Notifications: uselessness of

Chow Loong Jin hyperair at
Wed Feb 25 17:33:45 GMT 2009

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

Chow Loong Jin
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