Like most early online communities, the graduating class of 1989 from IIT Kanpur has a Yahoo! group: iitk-89. It was created way back in 1999 and was quite active till a few months ago. We discussed stuff that our most other friends would find uninteresting. Some one will send a link to an article that he (there were girls in our batch but they rarely participated) liked or found outrageous and then a heated discussion will ensue. Sometimes we collectively solved mathematical puzzles. It was fun.
But then a dispute arose about an off hand comment made by one the members. Without going into details, I'll only say that this incident polarized the group and the nature of discussion became very different. At this point, one of the members wondered: "it would have been nice if Yahoo! allowed a simple form of expressing likeness/dislikeness of posts". Posting response to a message you disagree with takes too much energy, is seen as an attack and is delivered as email to everyone in the group. A click to express agreement or disagreement which is then aggregated and shown as count to only those who visit the group pages would be milder and much more effective. Think of this as simple yes- or no- nodding of head during normal conversation. These are cues that get picked up and changes the conversation in subtle ways before it gets to heated and loud verbal exchange.
I kept thinking that adding a capability like this would be very beneficial to the Yahoo! group communities. So when the opportunity came this month in form of Yahoo! (internal) hackday, I coded up YLike, a hack that adds like and dislike buttons. With a little bit of extra work, I was able to make it work on my personal server and make it available to others. Visit Ylike page and give it a try. If you are a member of iitk-89 group then you can even see my votes for some of the recent messages.