GitHub Introduces Reactions to Provide Feedback on Issues and Pull Requests

by Sergio De Simone on Mar 14, 2016 |

Following on from the introduction of templates, GitHub has added another new feature, Reactions, that aims to allow developers to vote on issues, comments, or PRs using emoticons.

The impossibility of upvoting or otherwise showing support to an issue or PR was one of the issues that drove more than 1,500 developers to sign the “Dear GitHub” open letter, as InfoQ reported not long ago:

Issues often accumulate content-less “+1” comments which serve only to spam the maintainers and any others subscribed to the issue. These +1s serve a valuable function in letting maintainers know how widespread an issue is, but their drawbacks are too great.

Actually, GitHub reactions go beyond simply allowing developers to upvote an issue or PR and provide a way to “help people express their feelings” about it, which includes the possibility of disliking/downvoting, favouriting, expressing concern, etc. For the time being, developers can only choose from a limited number of pre-defined emoticons.

A GitHub spokesperson has acknowledged to InfoQ that some of the features that have been recently introduced were requested in “Dear GitHub”, and that GitHub has been listening, and confirmed their commitment “to add features to GitHub to make it a great experience for all of our communities”.

GitHub Reactions has been largely welcomed within the GitHub community, but the possibility of downvoting without specifying the reasons for doing that has been received with some concern by a number of developers. Indeed, it is felt that downvoting should always go together with an explanation to enable a more effective discussion. Additionally, concern was also expressed for the possibility of using downvotes for “retaliation”. Finally, a few developers stated that it would be useful to be able to order all comments, issues, or PRs based on the number of upvotes they received.

In conversation with InfoQ, James Kyle, one of the initial signees to “Dear GitHub”, stated that based on a few insights into the company roadmap he was provided by a GitHub representative, and after seeing GitHub ship new features such as Templates and Reactions, he feels much more confident “about GitHub being a critical part of the open source community”.

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