Microcosmographia by William Van Hecke

The Kudos Thing


The Kudos thing on Svbtle posts has bothered me for a while. (That post, in fact, seems to lay out an excellent argument for what’s wrong with its own kudos… button. Button? Vortex?)

This is the thing that, when you leave your cursor over it for 1 second, increments the “kudos” (Likes, essentially) for that post. I thought it would be gone by now. Replaced by an old-fashioned clicky button, or perhaps a click-and-hold, a drag, or some other interaction that preserves the time-based increase in interaction weight. I get (now, after looking it up) that the idea is to make kudos feel meaningful by making them cost more than a click.

But the problem is that leaving your mouse somewhere for one second feels like less of a commitment than clicking, not more. And the results in this case feel much more consequential than what you’d expect from such an interaction. Rather than feeling like I’ve consciously decided to invest some of my time in congratulating someone, I feel like I’ve had part of my screen turn into a little land-mine.

To my knowledge, nowhere in any major desktop environment for the last several decades has simply positioning the mouse pointer somewhere caused a meaningful change to occur in the world. Moving your cursor around is supposed to be safe.

There is something unnerving and ominous about the animation. This orb is coming right at your face, creeping forward steadily, getting redder and redder, like something awful is about to happen.

Meanwhile you’re curtly commanded, “DON’T MOVE”. What! What’s going on! What will happen if I move! What will happen if I don’t move! All of a sudden I have to make a decision whether to obey this strange site’s demands or not, and I clearly only have about one second to make this decision, because the orb. It’s coming for me. I actually panic, complete with tightening in my chest, every time I mouse over the dang thing, feeling like I’ve been put on the spot.

On an iPhone, the button intercepts attempts to scroll. You’re just trying to see a different part of the page, and now all of a sudden you’ve put your stamp of approval on something you weren’t even done reading. (This is simply a bug, presumably not a design decision; nothing in a scrollable view should ever negate drags like this.)

The interaction in question is not just an inconsequential, ephemeral, or impersonal bit being flipped. It’s a personal endorsement. When you do it by accident, it feels like you’ve been tricked into signing a petition outside a grocery store, for something you don’t believe in.

Once you’ve given kudos, on purpose or on accident, there’s no taking it back. Something changed in the world, however minor, because of something you accidentally did. You can argue that the result of accidentally giving kudos is inconsequential. But any irreversible loss of control, especially at the visceral level of immediate interactions, feels disempowering to the user. It betrays the rules of input that people count on to stay true in order to be able to communicate with their technology.

Again, I think I get the idea behind this interaction. It’s smart to make giving kudos “cost” more than a click. It’s distinctive; you’ll always know when you’re looking at a Svbtle blog. Maybe there are some more variables in its favor that I’m ignorant of. But I hope they give some more thought and discussion to how it feels to use, especially for folks who don’t see it every day.