Getting Alerted When Your Group Gets Updated

Adam Taggart
By Adam Taggart on Fri, Sep 14, 2012 - 12:05am

From what we hear and observe, Groups' Achilles' Heel right now is that it's too difficult to see when new content has been contributed.

There's no process to alert you when new content has been posted to your Group(s). And so the burden falls on the user to remember to check, and checking your Group(s) take a cumbersome number of steps.

So how to address?

Our plan is: triggered email alerts.

In the future, all members of a Group will receive an email alert when each of the following occurs:

  • a new Discussion, Poll, Event or Document is created within the Group
  • a new comment is made to any of the above content types
  • a Group members shares a message in the "Recent Activity" stream

So, before we roll this out, I have a question and a task to ask of you:

QUESTION: How does the planned approach above strike you? Sound good/bad?

One caveat to consider. The current plan is to set things up so that every current Groups user automatically begins receiving these email triggers for the Groups they belong to. Most folks will find these a pleasant surprise (many have been asking for such a feature). But some others will gripe about us taking an "opt out" approach vs an "opt in".

Given the small current Groups audience and the widespread desire for this capability, we feel this is one of those cases where it's better to ask forgiveness of the unhappy minority. It will be very easy for them to opt out of these emails (and they can keep select triggers while canceling others, if they so desire).

But let us know if you think we're underestimating the expected pushback.

TASKS: The current site actually has controls in place to enable #1 and #2, but you have to activate them yourself at this point in time. Please do so now, and let me know if the experience is ends up working OK for you & if you find it valuable.

1) To receive an email notification when someone posts a new content type, such as a Discussion (aka post), Event, Poll or Document to your group:

  1. click the "My Account" tab in the upper left of the site (above the PP logo)
  2. click the "notifications" tab
  3. click the "Content type in group" link
  4. use the drop down menu to select a group, then click the "Add" button. Repeat for all of your groups in the drop down menu

2) To receive a trigger email when a new Comment is posted to a Discussion/Event/Poll/Document in one of your Groups:

  1. Identify a specific piece of content (e.g. a Discussion) in one of your Groups
  2. Right above the 'Top Comments' section, locate the link & icon reading "Follow Comments on this Discussion"
  3. Click the link (or icon). Nothing visible happens here, but you're now "following" this Comments thread and will receive an email when new comments are made. (by the way, this also works for following comments to articles across the site, as well)

Yes, we realize these set-up steps are too involved at present. But it's the way the system comes 'out of the box' in Drupal. As mentioned, we plan to automatically default folks into these settings - saving them the time and bother.

KEY INSIGHTS DESIRED: Does receiving these email triggers make Groups materially more useful and easy to use?

Thanks in advance for your feedback!

, ,

25 Comments

zdutra00's picture
zdutra00
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 6 2012
Posts: 2
Triggered Emails

Hey Adam,

 

I think thats a great idea, and to be able to receive an email after all those activities take place will help the group members interact with each other more.

I think this setting "Enable to receive email etc" needs to be set to YES on default, as soon as someone joins. They wont know to go in and change it if no one tells them.

Also, I would like to get an email every time someone new joins the group. I would like to be able to reach out and say hello. I currently organize the CCPP group and I would definitely like to know of any updates that people post to it.

 

Thanks a lot!

 

JD

Adam Taggart's picture
Adam Taggart
Status: Peak Prosperity Co-founder (Online)
Joined: May 26 2009
Posts: 2939
Good one: trigger upon member joining

Thanks for the feedback, JD. Glad you're in favor of the plan and the opt-out approach.

Love your idea of an email when someone joins - I can see all members enjoying this, but especially if you're the Group adminstrator. Am sure it can be done, but likely requires custom code. Will research with IT on how quickly we could implement it.

Phil Williams's picture
Phil Williams
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 14 2009
Posts: 337
E-mail triggers

Adam,

I think the e-mail triggers are a good way to go. There's always going to be the complainers. You can never please everyone.

