Turning Nods into Reshares
Preface: For the purposes of this article, I will refer to all "Likes/+1s", etc., from other social networks as a nod, as in, "nod of approval". Mostly because "endorsement" is too long a word.
At the risk of coming across as an armchair philosopher try-hard, I thought I'd post a few thoughts on the way Ello exists at the moment, I don't profess to have any end-all solutions, nor do I necessarily think my observations are a hundred-percent correct -- or will remain the same in the future. More, it's just my point-in-time contribution to whatever conversation exists as to what Ello is or should be.
One of the first thing that stands out for new users to Ello, as it exists right now, beyond the refreshing use of negative space and the significant use of monospace, is the lack of nods and reshares. I thought I'd take a few minutes to flesh out a few opinions on this.
As I've started using Ello, the lack of any ability to nod a post first felt like a significant lack of functionality. After this initial recognition, however, it has felt... well, "vacant". I imagine it is something like the itch of a phantom limb that an amputee might describe. I don't "miss" it. It's just not there, though a twinge of reflexive desire to use the nod still exists.
The more I think about it, though, the more I like it that way.
Nods have become social media crutches of sorts, both for people sharing content and for those who consume it. A user posts a picture of their cat, a witty comment, a long diatribe or a beautiful work of art, and waits for the nods to roll in.
There is a certain satisfaction provided by the nod, a quick boost to the ego, and perhaps some might say, could be habit-forming. In the quest for nods, the user finds themselves constantly pondering what content they can or should provide next, and wondering what kind of reaction it will elicit from an audience.
On the other side of the nod is the consumer. For them, a nod is quick and easy. It's almost a cop-out. No need to provide constructive feedback. "I approve", click, done.
It's kind of weird when you think about it. The content creator, seeking continual, reassured approval from an audience, when the nod, by its nature, is a devalued measure of approval.
Along the same lines, the nod is flat. Going back to the examples in the beginning... a picture of a cat gets nods. A beautiful work of art gets nods. But the nod is flat. It does not differentiate. Certainly, sometimes the consumers of the content can/will provide feedback in the form of commentary, but it is more rare and usually not proportionate to the nod. The nod, the crutch is easier.
I keep thinking back to the section in Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, in his quest for Quality, and how lack of identity with a work, across all parties involved in the transaction, by definition has no Quality.
I don't want to get off-track too far by wandering into Zen, but further in, he say something,
The result is rather typical of modern technology, an overall dullness of appearance so depressing that it must be overlaid with a veneer of "style" to make it acceptable.
To me, the nod is a veneer insofar as social networks go, a quick way to provide a facade of approval or perceived street-cred.
Now that I've thoroughly pontificated on the nod, I'll admit that I am just as guilty as others, on both sides of the nod transaction. But the more I think about it, the more I think we'd be better off without it. A nod is not a suitable substitute for real interaction.
Surely the counter-argument will be made as to how busy modern life is, and how much easier it is to simply nod rather than provide constructive feedback... and while I can appreciate the sentiment, I feel like that's still something of a cop-out. Maybe we need to work on improving the feedback loop in our social media output? Lesser-quantity, higher-quality content? Lesser-quantity, higher-quality feedback? I don't profess to have the answer here, but this is a different discussion entirely, anyway.
Let's take a brief moment to talk about the reshare for a moment, then.
I'll start by saying the reshare has, to some degree, some of the same flaws as the nod. It can be used too freely, and can usually be used without providing any direct feedback concerning the shared content itself. A naked reshare can redistribute content with zero actual investment in the content by the resharer. It can also, on occasion, be a vehicle for mis-attribution of the content source. It can sometimes transmit content which, initially directed at a small target audience, finds itself in a much larger sphere.
But for all its flaws, it is still much, much more constructive than the nod. it is not a private feedback loop between a content creator and consumer. It is a vehicle for distributing content - and hopefully, higher-quality feedback - to a larger audience.
Yes, certainly one can simply copy a link into a social media posting somewhere. But there is something particularly convenient and useful about being able to reshare content with a single click, provide a quick bit of commentary, along with a preview of the content. And often times, it seems more difficult than it ought to be to find the right URI link in a social media posting to copy/paste.
It can also be a catalyst for rapid distribution and democratization of content. Yes, there is noise. But for every meme out there that goes viral due to reshares, there are social and geopolitical issues that have benefited from the same ability to rapidly disseminate content to a larger audience.
Nods are inward-facing, lazy methods, promoting a closed feedback loop. I would be perfectly happy if we never saw a nod on Ello.
Reshares are outward-facing, productive methods, promoting an open feedback loop. In fact, it might not even be a loop so much as a root system. If Ello had an ability to reshare - and perhaps encouraged some sort of feedback by the initial resharing consumer - I think it could be very useful.
Note that, at the present moment, I have no real thoughts to share regarding #hashtags :P