Accidental Emoji Expert: Tom Scott at An Evening of Unnecessary Detail

Accidental Emoji Expert: Tom Scott at An Evening of Unnecessary Detail


MATT PARKER: It is with great pleasure that
I bring to the stage, both a friend of mine, and famously “that
guy from the internet”: he’s wearing a slightly off-red shirt, can you please put your hands together and
welcome to the stage, it’s Tom Scott! TOM SCOTT: Thank you! Where’s the clicker? Matt, where’d you put
the clicker? Ah! Great. Black clicker, black table. It’s
wonderful. Hello, my name is Tom Scott. Hello! Wonderful, you’re alive. I am an accidental
emoji expert. I didn’t mean — also, sorry, let’s get one
thing out of the way, this is going to be less of a polished talk
than I normally do, there are two reasons for that: one, I didn’t quite rehearse as much as I
should, and two, I hate shtick. I hate the idea that you become “that person
known for that thing” and yet I’ve plenty of shticks in my time. I had the pirate shtick, that was a bad year. And now I have the emoji shtick. And I didn’t
mean to. I didn’t mean to. But me and a friend came
up with an idea, we built a messenger on your phone that you
can only send emoji through. Even your username had to be emoji. And we get 70,000 people signing up to that
because they all went “What? I’ve got to get an emoji as my username?
What do I do?” and it turns out you can be rude in emoji,
really creatively. We thought we wouldn’t have to put a swear
filter on that. We did. Lot of aubergines. A lot of aubergines. We killed that, after just under a year. But then I went and make this, which is a
full size emoji keyboard. I say full size, it’s 14 keyboards. There
are a lot of emoji. All hooked up. But as a result of that, it turns out that
I now know most of the technical details of how emoji
works. Also, it turns out that I am now an expert
on emoji to the extent that Radio 2 called me up and said ‘can you
bring your keyboard in’, I thought: Radio. Keyboard. And literally, there was a moment where they
said “could you just… what does it sound like
to type on?” Well, it sounds like a keyboard. So I did that. So I am an accidental and grumpy
emoji expert. These are the first emoji. These are the first ones that were ever made. I think they’ve been coloured here, which
they weren’t normally, but one engineer in Japan, decided that they
had a bit — because computers, which is all the detail
you’re getting in a 10-minute talk, there was a bit of room left over. So there’s the idea of text encoding, which
is where you take the letters than we write in, and you turn
them into 1s and 0s that computers can understand. America kind of did that first? Or at least,
did the big worldwide version of that. So that’s great, you have A-Z, 0-9, doesn’t
take up that much room. Japan: loads more characters, you needed a
bit more room. And because computers, they had a bit of space
left over. So one engineer goes, you know what? We can
put pictures in there. ‘Cos we’re basically sending a load of different
pictures for each character let’s add some more. So those are the first
emoji. Some transport, some star signs, some numbers. And they’re just used on one mobile network. And then the next mobile network went “that
is a brilliant idea, “we’re having that.” Only they used a completely
different and incompatible system and then a third network did the same. And
this was fine. They didn’t work together. And then, along came the Unicode Consortium! Which does sound like a sci-fi baddie, but
they’re actually the linguists and computer scientists in charge
of making sure that everyone can talk to each other online. The reason that someone in Japan can send
you a text, in Japanese, and it will now arrive on your phone intact
is because of these guys. The most amazing thing in computer standardisation
that’s ever been done. They went to France, they looked at France, they said “you’re mostly like English, that’s
fine, “you’ve got a little bit of a weird letter
here, that’s fine, “we can take — thanks, we’re going to take
your letters, “and put them just there in the standard.
You OK? You’re cool.” All right. They went to Russia. Russia and
then all there. They said, “oh, you’ve got a whole different alphabet. “All right, that’s fine. We’re going to take
your alphabet. “Oh! Sorry, Belarus, you’ve got some more
letters. “Okay, we’re going to take all those, “and we’re going to put them just there.” And then they got to Japan, and they went
“bloody hell… “right, Japan, okay, that’s fine, we’ve got
all these, “and we’ll put them right there… okay, right,
that’s fine, “we’re going to put them in the standard just
in… “Japan, what are those?” And Japan’s like, “they’re emoji. We use them
to talk.” “Those are not letters.” “Don’t care. We use them to communicate. They’re
characters. “You’ve got to include them. You know, two-way…?” “What do you think?” “Well, we let America have the smiley face,
didn’t we?” “Right, fine, fine, Japan, we’re going to
take those, “we’re going to put them in there, “and no-one is going to care.” And no-one did care, and then Apple came along. And Apple wanted to sell iPhones in Japan, so they put an emoji keyboard on there and no-one noticed for a little while and then one person in Britain — sorry, in
America, went.. “hurr! I can send piles of poo to my friends!” So they did. And their friends went “how did
you… “how did you do that? Show me!” And soon there’s this ready-made viral explosion
of piles of poo. Which I guess is dysentry. And now we have emoji cushions and emoji pillows. That’s a photo by my friend Dan, who was walking
around Dalston, found emoji pillows, and then found another
shop selling… turns out there’s a lot of emoji pillows in
Dalston, if anyone wants one. This is the Unicode Consortium’s motto. It is: “enabling people around the world
