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Old 02-25-2009, 04:14 PM
Lars Wirzenius
 
Default Notifications: uselessness of

ke, 2009-02-25 kello 09:43 +0000, Mark Shuttleworth kirjoitti:
> Oliver, this was not constructive feedback.

I'm going to give some more harsh-ish feedback. I'll try to formulate it
politely, but I apologize beforehand for failing to do so.

Notifications are always interruptions. When something new pops up on
the screen, it interrupts my thought and my work, and if I'm "in the
zone" (also known as "in hack mode"), that interruption may cost about
fifteen minutes of effective work time.

It doesn't matter what it is that pops up on the screen: be it a
notification bubble (old or new design), a new window that causes the
task bar to change, or an application that causes its task bar button to
blink. Or something else.

I don't like it when those things happen. All applications should, in my
opinion, strive to interrupt the user as little as possible, especially
by default. If the user really wants to be notified of every incoming
e-mail, that's fine, but by default, in my opinion, the Ubuntu desktop
should consider the vast numbers of people who use their computer as a
tool, rather than as a toy. (I'm sure more people use computers as toys,
but they should then be happy to go through the menus to enable all
sorts of notifications.)

The notifications I would like to see are for serious things: when I'm
about to lose data, or cause a security breach to happen, or endanger
someone's health or property. Trivial stuff like new e-mail or IM
messages or highlighted lines on IRC should be turned off by default.

Most applications don't have a way to configure off notifications. For
example, Epiphany always notifies me when it has downloaded a file. Most
of the time, this happens within five seconds of when I initiated the
download, making the notification useless. Other times, the download
will take a while, perhaps up to hours, and I don't care exactly when it
ends. I would prefer to ask to be notified in specific instances when I
do care, rather than be uselessly notified all the time.

Because of this, I find all the work that is going into making
notifications prettier to be misdirected.


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Old 02-25-2009, 04:28 PM
Steven Harms
 
Default Notifications: uselessness of

If you can disable notifications, I really don't see this being an
issue. If you are "in the zone" and don't want to be interrupted,
that should work just fine. Am I missing something?

On Wed, Feb 25, 2009 at 12:14 PM, Lars Wirzenius <lars@ubuntu.com> wrote:
> ke, 2009-02-25 kello 09:43 +0000, Mark Shuttleworth kirjoitti:
>> Oliver, this was not constructive feedback.
>
> I'm going to give some more harsh-ish feedback. I'll try to formulate it
> politely, but I apologize beforehand for failing to do so.
>
> Notifications are always interruptions. When something new pops up on
> the screen, it interrupts my thought and my work, and if I'm "in the
> zone" (also known as "in hack mode"), that interruption may cost about
> fifteen minutes of effective work time.
>
> It doesn't matter what it is that pops up on the screen: be it a
> notification bubble (old or new design), a new window that causes the
> task bar to change, or an application that causes its task bar button to
> blink. Or something else.
>
> I don't like it when those things happen. All applications should, in my
> opinion, strive to interrupt the user as little as possible, especially
> by default. If the user really wants to be notified of every incoming
> e-mail, that's fine, but by default, in my opinion, the Ubuntu desktop
> should consider the vast numbers of people who use their computer as a
> tool, rather than as a toy. (I'm sure more people use computers as toys,
> but they should then be happy to go through the menus to enable all
> sorts of notifications.)
>
> The notifications I would like to see are for serious things: when I'm
> about to lose data, or cause a security breach to happen, or endanger
> someone's health or property. Trivial stuff like new e-mail or IM
> messages or highlighted lines on IRC should be turned off by default.
>
> Most applications don't have a way to configure off notifications. For
> example, Epiphany always notifies me when it has downloaded a file. Most
> of the time, this happens within five seconds of when I initiated the
> download, making the notification useless. Other times, the download
> will take a while, perhaps up to hours, and I don't care exactly when it
> ends. I would prefer to ask to be notified in specific instances when I
> do care, rather than be uselessly notified all the time.
>
> Because of this, I find all the work that is going into making
> notifications prettier to be misdirected.
>
>
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Old 02-25-2009, 04:33 PM
Chow Loong Jin
 
