Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Release 0.9: Notifications / Messages
querki
jducoeur wrote in querki_project
This release has been far too long coming: suffice it to say, it's been a busy and scattershot month. It is mainly about one new feature: Notifications.


Notifications (which may wind up simply being "Messages" in the UI) basically means messages coming directly to you, the user. This shows up mainly as a little bell icon in the main navbar. Normally, the icon is black; if you have new messages, it will turn white, and show the number of new messages. No, none of this is pretty yet, but it's the icons I had to hand, and the bell is pretty well-established as the standard metaphor for this purpose.

If you click on the bell, you get taken to a list of your Recent Messages, in reverse time order. At the moment, there are only two kinds of Messages:
  • System Messages, which come from the sysadmin (that is, me) to all Users. I expect these to be rare.

  • Comment Notifications, which are sent out when someone comments.
Comment Notifications are really the point of the exercise: they are necessary in order to enable proper conversations. Each Comment Notification includes a little arrow icon, which takes you directly to that comment.

By default, every comment currently generates a Notification to the Owner of the Space, and not to anybody else. If you are a Member and would like to be notified of comments, go to Actions -> Advanced..., and select "Yes" on "Send me a Message whenever someone comments in this Space". (And if you are the owner, and would prefer *not* to receive Comment Notifications, select "No" there.) As it says on that page, please note that this may take a while to take effect -- for technical reasons, it currently doesn't do so until the Space gets reloaded. Yes, that's been logged as a bug.

The workflow for Notifications is currently clunky: since Recent Messages is a separate page, it takes you out of the context of whatever you had been working on, which is unfortunate. The medium-term plan is to build a UI more like the one in FB or G+, where it shows up as a drop-down over the current page. That's a fair amount of work, though, so please bear with me for the time being. (You may want to right-click on the bell icon, and open it in a new tab.)

Similarly, the long-term workflow is intended to be similar to CommYou or Wave. There will be some sort of Notification-viewing mode, which will likely show your Notifications in a column down the left-hand side, with a Thing in the main view. You'll be able to spacebar your way from Notification to Notification, and the system will display it right there. This will eventually include not just Comments, but also changes to Things, and newly-created Things -- basically, it will be a UI for quickly seeing what has changed. This is a fair ways off, though, and will happen sometime after The Great UI Rewrite.

There isn't yet any sort of email Notification. That will come in due time, but it'll probably be a while. At the moment, we need to keep our email usage quite low (at least by current standards), so we probably won't be sending out one-email-per-comment a la Facebook until we have the ability to do so economically. Also, it will require a good deal of UI and preferences work: we're not going to introduce emailed Notifications until you can control what you *want* to receive.


Seeking opinions: I am seriously considering adding a standard tweak to Comment Notifications, so that if you comment on a Thing, you get a Notification for each downthread comment in that Conversation. This is approximately how Facebook works, but is less likely to get spammy since Querki encourages you to start new Conversations. This would eventually get some sort of "mute" button to turn it off, but I think we can live without that work for a little while. (Implementing "mute" would be considerably more work than simply implementing the default behavior.)

This mechanism seems likely to be a major net positive: it lets Members engage in Conversations interactively, without needing to sign up to receive *all* comments. What do y'all think?


Finally, one small but important change: for the time being, all HTML links in Querki are being marked as "nofollow". Basically, this means that we are telling Google *not* to consider these links as "votes" in its page ranking. Why? Because if we don't do that, Querki is all but certain to be slammed by wiki spammers, whose business depends largely on finding innocent sites like Querki and filling them with junk links. (These people usually bill themselves as respectable "SEO enhancers", but much of the business is about this sort of reprehensible behavior.) So making the links "nofollow" basically makes Querki useless to these people, and is likely to greatly reduce the number of spam submissions and comments y'all will have to deal with.

