Powerdevil notifications

Celeste Lyn Paul celeste at kde.org
Tue Sep 29 15:22:33 BST 2009

On Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 8:05 AM, Sebastian Kügler <sebas at kde.org> wrote:
> On Thursday 10 September 2009 02:17:44 Yuriy Kozlov wrote:
>> 2009/9/9 Aurélien Gâteau <aurelien.gateau at canonical.com>:
>> > As you probably know (at least if you are using KDE4 on a laptop),
>> > Powerdevil shows a notification when you are running out of power and it
>> > is about to suspend/hibernate/shutdown the computer.
>> >
>> > This notification provides an action to cancel the suspend process. This
>> > is the only notification I found within KDE which could cause a real
>> > problem when using Ayatana notifications.  Gnome-power-manager used a
>> > similar notification, and the notification was turned into a dialog, the
>> > argument being that the program is about to do something very drastic,
>> > so it is OK to show a dialog in this situation.
>> >
>> > I would like to make a similar change in Powerdevil.  I think this
>> > change would be a good idea even when using regular KDE notifications
>> > (there has been some discussion on the subject on kde-core-devel@, with
>> > mixed opinions, but I think it could be upstreamed).  I attached a
>> > mock-up of the dialog I would like to implement.  What do you think
>> > about this?
>> >
>> > Aurelien
>> I am for this becoming a dialog.  When it has come up, I never seemed
>> to get down there in time.  Though I thought I did -- it seemed more
>> like the button just didn't do anything!  Regardless, it's an urgent
>> message and something will most certainly be interrupting my work in
>> 10 seconds if I don't act on it, so it should be a dialog.
> I object (also as a Kubuntu developer):
> Merging this patch will change the behaviour of an upstream component significantly,
> violating basic design rules of the Plasma team. The Plasma team has taken a very
> conscious choice here, and explained that at length in the thread on kde-core-devel
> linked below.

The problem is the chance of the message being missed or delayed in
viewing is too great when the message is displayed in a notification
instead of in the center of the screen. For such a critical message,
this isn't acceptable. Bad things could happen if the user doesn't
address the message in time. Notifications are often used to keep the
user updated on status or present unimportant information at a
location which isn't distracting when the user is engaged but
noticable when they have available attention resources. The computer
taking control and automatically suspending is not a minor matter. It
is a response which in an attempt to help the user it has taken
control from them. The user must be aware of this and be allowed to
regain control immediately. A notification just isn't sufficient.

Persistence in the corner wont help because it is the animation which
gains the user's attention, not the presentness of the display.
Notifications also have the potential for learned behaviors such as
banner blindness (where the user gets used to junk in a certain
position and trains themself to ignore it) and automatic
click-to-close without reading the display. This could lead to a
potentially damaging situation if the computer suspends on it's own
from a minor "WTF is my computer doing" reaction to very serious data
loss due to inability for the hardware to successfully suspend. There
are also the cases where the user turns off notifications or is
running in a display mode which represses notifications (such as
watching a movie).

Some people on the Plasma team have taken a seemingly Raskinian
philosophy when it comes to modal interfaces and popup dialogs, but
that does not make modal interfaces and popup dialogs evil, simply
misused. May I remind you that Raskin also promoted two other design
ideals: keeping the user in control and never allowing the system to
do harm to the user.

It's not like users hit Critical very often, and when they do, they
probably damn well need the reminder that their computer is about to
die. Remember, there is also the ability to "Warn" at a higher
percentage (is the default 10%?) which is absolutely suitable as a
popup notification.

So in summary, a more obvious display, such as in the middle of the
user's workspace (what the implementation is, I don't care) of the
critical warning is a good thing because:

* It keeps the user in control
* It reduces the potential for damage
* Provides more space to design user reaction

Notifications are less than optimal for such a critical piece of
information because:

* There is a high potential for the notification to be missed or not
attended to in time
* There is potential for damage
* There is less room to design user reaction

I feel like I ought to reference the 3 Laws of Robotics.

> Changing powerdevil is not part of the Ayatana testing either. The patches are
> unconditional (so also affect the non-Ayatana setup) and Aurelien said they were
> independant of Ayatana -- although that sounds like a bit of a stretch to me.
> As such, the rule to follow would be "get it merged upstream, then ship it".
> Diverting from upstream is the wrong thing to do here. The patch has been rejected,
> and thus should be dropped from Kubuntu as well.
> Shipping this patch will increase resource consumption of the Kubuntu community long-
> term and hurt the relationship with KDE's team. One very recent example for this can
> be found here:
> http://blog.martin-graesslin.com/blog/2009/09/why-distributions-shouldnt-ship-
> development-versions/
> Personally, this kind of things (changing powerdevil interaction scheme, but also
> shipping the networkmanager plasmoid from playground without even asking) discourage
> me from working with the Kubuntu team. I understand that you want to create a good
> desktop, but this is the wrong way to go about it.
>> Can you link to the kde-core-devel discussion?
> http://lists.kde.org/?l=kde-core-devel&m=125362617220332&w=2
> --
> sebas
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Celeste Lyn Paul
KDE Usability Project
KDE e.V. Board of Directors

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