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> For most people emojis (and animojis) have opened a whole new way to communicate with each other

Wow that is an extremely generous characterization. At best they're just prettier versions of :) and :( and I don't see how they allow people to convey ideas they couldn't do just as well via text.




They don't really convey ideas, they convey emotions and reactions. It pretty much solves the "tone is hard to convey over text problem."


Except your version of an emoji doesn't look anything at all like my version of what is supposed to be the same emoji.

I don't think that solves the problem at all. In fact, I don't think that solves any problems at all.

If anything, it causes way more problems than it solves.


What you say is a recognized problem that the big companies that have their own emoji fonts work to progressively eliminate.


How did they do that beyond `:)` or `xD` or `-.-` does?


Well, for starters, you don't have to turn your head 90º to resolve some, but not all of them as an image, as you do with your provided examples. They're also much higher-resolution so it's easier to pull meaning from an unfamiliar one.


> Well, for starters, you don't have to turn your head 90º to resolve some, but not all of them as an image

Well, no one actually does, so I'm glad we got out ahead of that problem.

> They're also much higher-resolution so it's easier to pull meaning from an unfamiliar one.

except you don't really need that many. There are a few common emotions that people use... and then there are winky T-Rex emoji's that are completely unnecessary.



I feel like you and others are being purposefully obtuse, to some degree.

Can you seriously not distinguish between the tiny selection and low res quality of text faces, and the wide variety of highly specific and detailed set of reactions now available to us? There's only so much you can do with text before you have to be extremely creative (a level of effort excessive for quick casual conversations) or rely on the other party being familiar with your specific vocabulary of text-faces.


>Can you seriously not distinguish between the tiny selection and low res quality of text faces, and the wide variety of highly specific and detailed set of reactions now available to us? There's only so much you can do with text before you have to be extremely creative (a level of effort excessive for quick casual conversations) or rely on the other party being familiar with your specific vocabulary of text-face

Then give us a single example! So many replies _and not a single example of where words or ascii fail to impart what only an emoji can_. You can say "they're obviously better" until you're blue in the face, but it's all hot air until you prove it.


> and not a single example of where words or ascii fail to impart what only an emoji can

Obviously words can (almost certainly) impart what an emoji can - but one small image versus maybe 100 words? That's before you start combining them and the expanded meaning you can get from that.

You might as well say "give me an example of where Proper English fails to import what only slang can" - you're missing the point.


Not the OP but here’s one. I recently got divorced and back into dating. These days, that means a lot of texting in some form, and I’ve found I have a distinctive style that people who know me well enjoy but that tends to produce a lot of misunderstandings with people That don’t know me that well.

I have the choice of either adjusting my writing style to new people, which I’d rather not, or use either text or picture emoji to convey the tone that makes my writing clearer to people who can’t infer it. I find that image-based emoji are much more specific in the mood they convey, and provide more range — and there is a definite difference in how clearly I come across.


What’s the text version of a birthday cake?

More challenging: what’s the text version of a singing, eye-rolling T-Rex?

It’s fine to not care about emoji, but you can’t logically dismiss them as prettier smilies.


> What’s the text version of a birthday cake?

"Happy birthday!"

> More challenging: what’s the text version of a singing, eye-rolling T-Rex?

Ok, you got me there, because I have no idea what concept is even meant to be communicated by such an absurd thing.


Let me put it another way: what’s the point of these newfangled moving pictures when we already have books?


> Let me put it another way: what’s the point of these newfangled moving pictures when we already have books?

Yeah, figured that would be trotted out at some point. That's a fine sounding argument, but do you really feel emoji's are on the same level as the advent of video? I don't believe you do. At some point you have to take a look at the specific thing you're talking about and get down out of the clouds.

I have yet to hear a reasonable argument as to why emoji's are better. All I see here is "they're different and can be funny." Ok.


Why are you so intent on invalidating other people when they say that emoji help them communicate?