to use computers in any language”. This is how the world sees the Emoji Consor–
er, the Uni– ‘Emoji Consortium’! Spot the Freudian slip. This is how the world sees the Unicode Consortium’s
motto: So, Unicode 9’s out soon. And this is how
I see them talking to the world, it’s like “hey, world, Unicode 9 is out now,
and it’s amazing! “It’s got to Osage alphabet in it!” This is
an alphabet that was only designed a few years ago. This
is amazing. “It’s got the Georgian Lari symbol.” Brand
new currency symbol. It’s in there. They’re just sat down in committe meetings,
and had really vicious fights between different representatives from different
countries about how particular languages should go in, because it’s actually really complicated. And the world went “k”. “By the way,” they say, “we’ve got some new
emoji too.” And suddenly we care! Does anyone know what this emoji is? Does anyone know what this emoji is, by the
way? [“You!”] Is that me? Yeah, it’s close. Seriously,
quick shout out… [“Triumph!”] Triumph! Yes! Who was up there
first? There is a measuring tape going to the lady… all right, so this is… this is worrying.
This might not work, let’s see if we can get… hey-up! Missed by a mile! I did not do well at sports. Yeah, it’s ‘look of triumph’ which no-one
actually uses it for, because it was designed in Japan, that’s a
different cultural reference, which is great, so. The 2016 emoji are out soon. Here are some of them. This is from Emojipedia,
which is a thing. They allow re-use of this with credit. These are some of what we’ve got. This is
about the half the candidates. We’ve got ‘nauseated face’, let’s be honest,
that’s overdue. We’ve got ‘duck’, obviously that’s vital. We don’t have ‘duckface’, which feels like
it should be in there. We do have ‘selfie’. So you can put that next to any emoji now,
just put that on it. We also have ‘dancing man’, and I’ll get back
to him in a minute. They’re going to get ratified probably in
a meeting in May 2016 they’ll be on your phone by the end of the
year. Probably. Maybe. But what’s interesting, for me at least, is
the 2017 emoji. ‘Cos we’ve had the first few candidates for
that now, we might have ‘chinese takeout box’ and ‘skeptical
face with one eyebrow raised’, but that’s not the interesting thing. Because recently we’ve had these. We’ve had
skin tone modifiers. Now these are really important, these are
fantastic, because it means it’s not all default yellow. As anyone who’s watched the Simpsons knows,
yellow is not default neutral. But: if you want to actually make one of these, behind the scenes you are putting the regular
emoji in, and then you are putting what is called a
‘skin tone modifier’ or a ‘tag character’. From 1 to 5 on the Fitzpatrick scale, which
is a skin tone scale. So there’s actually two separate characters
there and they get merged together. The 2017 emojis are going to get more tags.
If proposal– I said this was a lot of detail– if proposal TR52 gets ratified next year. And the tag characters that are going to get
added are for gender… gender, hair colour and possibly direction. Direction’s easy, it’s so that everyone agrees
which way the gun is pointing when you do an emoji that someone shot someone. It’s good for, like, I don’t know, if you’ve
shot someone. Hair colour. It’s going to be black, brown,
red, grey, blond and… what have I forgotten? Who have I missed? [“White!”] No… Bald! That’s it! No hair at all. I know at
least three people in here who have different hair colours to that. If you have an issue with that, please take it up with the Unicode Consortium,
not me. Which is taken, I swear, from the list of
hair colours that are valid for US drivers’ licenses and the UN Grounds Pass. I looked at the specification, that’s where
they got the list from. So you’ll be able to have a different skin
colour, different hair colour, and crucially, different gender presentation.
Because: on the left is how Apple says ‘dancer’. And on the right is how Android said ‘dancer’
until recently. So if you were a woman and you said “I’m feeling
like this today,” it did not go well when it came through to
an Android user. So there is now a separate woman dancer and
man dancer, but for everything else the idea is you have
a character and then a gender symbol, which is great, because currently the Unicode construction
worker is male and the Unicode receptionist is female because apparently it’s the 1980s. And if you think this is ridiculous, this
is my final point, if you think this is ridiculous, this is too
much, this is something no-one should care about, this is just a lot of, of… wrangling over
a minor detail, yes it sort of is. And that boardroom meeting will have a lot of things to decide about it. But if you think this is not something you
care about, just imagine how the people in that board
meeting feel. Because they’ve got a long list — I’ve seen the agenda for the last meeting,
I read it, it’s got all sorts of really wonderful things. Some of the best linguistics, some of the best computer scientists, some of the best computational linguists are going to be in that room deciding really
important things about language and how we’re going to use it and the only thing that the press are going
to care about in 2017 is whether there is going to be a condom emoji. My name’s Tom Scott, enjoy the night! MATT PARKER: Tom Scott, ladies and gentlemen! If we’ve learned anything from Tom Scott, it is: shtick happens. And vote yes on Proposition TR52! So there you go. And — Tom! True YouTube
professional. He was talking, someone bumped a glass over, he paused for an edit break… TOM SCOTT: I didn’t even notice I’d done that! MATT PARKER: and then picked up from the most
recent sentence fragment, so if you could all just mentally edit that
bit out…! [Translating these subtitles? Add your name here!]

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