Lessons from Colossal Caves

Back in the mist of time - I used to play colossal caves on the 370/158 in the middle of the night as another batch input tape was jerkally inched through.
Halfway through the caves - I can’t remember where - but it wasn’t “You’re in a set of twisty little passages all the same” there was a magic word “Plove” teleported you somewhere where you could pick up a treasure item or something similar.
I knew about Plove! There weren’t any clues anywhere in the user interface to its existence.
I guess I knew because somebody looking over my shoulder one night & said try this. And I guess they knew about it because somebody looked over their shoulder. And I guess if a chained back far enough I’d either find that somebody wrote the code or somebody decompiled the binary and found the string & wondered what it did.

Why am I saying all this?

Because I just reacted to a post in meta with something other than a like.
I am apparently one of 392 people who have used a reaction as opposed to 12.4 k people who have used a like .

That strikes me as interesting in a forum like meta where I expect the users are discourse cognizante. Is the conclusion that there are 12.1k people who are ignorant of the difference or 12.1k people who don’t care about the extended features that are loaded into this discourse instance and aren’t perhaps loaded into their home discourse instance?

And then that further takes me to wonder are the addition of Reactions bloatware? Is the discovery or not the discovery cos I had read about them but the first use a rite of passage, collectively is it the evolution of culture? Is it subculture if I’m one of 400 out 12,000?

My wider thinking is that there might be one platform but there are many patterns of use within it and those patterns of use are different and the difference is together make up community and what makes of community patterns is required to reach vibrancy ?

Does anybody else have musings to share? Maybe inspired by this or perhaps completely unrelated! :slight_smile:


Reactions are also a relatively new addition on meta, so that may be a factor - Reactions on Meta


So by analogy there might have been 392 reactions in an hour whereas there have been 12,000 likes in a millennium? Or another way you can’t see from the statistics the rate of adoption.

That raises another question for me. The discourse forum I use most does not publish or expose any of the stats from the admin panel.
Thus community members are disenfranchised from caring for the health of the community while at the same time they’re investing effort into something that only has a return if the community is healthy

Investment of effort with only a speculative grasp on return maybe makes membership equivalent to visiting a casino or partaking in spread bets or equiv

Maybe this is a subliminal factor in the amount of effort that folk are willing to invest at various stages of community formation and their individual journey?
I do think aggregate investment is -a- determinate of probability of vibrancy/ critical mass

Other potential factor:

Users will naturally be inclined to use the most obvious, quickest action to reach (especially on mobile), which is the default one: :heart: on Discourse, :+1: on Facebook.


I’ve chosen not to use reactions. And one reason is that Likes are built into Discourse’s mechanisms, whereas reactions are somehow a disconnected extra. IIUC, you don’t get level promotions for reactions, and you may get level demotions if you don’t get likes.

It is true that some people don’t like the heart, and prefer a thumbs-up. And some people like the creativity of choosing the reaction that fits their mood. But I find reactions confusing, so I haven’t enabled it on my forums and I don’t use it here.


You can re-live that experience here:

Or install Discourse Frotz - an Interactive Fiction game bot 🧙 and play it within Discourse using this file http://ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/zcode/Advent_Crowther.z8

(One day I will add Chat support to Discourse Frotz, by porting over the relevant code from Discourse Chatbot 🤖 (Now smarter than ChatGPT!*))

Discussed here:

1 Like

I’m with you on this one. I like that it’s a feature, and some uses cases definitely benefit from it. It’s also grown on me through using them on meta. However, for our use case, I feel simple is better, and just having a quick symbol of “Thanks” or “I found this interesting/useful” is enough.


@merefield - I was aware of various ports and websites I wasn’t aware that you could play it within discourse¡!

Although I’ve installed it an instance of discourse on some web hosting I am really trying to stay out of the admin side of things to explore my interests while containing avenues of exploration from the explosion


Those are good points. Im currently questing to understand the architecture of discourse. You’re comment that likes are part of the infrastructure or networked components with sympathetic actions and reactions aren’t is exactly the sort of architectural element or decision that I’m trying to understand

So thanks
I can’t decode iicu though %~) the

1 Like

(I wrote “IIUC” when I should have written “If I understand correctly” - a bad habit.)

1 Like

They don’t currently get counted the same as Likes (though there is a feature request for it Reactions count as likes?). I think it would be better if they/some were, as the Likes count does feed into lots of different things.