Phil

joemanc's picture
joemanc
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 16 2008
Posts: 834
Another idea

Adam - On meetup.com, they give you the option of receiving emails from the message boards as they are posted, which can get out of control, and annoying on certain topics...OR, and this what I prefer - an email with a daily summary of all the messages that are exchanged. Please consider this option as well for the Groups here, if this is an option.

Dogs_In_A_Pile's picture
Dogs_In_A_Pile
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 4 2009
Posts: 2606
Notifications

Adam -

I think default auto emails for Group activity is a good idea. Based on the activity level of the groups I'm in, there would be at most a couple of emails a day and that's manageable.

I would also consider an opt-in notification system for readers/posters who have contributed to a forum thread.  That way they don't have to drill down to the forum listings to see if there is any new activity in a particular thread of interest - they know that one of their threads has had new activity and can go straight to the one in question.

Doug's picture
Doug
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
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Posts: 3125
notifications

My preference is to have a groups tab on the home page.  You currently have to know that the groups tab is in the drop-down menu under the discuss tab.  That's fine for me now that I know its there, but it might be better for the tab to be visible.

I prefer not getting email notifications.  Email is an annoyance to me and PP is among the first few sites I go to anyway.  If groups are easily accessible, that's good.  I would prefer an opt in choice.  I don't want to have to opt out to not get an email.

Thanks for asking Adam.

Doug

ckessel's picture
ckessel
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 12 2008
Posts: 465
Adam, I would like to see the

Adam,

I would like to see the groups tab on the home page so it can be quickly accessed. I know it's not far but it is something that is more of a key feature because it enables interactive communication.

Then a tab which would allow you to quickly opt in OR out would be great. I find that at certain times I just cannot deal with additional email traffic and would prefer to be able to quickly turn it on or off. Perhaps even a toggle approach. Not sure about the difficulty here.

I routinely go to PP to see the latest and getting access quickly from the home page works best for me. The old site was actually easier to get to the discussions IMO.

I agree that the steps we went through to get this feature 'set up' is involved. Could definately be streamlined.

Coop

rhare's picture
rhare
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 30 2009
Posts: 1323
Opt-out okay

I think the opt-out is okay as long as the messages that are sent have the instructions at the bottom on how to find the settings and change them. 

I'm not sure if the settings are present when you first join a group, but a section on notification settings that are part of the "join group" action would be good.

Also, you might consider setting the default action to "Daily digest" and not "within the hour".  That way active groups won't inundate people with e-mails when they aren't expecting them.

Travlin's picture
Travlin
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
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Posts: 1322
Good stuff here

Adam

A lot of good comments were made here, but Rhare is closest to my thoughts.  You have to make it easy to opt out at any time, including when you join a group.  I think the "Daily digest" as default is much better, with a option for "within the hour".  Most of us get too much in our inboxes already.

The drop down tabs have greatly improved navigation.  I can keep up on things now with not much effort.  Thanks.

Travlin 

kevinoman0221's picture
kevinoman0221
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 25 2008
Posts: 144
Reddit or Facebook

I agree with the general direction this is going, that the default should be a daily summary email, not an hourly one (I might actually prefer a weekly summary email, or every 3 days summary email, as the default if that is possible), with the option upon joining a group to change that setting. I think this is a good, doable goal for the short term.

Longer term, I would like to see this handled similarly to Facebook or Reddit. When you visit the site while logged in, if there has been any new activity in any groups you are subscribed to, or there have been any responses to your comments, an alert will appear in the form of a little lit up icon at the top of the page. You can click this icon and be taken to a page that lists all the new comments and activities. In the Settings options, one could turn on or off email notifications in addition to these on-site alerts if one desires, but what I find most convenient is having all the new activity shown on a summary page any time I want to stop by the site and see that alert icon. The current "Inbox" button could probably be used for this. In fact, the first time I saw that spot light up with a message, I thought "Oh good, they finally got it set up to let me know when I get a comment reply in a group!" but no, it was a direct message from someone, and I found the group activity and comment responses were not included in the Inbox content.

rhare's picture
rhare
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 30 2009
Posts: 1323
Notification bug?

