I recently exchanged email with a friend of TidBITS in Ukraine and couldn’t resist sharing her response here, along with an explanation of how you can now respond to TidBITS Talk posts with emoji, much like Apple’s Tapback feature in Messages.
Notes from Ukraine
I recently received email from Irene Stepanovska, who I’ve known for many years in her PR role for BeLight Software, telling us about the release of Art Text 4.2. After passing the news on to Agen Schmitz so he could write it up for the Watchlist (see “Art Text 4.2,” 15 December 2022), I asked Irene how she and others at BeLight were holding up. It may seem like business as usual from the outside, but I had to share her description of what life is like for her and her fellow Ukrainians:
A large part of our team remains in Odesa. We are holding up, developing our apps, and supporting our country, armed forces, and our people. Just like any other city or small town in Ukraine, every day we experience the consequences of the cruel and inhuman Russian war against our country and civilians. There have been power outages for several weeks. Now most of Odesa’s population has electricity twice a day for 3–4 hours. Sometimes, after massive attacks, people don’t have electric power for several days, and some don’t even have central heating and water. This is a complete nightmare for those who don’t have gas in their houses and use electric stoves and ovens to cook food. We are thankful to the technicians who are working 24/7 fixing everything as quickly as possible in spite of massive damage. We fully understand this is the price for our freedom and future victory.
As a coda to Irene’s email, I recently ran across this article from the Los Angeles Times about how Amazon has helped the Ukrainian government move essential data into the cloud, which, as Liam Maxwell of Amazon noted, can’t be taken out with a cruise missile. That’s an aspect of cloud security I suspect most of us have never considered.
New Reactions Emoji for TidBITS Talk Posts
In “Messages Becomes More Flexible and Forgiving of Mistakes” (27 October 2022), I mentioned that I’ve become fond of Apple’s Tapback feature in Messages, which lets you send emoji-like responses to messages as quick, non-textual acknowledgments. To simulate that sort of quick response in TidBITS Talk, where it’s annoying to have someone ask a question and then thank everyone with a separate short post, I long ago installed the third-party Retort plug-in into Discourse. With it, users could react to posts with any emoji they wanted instead of just the default “like” feature behind the heart icon. We saw a lot of 👍 and 😁, along with a few other emoji.
So when longtime TidBITS Talk reader Jolin Warren pointed out recently that the Retort plug-in had been deprecated in favor of the official Reactions plug-in, I made the switch. You can still click the heart icon under a post, but if you hover over the heart icon briefly, you can instead choose from a custom set of other emoji. After discussion with involved members of the TidBITS Talk community, I’ve settled on the following options, with an explanation of what I think each one means.
- ❤️ is the default, and I see it as a simple way to say, “Good post!”
- 👍 may seem quite similar to ❤️, but I intend it to mean something more specific: “I agree with what you said in this post.”
- 💯 is intended to be the superlative of ❤️, in the sense of “This post is both entirely correct and utterly helpful!”
- 🙌 means “Thank you!” and is a quick way to show appreciation for assistance.
- 😁 lets you mark a post as being amusing. ‘Nuff said.
- is a custom emoji we added called “apple-six-colors.” Use it to express, “Yay, Apple!” or “Steve Jobs would have loved this.”
- ❓ exists so you have a way to note that you found a post confusing.
- 👎 lets you indicate that you disagree with a post without going into details.
You’ll note that the first four provide different shades of being thankful, appreciative, or supportive. That’s intentional because TidBITS Talk is that sort of community, but don’t read too much into the nuance. It’s there for those who, like me, would be linguistically uncomfortable with jamming all those meanings into a single ❤️.
The ❓ and 👎 sit elsewhere on the spectrum, providing a quick way to indicate that you don’t understand what someone is saying or show that you disagree with their post. I hope that they won’t be needed much and that those whose posts receive them will read them as constructive criticism. Give these response emoji a try and see how they feel.