Hearts, Stars, Thumbsup, Fav, Like, and Love — Reactions on the Internet

Kickstarter is the place where details matter. It’s about taking a lot of pride in your words, your iconography, and your work. It’s exactly the sort of place where you can get a month to research and obsess over a feature like “✭ Remind me*.”

And that’s exactly what I did the first month I was there.

After digging into how it, there wasn’t much consistency. Some people used it when they weren’t sure if they wanted to back a project yet, but didn’t want to forget about it. Others wanted it to reminded them of the impending credit card charge. The spectrum was wide. So wide, that it would have been reasonable to change everything: the icon, the name, what it did.

I’d forgotten about the project until I got back on Twitter yesterday. The fav star replaced with a heart. The fav star had always been like ✭ Remind me — used for a huge variety of meanings.

When I was thinking about what to do with ✭ Remind me, I looked into other similar features. Across the board, it doesn’t seem like most of these features were built with grandiose plans. That leads to a lack of consistency between them. I’ve dropped the verb tense from these for consistency. This data is mostly as of 2012, but I made some notes about changes that have happened.

I started out looking at Products that included a Star feature:

1) Some used the ‘star’ as away to symbolize a bookmark (Chrome, Firefox). Safari used the book to symbolize the same thing. Now, Slack also uses the star as a way to privately flag messages and get back to them.
2) Some used no name and/or ‘star’ as Kickstarter did. This was a bookmark functionality (Google Reader, Spotify).
3) Some used Favorite (Flickr, Android Contact Manager, iOS contacts, Google hangouts now also does this, Twitter was here). Favorite also implied “frequently used” or “something I want to get back to.”

This left the Star with a neutral-positive feel. It had an undertone of being able to “get back to something” or “find it again later.” It wasn’t always practical “get back to.” Sometimes it was a sentimental “I don’t want to forget this.”

Then I looked at Products that included a Heart:

1) Love — last.fm, Vimeo
2) Like — Pinterest, Tumblr (Twitter is now here too)
3) Favorite — Etsy

The heart had a distinctly positive feel. It also was used in companies that had a strong community-feeling. Less corporate. This might sound weird in 2015, but it was almost on the edge of too personal/familiar.

I also quickly looked at (Thumbs) Up/Down:

1) Like — Facebook, YouTube
2) ThumbsUp (and Down) / Arrows — Reddit, Digg, HackerNews etc.

This was much more based on ranking and “quality” signals. These things fed into what the overall community saw, rather than a personal sentiment/tool.

Given these loose groupings, I don’t think the Twitter switch is surprising. It set a point of view on what the action is for, and encouraging that action. It aligns with the how the majority were using the feature. It’s not for ranking and it’s not for bookmarking. It’s a way to express a sentiment to the community. The heart is definitely a distinct group from the star.

What interests me most is how this will continue to change. I think we’ll find three buckets.

1) Products that encourage one specific action that is desirable for the platform.

2) Products that encourage a variety of constrained reactions (Slack’s new emoji reactions).

3) Products that encourage the ambiguity to live on with the people on the platform. I think that’s where the next generation of innovations in “internet interactions.” Leaving a space open-ended let’s you see what else you can add — or come up with new paradigms for a product.

At the end of my research, I was tempted to push ✭ Remind me towards a specific goal. Instead, it lives on in ambiguity with minor improvements. I’m happy every time I use it, for whatever reason. It will never surprise me if Kickstarter remains the third type of product.

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* ✭ Remind me, was a small feature that emailed a user 48 hours before the project ended. The name betrayed the original purpose. It was “remind me to back this project.” Most people used it from the project page. Then it emailed a user 48 hours before the project ended so they could back it.** Everything ‘starred’ was accumulated in a section of the profile called the ‘starred projects page.’ ***

** It sort of did this, with a lot of caveats. It only emailed you if you hadn’t already backed the project. If you starred the project within 48 hours of it ending, it still said “remind me,” but you’d already missed the reminder. It had previously provided any project updates in your ‘activity feed’ until the project was funded, but that was removed (upsetting some users).

*** Projects remained on the starred projects page after they’d ended, but you couldn’t do anything with them.