Nothing To Smile About

smileywarsOver 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.

20 Comments


  1. There’s that canonical plugin thing again. You should interview him asking him questions about it.

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  2. I saw your series of tweets. :)
    I mean you should interview him about exactly what he’s planning for canonical plugins. We only know so many details at the moment.

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  3. @Michael Torbert – I’ve sent him an email asking if he could explicitly explain the idea but I haven’t received a response yet.

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  4. Matt’s response sounds like the best solution to the problem.

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  5. Given the circumstances, I agree that seems like the logical choice.

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  6. I love the idea og the core or canonical plugins. This was a nice start for this include of functions.

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  7. Would have been nice for a poll to go up to allow WP users to vote for their favorite smiley pack out of a selection. Other then that I like the idea of a canonical plugin.

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  8. @matt mcinvale – I thought about taking that attitude but that would be wrong. The issue which goes deeper beyond the surface is how these images ended up in core. If we took this kind of attitude towards everything dealing with WordPress, I think we would be in a sad state of affairs. It’s not that I don’t trust the judgment calls by the core commiters, just that I think there was a better decision or way of going about it.

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  9. Unfortunately, we on .com are still exactly where we were, stuck with a set of replacement smilies that nobody bothered to ask or warn us about, and content whose meaning has been subtly altered by the substitution of another emoticon (an eyeroll is NOT a raspberry, unless you are particularly socially challenged); twiddling our thumbs until somebody can code a fix for something that wasn’t broken.

    To replace our smilies, we would have to edit every individual post containing them; and even then, we’re stuck with what we’re given in comments. If nothing else, it’s been a salutary reminder that you can’t consider your content your own unless you’re hosting it yourself.

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  10. Were the new smilies only included in trunk? I just tried adding a smiley to a 2.8.1 installation and it just showed the crappy old smileys.

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  11. @Ryan – Pretty sure which means they did end up in core most likely for WordPress 2.9. But I don’t think we’ll see them in 2.9 and instead, see a plugin with alternative icon sets.

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  12. @matt mcinvale – I see where you’re getting at quoting what I said but in that quote, I said EVERYTHING. In this instance, I believe something like this would be worthy of community feeback first before a final decision was made.

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