Notifications – I Think You Told Me Already

December 21st, 2011

Didn't you just tell me that?

People use an ever increasing number of applications, services and platforms to communicate or collaborate with each other. Each of these services needs to send out notifications to their users to inform them that certain events have occurred.

An event can be absolutely anything:

  • Comment
  • Status update
  • Task completion
  • Blog post
  • Uploaded picture
  • etc

We have an enormous amount of ways through which we can inform users that one of these actions has occurred i.e Email, Instant Message, Text message, On screen notification, Phone call (automated), RSS, Push notifications etc.

The internet, its users, creators and facilitators should all have enough experience at this stage to understand how to effectively handle notifications. Yet here I am writing a blog post about how much notifications annoy me because they are not done right.

So what is the notification problem?

Companies have a mindset that says “Oh oh oh quick! Something happened. Tell the user every which way you can so that they know!”.

I am going to single out Yammer here as my example – but many big internet companies are guilty of notification overload.

We use Yammer in the office. It is a decent tool for intra-company communication that is more flexible that email while also being quick and easy to use. It is basically Twitter for companies.

You can add messages in Yammer via their website or through their desktop client. If you are running the desktop client when someone posts a message then you’ll see a flash up notification on your desktop outside of the client – completely in your face – cannot miss it. If you then bring the client into focus on the desktop – it’ll have a red box with a number in it (indicating how many posts you’ve missed). Below that will be a big box that you have to click to load the new messages. On top of this you’ll also get a link to click “load new messages” within each thread that has new messages.

If someone has directly replied to a comment of yours – then you’ll also get ANOTHER red box at the top with a number in it (this one representing the replies you’ve missed).

How many notifications or prompts, within the desktop client alone, was that?

Outside of the desktop app – you’ll also receive an email for all comments/messages that are relevant to you. I’m glad they don’t have my mobile phone number.

If you are anything like me, you cant have all of these red boxes and emails screaming at you to be read and cleared so you feel force to give them your attention.

How about some context?

Informing users through every communication mechanism available is clearly not the answer and essentially leads to tired, irked users.

Notifications can be clever. They can ask questions about the users they need to contact and make a decision about the best way to get in touch.

Is the user logged in on the website or the desktop client? Yes – then trust that your notification mechanism will get the message through. If the user is not logged in – then send an email.

Any tricks for the website notifications being noticed?

How about checking if the window has focus? If you are using jQuery you could do this:

$(window).blur(function() {
    // Inform my app that the user
    // is not going to see my notifications

$(window).focus(function() {
    // Inform my app that the user will
    // be able to see notifications

Don’t blast me with updates. Make me like your service without having to consciously think why.

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Categories: General, Programming

Disgusting 118 118 UK Mobile Charges

August 15th, 2010
If you are with 02 (the UK mobile network provider) and need a number urgently … DO NOT CALL 118-118!

I used the 118-118 number the other day. The service is prompt – but that is exactly what you’d expect seeing as they charge your a highly disgusting amount for it.

Conversation goes like this:

118-118: Hi, How can I help you?
Me: Can I have the number for XXXXXXX please?
118-118: Certainly Sir. 1 Second please.
(5 seconds later)
118-118: the number is XXXX XXX XXXX. Do you want me to put you through to that number?
Me: Why yes – that’d be great thanks.
…. call forwarded.

I was then on the phone to the person I initially needed to talk to. I spoke with them for about 11mins.

Today I received my phone bill from 02 :-{

Call duration for 118-118 was tallied at 12 minutes and cost £15.319 (and hence rounded up to £15.32).

118-118 keep the call open on their line when they “put you through”. It is an scam beyond belief.

How many people are lazy enough not to lift the yellow pages or the phone directory when they are at home and instead call 118-118 for the number they need? I’d hazard a guess at 3% of the UK population.

How many people need access to numbers when they are out and about, hence using their mobiles? I’d go a lot higher than the initial number.