Though for Trust Levels I don’t think they count as much as you’d think. You only need 1 given and 1 received to get to TL2, and people don’t generally lose that one once they’ve got it as there’s no automatic demotion for it. For TL3s you would need to have given 30 Likes and received 20 over 100 days, also not too significant (and they’re configurable too, if you found it was a blocker [1]).

Reactions aren’t going to be for every community, but it’s nice to have the option if you want it. :slight_smile:

I think having a community that uses the different features is the best way to show new members what’s possible. Nobody really wants to read a forum manual, so having practical demonstrations scattered around is a really good way to surface all the different things that can be done (and ‘used in context’ has some much added value too).

Though some communities are quite happy keeping it simple, and that’s okay as well. :slight_smile:

  1. tl3 requires likes given and tl3 requires likes received) ↩︎

1 Like

I really don’t see this. If you find yourself in a culture where everyone uses reactions and no-one uses likes, you’ll not get the Trust Level behaviour you expect. The two facilities behave very differently, and there’s not much hint of that, other than the display of reactions on the left and likes on the right. Which is something, but not self-explanatory!

The :heart: is also a reaction, but I understand your point. I’ve not seen it borne out myself in other communities, as the :heart: is still a popular choice, but I agree it would be better if Reactions could count the same. I have high hopes for the feature request. :slight_smile: :crossed_fingers:


I’m one of the 12.4K.

That’s mostly what I think, but maybe I’m just old. (I remember “You’re in a twisty maze a passages that all look the same” from Zork; I also learned Fortran on a DEC PDP-10—thankfully I was able to use terminals that printed on paper rather than punch cards).

I’ve seen people make compelling arguments that “liking” a sad post is inappropriate, and I have to agree. For me, though, I’m willing to assume that if someone “likes” my post it could indicate acknowledgement, agreement, I’m with you (in which case, a “like” for “my mom died” is just fine), as well as “I like what you posted”.

Mostly, I’m annoyed at the extra clicks that the reactions take, but am willing to put up with them because some people think they’re cute.

EDIT: But from now on, I’ll just choose the most absurd response and go with that. No more :heart: s for me. I think that :rocket: may be my favorite. What on earth does it mean?


Perhaps I’m repeating myself but the simplicity of the heart was one of the genius fresh approach things that attracted to Discourse in the first place.

I definitely give my users the benefit of believing they understand the meaning of a heart is dependent on the context of the post to which it is applied.


I disliked smilies at first when they came all over the Internet discussion systems until I started to use them and understand they were helpful in conveying emotions and brought something to communication.

The same happened with emojis; I now consider them an important part of online communication.

I also disliked “likes” on Facebook, then reactions, because I found having only one way to react was good enough, until I started using them (not talking about Facebook, but multiple reactions in general), and found out they were great to allow us to express a range of emotions or feeling to a message without having to reply.

My own experience seems to repeat itself. And, of course, as the previous paragraph implies, I didn’t like reactions on Discourse until I liked them. :smile:


I think this might just imply that you’re a bit of a reactionary and it takes you a while to acclimatize to change (?)

And I’ll just append a very simple emoji so that you can take its overloaded definition to be any one that you find pleasantly acceptable


My experience with reactions mirrors @Canapin - I didn’t like reactions until I liked them. same with emoji and hearts and the like (pun intended).

On the forum where I am admin, the demographic are mostly manly men guys who have explicitly reacted negatively to reactions and hate the heart like icon. so not only are reactions disabled but the heart is replaced by a thumbs up. that’s it. no other possible visual response to a post. I have tried to enable reactions twice at the request of some users but a very loud group of regular users won’t have them.


Same here. I used to think it was just ‘effort’ to add a reaction but then I realised ahh this is pretty neat because regular likes don’t cover other emotions etc whereas, reactions do.

1 Like

hah Zork for real, but the one that became a real time sink for me was Oregon Trail. I was telling my teenage gamer daughter about it one day and so she went and installed it on my ipad. how is that game still alive? I am very scared to tap that icon for hours of dissintry and broken wagons.

Interesting. I don’t know. I feel that reactions are a part of communication like many others.

In real life, we have many physical communication assets to convey emotion (facial expressions, gestures, voice changes, etc.) that we don’t have from one computer to another besides standard punctuation or stuff like this: “great.” “great!” “great…?”.

Even those can also be very ambiguous depending on factors like the relationship between the people who are communicating the context or their personality traits.

Some people accommodate very well with that, but in the end, I think smilies, emojis, likes, reactions and all of this converge toward a single goal of being able to express ourselves more like in real life.

1 Like