I love the WordPress Like button! As a reader, I can quickly and easily show someone I appreciate what they wrote, or enjoyed the photos they took – that their post made me laugh, or brightened my day a little. And I love the Like button even more as a blog writer! That little orange-highlighted star in the corner of my screen makes my day. It is, after all, the point of blogging – to have someone, somewhere, see and like what you’ve posted.
But even more than I love the like button, I think I hate it. As a blog reader, it makes it way to easy to be lazy, to just click “like” and close the page instead of taking another 45 seconds to compose a small reply. Is it really that hard?
What’s worse is that as a blogger, it leaves me befuddled, perplexed, mystified – in short, confused – just like the experimental rats who sometimes get food when they hit a lever, and sometimes don’t. (The rats who never get food never hit it, and the ones who always get food only hit it when they’re hungry – while the rats who randomly do or don’t get food hit that lever constantly in hopes that food will be given.)
Let’s leave out the outlier posts, like my Freshly Pressed post that, having been featured on the wordpress.com front page for a few days, had a lot of views, a lot of Likes, and a lot of comments. I’ll also disregard other posts that I wrote just before and just after it, which also had more views than normal from all the extra FP visitors, and I’ll ignore as well the posts that get a lot of search engine hits from people looking for photos of handsome guys in pink bow ties, or clouds, or succulents, or photos of Paris.
Let’s just take my plain old everyday posts – let’s say, for instance, yesterday’s about our newly acquired ice cream hoard. It had a normal-ish number of views, a normal-ish number of likes, and a normal-ish number of comments. We’re all clear here so far, right? This makes sense. My bafflement comes in when, maybe once a week or so I’ll put up a post (like my Rejected Guest Post, Burrower, or Surprise!) that gets an unusually large number of views, but a normal number (2-5) of Likes. What? Did I somehow label my post with an enticing tag that drew in many wordpress topic searchers, only to have it disappoint once new visitors had actually arrived to read the entire thing? Are my blog followers drawn in by the title or first few words, and likewise disappointed when they read it? Or is it possibly a post that is appealing only to non-blogger friends and family, who don’t use the Like button?
(In an extreme example, what do I make of How Choosing a Bike is Like Choosing a Spouse which has quite a lot of views, but exactly zero Likes. Is it a train wreck that no one wants to read, but they just can’t keep their eyes away?)
And on the other hand, what do I make of posts like Friday Miscellany, which the day I put it up got only 5 on-site views, but 10 likes? Or Cannon Beach, Day 1 which had only 10 views the first day, but 12 likes? What makes these posts so much better than my others? Are they appealing just to wordpress readers, who use their wordpress homepages to read the entry and Like it without visiting my site? How will I ever know what they liked about the posts? If there’s something reproducible, I’d like to oblige. Nothing makes me happier as a blogger than thinking I might have made someone smile or laugh, or feel a little more cheerful, but the Like is so vague and mysterious. It doesn’t really give me much information.
It’s enough to make me wish that the Like button didn’t exist.
But don’t take it away! I love it! I don’t know what I’d do without those little star notifications from time to time!
What about forcing the Liker to complete a little poll attached with each Like?
For instance, my Friday Miscellany post could have a poll like this:
I “Liked” this post because:
a) It has a cute photo of your dog.
b) I like looking at food.
c) It’s short and sweet.
d) My mouse slipped.
e) I don’t know, what’s a Like button?
Maybe I should make my own and add them to each post…