Where people have a choice (at home) I’m sure that 118-118 has a low cost. Their largest customer base sits squarely in the mobile arena and it is here that they are truly screwing every last penny out of anyone that dares call their service.

Be warned!

Categories: General

Ubuntu – Create a Desktop Shortcut For ScribeFire

August 13th, 2010

Ever get fed up of starting up Firefox just to get at ScribeFire so that you can unleash your next flood of pointless drivel creative masterpiece that will drive millions of page views to your site?

Well then look no further than here.

This is an excellent step-by-step procedure to set ScribeFire up as a desktop shortcut within Prism. Kudos to the writer. I tried to leave a thank you note on his website but the security on his comment form was way to restrictive …. Who has time to login???

So – get down and give me 20 soldier! I’ve just helped to increase your productivity!

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Categories: General

The Pain Of A Linux Blogger (Ubuntu)

August 12th, 2010
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Blogging on Linux (Ubuntu) Sucks!Using a browser to blog feels very restrictive to me – so this may all read as completely irrelevant to you if you do not feel the same way.

Touting myself as a regular blogger would be lies – so I won’t do that – but when I do blog I like the freedom that I get by editing at my leisure offline in a non-browser client.

When I removed Windows Vista from my trusty laptop recently I installed Ubuntu 10.04 and have truly loved it so far. There had to be a down side though – right?

Here is your task:

Go to Google and search for : gnome blog editor

Have a good look through the results and make sure to note down the features.

Glance through the features and scribble out all of the blog editors that do not support image/file uploading. How many are left?

I’m guessing that you are going to find NONE. Very disappointing.

Sure – you’ll bump into loads that will half do the job and must only be used by people who love text only browsers. You’ll get the odd one that does support image uploading like Gnome Blog but go ahead and try using it. You’ll soon find that positioning that image in your blog post is impossible and any kind of text formatting other than the cryptically iconified  (pretty sure iconified is not a word – but you get the idea right ? icons… etc) bold and italics is out of the question.

What to Use

ScribeFireIt deeply saddens me to say this but the only option is ScribeFire. Don’t go thinking that you can use ScribeFire in Chrome though – because that version doesn’t support image uploading either. No – you are stuck with the Firefox version.

In order to make it feel like an independent client, I open up Firefox and then open ScribeFire in a new window – then close down the main Firefox window. Utterly useless approach but it works.

The reason I am saddened in having to use ScribeFire is because the WYSIWYG interface is clunky and doesn’t support half of the standard HTML tags you’d expect – e.g Header tags.

What Does The Future Hold

Not a lot if you go by the suggestions that get created in the Ubuntu brainstorm site, here, you’ll see that there is clearly limited inclination from the Ubuntu programmers to implement something great for the everyday blogger using Gnome. Granted, it should not just be their job to do this – but they own the most popular Linux desktop platform so responsibility has to lay somewhere – right?

Ubuntu needs to nail the Social aspect of the OS and has made good strides with Lucid (10.04) but for me – this is a major black hole in their arsenal when trying to sell their wares to MAC and Windows users.

       … Create a Gnome version of Windows Live Writer and watch ‘em flock around …

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Categories: General, Linux

Aptana Studio 3 – Beta – SQL Explorer : Could not connect to your database alias

August 4th, 2010

I have been an avid user of Aptana Studio 2 for some time now and have used SQL Explorer within it a lot as well – because lets face it – having an SQL editor within your development environment is extremely productive if you are a web developer.

In order to keep up with the constant motion of life long learning I upgraded Aptana Studio 2 to version 3 Beta.

It’s slick. I like it a lot!

However I did run into an issue where SQL Explorer refused to connect to my remote MySQL server.

