Though I haven’t been on Ello very long, it’s not hard to immediately notice the things that do not exist here versus its largest competitor, Twitter. I say this because one of the reasons I’ve grown tired of the Bird was because it became such a reactionary environment. Yes, things happen quickly in the world, but Twitter also speeds up the response to events. Some think this valuable, and I don’t entirely disagree, but I found it noisy, especially in recent months.
What Ello lacks are two specific features, absences which greatly benefit the platform’s environment. First, there is no favoriting function. Similarly, there is no reposting function, also thought of as the retweet. The absence of these features forces users to create praise, disdain, or echo, instead of being able to, with one click, make a pang in the network. Liking is now a process of expression, not a numerical record of an event. Instead of accumulating 10000 favorites, we are perhaps appreciating the output of others in place of collecting stars.
It doesn’t surprise me that I’ve also noticed how creative Ello is, namely that most of the people who I have discovered work in artistic service industries, are artists themselves, or have some connection to the humanities. That’s not to say that the industrial elements aren’t here, but the technical set I’ve seen aren’t bickering as loudly as currently underway elsewhere due to recent furors. The raging over political futilities seems to be less in fashion here, too. I wonder why?
I hope that the developers of Ello consider this simplicity of UX, this “absence” of instafunctions which encourage re-activity instead of activity, as not a void to be patched, but part of the mortar that makes this structure sound. Kneejerks are easy; they never need more than one click. But, thoughtful contribution is gold on social media. Here, with the ability to post in long form (versus 140-like limits), and without the instafunctions of other networks (the like, the favorite, the etc.), a unique platform is on offer. Perhaps quieter, more reflective, more generative than recycling.
And the bread emoji is cute — but it’s a loaf we must slice up and serve on our own unlike the automats beside us. Let’s keep that a process we must bake up ourselves.