Am I not allowed to disagree with a statement that implies emojis are some groundbreaking form of communication? I never said the concept was not useful; I said that images provide nothing text cannot aside from aesthetics. Why are you people so defensive about this?


Because you have observed that emojis do not help you communicate, and then concluded that emojis cannot possibly help anyone communicate. There are lots of people in this thread who have mentioned concrete examples of emojis "providing something text cannot," and yet you refuse to accept it.

"This helps me communicate" is not a falsifiable claim. You're telling lots of people that they have somehow made a mistake in interpreting their own life experiences. You are not even considering the possibility that something is there, and you just can't see it.


They are an improvement to an existing form of communication. Aesthetics are also a form of communication. Emojis can be used as part of a sentence and there is no way to communicate exactly the same thing without using them.

There has never been a way to put images in a sentence as easy and expressive as emoji (all there used to be was fonts like Wingdings), and it’s standardized. That is quite revolutionary.


That's a better argument, but it still doesn't really explain what qualities make emoji a better medium of expression, or why we need 2000 of them.


The fact that they’re wildly popular should provide some indication that the qualities exist.

Communication is rife with ambiguities, emotion, shortcuts, and mistakes. And between people who share friendship or more personal relationships, those “flaws” are often features, not bugs.

The concept of emoji, I feel, embraces those flaws.

(And personally speaking on the subject of emoji vs common text shorthand, if I never see “lol” again it’ll be too soon.)


Many popular things are not quality things.

> (And personally speaking on the subject of emoji vs common text shorthand, if I never see “lol” again it’ll be too soon.)

Funny, I feel the same way about emoji. I dunno, maybe I'm too autistic to get it, but when people use emoji it makes me feel like I'm talking to a child who hasn't learned express themselves like an adult yet.


> The fact that they’re wildly popular should provide some indication that the qualities exist.

Really?

Pet rocks were wildly popular. Unhealthy foods are wildly popular. Cocaine is wildly popular (well maybe that's a stretch).

I think there's a correlation problem here. However, I think you're missing the point again; _what can I convey via an emoji that I cannot convey in ascii_? I have yet to see a single example, and that's what started the entire debate.


Pet rocks were popular for 5 minutes. Unhealthy foods are perpetually popular because they have the quality of tasting wonderful.

And neither of you tried to address the core argument I made in the parent, that emoji reflect the inherent messiness of personal communications and for that matter personal relationships.

The same reason it’s important (but inefficient) to tell someone you love them in nonverbal ways is the reason emoji are popular. We all appreciate communications that extend beyond the written word. Emoji is just another option among many for achieving that.


>And neither of you tried to address the core argument I made in the parent, that emoji reflect the inherent messiness of personal communications and for that matter personal relationships

And exactly zero people, including yourself, have been able to provide a single gle example where text fails to convey what an icon can. And, you, that was the entire subject of this discussion if you haven't noticed.


> I have no idea what concept is even meant to be communicated by such an absurd thing

Depends on context. If we were discussing someone, it might signal criticism or a desire to party. The fact that it cannot compress losslessly into words is the whole point.


> it might signal criticism or a desire to party

I'd like to see examples of both of these. Specifically how the T-Rex plays a role because, if you take the T-Rex out, we're back to something I can easily convey in ascii.


> if you take the T-Rex out, we're back to something I can easily convey in ascii

May I ask if you read fiction in more than one language? There are constructions even in those close to English which I find impossible to accurately translate in a way that preserves the delight of the interaction between their phrasing and underlying meaning.

For T-Rex, two examples:

"I drank too much at the Christmas party.

Not as much as Bob. He puked in the restaurant sink before appetizers were served.

[Dancing eye-rolling T-Rex]"

--or--

"Let's go.

Where?

BarBar.

BarBar?

Happy hour pricing until midnight.

