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Emojis + Color + Slack = Colorbot

Colorbot is a Slack-connected emoji-reading bot that discovers playful connections between emotion and color.

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Let's talk about color.

With a Particle Internet Button and a few simple snippets of code, you can make an internet connected lamp that changes color on command. I built a few and gave them to Mat Honan and Jessica Misener. I also wrote a quick slackbot that listens in for "colorme [lamp name] [color]" and changes the corresponding lamps accordingly. (As you can see, Jess's lamp was going crazy for a while.)

I didn't give any context on what the lamps were for or what the colors should mean. But after an initial flurry of color experimentation, people mostly settled on blue, purple, and rainbow. Stoplight colors were few and far between.

I drew a few conclusions from this (extremely informal) experiment:

  • It's fun to play with a lamp on someone's desk.
  • People don't like to send signal colors to their editor's desk.

It was a fast and silly experiment, but it made me think about color. And color is interesting.

We associate color with everything.

Christine Sunu / Via google.com

For example, we in the BuzzFeed San Francisco have all seen a lot of stoplights in our time. We probably associate a lamp blaring red, orange, or green with particular signals. But colors also have emotional associations: red is often linked with rage, and blue with sadness or calm. And there are plenty of more nebulous connections.

And speaking of nebulous associations...

Much like color, emojis sometimes express emotion and sometimes express more abstract concepts. And as much as I kid around about emojis, there are massive committees meeting to figure out the different associations and ramifications of new potential emoji. Emojis are the bizarre resurgence of an ancient communication method. We've made specific pictographs ridiculously accessible, and we are still mapping the meaning of super weird emojis like :upside_down_smiley:.

Let's connect color and emojis.

So what happens when we take a deeply embedded and easily associated signal (color) and ask for it to be linked with a new and weird, relatively unmapped medium (emoji)?

In this case, the colorbot happens.

Colorbot lets users assign colors to different emojis in Slack and relays that color to a webpage, which I put up on the big screen TV in BuzzFeed's San Francisco Bureau.

The colorbot records colors associated with different emojis.

Sometimes it's exactly the color you'd expect. Other times, not so much.

For those who prefer text, the above list reads:

RED :angry: :heart: :dancer: :chicken: :phone: :watermelon: :100:

ORANGE :smirk: :bomb:

YELLOW :joy: :raising_hand: :cat: :balloon: :moneybag: :tropical_drink:

GREEN :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: :thumbsup: :money_with_wings:

BLUE :weary: :sob: :ok_hand:

PURPLE :flushed: :disappointed: :scream: :nail_care: :umbrella: :wine_glass:

GREY :sleeping: :rabbit:

If you'd like to build your own colorbot, check out our GitHub repository.

Let us know what you find.

Open Lab for Journalism, Technology, and the Arts is a workshop in BuzzFeed’s San Francisco bureau. We offer fellowships to artists and programmers and storytellers to spend a year making new work in a collaborative environment. Read more about the lab or read more from Christine.

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