Custom emojis (esp. as retort reactions)

Continuing the discussion from "respect" and "agree" vs "like" (and other ideal reaction options):

We can get effectively all the custom reactions we want!

  • There’s a setting to add custom emojis
  • Besides the icons, we can label them whatever we like!
  • Once we [install the retort plugin], our custom emojis can be used as reactions that people can reinforce etc.
  • we set retort to provide only the set of emojis that make sense for us (but can add more as valuable ideas come up)

Here’s a post where someone else is already doing just this: There has got to be a way to have a scoring based on the civility of a post, rather than just popularity - #9 by McBlu - community - Discourse Meta

reaction ideas

And here’s my brainstorm list of reactions I want to consider, drawing from our other topic in part (not sure about what icons, but that post above has some good starting ones):

Ones I think we really should have:

  • thanks/appreciate
  • respect
  • tl;dr
  • clever / funny / entertaining (that direction)
  • this-changed-my-mind
  • my sympathies/condolences
  • confused/unsure (or separate ones?)
  • good reading (i.e. everyone should read this) / high-value post
  • needs more research/details/facts etc.
  • love
  • excited
  • acknowledged (nod)
  • good summary
  • [unsure exact words but stand-out example of meeting highest communication ideals]

note: unlike the post I linked, we don’t need lots of stuff about good or bad behavior on the forum, as we stick to flagging and want to keep everyone to high standards

Although I like a lot of those ideas, I’m also wary of adding more than 6-7, maybe 8 reactions. It just gets cluttered and causes choice paralysis when the options aren’t distinct enough.

1 Appreciation

I agree we don’t want every possible useful one. That’s why it’s a brainstorm list. I think we should consider the trade-offs between clutter and value of each to get a limited set.

Update: I somewhat re-ordered to a vague priority order, although it was hard, it’s rough

Alright. Let’s try to cut down the list a little, then. Here’s some I think can go:

good reading (i.e. everyone should read this) / high-value post; good summary; unsure exact words but stand-out example of meeting highest communication ideals

These seem to share a common sentiment of something like, “this is an exemplary post, and others should strive to write posts like it”. I see a lot of value in being able to express that, and I see a lot of potential for misuse, where it just becomes a second like button.

Let’s keep brainstorming for a phrasing that can’t be interpreted as a second like, but if we can’t find one, I’d like to avoid this for the initial launch.

I can also see other ways to honor posts like these, like a tag, or a badge for a certain number of “changed my mind” reactions (if we can automate it).

acknowledged (nod)

Leaving any reaction serves the same purpose; this one is only useful if I want to react but none of the others fit. Let’s just make sure we have a wide enough range that something will always fit.

In particular, “Respect” and “Appreciate” together cover a large portion of “Acknowledge” cases.


I’d like to use the heart for “Appreciate”. I think that gives it enough of the flavor of “love” that we lose little by omitting it.

confused/unsure (or separate ones?)

There’s some value in being able to tell someone their post is confusing without leaving a reply, but I can also imagine feeling frustrated because I don’t know which part of my post was confusing. I’m also wary of this becoming a downvote button, although, in fairness, this would be a much better outcome than something like “condolences” becoming misused as one since no true downvote button exists.


This one has some overlap with ‘Appreciate’ as a way of showing gratitude. However, it’s got a totally different vibe (“whoo-hoo!!”) that I don’t want to lose. So, I’d be okay with dropping this iff there’s another emoji that captures that same emotion.

In the current list, there isn’t one. But maybe we could do it the other way and give the icon of this one enough of a spin that it can serve the same purpose as another one (maybe “clever / funny / entertaining”?).

So, that would leave us with:

  • thanks/appreciate
  • respect
  • tl;dr
  • this-changed-my-mind
  • my sympathies/condolences
  • needs more research/details/facts etc.
  • excited
  • confused (maybe)

That seems like a pretty decent starting set to me.

1 Appreciation

13 posts were split to a new topic: Should we include a “Disagree” reaction?

I think this is the phrasing you may be looking for:

relevant xkcd

In this case, the needs more research/details/facts etc clearly is similar to citation needed but they are really not the same. At best, “needs citation” could be considered a subset of what I’m talking about.

Citation needed example:

For all the forums where people have the ability to “disagree” without it being just a vague “downvote”, most people find it helpful.

Example of “needs more research/details…”:

How about a “disagree” button?

Okay, I understand the difference. This is basically about unresolved questions in a post. I think this might be another that’s better as a tag.

1 Appreciation

If we could tag individual replies, then I think that would work well enough, but given only tagging full topics, there remains value in reacting to a post saying it needs more substance etc.

I went through the emoji and tried to pick out those that would work well. I picked out one that I like the best and also included a bunch of alternatives. We can also use custom emoji if we decide something is lacking.

@wolftune or @Salt, I erred towards including all possible alternatives so you don’t need to look through the whole list. Feel free to just edit them out of this post if you want to veto them.