[Dancing eyes-rolled-back T-Rex]"

In the former, the emoji communicates derision. In the latter, playfulness. Depending on the style of animation and context, the emoji could further communicate cuteness versus tactile incompetence, letting go versus a loss of control, subject versus object.

The process of decoding an emoji is analogous to a simplified form of interpreting art. Why is that there? Am I supposed to interpret it using the positive or negative connotation? In some cases, less ambiguity is desired. But in others, the ambiguity itself carries information of a sort impossible to parse into words.


>"I drank too much at the Christmas party.

>Not as much as Bob. He puked in the restaurant sink before appetizers were served.

>[Dancing eye-rolling T-Rex]"

Ummmm... Points for trying I guess? You lost me at "person who drank too much == T-Rex"


If it is contextual and subjective, then we could just use any word or phrase in the same manner to the same effect. Written language itself is just contextual line patterns.


How many languages do you speak well?

Very likely less than the amount of different native language speakers who understand the vast majority of your emoticons/emojis.

I suppose you don't care cause you just speak your native language with other people who are native speakers. But a universal language on top of that has huge benefits in international circles. And, my 3 month old understands the :) smile. One of the very first abilities a newborn learns is recognizing faces. That's when they cannot even see a meter far!


So let me get this straight: emoji is both highly contextual and simultaneously universal?

I find that difficult to believe. On the other hand, given enough time and global interaction in that medium, it could develop a stable enough meaning across a large enough conceptual space to have a situation no worse than exists between any "standard" language and its various dialects. That'd be interesting, but I'm not holding my breath.


> So let me get this straight: emoji is both highly contextual and simultaneously universal?

Well, not always universal. Some are generally well understood. They're easy to learn (you might wanna also look into where to start if you're interested in learning many languages; I understood its best to start with an Asian language such as Japanese/Korean/Chinese), and on top of that even allow to learn languages easily (see Memrise and Duolingo who use SVG art to teach languages. They use the same SVG art in different languages!). Even on school when children learn their first words (which are in Dutch: boom/roos/vis/vuur, English meaning: tree/rose/fish/fire) this is done via pictures!

Emoticons and emoji are contextual, yes.

If I say:

That's fun ;) :)

That has a different meaning than:

That is fun :)

or

That is fun ;)

Different context, yet a wink or smile is universal.

And if I'd write:

Dat is leuk :)

You wouldn't understand it because you don't speak Dutch. But you would understand the smiley. Without using any translator. The emoticon & emoji always describes the text around it, like an adjective (though it could also describe other smileys). As such, it is descriptive.

True, sometimes the emoticons (and especially emoji) explanation must be explained. Once it is explained, it can be used in combination with any language. For example, the kappa emoji [1] which originates from Twitch can be used on an English stream, but also on a Spanish or Japanese one. Its generally understood within the gamer community, but if you'd start using it within your local hockey club they'd first need to understand the meaning.

[1] https://www.twitchemotes.com/emotes/25


> If I say:

> That's fun ;) :)

> That has a different meaning than:

> That is fun :)

> or

> That is fun ;) > > Different context, yet a wink or smile is universal.

Really? Because I can't see any real difference between any of those examples. Does the wink mean you're being sarcastic? Or that you're coming on to me? What purpose does the smiley serve? you already said it was fun, one could presume that would leave you in a positive emotional state.

> the kappa emoji [1] which originates from Twitch can be used on an English stream

I hate those stupid things so much, probably because I have no context for understanding their meaning and, since its already an english stream, you could just use words! And if you're not speaking the same language as the rest of the stream, you can't express anything meaningful enough to be worth saying anyway.


> Really? Because I can't see any real difference between any of those examples. Does the wink mean you're being sarcastic? Or that you're coming on to me? What purpose does the smiley serve? you already said it was fun, one could presume that would leave you in a positive emotional state.

That'd depend on the rest of the text. It could mean I am making a joke ("not serious" / "just kidding"). It could mean I'm sarcastic. It could mean that I'm trying to hit on you. I think that sums it up (though I'm open for different explanations).

