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What reacts would you like to be able to give on posts? (emoticons, cognicons, and more)

by Mati_Roy1 min read4th Oct 202027 comments


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Emoticons: tell the author what you feel about their post Cognicons: tell the author what you think about their post

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None. I would rather express such things in words, and I would rather other people expressed such things in words. I am not interested in knowing how many people decided to click "like" or "angry" or "skeptical" or whatever on a post; I think there's very little real information in that. I am interested in actual comments that say "I liked this because it's clearly written and makes an important point" or "It is infuriating that Joe Biden kicks puppies"[1] or "It doesn't look to me as if you've explained clearly how step 4 follows from step 3".

[1] To the best of my knowledge, Joe Biden does not in fact kick puppies.

You say that it's not informative to see the number of people, and that seems fair to me, but I think often knowing the individuals who clicked it is quite interesting. If Robin Hanson clicks a button that says "needs operationalising" or Abram writes a button saying "changed my mind", I think I'd find that to be pretty helpful feedback, certainly compared with a baseline of zero feedback.

The general idea would be to reduce the affordance for saying things – sometimes users get no feedback/comments at all, and it might be better overall to be able to have ... (read more)

Has anybody looked at what icons are actually used regularly on the Slacks they are on? Slack allows custom emoticons and the LW Slack has some for agreement and such. Unfortunately, I am no longer on the two LW Slack that I know of but somebody else might look up which are used frequently. I will look at our company Slack though. Would be nice if there were an add-on out there that makes it easy to get an emoticon usage report. Anybody heard of such a thing?

I looked at two major channels on our Slack. The general channel and the main developer channel. The former is more social the latter more formal as you can see from the stats (the categories I tracked were the same):


up-vote (multiple kinds): 60

food: 17

social (graces and teams): 11

smileys: 12

custom (mostly company-specific): 37


  • lightbulb: 1 
  • exclamation mark: 1
  • question mark: 0
  • trend (up/down): 4
  • checkmark: 1

other: 24


dev channel:

up-vote (multiple kinds): 62

food: 0

social (graces and teams): 1

smileys: 0

custom (mostly company-specific): 1


  • lightbulb: 6
  • exclamation mark: 1
  • question mark: 2
  • trend (up/down): 0
  • checkmark: 12

other: 15


Based on this sample I would say if custom reactions are not implemented the most valuable reactions are those under 'insights':

  • lightbulb: is used for surprising or insightful information
  • exclamation mark: is used to warn about something that requires attention
  • question mark: flags open questions that should be answered
  • trend (up/down): information about a general positive/negative trend
  • checkmark: Different from an up-vote; indicates that something was completed and does not need further attention
5Pattern7moStack overflow has something like a checkmark as a specific feature for questions, to Indicate the answer chosen by the asker.

Karma currently conflates multiple possible reations into a single datum. An upvote currently could mean "me too" or "I updated" or "I agree" or "others should read this", or "LOL", etc. A downvote could mean "fallacy" or "poor quality" or "disagree", etc. It's hard for posters and readers to discern intent.

Facebook and Github (and probably others) now have a small number of Emoji reactions, instead of just +/- or "Like". This is a more fine-grained feedback mechanism than a simple vote, but still easy (and familiar) enough for everyone to understand and use.

These give us additional low-effort feedback mechanisms that normally wouldn't be worth a written reply. Facebook's selection isn't appropriate for Less Wrong, but we could choose some better ones. They also need not be icons. Words or short phrases (i.e. "tags") will do. We'd probably want to pull memes about good discourse and their failure modes from the Sequences, e.g. #applause-light or #updated, etc., as well as all the well-known logical fallacies and biases. (These could also be links to the wiki for the uninitiated.)

For maximum flexibility, we could also give users the option to reply with a custom tag. Popular options could be added to the default suggestions, either automatically, or curated by the Sunshine Regiment. My concern with this approach is that custom tags may not have clear meanings, but a curated set could be linked to agreed-upon definitions in the wiki.

Tags also give us a good mechanism for straw polls. I've seen karma used this way on the old Less wrong, with a yes/no question asking for karma votes, (and a reply by the same author to counter balance it with opposite votes). The new weighted karma kind of destroys this feature. But with tags, we could vote with #yes #no or even #A #B #C #D, etc. for multiple-choice questions.


