Current uses of the "like" button that could be implemented otherwise
It's clear that the "like" button is being used for several different purposes. I think the current mechanism is not generic enough to fit them all. Below are some humble proposals on how to address some of those needs.
Recommend to others
(This was raised by @Zach!). We can devise a separate mechanism for that. Recommendations should be shown on your profile, not on the post you're recommending: if someone is already seeing the post, what's the point in recommending it? (The advantage of attracting the attention of someone skimming through posts must be weighed against the danger of triggering a positive feedback loop).
As suggested by @grammolan, there's currently no "bookmark" feature. I agree we need one, but it should be a separate mechanism. Bookmarks are for yourself, so they should be private. For instance I may bookmark an offensive post not because I want others to see it but because I want to reply properly another day.
Don't waste screen real-estate
@tiago and others pointed out that a post as short as a single would take up a lot of space for so little information. This could be addressed by a UI that compresses very short messages and stacks them side by side. Also relevant for this issue is @tiago's proposal of
allowing reactions to public posts to be private.
The author of a funny joke would see a grid of laughing emojis and LOLs, while everybody else would just see the joke and the public replies to it.
This could be extended to longer replies. Sometimes I want to give feedback that's relevant for the author, but not so much for other people. Or maybe I just want to make sure I understood the post properly, so that I can give a public reply that makes sense. Of course I can already send private messages, but it would be nicer to keep the context of the discussion.
[BTW, @tiago, thanks for the "partial" reply of yesterday, that's so much better than a "like"! And I think I understood your position.]
Nod, acknoledge, communicate you've read the post
This could be addressed in the same way as the previous point. A grid of "ack", "read", "seen", ... would be quick to scan. In any case, acknoledgements are only relevant for the author, so they should be private.
Proposed features that are too special-purpose
I've seen the transition of a community from '+1' posts to emoji feedback(github), and it was a very very good thing
I totally agree, but Github is an example of a special-purpose social network: it's for making software, thus often you need to upvote/downvote proposals. However SSB is (primarily) general-purpose. We can't just assume everything can be voted. That might fit with some twisted notion of democracy, but it's hardly justifiable in a rational way.
What's going to happen when you allow to vote, say, a selfie? What used to be a dystopia has unfortunately become a tragic reality. People literally die for this sort of stuff. I know I sound melodramatic, but we should carefully consider these choices, and ask ourselves questions like: Are we willing to trade vulnerable kids' lives for an uncluttered UI?
this dichotomy [click a button vs actually writing something] doesn't feel ideal to me. at least in order to facilitate the kind of discussion/brainstorms this particular community leans to. maybe an annotate inspired feature e.g. https://genius.com/4232847 could turn these ux decisions into more of a gradient.
Annotations are neat, but again, this proposal is admittedly aimed at a special purpose ("the kind of discussion/brainstorms this particular community leans to").
This issue can't be addressed in isolation
I'm really enjoying this discussion, and I think it's very useful and even necessary. I obviously resonate more with some positions than others, but it's so interesting to see all those different opinions and proposals emerge! That said, this feature can't be isolated from all the others. As much as we try to limit the scope of the discussion (this thread originated from a thread on "dislike"), the question whether or how to implement constrained feedback mechanisms depends on the whole design of the UX. I'm now convinced that simply removing the "like" button wouldn't improve things, unless we replace it with a consistent set of features that serve the purposes discussed above, and probably more.
All this means that we can discuss features one at a time, but we can't really decide on them in isolation. In addition to this sort of discussions, I believe we also need to discuss at a higher level, one that integrates the separate evalutions into consistent designs. I'm talking about a consistent project, written by one person, that is founded upon some assumptions about reality, that follows some guiding principles, and defines the UX accordingly. I'm not proposing that SSB be designed this way, only that we invest some time in detailing several such "ideal" social networks. It would be a useful exercise, that would provide a different kind of insights compared to discussions on specific issues.
Since I raised the issue, I promise I'll write down my own ideal social network design (and probably post it on Medium or something like that, where I can edit it). I can't promise it'll be good, but at least it'll be consistent.