I received three copies of the notification when Travlin added a comment to this thread - all with different message ids but sent at the same time (bug).  I received only one notice when kevinoman0221 added a comment (correct).

rhare's picture
rhare
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 30 2009
Posts: 1323
Confusing notifications - suggestion for improvement

I also find the notifications confusing.  When thatchmo posted a comment to the "Improving Groups" thread and I was reading the notifications I originally thought something was wrong when I didn't see the message in this thread.  I think the notification needs to more explicitly show Group, Thread, Comment subject.  Here is the current Subject and first useful line of the notification:

  • Peak Prosperity The Test Kitchen: Getting Alerted When Your Group Gets  Updated
  • A new comment has been added by Travlin to this thread in group The Test Kitchen: Good stuff here

I think these are confusing.  The subject is okay, but instead of the first line, I think you should have something like the following:

  • Group: The Test Kitchen
  • Thread: Getting Alerted When Your Group Gets  Updated
  • Subject: Good stuff here
  • Author: Travlin
  • Comment: ....

I find that much easier to parse than the textual line.  Also, you can get rid of the "Greetings <USERNAME>," it serves no purpose, particularly after the first couple of notices.

rhare's picture
rhare
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
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Posts: 1323
Group drop down tab suggestion

I also like kevinoman0221 idea of an icon similar to the "private message" icon that tells you when new posts have been added to groups.  So here's an idea on how I would like to see it work:

A tab next to the "Inbox" tab.  It should look like "Groups (new)", where "new" is the number of new posts in all groups to which you are a member.  When you click on the "Groups" tab, it should drop down a list of each group of which you are a member, with a indicator of the number of "new" posts in each group.  So for example I might see:

  • Groups (5)

    • The Test Kitchen (3)

    • Alternative Energy (1)

    • Peak Prosperity Burners (1)

I realize this is really beating up the database, but you could even have another level of drop down menus that show the number of postings in each thread. For instance, you migth have a little right arrow on the "The Test Kitchen" drop down menu, that when clicked or hovered over would pull up a submenu showing the following:

  • Groups (5)

    • The Test Kitchen (3) ->

      • Getting Alrerted When ... (1)

      • Improving Groups (2)

    • Alternative Energy (1)

    • Peak Prosperity Burners (1)

Clicking on the "Group" tab would take you to the main "Groups" page.

Clicking on the specific group drop down item would take you to that "Group".

Clicking on the specific discussion would take you to the "new" posting in that discussion.

Travlin's picture
Travlin
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 15 2010
Posts: 1322
That's my fault Rhare
rhare wrote:

I received three copies of the notification when Travlin added a comment to this thread - all with different message ids but sent at the same time (bug).  I received only one notice when kevinoman0221 added a comment (correct).

That's my fault Rhare.  After I posted I edited it twice, so you got three notices.  The system reported this correctly.

Travlin 

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Posts: 1982
Sounds good

Sounds good. Dogs is right - traffic is light enough now that one email day would not be a burden. If traffic gets heavier an additional option might be to send all posts for that day in a single email. I know when I was working in NYC I was allowed to get personal emails at work but always opted to get one day or one week's worth all at once, so it looked like ONE email instead of however many. If the week was very busy I could open only a few emails to get caught up.

kevinoman0221's picture
kevinoman0221
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
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Posts: 144
Yes!

Yes! I like it, rhare! The first part is what I was envisioning and you described it well.

rhare's picture
rhare
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
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Posts: 1323
I would still say a bug....

I think the system should only send one notice if the message is still new too youm, and only send a subsequent notices if you have looked at the post and then it changed.  The system sent all three even though I hadn't looked at the new posting yet.

Just my .02.  However, I will probably turn off notifications and just look for "new" on the web site.  I get way too many emails.