This was from before we had tags for posts. Calling these reactions "tags" might be confusing now. I'm also not sure how I feel about using logical fallacies per se now.

:+1: means “I want to see more messages like this”

:-1: means “I want to see less messages like this”

:plus: means “I agree with a position expressed here”

:minus: means “I disagree”

:same: means “it’s the same for me” and is used for impressions, subjective experiences and preferences, but without approval connotations

:delta: means “I have changed my mind/updated”

We also have 25 custom :fallacy_*: emoji for pointing out fallacies, and a few other custom emoji for other low-effort, low-noise signaling.

It all works quite well and after using it for a few months the idea of going back to simple upvotes/downvotes feels like a significant regression.

Source: berekuk's shortform

While I like the basic set, I have mixed feelings about the fallacies. I don't know which 25 you're using, but many of the so-called "logical fallacies", while fallacious for deductive syllogisms, are nonetheless correct Bayesian inferences when working inductively in the real world.

I don't see many syllogisms in LessWrong comments. We've moved past that. Being able to slap down good arguments for technicalities that don't even apply in that context seems like a problem.

For example, on priors, you are better off trusting experts in their field than laymen. But this is called the "argument from authority fallacy". The correct counter is Argument Screens Off Authority, which needs a more specific situation to work.

Another example, if I'm debating the existence of God with a theist, and point out that the Bible was written by ignorant goat herders who were deeply confused about reality, he might counter that I've committed "the genetic fallacy" and the provenance of his evidence has no logical bearing on the merits of his claim. And yet, for evidence to count, it must be entangled, by links of cause and effect to what it is evidence of.

But I also like the idea of quick feedback so we ... (read more)

1Mati_Roy7moGood point!

I can imagine that those might be helpful, particularly in a 'chat' context, but I'm not convinced they'd be much of an improvement here.

While I'm opposed to adding all the Slack emojis (Because there are too many and they're unclear, and yet you can't always find the one you need.) I like this basic set. The "delta" seems especially important. But they overlap with karma, especially the +1/-1 bit. We should have one or the other, and we already have karma. I think karma is also sometimes used to mean the +/- (agree/disagree), but I also like the idea of separating these concerns.

1Mati_Roy7mofrom the FAQ [https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/2rWKkWuPrgTMpLRbp/lesswrong-faq-1#Karma___Voting] :

“I have changed my mind, and now agree”

“I already believed that, for the same reason”

“I already believed that, for a different reason”

“I feel you”

Source and more info: Proof Of Logic

Social media tends to amplify the controversial, while hiding the consensus. Controversy engages more participation, and thus generates more noise, making it more noticeable. Maybe the controversial bits really are more important to talk about, but because of the availability heuristic, this gives everyone a distorted view.

I'm not entirely sure what to do about it, but more fluid feedback might be useful. Karma helps a lot, by giving consensus a way to get noticed, but it's not perfect.

Something like Arbital's probability distributions that could be aggregated from multiple users might be more informative than a simple "agree/disagree" reaction. You could then say how confidently you agree/disagree. But a post may have multiple claims, so we'd need some way to separate them out. Maybe you could excerpt a quote and use that as a "reply", but one that others can add to with their own estimates. With a good interface, this would be only slightly more effort than clicking agree/disagree, much less than a full reply.

Some way to express what degree of surprise (maybe as deciban odds compared to your priors) might be more informative than an "updated" reaction. These could probably also be aggregated.

I don't want to be able to 'give reacts' beyond what we have now.

I 'hate' the cognicons, especially at the thought of trying to use them here on this site. We're here, in large part, to think about the nature of 'facts' and weighing 'inconsistent' evidence. How would we even use them? Would they just be custom 'emojis' anyone can insert anywhere in a post or comment?


1Mati_Roy7moyeah, I also think the first 2 wouldn't fit well here. maybe better if it was agree / disagree I was thinking they would be buttons you can click at the bottom of a post rather than inserted in comment

Those are just thoughts; I haven't thought a lot about it.

Possibly, some of those ways would only be available in some posts, depending on whether the poster selected them.

Some that seem valuable:

  • if a post will change your actions
  • your credence on a post's central claim / a binary value of whether you agree with it
  • whether you updated / changed your mind from reading the post
  • how well (or whether) you understood the post

I recently thought about this again because I wanted to know if people would change how they use the term "zero sum" after reading Zero sum is a misnomer.

