Share the love

By Lachlan Hardy
2002h Wednesday, 16 May 2007 Permalink

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I spend ridiculously large portions of my life online. Not just on a computer, but actually online. In fact, these days I doubt I’d know what to do with myself at a keyboard for more than 5 minutes if I didn’t have the internet.

Given that I’m a webby geek of giant proportions, I think that’s reasonable. I even think it’s a good thing. But there is something missing from all that time. Something seemingly so inconsequential that it took me a long time to work out what it was. It wasn’t until I started to feel it again that I realised its absence.

What you talkin’ about, Willis?

Call it politeness. Call it manners. It’s social grease and it makes everything run smoother and makes everybody happier. I’m talking about saying thank you. I’m talking about feeling that somebody else appreciates your effort. That your contribution has been noted and valued.

These are important features of society - acknowledgment, an indication of appreciation. These things matter. A lot.

Getting your groove back

Social software works because it replicates society in some fashion, right? It offers online, from the comfort of your own home/office/car/zeppelin, what you can otherwise only get by gathering en masse. And, in some ways, it’s better than that too, because it allows you to interact socially with people you would never otherwise meet.

Offering appreciation in social apps

It’s so easy to add this. This is not a technical issue! It’s one of priorities, focus and intent. Most applications don’t have any development time focused specifically on being nice to people, but doesn’t that sound like a great way to build your community?


Flickr has testimonials. I quite like those. Mine exist for my friends and loved ones to make fun of me, but you only have to look at Daniel Boud’s profile to see how they were intended to be used.


Ma.gnolia makes no bones about it - they literally have a ‘thanks’ option. You can thank anybody for a bookmark. It’s prominent, it’s easy, it makes people feel good and I love it. It requires no input or effort other than a click. Todd Sieling posted an explanation of their reasoning when announcing the feature .

Take the time

We spend a lot of time on the web. We’re building software that makes people spend even more time on the web. Let’s make it a nicer place to be. Add some social grease to your next app and make your users feel appreciated.


There are 14 comments on this post.

Andrew K.
1113h Thursday, 17 May 2007 Permalink

Maybe you should add a switch on your “Heckle me” comment form heading – sometimes it can say “Heckle me”, other times it can say “Stroke my ego”; depending on the type of post.

…c’mon, you know you want to ;)

Lachlan Hardy
1119h Thursday, 17 May 2007 Permalink

People could select whether their comment was heckling or supportive? I kinda like that idea!

I figure comments have to be one or the other (or a combination of both). Nobody makes a comment if they’re neutral or disinterested

I wonder what you could do with that metadata? Hmmm…

Ben Buchanan
1128h Thursday, 17 May 2007 Permalink

I always liked Zeldman’s habit of giving the “hat tip” to people who sent him great links.

Another example is LinkedIn lets you endorse people’s work.

But anyway… If we’re going to be social online, we should be sociable! :) People are getting more serious/emotional about their use of online social networking, so the time is long gone when manners could be skipped without repercussions.

People used to think online communication was utterly trivial (many still do), but now they’re realising it’s just as real as other communications. At the end of the day it’s still 2+ humans with some tech crap in between, same as mail, phones, telegraph, semaphore, smoke signals…

Andrew K.
1130h Thursday, 17 May 2007 Permalink

You could make a graph of “love / hate over time” Then in the footer or something – “I am currently: feeling the love” or “currently: getting roasted”

Probably a sparklines-style graph ( has a great web service for generating them) to give an overview of readers opinions.

Molly E. Holzschlag
1955h Thursday, 17 May 2007 Permalink

This is reminiscent of the XFN discussions and whether any negative relationships such as “enemy” should be included.

It’s funny, yes, but Lachlan’s point is really important. Appreciation matters. It can, in fact save lives - this written from one who knows.

Serdar Kiliç
2152h Thursday, 17 May 2007 Permalink

I was thinking about this just the other day. There’s nearly not enough “thank you“‘s going around, whether it be online or not. So thank you for bringing this to light.

Stephen Collins
2250h Thursday, 17 May 2007 Permalink

Completely agree, and the via: methodology is starting to take root on delicious, in much the same way as ma.gnolia’s thanks. But it’s still ad hoc.

Molly’s XFN thoughts are also interesting.

Too many social apps use the notion of a “friend” to mean something very much less. Friend needs to mean friend, other relationships need to be identifiable and notable and the ability to say thanks, just because, should be everywhere.

Nice one. And thanks!

Lachlan Hardy
0138h Friday, 18 May 2007 Permalink

LinkedIn was the other example that I forgot! That was what sparked this post - I got a recommendation and it made me feel good! ;)

Great idea, Andrew. I’ve been wanting to use sparklines somewhere for ages! I might give the Rails library a go instead of bitworking

Molly, I’m sure we can come up with ways to indicate disagreement that aren’t necessarily negative. I’ve been saying for years that blogs need to evolve beyond the current plateau of functionality, and now that I have one, I’d better do something about that.

Thanks, Serdar!

I agree, Stephen. Certain terms have become convention regardless of fit-for-purpose. ‘Favourite’ is probably my next most disliked after ‘Friend’. Most of those items aren’t favourites of mine - I just want to mark them for later.

And thanks, I’d not noticed ‘via:’ before.

Colin Devroe
2214h Friday, 18 May 2007 Permalink

Great post Lachlan. Don’t forget that for some people, just favoriting a photo/video/bookmark/whatever is a way of saying “thanks”. I much prefer Ma.gnolia’s approach because it actually says “give thanks”.

Oh, and me - commenting on this post - is my way of saying thanks for writing it.

Now get outside, enjoy some sun, and write me a thank you card. :-)

Kathy C.
1721h Tuesday, 29 May 2007 Permalink

Great note Lachlan, and I agree with Colin’s comment, there are non-explicit ways of “thanking” people, but if they were more explicit it would add to the feeling of appreciation on all sides. Myspace is another one with possibilities, giving kudos for a blog post or comment, for example, Facebook has “gifts” (I think this is not a free option, it’s about $1 for 2 gifts or something like that. It’s cheap but does add to the meaning of a gift when you recieve it…) that appear on your profile…

There are so many possibilities, but even the smallest things like adding a friend (a real one, not just a mass-befriender) to your network helps grease those social cogs…

Simon de Haan
1816h Friday, 21 December 2007 Permalink

Hm “social grease”, love the term and it really does convey the idea well.

I’d be keen for ideas on how one could integrate that whole “relationally social” (as not technical sharing / social) aspect into a service like’s.

A first step I guess could be to do like Dopplr, thank all the beta users for their involvement and patience, which I think is a brilliant move. Other than that, Soocial doesn’t support any ‘sharing’ as of yet so those points of contact where one could “share the love” do not exist yet. I guess we could share some more love when one sends out an invite.

Thanks for giving this idea some traction :)

0649h Tuesday, 13 May 2008 Permalink

Man - i think we all should learn how to SWITCH OFF more often. Social life is also what happens while we´re at the keyboard…thank god its summer. I pray that we´ll make it! ;-)

1018h Tuesday, 20 May 2008 Permalink

Thank you Lachlan for this beautiful post! It´s so true what you say - lets start to make this world (and the net) a better place! Making someone smile or giving someone the opportunity to make someone smile is a beautiful and important thing. Aftr all we´re still human.Even on the net. Let´s share the love!

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