In the long run, we'll probably moderate this position, but I suspect we won't entirely eliminate it. My guess is that non-nofollow links will be limited to paid members, and the number that you are allowed will be somewhat limited, so that Querki is uneconomic for these people who want to have thousands of them. (Comments or submissions from non-members of a Space will probably always be nofollow, since comment spam is the most common annoyance.)

And yes, this will probably have an adverse effect on a few use cases. But I don't see a good way around it, until and unless I can figure out how to get Google to treat each user's subarea in Querki as separate from a spam-analysis perspective. (Which is plausible, but I don't actually know if it is feasible -- we'll see.)

  • 1
Seeking opinions: I am seriously considering adding a standard tweak to Comment Notifications, so that if you comment on a Thing, you get a Notification for each downthread comment in that Conversation.

Opinion #1: I think you probably want three levels of granularity:
* Notify me of comments in this Space;
* Notify me of comments on this Thing;[1]
* Notify me of comments in this Conversation.

Opinion #2: I strongly dislike the auto-subscribe-upon-commenting model, though this is at least partly because on many sites "subscribe" means "get an email". If it just means an on-site notification, I don't feel strongly either way.

Question: If there's a Conversation you comment on, and it gets 10 more comments, do you get 10 Notifications, or one Notification for the 10 new items?

[1] = Possibly with "notify me of comments on this type of Thing" as a fourth option, though that may be overengineering, so I'd lean towards KISS until someone actually wants that.

I think you probably want three levels of granularity

Agreed, but it's a considerable amount more work, and I have other fish to fry right now, so I'm trying to find the most common patterns.

In my experience, it's fairly unusual to use the flags about Thing and Conversation in a *positive* sense. That is, I usually find it an unspeakable pain in the ass when a system requires me to check a box in order to be notified about Comments per-object. (It is the biggest reason why I hate Wordpress as a platform; IMO, it's the main reason why WP sites tend to be poor at fostering conversation.)

What I do observe more often is the need to Mute a Conversation that has gotten annoying. So I'm considering that aspect to be a medium-high priority, significantly moreso than the turn-on versions.

If it just means an on-site notification, I don't feel strongly either way.

For now, it certainly does, and my plan is that, before email notifications happen, we'll need fairly fine-grained control over what you want to get Notifications for.

Question: If there's a Conversation you comment on, and it gets 10 more comments, do you get 10 Notifications, or one Notification for the 10 new items?

Right at the moment, the former, but the latter has always been the plan, more or less. Indeed, the system is architected specifically for it; I just haven't filled in all the details yet.

More precisely, there is a general concept of "Notification Summary". Each Notification Type declares what level it summarizes at -- per-Thing, per-Space, or not at all. For Comments, the intent is that we will summarize per-Space. In practice, this means that, if there are 10 Comments (on 10 different Things), you will see "10" in the NavBar. But when you go to the Recent Messages page, it will show something like:
10 new comments in Alpha Issues Space

3 comments on "Ampersand does not parse correctly", from Foo, Bar and Baz.
2 comments on "Chrome on Android keeps losing session", from Justin (2).
5 comments on "Editor Cancel button should have confirm", from Joe (2) and Mary (3)
Or something like that, anyway: it might spell the comments out in more detail, but the real intent is that it provide just enough information for you to decide whether it's worth the effort of actually reading those Comments. The model is to give you the heads-up reasonably efficiently that something is happening, but not force the details down your throat until you're ready to deal.

When we get to emailed Notifications, my expectation is basically to do it digest style to begin with: one email per Space per day, with all of the comments enclosed. The theory there is to make it easy to skim through them, and decide whether it's worth clicking on one to actually respond.

That's the theory, anyway. Like I said, the notion of Summaries is built into the architecture, but I decided not to hold the rest of the schedule hostage to it. The plan is to keep fleshing this stuff out gradually in the coming months...

"This would eventually get some sort of "mute" button to turn it off, but I think we can live without that work for a little while."

Agreed.

  • 1
?

Log in

No account? Create an account