JRB's picture
JRB
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Posts: 149
Not sure what would work.

Not sure what would work.  Groups and discussions simply are not working for me.  Kill the top comments section.  That would be the first step forward.  Simply noise for me.  Get me to the last new comment in a group easily.

- Jim

Adam Taggart's picture
Adam Taggart
Status: Peak Prosperity Co-founder (Online)
Joined: May 26 2009
Posts: 2939
Wow - OK. I asked for

Wow - OK. I asked for feedback, and you didn't disappoint!

Just so we're clear, I really appreciate the time you all are taking to share your opinions and experiences on the new site - including the constructive (i.e. "negative') feedback, too. It's extremely valuable in learning what's working and what isn't. I can't promise we'll please everyone in the end - but I can commit to listening hard to what you're telling us, and doing my best to direct our finite resources to the needs that will make the biggest impact for the most people.

Here are the key insights I'm taking away from the discussion so far (both on this thread and this one):

  1. popular comments 'get in the way'
  2. default email notification for Groups is good, but set default to a 1xday (for all comments that day)
  3. navigation on the new site is a challenge for many
  4. Groups interface is confusing & hard to use

I feel comfortable committing to near-term action to improve #1-3. #4 is more complex, but it's burning bright on our radar (it's why I started the Test Kitchen in the first place). I'll provide more context for Groups further down in this comment for those who care to read it.

I need to confer further with our IT team for timing, but I'm pretty confident we can get the following changes out soon:

  1. Remove the "Popular Comments" section from articles, Forum threads, Group posts, etc. We'll keep them on the home page (which means we'll keep the ability to "vote" on each comment)
  2. Activate a 1xday notification for new Groups posts created (easy to do) and new Group comments made (a little harder to do)
  3. Creating a "how to use the site" page with short (<15 second) video clips on how to perform the most common tasks. I have more to say on site navigation below for those who care to read it.

I realize none of these steps will address completely the feedback received. But they should be a good inital step and hopefully demonstrate we're committed to listening to & acting on the priorities you care about.

For those interested in reading further...

Groups usabilty

As for #4, Groups usability, I hear you. But let me provide you with some context - NOT as an excuse - but so you understand what we're dealing with.

Without getting too technically wonky, the platform our site is built on (Drupal) comes with "out of the box" code for creating Groups. You can customize that code, but the cost to do so escalates with the amount of customization.

We made a number of these customizations before we launched Groups because, believe it or not, the "out of the box" version was a lot less user friendly. While there's a lot more still we plan to change, we didn't have enough $ or time to do so by launch.

So why launch Groups if it wasn't perfect? you may ask. Good question. Answer: because it's good enough to address - finally! - one of the most passionate requests from this community over the past several years: to help PP.com readers find and collaborate with likeminded people in their local area. We thought that solving this need was more important than getting the 'perfect' Groups interface nailed - which easily could have delayed launching Groups by 6 months or more. (For those curious, we now have over 50 Local Groups in over 11 countries worldwide, so far)

We knew there would be some heavy slogging ahead to continue customizing Groups to make it more intuitive to use. And that's why I've asked for your feedback. We're starting that slog now. 

That said, I do believe that Groups has excellent promise to be a fantastic way for people to connect & collaborate  - both regionally and around shared passions (gardening, alternative energy, etc). I think that vision will become clearer as further customizations to the base Drupal code are introduced.

Site Navigation

I hear and am taking detailed notes of the comments about site navigation. This topic is a little more murky...

First, I'll  begin by offering to anyone having trouble finding anything they're looking for on the site: email me. I will show you how to find it.

Second, we spent a LOT of time working on and beta testing navigation before the new site went live. Contrary to the memory of many, it was substantially less convenient to discover and find information on the old CM.com site vs the new one.

I realize a number of longtime readers likely disagree with that last statement. But I would argue that in many cases the old site seemed "easier" because your behavior became routinized over years.