Primary reaction:

:heart: — respect — :handshake: :balance_scale:

Retort reactions:

:+1:support / agree / like / “me too” / ¿well said? — :slightly_smiling_face: :point_up::ok_hand::clap:
:slightly_smiling_face: — thank you / thanks — :star_struck: :smile: :grinning: :blush: :tada: :heart: :heart_eyes: :cupid: :heartbeat: :sparkling_heart: :gift_heart: :love_letter: :hugs: :clap: :raised_hands:
:tada: — excited / w00t / cheers — :clap: :star_struck: :rainbow: :stars: :star2:

  • We actually want a custom emoji here, the universal human celebration reaction: \o/

:newspaper: — tl;dr — :page_facing_up: :page_with_curl: :scroll: :sleeping: :thinking: :fearful: :hourglass: :scissors:
:mortar_board: — this-changed-my-mind — :bulb: :hushed: :open_mouth: :handshake: :unlock::ear: :handshake: :brain: :eye: :exploding_head:
:reminder_ribbon: — sympathies — :ear: :disappointed_relieved: :cry: :anguished: :cloud_with_rain: :umbrella: :broken_heart: :heartpulse: :blue_heart: :gift_heart: :spades: :heavy_heart_exclamation:

:face_with_monocle: — skeptical: citation/research needed — :face_with_raised_eyebrow: :mag: :crossed_fingers: :minidisc: :camera: :books: :bookmark_tabs: :link: :warning: :question:

  • Looking for a phrasing for this one that’s non-combative but clear about what to do for resolution/improvement…

:rofl: — funny — :joy: :smile: :laughing: :face_with_hand_over_mouth:

1 Appreciation

I am really on the fence between :bulb: and :exploding_head: for “This changed my mind”.

:exploding_head: (which I think of as, “This blew my mind”) is definitely more lighthearted / carries less gravitas, but I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or not.

  • On one hand, it might encourage people to use it jokingly sometimes, and might not feel as good for the person receiving it.
  • On the other, it might encourage people to use it more often (admitting you were wrong is hard).

@wolftune @Salt Opinions?

Note: we edited the reply above to be the proposals (leaving some extra notes about alternatives).

The lightbulb / mind-blown images were nice but rejected in the end for the graduation cap (if you’re not having your mind changed, you’re not learning and graduating in your understanding…)

I added the reactions. For now I just used the built-in ones instead of changing the names (by making them custom emoji). Some observations:


This is the box that pops up to choose a reaction.

  • We can control the order in which they appear.
  • We cannot control the arrangement. 7 emoji makes 3 rows (3-3-1), which looks really out of place, so we should stick to 6 or 8.
    • If it’s really important to change the layout, apparently there’s a fork that adds this feature. I don’t think it is, though.
  • It’s very large; using some of the more detailed emoji might be feasible.
    • But I don’t actually prefer any of the more detailed emoji, anyway.


First, the obvious bug: the line should not clip into the hover.

Second, we cannot control the order they appear in. They’re ordered chronological by when they were added (and possibly also by number of reactions, but I can’t test that alone).

Finally, I don’t see a place in the admin settings to change the “{{user}} reacted with {{reaction}}” text. I’m not sure if that’s a problem, but it does affect the phrasing we want to use.

My reactions to this so far:

  • We need to use the custom emojis to control the names
  • I definitely want the celebration image not the confetti
  • controlling the order is all we need, layout is not important
  • Smiley-face doesn’t work for “thank you” as well as I’d hoped because I can’t use it comfortably to say “thank you for investigating and identifying these bugs” (or other work that identifies negative things) — so I think we need a different, better “thank-you” icon, unless the “respect” heart is good enough (and I think that might be, now that it’s not called “like”). If we keep “thank you”, I think my vote would be the hand-clap.

I also think it might be, especially since we one can do respect + excitement.

However, the 3+3+1 layout for 7 reactions looks really bad, so if we remove “thank you”, I want to add (or remove) another.

1 Appreciation

I like 8 total and don’t prefer to lose another besides “thanks”. So, I think we either swap “thanks” for “confused” (or another suggestion if you or others have one), or we keep “thanks” for now but at least switch it to a hand-clap icon.

@smichel17 I opened for the tasks, want to claim that?

It’s hard-coded in the discourse plugin, so it’s not possible to change it via the discourse interface. There’s an issue about that here.

If we want to change it, we can modify the hard-coded string in the cloned retort repo (requires backend access, but we’re only doing it once); not ideal, but possible.

1 Appreciation

We’re moving agree back to primary. So, that is gone from Retort. We can thus keep Retort at 6 or put the heart back there for some purpose…

Okay, I suggest we stick to 8 Retort emojis in this order:

:slight_smile: — like
:gift: — Thanks!
\o/ — Yay!
:rofl: — funny
:mortar_board: — this-changed-my-mind
:newspaper: — tl;dr
:face_with_monocle: — skeptical: needs more explanation/research/citations
:reminder_ribbon: — sympathies

Note that this means one row of various positive-acknowledgement and one row of more troublesome, nuanced reactions!

I thought about :heart: and “love” as alternate for the first one or other uses for :heart:. I think that could work, but I dislike the combination of :heart: and “like” and see more value in having a mild positive acknowledgement than having a “love” reaction. The super value to :slightly_smiling_face: is that it’s the same icon as Retort button, so people can be prompted to click the Retort button when they want to get that reaction instead of the agree-reaction.

I hope we can really encourage people to mark that :slightly_smiling_face: as appropriate. We don’t want cases such as where I got an “agree” on my personal intro post… that’s weird.

All that said, I could see :heart: — love as well or instead of the Thanks or Yay! reactions. There’s cases where love is appropriate…

One other useful-enough thing to possibly consider: :star: … of course, people can post actual posts with emoji like :heart: and :star: and tons more. The point of reactions is to avoid extra posts for the most common reactions and to prompt valuable reactions people might not mark as much otherwise. But if we want to explore having more than 8 reactions in Retort, I’m open to considering it.

Update: 9 reactions is 3x3 and looks fine. 10 is 5x2, and also looks fine enough. 11 is no good, of course. 12 is 4x3 and works but is the absolute limit to consider ever (really too much, overloading feeling).