It’s kind of an interesting coincidence that about a week before Mark Shuttleworth posted in his blog about Canonical’s plans for notifications, I had started experimenting with a new IRC client, Quassel, that provides a notification when you are highlighted or sent a personal message.
I’ve waited a bit to reply to his plans to gain more experience with notifications from Quassel and to think things through and not just give a knee jerk reaction. My initial reaction was very similar to Aaron Seigo’s. So I’ve spent a week or two thinking about it on and off and I really haven’t changed my mind.
Let me use Quassel’s notification as an example and give you an idea of what I want and why…
The proposal from Mark Shuttleworth has two key points:
– There should be no actions on notifications.
– Notifications should not be displayed synchronously, but may be queued.
To the first point, my experience with Quassel notifications is that I will have one of two reactions:
1. I read the notification and I both understand the context sufficiently I don’t need to look at the IRC channel and I have no immediate interest in responding. I get the notification, read it, and go back to what I was doing. This seems to fit the proposed model quite well. I want the information in the notification and I want it to hang around just long enough to read it and not require that I dismiss it.
This is how Quassel notifications work today. In some cases, it’s great and it’s a feature I really like that Konversation didn’t have. In other cases, it drives me nuts.
2. I either need more context to understand the message or I want to reply. In this case I inevitably click on the notification thinking it will take me to the Quassel window with the message, even though I know it doesn’t do that from repeated tries.
This is where I think the notifications proposal is off base. The idea of not requiring interaction (the notification just goes away after some period) is a good one. The idea of not allowing interaction is, I think flawed. I thought that perhaps I was misunderstanding the proposal and left a comment. It didn’t draw a response, but a similar comment did get a reply. I understand the reply and it does make things not quite as bad as I had feared, but it still doesn’t solve the problem.
For about a month now I’ve been using an application where I get regular notifications. I know that clicking on the notification doesn’t actually do anything and I need to click on the icon in the taskbar. I know this and still I click on the notification first every single time. Why, because it’s the thing that just flashed a message to me and it’s the most natural thing in the world for me to click on that message to get more information/act on it.
I don’t get stacks of notifications often enough to have a strong opinion about that bit, but Aaron Siego’s idea to reduce notifications and not just queue them seems sensible to me. If there are a lot of notifications, queuing them will just make them late and less useful.
So what would I like to see in notifications:
1. Clicking on the notification takes me someplace to act on it.
2. I’m not required to dismiss it.
3. It’d be nice if it picked up the desktop theme and didn’t give me Ubuntu standard colors on a Kubuntu desktop.
Fortunately, at least from my perspective, it doesn’t look like the chances of this getting implemented in Kubuntu for Jaunty. It’s not in any of the approved specs and I don’t know of anyone who is working on it (Note: If someone is working on an implementation of this aimed at Kubuntu Jaunty, use Kubuntu developers would be interested to know about it).
It’d be nice to see a follow-up post explaining why having clicking on the notification doing something useful is a bad thing? The lack of it is currently driving me nuts.