I also like the suggestions from other people I've shared as other answers.

But what's the benefit of having a small set of 'standard reacts' instead of allowing/requiring that users express their thoughts in feelings in text?

This site in particular might be better because we don't provide low-effort options for providing (effectively very-low-information) feedback.

Are you looking for 'cheap survey data' for your own posts here? Maybe you could just setup surveys for all of your posts with the info you'd like people to provide instead.

6gilch7moWould you rather see a dozen replies to a post that simply say "Updated."? Neither does anyone else, so they don't, which means we're deprived of the useful feedback. Maybe one person replies "Updated." and they get the karma for being first instead of (or in addition to) the original. That doesn't seem fair. Or maybe they get downvoted for a reply that was too short, even if a lot of people agree. With an "updated" react, this just works. I kind of think this is a good point, but there are tradeoffs. We want to lower the bar to providing feedback so we can get more feedback, but not so much that we disincentivize the discourse. I feel this tradeoff is probably worth it, but that's a guess. If someone has something they're willing to say, how often is a react going to prevent it? They'd probably do both, like how often people will downvote and also explain why.
1Kenny7moI don't mind any number of people replying "Updated". So, yes, I would prefer that over a count of some small number of 'standard reactions'. But, as I suggested in another comment on this post, external survey tools could be easily used to gather this data or feedback if you or anyone else really think it's valuable or useful. I would like to see some evidence about how well those work and how useful that gathered data is before I change my mind about this being useful here. I don't want this as I don't think 'more feedback' is particularly useful, valuable, or germane to this site. I'm also thinking about this request in terms of additional work, and ongoing maintenance, by the site's developers/maintainers. I'm also unclear why anyone would want to (seemingly) optimize for such incredibly low-density info as the count of 'reacts' on posts. We are mostly – at times explicitly – trying to avoid persuading each other and instead focus on sharing our (detailed) thoughts and feelings so that we can, as a group, reason better. This all seems exactly backwards given that.
1Mati_Roy7moex.: if you can see that X% of people understood your post, then it gives you an idea of how understandable it was I predict much more people would say whether they understood the post if they could do so with a react rather than a comment plus, compiling comments to have a broad overview takes a long time
0Kenny7moI think our (effectively) requiring comments is better than what you're proposing. I don't think I've published a post other than link posts, but even with my 'poster' hat on, I'd (personally) much prefer engagement and discussion than a simple 'self reported understanding' count. I measure understanding relative to engagement and would estimate it based on the specific and particular details in comments, e.g. whether several users have pointed out that something was confusing; what expected, or surprising, connections to do others make; whether the arguments for or about, and summaries or paraphrasing of my post match my own understanding of the topic. I wouldn't trust a simple count of the number of users that report 'understanding' a post and thus I wouldn't find it to be particularly valuable. But I agree with both of your last points – your proposal very well might result in more feedback and these metrics would be trivially accessible versus manually interpreting some number of text comments. I'd prefer that LessWrong remain as-is in this way. But I think you could implement this yourself with external survey tools – and I'd be very interested in reading about any experiments along those lines!
3 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 11:30 AM

Are you imagining these reacts for top-level posts only like tags, or also for comments and for replies to comments like karma? I feel like the latter would be more useful. Shortform, for example, kind of makes comments act like small top-level posts. Lowering the bar for participation seems more important the deeper a reply is nested.

yeah that's a good point!

a counter point might be that having aggregated feedback on a small comment might be less interesting and make the interface more noisy

but I think overall I would like to have reacts on short post, and maybe on top-level comments or all comments too. maybe some reacts would be for all text, and some reacts would only be available for posts. I don't know; I'd need to think more about it or experiment:)

I think you need a purpose statement for reacts, before I can recommend a set.  

Is it for analytics and automated filtering/reporting?  Then you want a small number of curated options.  This won't work for everyone, but as long as you have a plan to change them over time, go for it.

Is it for incentives and gamifying posting/commenting?  You might prefer to just have multiple dimensions of karma/voting, rather than voting and reacts as separate things.  This is even more restrictive.

Is it to give more expressivity for readers without wasting the space that low-content comments would have?  I think the slack method of TONS of reacts and the ability for users to add their own at will covers that very well.  I suspect there are alternate ways as well - perhaps a checkbox for "meta-comment" that hides them by default or something.