Thing is, back in the days, even in native languages between native speakers (but more so with one or more non-native) sarcasm and jokes weren't always easy to detect. The wink smiley specifically filled that niche! If you don't know about the story behind it, you might find it interesting to look it up.

As for the difference between these, "That is fun :)" denotes no sarcasm, but warmth. Possibly still humor, but its a genuine statement. "That is fun ;)" was covered earlier above and "That is fun ;) :)" is a mixed bag which could go either way (possibly clever to "talk your way out of the meaning" e.g. when trying to flirt but its not well received, or to create some -albeit simple- mysticism around your flirt). That's without knowing the context. The context still matters and is, ultimately, decisive for the meaning.

I have autism, btw, so although I find this fascinating it is rather difficult for me to understand. It took me serious effort to learn the meaning of the different emoticons/emoji (as far as one can know them, since there's so many in unicode these days).

> I hate those stupid things so much, probably because I have no context for understanding their meaning and, since its already an english stream, you could just use words! And if you're not speaking the same language as the rest of the stream, you can't express anything meaningful enough to be worth saying anyway.

(I don't like it either but that's because it is overused in these circles, and it reminds me of my age ie. that I'm not youth anymore.)

The ability to understand a language isn't binary. (See e.g. the example of the wink where language is not being understood!)

Another example coming from my own is I understand some Spanish, some French, some and some German, but I do not want to learn any French or Portuguese, and my German is better than my Spanish but I'm very curious to learn more Spanish. My English is pretty good, as is my Dutch, but I'm only interested in learning more English and Spanish; Dutch not so much. YMMV obviously.


> we could just use any word or phrase in the same manner to the same effect. Written language itself is just contextual line patterns

No, we can't. There is an inherent visual component to emojis. A picture worth a thousand words, et cetera.

It's not an abstract idea mapping to an arbitrary icon; without prior explanation, many emojis make sense (within a certain cultural context). Kind of like how we can't replace the essence of giving a friend a gift or a lover a flower with words or an arbitrary icon. Apple understands this in a way few technology companies do.


> It's not an abstract idea mapping to an arbitrary icon; without prior explanation, many emojis make sense (within a certain cultural context).

What a coincidence, the exact same thing is true about written words.

>Kind of like how we can't replace the essence of giving a friend a gift or a lover a flower with words or an arbitrary icon. Apple understands this in a way few technology companies do.

I feel like you're one of those people who would have been way into flaming guitar gifs and midi on your geocities page in the 90s. I mean, seriously? You're literally saying that sending a gif conveys so much more meaning meaning it is similar to giving a gift or a flower than sending a text.

Maybe you're right: https://tinyurl.com/y7xeu7dc


> What’s the text version of a birthday cake?

Is that a serious question?

> More challenging: what’s the text version of a singing, eye-rolling T-Rex?

Who cares because that's dumb? Can you tell me what deep emotional state is being conveyed by a T-rex rolling its eyes? I think you lost track of the premise we're debating.


> At best they're just prettier versions of :) and :(

Do you really think this?

I don't really 'get' emojis but I think you're woefully underestimating their impact on communication and language. The emoji library on a normal iPhone is enormous.


>Do you really think this?

...yes?

>you're woefully underestimating their impact on communication and language. The emoji library on a normal iPhone is enormous

What does one have to do with the other? Yes, there are a lot of dumb icons to chose from. How does that directly lead to "[having a] large impact on communication and language"? If that's true, do you think it's a _positive_ impact?


Have you ever encountered difficulty conveying or understanding conversational tone over the internet? No? You are lying or lack self-awareness. Voice and body language are important for disambiguating sentences with more than one possible meaning or implication. Emojis approximate the role of voice tone and body language in digital text-based communication.


