Over the past few days, there has been quite a debate taking place involving users from both WordPress.com and WordPress.org. The debate consists of a recent change to the core of WordPress where the default set of smiley images were replaced with a new set as per ticket #10145 in Trac. So far, it seems a vocal minority of people disagree with the change describing the new icons as washed out or, ugly with a desire to have the old ones back. To see the classic icons next to the new set, please refer to this screenshot.
Now you might be wondering what all the fuss is about, they’re just icons right? True, but the problem lies in how these icons ended up in core. I don’t know about you but I don’t remember seeing any poll on the WordPress Dev blog asking me if I would be up for the smilies being replaced and if so, an option to choose between multiple sets ala the WordPress 2.7 backend icon design contest. Instead, someone proposed a change to the default icon set and provided a set of smilies to use and they went right into core. While I enjoy the fact that someone went through the trouble to propose the change and then provided an alternative icon set to boot, this type of change is one that the larger community should have a say in. If the votes show that people enjoy the new set, then so be it. If the votes show that they would like to even see the default smiley pack change, then they can hold a contest for authors to put together a GPL icon pack that we can vote on. Seems like common sense to me but instead, this is one of those times where a hasty decision was made without taking into account user feedback.
I want to re-emphasize that while at times you do have to ignore the vocal minority, ignoring that vocal minority without ever providing them an opportunity to have their say is just a bad way of getting things done. While one could argue that the ticket on trac was the opportunity to provide feedback, you’ll be hard pressed to convince me of that.
*UPDATE* Matt has responded to the ticket and has proposed the idea that the old smilies are added back to the core and then coming up with a canonical plugin that ships with as many GPL smiley packs as possible which I believe is a good solution to a problem which wasn’t a problem until the smilies were suddenly changed.
There’s that canonical plugin thing again. You should interview him asking him questions about it.