The exact error message was:

Could not connect to your database alias; the exact message was:
Cannot connect to Dev/root. Check your URL

This annoyed me for a good long while – even to the point that I was considering rolling back to version 2 of Aptana. It turns out that the reason I could not connect was due to the fact that I did not specify the database name at the end of my connection details.

i.e my connection string was this:

But it should have been this:

See the difference? The second string has “/mysql” on the end. In essence “/mysql” could actually be any database contained on the server you are connecting to.

SQL Explorer in Aptana Studio 2 never made the database part of the connection string compulsory. This most probably has more to do with SQL Explorer than Aptana – but the two work in tandem so I cannot rule it out. As I cannot compare version numbers (my old Aptana Studio 2 install has been blown away) – I will never know for sure if this was simply an update to SQL Explorer or some Aptana interference.

It also seems like there is NO ONE out to the interwebs talking about SQL Explorer for Eclipse and Aptana – the reasons for which I cannot explain. I had tried searching for resolutions to this issue before but found very limited references to SQL Explorer.

So, there you have it.

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Categories: General, Programming

The Problem With

March 18th, 2009
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Absolutely none.

I’ve had over 11,800 views on my profile on and from looking at Google Analytics it seems that not even one person came from the site to

I find it pretty perplexing.

So instead of using it to drive traffic I have now changed strategies and now use it for link building. The crappy part about that is that I have to dump links in at the end of my posts if I want to generate links. The site doesn’t appear to allow outgoing links anywhere else.

My profile doesn’t have a direct link to anywhere. So who uses this site and why?

Who knows…

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Categories: General

The Economics of The Big Word Project

May 13th, 2008

I just came across an article on Wired that lead me to ‘The Big Word Project‘ – which has been created by fellow Northern Ireland-ers. Keen to explore – I dived in.

Basically – you buy a word in the English dictionary and pay $1 for each letter in that word. The word, on the big word project’s website, then has a permanent link to any website/page of your choice.

I flicked through the site, nicely designed, and blog for a while and then started to think…. Isn’t this a massive case of text-link-ads?

Text-Link-Ads is about buying a text link on someones website. When someone clicks on the link – you are taken to your website. Sweet. Prices vary depending on the popularity of the site you advertise on.

The Big Word Project seems very little different. You buy a word which links to your website.

The value of buying a word that links to your website needs a little thought :

  1. How much does the word cost
  2. How many visitors will click through to my website
  3. What additional benefits will I get from buying

How much does the word cost

The cost of the word is simple. Count up the number of letters in your word and that is how many dollars it will cost.

How many visitors will click through to my website

This question has a positive and negative aspect. Since the site is so new and the self proclaimed ‘Viral Guy’ , co-owner, is pushing all the right buttons to publicise it – you can be guaranteed some early traffic as website owners scramble to pick up the shoddy remains of the English dictionary (after all the good words are gone).

The problem comes when the initial clamour of interest wanes – the novelty wears off and site traffic deminishes – that your investment seems short lived.

What additional benefits will I get from buying

The pagerank and link text are key here. You talk about money on your site and a page with good pagerank links to you with the keyword ‘money’ and you are quids in. Google will like you a little more.


Buy a word, link it to your site and watch the traffic flow in – but it will mostly be novelty and short lived traffic.

The fact that most companies have names and not English dictionary words causes concern for me. I would want my word to be ‘McNicholl’ – but its not a word in the dictionary so its not allowed.

Google hammered blogs not so long ago for their irrelevant links – which posed to similarity to the content of the site that they were linking from. Bloggers the world over cried and called the end to Text-Link Ads as a revenue model. Their Pageranks crumbled. So how will ‘The Big Word Project’ give you good pagerank when Google wont pass the Pagerank love through to your site?

One way the guys over at ‘The Big Word Project’ could help out would be to have an individual page for each word that is text customizable by the person buying the word. That way they could make it seem a lot more relevant and the Pagerank would be passed through.

Fair play to the guys for the idea as it seems to be bringing in the money. It’s the simplest ideas that pay the biggest dividends.

