI, how quickly they can complete the overall vision with all that's being promised. It wouldn't surprise me if it's another 5 years or more before android, iOS, and browser are useable in Red.
Where for me as I said, I really want the promised cross platform vision right now.
Anyway rambled and wrote too much sorry. Just thinking out loud what's been on my mind as I try and decide where to focus my efforts.