After announcing that we’re doing specifications openly and publicly, I’d like to inaugurate something I hope will become a regular habit: talking about an upcoming feature.
For today, I picked the Social Email Notifications specification, because it has been stable for a while and development of the associated features is already in the works. But there’s still time to make changes. So if you see something odd, please speak out loud.
Rationale: Email Notifications vs Activity Streams
As you ramp up your social network, people become connected, create spaces, start sharing status updates, links and documents, and begin liking and commenting on content. All these events are already being captured in activity streams. So there is no need to send further notifications: people will go to the intranet to get the latest update anyway, right? Well, not quite.
Let’s face it, we all spend a lot of time looking at our mailboxes. Arguably too much. Hundreds of people, organizations and systems are fighting for our attention and we are sinking in an ocean of information where it’s harder and harder to identify what really matters to get our job done. That’s the reason why we’ve been reluctant to repost activities as emails. It seemed it would just add to the mess.
However, there is an unquestionable benefit in being pushed the right information rather than needing to self-update. Activity streams play this role within the social intranet and they are perfectly fine for people proficient with social collaboration. But for many, still in the transition to a more social way of collaborating, the inbox is still the best – often the only – way to engage them.
So instead of leaving them behind by ignoring the way they currently consume information, we decided to reach them in their inbox and show them what’s happening.
By sending the right messages on the right events, we should be able to take you back to the social intranet when you really need to take an action. Suddenly, emails are no longer useless noise, but instantly actionable items that help you to get things done.
So let me summarize how this feature is currently specified and you will likely see it in Platform 4.1.
A notification email can be sent when one of the following events occurs: someone joined, someone wants to connect with you, someone wants to join your space or has invited you to her own space, an activity is posted in one of your spaces, or you were mentioned, liked or commented.
All emails are constructed the same way:
- an easy-to-identify title, so you can decide quickly if it really matters for you now
- a body describing what happened with enough information to make it intelligible
- a set of short actions that will take you to the right place in the social intranet
User Settings and Digests
When we started to gather requirements for this feature, we quickly found that one size would not fit all. So, true to our user-centric approach, we’ve decided to give full control to the end user to decide what she wants to receive or not.
The user can decide to disable notifications partially or entirely. It’s also possible to group some notifications into daily or weekly digest emails. We paid attention to the default settings, trying to make the notifications unobtrusive. Some frequent events, which we consider less obviously actionable, such as likes, are pushed in your digests.
Customization and Extensibility
Finally, in all humility, we understand that our decisions may not fit perfectly with your needs. So we’ve given full control to admins to disable any kind of notification.
We have also made it easy for your developers to customize the messages and plug new kinds of notifications. Expect a couple of more technical articles to tell you how.
Now, this feature is opening new perspectives and we have plenty of ideas to build on for this new notification system. Don’t let us decide, Join the Platform 4.1 space and make yourself heard!