GitHub reactions suck

GitHub reactions suck

This post is marked as spicy. It might be low quality, controversial or reflect opinions that I no longer hold. Spicy posts won't show up on the home page.

Constructive feedback is important, but it’s slipping through my fingers on GitHub.

Let me put that in context. Recently, I submitted a pull request to the Luau repo. The contents don’t matter, but it did not initially appear popular because it got three thumbs-downs;

Screenshot; GitHub pull request OP comment, with 3 thumbs down reactions

Of these three thumbs-downers:

This is a useless state of affairs. How am I supposed to act on feedback with no substance? It may as well be someone just dropping by to unconstructively shit on your idea. I can’t do anything with that.

What I realised is that this is analogous to how games get reviewed and rated on some marketplaces. It’s true that perhaps a thumbs up/thumbs down system would tell you what some general sentiment is, but it cannot tell you anything more useful about that data, such as what specific criticisms exist, whether the review was for an older or newer version of the thing, or how opinions change over time. These game marketplaces often, as a result, provide a different kind of voting system, usually a ‘review’ system that makes you leave a comment next to your vote, and carries other information such as the time of review.

GitHub has that. It’s called code review. You can highlight specific passages, leave comments, start reply chains, resolve conversations - all of this annotated with timestamps. This is a sane way of giving feedback, and it certainly beats vague emoji that are about as helpful as a dehumidifier in the Sinai.

Let’s return to that first thumbs-downer. This is exactly what they did after leaving their reaction - they highlighted a bunch of places, and added some detailed feedback about their concerns. While in the end we did have some fundamental disagreements and differences of perspective, that feedback did measurably improve the comprehensiveness of my pull request, and it didn’t make me feel like shit in the process. It’s just good, solid discussion.

Why isn’t everyone doing this? Are we so strapped for time that we must convert our useful feedback into useless, SVG-format gesturing?

I certainly know you won’t ever catch me being so penny-wise, pound-foolish with my feedback again.