Using New, Diverse Emojis for Analysis in Python

I haven’t been updating this site often since I’ve started to perform a similar job over at FanGraphs. All non-baseball stat work that I do will continued to be housed here.

Over the past week, Apple has implemented new emojis with a focus on diversity in their iOS 8.3 and the OS X 10.10.3 update. I’ve written quite a bit about the underpinnings of emojis and how to get Python to run text analytics on them. The new emojis provide another opportunity to gain insights on how people interact, feel, or use them. Like always, I prefer to use Python for any web scraping or data processing, and emoji processing is no exception. I already wrote a basic primer on how to get Python to find emoji in your text. If you combine the tutorials I have for tweet scraping, MongoDB and emoji analysis, you have yourself a really nice suite of data analysis.

Modifier Patch

These new emojis are a product of the Unicode Consortium’s plan for how to incorporate racial diversity into the previously all-white human emoji line up. (And yes, there’s a consortium for emoji planning.) The method used to produce new emojis isn’t quite as simple as just making a new character/emoji. Instead, they decided to include a modifier patch at the end of human emojis to indicate skin color. As a end-user, this won’t affect you if you have all the software updates and your device can render the new emojis. However, if you don’t have the updates, you’ll get something that looks like this:

Emoji Patch Error
That box at the end of the emoji is the modifier patch. Essentially what is happening here is that there is a default emoji (in this case it’s the old man) and the modifier patch (the box). For older systems it doesn’t display, because the old system doesn’t know how to interpret this new data. This method actually allows the emojis to be backwards compatible, since it still conveys at least part of the meaning of the emoji. If you have the new updates, you will see the top row of emoji.

Emoji Plus Modifier Patches

Using a little manipulation (copying and pasting) using my newly updated iPhone we can figure out this is what really is going on for emojis. There are five skin color patches available to be added to each emoji, which is demonstrated on the bottom row of emoji. Now you might notice there are a lot of yellow emoji. Yellow emojis (Simpsons) are now the default. This is so that no single real skin tone is the default. The yellow emojis have no modifier patch attached to them, so if you simply upgrade your phone and computer and then go back and look at old texts, all the emojis with people in them are now yellow.

New Families

The new emoji update also includes new families. These are also a little different, since they are essentially combinations of other emoji. The original family emoji is one single emoji, but the new families with multiple children and various combinations of children and partners contain multiple emojis. The graphic below demonstrates this.

Emoji New Familes

The man, woman, girl and boy emoji are combined to form that specific family emoji. I’ve seen criticisms about the families not being multiracial. I’d have to believe the limitation here is a technical one, since I don’t believe the Unicode consortium has an effective method to apply modifier patches and combine multiple emojis at once. That would result in a unmanageable number of glyphs in the font set to represent the characters. (625 different combinations for just one given family of 4, and there are many different families with different gender iterations.)

New Analysis

So now that we have the background on the how the new emojis work, we can update how we’ve searched and analyzed them. I have updated my emoji .csv file, so that anyone can download that and run a basic search within your text corpus. I have also updated my github to have this file as well for the socialmediaparse library I built.

The modifier patches are searchable, so now you can search for certain swatches (or lack there of). Below I have written out the unicode escape output for the default (yellow) man emoji and its light-skinned variation. The emoji with a human skin color has that extra piece of code at the end.

Here are all the modifier patches as unicode escape.

Emoji Modifier Patches

The easiest way to search for these is to use the following snippet of code:

You can throw that snippet into a for loop for a Pandas data frame or a MongoDB cursor. I’m planning on updating my socialmediaparse library with patch searching, and I’ll update this post when I do that.

Spock

Finally, there’s Spock!

Emoji Spock

The unicode escape for Spock is:

Add your modifier patches as needed.