Categories: Ads, General, SEO

Site Outage Is Now An Opportunity To Beg

April 13th, 2008
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I never thought I’d see an opportunity for someone to outright beg when their website went down – but low and behold Tyler Cruz has managed it.

Posted on his site today is this :

Hello everyone, I apologize profusely for the site downtime (4 days now!). Unfortunately, one of my servers crashed and the data was wiped. I did have many backup solutions in place, but a series of unfortunate events occured (Murphy's Law). To make matters worse, the server crash occured right before I went on vacation - I am currently writing this on my laptop in he hotel room. We have recovered most of the data now, but there is one particular file that didn't get backed up which is vital. Unfortunately, it is on my home computer. Please be patient as I am working hard on getting my sites back up and running, and again, I apologize for the downtime. I have spent a lot of money on server upgrades and 911 emergency server administration costs, so if you'd like to donate something to help cover all the fees, I'd certainly appreciate it - any amount would be helpful. But please don't feel obligated to as I do make decent money from my websites. If you'd like to donate something, my PayPal address is: [email protected] - please put in the subject line "Server Donation". Thank you, and I hope to get everything back up and running ASAP! Cheers, Tyler Cruz Merendi Networks Inc.

(see attached image)

This plea comes from a man that supposedly, by his own admission, makes nearly $100, 000 per year. I find extra hillarity in the the sentence “But please don’t feel obligated to as I do make decent money from my websites.”. Who is he expecting will donate? I donate to charity but this is just pathetic idiocracy from a John Chow lap dog.

Get a backbone man.

Pathetic Begging

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Categories: General

Working full time and creating an online business…

March 19th, 2008
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Are you one of the people who is trying desperately to outgrow your corporate shackles and run your own business? Are you trying to do this by doing both at the same time?

If so – then you are just like me. If you are in this situation – you’ll find that it is extremely difficult to get enough time to do all the things you want or need to do between getting home from work and getting into bed – exhausted.

How do you manage your time? How do you manage your friends, family and significant other?

Starting a business is as difficult as you make it and having a full time job while developing a business on the side is possibly one of the most difficult ways you can approach it. Your own situation essentially dictates the choices you have. I personnally have been saving to get married for a long time (getting married is expensive these days ;-) ) and therefore have no option but to continue working a full-time job.

I cannot leave my job cold turkey and wait for the business to start generating enough revenue to cover day to day costs as people want to eat when they arrive at your wedding reception and the hotel doesnt do credit.

Other situations you could be facing include :

  • children (they gotta eat)
  • mortgage payments
  • car payments
  • anything else that requires money

These are the sorts of things that require a full time steady income.

Are you in this situation? If so – please take the time to explain how you manage to invest enough time in your fledgling upstart…

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Categories: General

Do You Time Your Posts?

February 21st, 2008

As a blogger one needs to maximize their exposure as much as possible. One way that I have found a little useful is to time my posts to the times of the work day when people get a little more “internet browsing” friendly. These are times when their minds start to drift of what is needed done at work and towards what they want to do when they get home. As I work full time at the moment I know for sure that when I get into the office in the morning I’ll do a burst of work to clear things up and then around 10:30 – 11am I do a bit of surfing.  This will happen again after lunch as well. I am sure I’m not the only one that does this.

I’ve taken my own “slacker” times and tried to shift them to the American timezone i.e +5 to 7hours (I am GMT so I need to ensure that I cover the Americans in the morning) in and attempt to gain maximum exposure. People have all sorts of ways to get their news these days, whether it be through Reddit/Digg type voting sites, or RSS aggregators, or Technorati / MyBlogLog type community sites as well as browsing their favourite URLs. You can attempt to get in front of more eyes by timing your blog posts to just the right time in the day.

This post is going out at 22:40 GMT – which will effectively mean its EOD for those in America. That means this is badly timed. I could easily set WordPress to release the post at the correct time tomorrow though – but I won’t.

Do you do this with your posts? If so – do you notice any improvement in your traffic?

Categories: General

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