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Conflaticons

Today Twitter rebranded “Stars” & “Favorites” to “Hearts” & “Likes”

It’s so obviously a horribly conflated notion that I struggle to believe a team of thousands of people came to this as the logical conclusion to what was undoubtedly hundreds of hours of meetings & deliberation that will someday result in a tell-all novella titled: “Stars vs. Hearts: The Untold Story.”

Consider the absurdity of the following screenshot:

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 1.08.44 PM

In order to “Like” something on Twitter, we click/tap a symbol that means “Love” with a “Like” label. Huh? When did Twitter start exclusively hiring Vulcans without a range of expressive emotions used to convey the likability of something beyond 1 single available incorrectly represented data point?

Hearts mean love. Any other reaction requires not-a-heart.

Partially in their defense, we’ve struggled with this in BuddyPress since we made the decision early on to use stars as a “Favoriting” system in the activity streams; and that decision plagues us a bit with each subsequent release. I don’t think anyone on the core leadership team loves (ha!) what we have, but we can’t agree on what exactly would improve it, so it stays what it is.

And, I get it… It’s cutesy and light-hearted (ha again!) and it’s intended to be fun and playful. But meh.

Now, what Slack has done with their reactions stuff is pretty great. You react to something with an emoji, and it’s entirely likely to be clever, timely, and contagious. Your niche group decides on-the-fly what emoji means to whom and why, and then either forget about it and move on, or it becomes lore to the group and an inside joke to small subgroups. I think it’s the best solution to enabling drive-by interactions, and one that BuddyPress probably could (see: should) adopt relatively easily.

What Twitter accidentally invented today is the very first conflaticon; a glyph that has historically meant one thing for generations but is now re-presented world-wide to mean something kinda-similar but actually kinda-very-different.

Maybe it’s intentional, though? What if Twitter is getting sick of storing trillions of records in databases everywhere, and secretly wants to reduce their volume to improve performance and eliminate maintenance burden? Take something that’s become far more popular than you anticipated, make it a little confusing while also inverting the meaning to be a bit socially awkward, and now you’ve saved the company dozens of dollars on a long enough timeline.

Whatever the reasoning, I neither like nor love this change, and wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a catalyst for a deeper discussion into how valuable reaction-types are.

Subsequently, I’m thankful WordPress never fleshed out Comment Types. What we actually need is register_reaction_type() where a “Comment” is just one type of reaction to something, a “Trackback” is another, a “bbPress Topic” might be a reaction to a blog post, and so on. I envision a world where how we react to the internet-connected world around us isn’t baked into the software, but instead is representative of who we are at that time and place in our own lives. Maybe someday…

By JJJ

I help build WordPress, BuddyPress, bbPress, EDD, Sugar Calendar, and a bunch of other super neat stuff.

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