In the age of Slack or comparable group chats at basically every workplace unread bubbles and notifications are more or less obsolete in its current form
One corner stone of JayPads is a powerful discussion feature which works a lot like a single Slack channel or a WhatsApp group chat. A few mayor problems of these systems are nicely described (and controversially discussed) here. Especially the downside of over-informing and over-notifying resonates a lot with us. The biggest problem, aside from making people loose their mind, is in essence: If everything is a notification — nothing is.
We solve this problem in two ways:
- We provide a way to separate information which has relevancy beyond the upcoming five minutes (ie. “information which is important”) from the ongoing discussion which is fostered by the very essence of a chat.
- We handle notifications a little bit differently.
1. Make relevant information easily accessible
Chat is a tremendous help to getting things done and helping especially remote teams to stay in touch “effortlessly” (we are sure more than a few might disagree on that one). BUT the great strength of chat is also its greatest downside: The simplicity of sending a message. There is virtually no barrier to sending any thought which just enters ones mind — which more often than not clusters discussions and makes them extremely difficult to follow.
The great strength of chat is also its greatest downside: The simplicity of sending a message.
When reducing chat communication, be it in a professional or in a private environment, to its core, we see two dimensions:
- Relevant content: Information like “I am free on Mondays and Tuesdays” or “I want to go to Vegas” as well as “See this competitor” or “We have an extended deadline until May 15”.
- Not-so-relevant content: Information like “See this cute cat video” as well as “I just kinda sorta want to write something here in order to have written something here”.
We solve the issue of mixing these dimensions in a single stream of ongoing conversation by separating them.
This separation makes relevant information easily accessible while still offering the convenient way of discussing in a simple (and fun) way.
2. Inform about activity in a non-disturbing way
Receiving a notification on every single activity in every single group chat or discussion channel renders these notifications obsolete. Once a few dozen or even hundred unreads have piled up a user gives in and just doesn’t notice them anymore. If you have ever joined a “discussion” in a public Slack channel with a few hundred or better yet thousand users you will feel the pain.
We share a different view on “importance” of information about activity in a group chat compared to maybe every single messaging or group communication tool in existence: A chat is not the most urgent tool to inform someone — this still is that device on your desk or in your pocket once called “a telephone”. Just pick it up and reach out. If you schedule online meetings: fine. Everyone will be in the same channel and notifications are not needed. If you just write something which is part of an ongoing asynchronous discussion: Accept the fact that this discussion will not morph into a synchronous conversation just through a simple notification popping up somewhere on a screen.
If your notification should somehow signal “this is important” — sending that signal hundreds of times daily might not be your best bet.
JayPads give an anchor saying “something has happened” via email after, well… something has happened in the user’s absence. If during the next 24 hours the user decides this anchor is relevant enough to check back into the JayPad — the notification process is restarted.
Yet, this mechanism alone might not be sufficient since ongoing conversation happens and an hours old anchor indicating “User A said Hi” might cloud the fact, that more important discussion took place after this email was sent. This is why we incorporated a way to access information on JayPad activity through this very email: A small gif updates every time the email is opened and gives an indicator on the amount of activity which took place after the notification was sent.
This mechanism helps users to better decide if activity is a trigger relevant enough to join the conversation or to stay away and not be bothered.
From a technical standpoint this is really cool stuff as well and Philip Claren solved several problems at once through some great Elixir magic — if this is your forté you should really check out this article, he goes into detail on how to set up something like this.