Warren Ellis: "Dead people decide the shapes of our cities and towns"

Warren Ellis has made a marvelous career of allowing his meandering interests and obsessions to reveal fascinating aspects of our world. In his book Gun Machine, the antique and contemporary life of New York City blend together, fueling a mad man's murder spree.

Ellis shares his interest in how history, and in particular ancient history, continue to shape our everyday lives in an impromptu talk held at the first Barn Talk in Los Angeles in January.

He speaks off the cuff about the thoughts that are consuming him as he works on upcoming projects and tells a few entertaining anecdotes along the way. It's always interesting to see where Warren's mind is going.  Cities, ancient history, dead bodies and growing up in the late 70s in England. Just another night with Warren Ellis.

Don't Like This Post

Derek Mead at Motherboard, recently wrote about the shortcoming of Facebook's "Like" and similar "always cheerful" interactions that social media sites use. It's been a nagging issue, since a large amount of content that is shared is not generally positive. In moments where that information is important, personal and not positive (death being the biggest of these kinds of shares) "like" becomes an almost perverse option.

One comment on his post suggests simply to not use the feature, and that's a fair enough point. Written comments are usually more valuable in such instances anyway. But I think Derek wasn't just trying to discuss etiquette so much as he's identifying a great shortcoming in the way social media thinks of its users.

Underneath any post on Facebook are a few options (you may already be familiar with them): "Like", "Comment" and "Share". Two of these are neutral, and one has a specific emotional response. However, they all otherwise serve different functions for the site. And as any long time user knows, "liking" something in Facebook's world has a whole lot of baggage attached to it.

Twitter's "Favorite" button is in a similar camp. While most users never use the feature, whole businesses are based on who is faving what. Is something that is so readily activated by users multiple times a day really worthy of the term "favorite"?*

I have a possible solution. While Facebook is busy considering, a "Sympathize" button, I propose an overhaul of the "like" button and it's terminology. Rather than the "like" how about the "notch"?

A post could have X number of notches on it, a simple mark that others have seen it and feel something about it. Calls to action like "notch if you agree" would sound less tautological than the aggravating "Like if you agree". The range of sentiment could still vary, but it would still be something that Facebook and it's users/clients could use to quantify interaction.

*Perhaps it is a subtle commentary on the fleeting nature of favor, especially given Twitter's rather ephemeral nature.