Default Notifications: uselessness of

On Wed, 2009-02-25 at 19:14 +0200, Lars Wirzenius wrote:
> ke, 2009-02-25 kello 09:43 +0000, Mark Shuttleworth kirjoitti:
> > Oliver, this was not constructive feedback.
>
> I'm going to give some more harsh-ish feedback. I'll try to formulate it
> politely, but I apologize beforehand for failing to do so.
>
> Notifications are always interruptions. When something new pops up on
> the screen, it interrupts my thought and my work, and if I'm "in the
> zone" (also known as "in hack mode"), that interruption may cost about
> fifteen minutes of effective work time.
>
> It doesn't matter what it is that pops up on the screen: be it a
> notification bubble (old or new design), a new window that causes the
> task bar to change, or an application that causes its task bar button to
> blink. Or something else.
Not everyone is easily distracted. Most of the time, if I truly am "in
the zone", a notification or a blinking icon does not really affect me.
It will appear, then disappear, without me looking at it. I'll perhaps
notice it, but it does not disrupt my train of thought. A window opening
might though.

That said, I prefer to have these notifications appear, because they do
not steal focus or suddenly block my view of my code or anything I'm
working on.
>
> I don't like it when those things happen. All applications should, in my
> opinion, strive to interrupt the user as little as possible, especially
> by default. If the user really wants to be notified of every incoming
> e-mail, that's fine, but by default, in my opinion, the Ubuntu desktop
> should consider the vast numbers of people who use their computer as a
> tool, rather than as a toy. (I'm sure more people use computers as toys,
> but they should then be happy to go through the menus to enable all
> sorts of notifications.)
I think it's more likely the other way round. People who use their
computers as tools rather than toys would definitely know where to look
to disable the said notifications, while those who do use their
computers as toys have shallow knowledge of it and don't know that
notifications even exist.
>
> The notifications I would like to see are for serious things: when I'm
> about to lose data, or cause a security breach to happen, or endanger
> someone's health or property. Trivial stuff like new e-mail or IM
> messages or highlighted lines on IRC should be turned off by default.
I'll have to disagree with you on this. While I agree that applications
should not interrupt the user too much, I believe that the things you
have highlighted above are important enough to take note of. If you do
not want to read new e-mail, close your e-mail client. If you do not
want to see new IM or respond to it, close your IM client. If you do not
want to pay attention to IRC, close your IRC client. That's how I see
it. I think the general rule is that if you want to keep it open, then
you want to receive those notifications.
>
> Most applications don't have a way to configure off notifications. For
> example, Epiphany always notifies me when it has downloaded a file. Most
> of the time, this happens within five seconds of when I initiated the
> download, making the notification useless. Other times, the download
> will take a while, perhaps up to hours, and I don't care exactly when it
> ends. I would prefer to ask to be notified in specific instances when I
> do care, rather than be uselessly notified all the time.
Then it's a bug in the said applications, not the global notification
system.
>
> Because of this, I find all the work that is going into making
> notifications prettier to be misdirected.
>
>

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Old 02-25-2009, 05:05 PM
Ted Gould
 
Default Notifications: uselessness of

On Wed, 2009-02-25 at 19:14 +0200, Lars Wirzenius wrote:
> Notifications are always interruptions. When something new pops up on
> the screen, it interrupts my thought and my work, and if I'm "in the
> zone" (also known as "in hack mode"), that interruption may cost about
> fifteen minutes of effective work time.

First off, wow. For Lars version 2.0 I'd recommend working on that
context switch time! Most studies put it at a few orders of
magnitude lower.

> I don't like it when those things happen. All applications should, in my
> opinion, strive to interrupt the user as little as possible, especially
> by default. If the user really wants to be notified of every incoming
> e-mail, that's fine, but by default, in my opinion, the Ubuntu desktop
> should consider the vast numbers of people who use their computer as a
> tool, rather than as a toy. (I'm sure more people use computers as toys,
> but they should then be happy to go through the menus to enable all
> sorts of notifications.)