The discussion is not "are emojis in any form useful?", it's "do icons provide a new and before unrealized form of communication". Literally every person here missed the statement in the first comment.


If you haven't seen how emojis are used in the wild to enhance communication, it's probably not for you.


You didn't read. I said that you can convey any of these equally well in ascii. Yes, it's handy to be able to plug an :) at the end of a sentence which may otherwise sound rude/overly direct. That doesn't mean I need 1000 icons, and _that's what we're talking about_.


I read the whole thing.

The emojis serve a purpose. Text doesn't serve that purpose. I don't know how to describe the niche they fill with text. They're not a stand-in for emoticons.

You don't get it. It's okay. Not everything is for you.


>I don't know how to describe the niche they fill with text. They're not a stand-in for emoticons.

So you can't explain it, but it's I who "doesn't get it". Ok then. I'll excuse you for a bit as it's going to take some time to untwist your brain from that logical contortion.


> I don't know how to describe the niche they fill with text.

Consider the possibility that this is because there isn't one.


HN doesn't support emoji, so here's an example: https://cybre.space/@Riley/100149464360818801

The meaning is immediately clear to anyone familiar with the reference. It's basically a pictographic language that leans heavily on a shared culture that's largely internet-based.


Ah, I get it, it's value is making the people use it feel special because only "the right kind of people" will get their jokes. Just a new generation of children using slang. Why was that so difficult to use words to describe?


>> "Ah, I get it, it's value is making the people use it feel special because only "the right kind of people" will get their jokes. Just a new generation of children using slang."

You sure do have some text there.

>> "Why was that so difficult to use words to describe?"

The medium is the message.


Oh, so inside jokes. Yeah that's totally new and groundbreaking.


Do you similarly disdain things like Cockney Rhyming Slang and Polari because they're effectively "inside jokes" that express things you could equally well express with "plain words"?


I assume you don't know any people born in the last 15 years or so. Emoji communication (using just emojis) is quite common, often several in a row.


I feel like I'm in the Twilight zone (and no, I don't hang out with a lot of 12 year olds, but I do in fact know that kids like to pepper near everything they write with dumb icons.)

The debate is not "are emojis widely used". Yes, of course they are. The question is "opened a whole new way to communicate with each other", which is what I responded to.

I say, no, they haven't. I can convey the same emotions with ascii. I can convey the same emotions with written text. If you want to prove me wrong then fine, but don't re-frame the discussion.


The most common emoji I see among kids is (Face With Tears of Joy) or (OK Hand) (apparently ycombinator doesn't support UTF-8). I don't know of any ascii that can do those. (FYI, I'm 28 and I often chat with my younger cousins who are in their mid-teens at the moment.)


Yeah I agree. Why would anyone prefer something that looked nicer than an old thing? Has anything like this phenomenon ever been observed in the past?


Ok well here's what I actually said. It's right up there if you want to take another look.

> At best they're just prettier versions of :) and :( and I don't see how they allow people to convey ideas they couldn't do just as well via text.

Never did I say "These are dumb get off my lawn!" I said they don't meaningfully impact or improve communication, which is in direct response to the person I replied to who said that they have "opened a whole new way to communicate."

That's a serious claim, I'd like to see a single coherent argument to show it's actually the case. But, no, all I get are mischaracterizations of what I said.

The debate is not "are pretty things nice", it's "have emoji's fundamentally improved communication".


> The debate is not "are pretty things nice"

If the debate is not about how something looks then why was your first instinct to dismiss them as “just prettier versions of :) and :(“?


>If the debate is not about how something looks then why was your first instinct to dismiss them as “just prettier versions of :) and :(“?

...because I was responding to someone who said emojis were a new and previously unrealized form of communication! Seriously guys...

You know, you're right; I find myself reaching for a "smashes head against brick wall" emoji right about now.

Oh, damn; I just described that emotion with words. I guess I'm still right.


“I had fun once. It was awful.” — one of Kate Beaton’s characters.




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