The navigation of the new site - while not perfect - tested markedly better for both new and older readers at finding information. Plus it has a search function that is much, MUCH better (meaning, it actually works!). 

And there is the puzzling challenge of 'the fog of memory'. We receive comments that certain tasks were perceived to be "much easier" on the old site - but in a number of cases, the experience on PP.com is unchanged from that of CM.com. For example, we haven't changed the way Forums look,or how they work. It's exactly the same. But, some somehow remember it differently.

But with that said, I appreciate that:

  • on the Web, perception IS reality
  • our navigation can be better - there are known shortcomings & ones I'm sure we are currently blind to

So, your continued feedback on what isn't working (and what is!) is extremely valuable and appreciated. And we will act on it.

My ask is that you make your feedback as specific as possible (it's hard to do much with feedback like "I don't like it") 

A little patience and tolerance will also go a long way here. The PP.com team is very small in number, and site development is funded out of Chris' and my pockets. We are dealing with limited manpower, money and time, so please keep that in mind as we strive to keep making this site better.

Thanks again for your feedback. Keep it coming!

rhare's picture
rhare
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 30 2009
Posts: 1323
Simpler might be better - migrate forums to groups
Adam wrote:

My ask is that you make your feedback as specific as possible (it's hard to do much with feedback like "I don't like it")

Hi Adam,

I would like to say, I actually like the new site in many ways.  I like the front page and find it works pretty well and I fully understand the desire/need to move to a standardized CMS platform. 

Perhaps some background - I'm a software developer, primarily JEE web application development,   so while I'm an old fart, I'm not unfamiliar with technology. :-)

So, first what I would like to make sure of is that I have the proper context for how groups work. 

  1. Are Groups, Discussions, Comments essentially equivalent to the old Forum, Topic, Posts?  I understand groups can do much more, user administrators, polls, etc.
  2. When I go to "My Account, profile" - this is like the "wall" on Facebook?   I believe this page has the following:
    1. Messages to me from other users writing on my profile using the "Write something box".
    2. Shows messages I and others have written to the "wall" of each Group to which I belong.
    3. Shows  when polls, discussions, events are added to a group.
  3. Each group has a "wall", that functions just like my profile. 

If the above is correct, then here are my "specific" recommendations:

  1. Get rid of the forums.  Migrate them to the groups.  That would potentially end some of the confusion by getting rid of the dual system.  Is there a reason not too?   I understand people have linked within the forums and to the forums from other sites.  Are you worried about breaking those links?  Can you build a table that handles redirecting forum queries to the equivalent group entry. Are you worried that the number of forums would pollute the groups? If so, then I would make the forums read only and have people add only to groups.
  2. When you have a tab/pull down menus that open to a page with seperate tabs (for example the My Account tab or Discuss,Groups pull down menu from the front page - they need to have sub-menus that have each of the new pages tabs listed, selecting that sub-menu will determine with tab is initially open.  This will allow users to quickly get to the correct tab rather than opening a page only to have to immediately click on a tab to get what they want.
  3. I think writing to the "wall/profile" of groups adds confusion.  I would disable that functionality for groups and only allow user comments within polls, discussions, events, and documents within groups.
  4. The Discuss,Groups and Prepare,Groups entries from the main page should go to the same page (probably the Discuss,Groups page).  It adds confusion when you have two menu items with the same name that go to different places.
  5. I understand the desire to have two different home pages with different focus (prosperity, Resilient Life), but the switching to resilient life whenever you go into groups adds confusion.  I would suggest either figuring out how to keep the "top of the page" the same or get rid of the resilient life home and merge it back with peak prosperity. 
  6. Initial tab when a page opens should be the tab most used.
  7. The "Create discussion/poll/..." button took me forever to find.  Is it just me or do others have a hard time finding it as well.  Perhaps better placement or just make sure it's pointed out in the navigation tutorial.

A lot of confusion I think comes from the many different ways from doing something - forums, groups, wikis without a good "how to navigate" explanation on the site. 