I think that your categories present a false choice. I would argue that
most people use their computers to communicate, whether that be for
entertainment or for productive pursuits. So, when communication that
requires immediate feedback as another human being is waiting on their
response that is important to them. Sometimes people turn off the
ringer on their phone, but for most that is a rare occurrence. (off
completely, not vibrate)

> The notifications I would like to see are for serious things: when I'm
> about to lose data, or cause a security breach to happen, or endanger
> someone's health or property. Trivial stuff like new e-mail or IM
> messages or highlighted lines on IRC should be turned off by default.

So, we've thought about that The reality is that you want different
level of notifications at different times. Sometimes an interruption is
okay and sometimes it certainly is not. For instance, someone IMing you
"wanna take a long lunch?" while you're giving a presentation to your
boss. The problem is that it's hard to detect what people's intentions
are when they're using their computer.

We're using a few things, like if the application is full screen to
detect presentations. Something we'll probably look at is what you've
set your IM status to (for instance "busy"). The Fedora guys have
implemented some of this type of status information into gnome-session,
but unfortunately have not discussed it publicly or spec'd it. So we're
not building on it today.

> Most applications don't have a way to configure off notifications.

I believe this is incorrect. Evolution, Pidgin and Rhythmbox all do.

--Ted

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Old 02-26-2009, 04:36 AM
Lars Wirzenius
 
Default Notifications: uselessness of

ke, 2009-02-25 kello 12:05 -0600, Ted Gould kirjoitti:
> On Wed, 2009-02-25 at 19:14 +0200, Lars Wirzenius wrote:
> > Notifications are always interruptions. When something new pops up on
> > the screen, it interrupts my thought and my work, and if I'm "in the
> > zone" (also known as "in hack mode"), that interruption may cost about
> > fifteen minutes of effective work time.
>
> First off, wow. For Lars version 2.0 I'd recommend working on that
> context switch time! Most studies put it at a few orders of
> magnitude lower.

All studies I've heard of say the time to get back into the zone, or
flow, is around fifteen minutes for most people. See Peopleware, for
example.



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Old 02-26-2009, 04:38 AM
Lars Wirzenius
 
Default Notifications: uselessness of

ke, 2009-02-25 kello 12:28 -0500, Steven Harms kirjoitti:
> If you can disable notifications, I really don't see this being an
> issue. If you are "in the zone" and don't want to be interrupted,
> that should work just fine. Am I missing something?

Disabling notifications (if one can do that) disables all of them,
including the ones that are important, such as running out of battery.


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Old 02-26-2009, 05:06 AM
Robert Collins
 
Default Notifications: uselessness of

On Thu, 2009-02-26 at 07:36 +0200, Lars Wirzenius wrote:
> ke, 2009-02-25 kello 12:05 -0600, Ted Gould kirjoitti:
> > On Wed, 2009-02-25 at 19:14 +0200, Lars Wirzenius wrote:
> > > Notifications are always interruptions. When something new pops up on
> > > the screen, it interrupts my thought and my work, and if I'm "in the
> > > zone" (also known as "in hack mode"), that interruption may cost about
> > > fifteen minutes of effective work time.
> >
> > First off, wow. For Lars version 2.0 I'd recommend working on that
> > context switch time! Most studies put it at a few orders of
> > magnitude lower.
>
> All studies I've heard of say the time to get back into the zone, or
> flow, is around fifteen minutes for most people. See Peopleware, for
> example.

Its certainly a minimum of that for me; for really deep things it can be
nearly an hour: When I'm trying to get that sort of work done, I drop
off IRC, close my browser, email client, everything. But I find its also
geared to the depth and nature of the interruption. 'Honey I'm heading
out for coffee' - no issue. 'Quick, look at this clip on youtube' ->
bah, state-drop.

-Rob
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Old 02-26-2009, 07:32 AM
Christopher James Halse Rogers
 
Default Notifications: uselessness of

On Thu, 2009-02-26 at 07:38 +0200, Lars Wirzenius wrote:
> ke, 2009-02-25 kello 12:28 -0500, Steven Harms kirjoitti:
> > If you can disable notifications, I really don't see this being an
> > issue. If you are "in the zone" and don't want to be interrupted,
> > that should work just fine. Am I missing something?
>
> Disabling notifications (if one can do that) disables all of them,
> including the ones that are important, such as running out of battery.
>
The NotifyOSD use cases[1] explicitly mention this - there are two
notification queues, one for critical information, like running out of
battery, and one for non-critical information. The non-critical queue
should be paused while doing "presentation" type activities.

There's apparently some fullscreen window herustic, and I think it also
watches for apps that fire a screensaver-inhibit. Those would seem to
cover a lot of automatically determinable cases.

I've also seen it mentioned that Red Hat have been hooking in IM "busy"
states to gnome-session; that would be worth hooking into when it's
upstream/somewhat standardised.

[1] https://wiki.ubuntu.com/NotifyOSD#Use%20cases
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Old 02-26-2009, 08:48 AM
Mat Tomaszewski
 
Default Notifications: uselessness of

Lars Wirzenius wrote:
> ke, 2009-02-25 kello 09:43 +0000, Mark Shuttleworth kirjoitti:
>
>> Oliver, this was not constructive feedback.
>>
>
> I'm going to give some more harsh-ish feedback. I'll try to formulate it
> politely, but I apologize beforehand for failing to do so.
>
> Notifications are always interruptions. When something new pops up on
> the screen, it interrupts my thought and my work, and if I'm "in the
> zone" (also known as "in hack mode"), that interruption may cost about
> fifteen minutes of effective work time.
>
>
>
Hi Lars,

Thanks for the interesting feedback. I'm happy to let you know that we
have already thought about the problem you described. All you need to do
is switch to "Do not disturb" mode, which will disable all, but critical
notifications.

Hope it is close to the solution you've been asking for.

Many thanks,

Mat


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Old 02-26-2009, 05:18 PM
Matthew Paul Thomas
 
Default Notifications: uselessness of

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

Lars Wirzenius wrote on 25/02/09 17:14:
>...
> It doesn't matter what it is that pops up on the screen: be it a
> notification bubble (old or new design), a new window that causes the
> task bar to change, or an application that causes its task bar button
> to blink. Or something else.
>
> I don't like it when those things happen. All applications should, in
> my opinion, strive to interrupt the user as little as possible,
> especially by default. If the user really wants to be notified of
> every incoming e-mail, that's fine, but by default, in my opinion, the
> Ubuntu desktop should consider the vast numbers of people who use
> their computer as a tool, rather than as a toy.

I agree entirely. Developers often think their software is more
fascinating to people than it actually is, which leads them to make the
software more "chatty" than it should be. (The pathological extreme of
this can be found in the Windows Vista User Experience Guidelines, which
seriously recommend that a "non-critical system event" should display a
notification balloon "once every 10 minutes if users must resolve within
an hour, once every hour if users must resolve within a day".)

One pleasant side effect of our work on notifications is that it has
given us the excuse to rip out some gratuitous notification bubbles,
such as the one saying "Your laptop battery is now fully charged". And
when an interactive notification is really necessary, an alert box or
other window that opens in the background will usually be less
distracting then a bubble that floats on top of your work.

>...
> The notifications I would like to see are for serious things: when I'm
> about to lose data, or cause a security breach to happen, or endanger
> someone's health or property. Trivial stuff like new e-mail or IM
> messages or highlighted lines on IRC should be turned off by default.

Agreed. (And it is off by default, as far as I know.)

>...
> Because of this, I find all the work that is going into making
> notifications prettier to be misdirected.

We're starting small. This isn't a "feature", it's not something that
would make sense to mention in a brochure or anything like that, but it
should be excellent anyway. And as for "making notifications prettier",
that amounts to about 5 percent of the notifications work we're doing.

Cheers
- --
Matthew Paul Thomas
http://mpt.net.nz/
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