JRB's picture
JRB
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: May 17 2009
Posts: 149
Video clips

I remember the video clips as the site was coming up.  What I remember was a good bit of "you will be able to do...".  What I need is something more like a site map/diagram that outlines the overall intent of navigation.  I am not sure the video clips will "stick" for me.  It is like watching someone navigate a program, then trying yourself.  That frequently is frustrating.  Just ask my wife after I show her how to do something on the computer.

It looks like there are some easy ways to get around, but I just do not see the logic.  Example:  It took me about 10 minutes to come back to this post to make a comment after I had looked over the main page again.  Just couldn't find it.  Also can't remember how I did find it :-(

Keep up the good work.  I feel there is so much valuable information here.  Just need the key to the navigation.

By the way, if you know a home winemaker, see if they are making wine from juice this fall.  Some get 5 or 6 gallon buckets of juice from CA in the fall and Chile in the spring.  The juice is usually fermented in the bucket, then transferred to a carboy or barrel after about a week.  The food grade bucket may be free for the asking.  Wanted to share this hint, but for the life of me did not know where to put it that it wasn't buried.

- Jim

JRB's picture
JRB
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: May 17 2009
Posts: 149
Found it!

After much mindless (easy for me) clicking around, I found what I was looking for 

http://www.peakprosperity.com/groups/mytracker

I am not a fan of email alerts.  Hope the opt out is easy.

I would like a single click option from the main page to get to the above link.  Maybe next to the inbox.  I do not mind browsing the list, compared to other ways to navigating the groups.

Please consider a list of the titles in the DD on the main page.  I would like to see a poll on the usefulness of the popular comments on the main page.  Really has done nothing for me as a regular visitor.  I have tended to skip the DD since I have to click forward and back to get everywhere on the site.

-Jim

 

JRB's picture
JRB
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: May 17 2009
Posts: 149
Even better!

http://www.peakprosperity.com/groups/myunread

A few more hours of hacking around and I might get the hang of this.  It should not be this hard though.

A couple of top level links would do it perhaps.

In tutorials, the needs of new visitors and longer term members may be different?

-Jim

JRB's picture
JRB
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: May 17 2009
Posts: 149
Upon further review

After thinking about this overnight.  Doing this as an "opt out" sounds like a really bad idea.  I would be more reluctant to join a group if I knew I had to go opt out of the email alerts.  If I forgot, I would be irritated when I started to get the emails.

The solution is as simple as making the link to http://www.peakprosperity.com/groups/myunread easy to find.  The current path is under the DISCUSS menu, select GROUPS.  Then select the "my unread" tab. The result is a list of ONLY the new unread posts in your joined groups.  PERFECT!

I would put it right up there with the Inbox next to My Account.

Those tabs are really helpful in navigating.  To retrace to recent action in a group, see http://www.peakprosperity.com/groups/mytracker  I just found those tabs yesterday after visiting the site almost every day since the change.

- Jim

herewego's picture
herewego
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 11 2010
Posts: 144
email alerts and daily versus occasional website visitors

Hi Adam and Fellow Chefs

With no background in websites, I find some of the discussion here over my head, but I do come to this site daily and will comment from that experience.

I tried the email alerts for group activity and was immediately inundated with emails (dozens).  After changing the settings to "daily" for alerts I still found the notification unnecessary because I'd already read or was going to read all the comments anyway.  So I'll be turning that feature off.

This made me realize though that PP visitors and members who come here much less would have different needs than I do.  Notifications and the "popular comments" features might be really handy for them.  There might be other ways in which the website needs to be clean enough to spare the daily crew annoying repetition but still keep content "there" enough for the drop-in crew to catch it. 

Having the popular comments only on the home page makes sense to me - available but not in the way.

As always, it's great to have access to all of this info and all of you wonderful minds. 

The sun just came over the mountain on another perfect fall day here in BC and I have a cabin addition to finish before the snow flies, so that's it for now!

Cheers

Susan

 

 

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