Twitter Email Alerts Much Less Useful After Change

Twitter has taken a minor but annoying step back in the usefulness of its email notifications.

I have selected relatively few types of email updates to receive from Twitter, but one of the ones I had appreciated was notification that someone has sent me a direct message. And in the old days (meaning maybe a month ago), the text of the direct message was sent along with the email.

In the last week or two that has changed, and not for the good. Here’s a message I got yesterday:

New message on Twitter

Really, Twitter? You send me the alert, and you purposefully removed the content of the message?

This looks like something done to increase page views on, but not thinking of the users and what they need or prefer.

It’s a minor annoyance, and I didn’t say anything at first. But after having this happen a few times, I decided to take a few minutes for a post, because it relates to a larger point that applies to all of us.

Think about the changes you make in your online interfaces, and how they serve (or may annoy) users.  Don’t make them work harder to get the information they need. You may have valid business reasons for your changes, but if you’re making withdrawals from your reservoir of customer good will and loyalty, the benefits may not be worth the cost.

Even more importantly, try not to get into these cost/benefit calculations. Just do the right thing for the customer (as Twitter generally has until this point.) Doing the right thing will be better for everyone (including you) in the long run.

I was disappointed to see Twitter swerve into this short-term thinking. It’s a good reminder for me to be sure that what we’re doing keeps users and their needs first.

Update (2/25/14): I just noticed that Twitter has returned to a more useful direct message email notification. Looking back through my deleted emails, it appears this happened back on Feb. 12 or 13.

David Harlow DM

Good deal.


Email Flood Relief

81st Ave Oakland flooding
81st Ave Oakland flooding (Photo credit: mr. nightshade)

In the New York Times Bits blog, Nick Bilton has a thought-provoking piece called Disruptions: Looking for Relief from a Flood of Email.

He confesses filing email bankruptcy to get out from a mountain of 46,315 unread emails, and explores some reasons behind the phenomenon of email overload and burnout. He also highlights one creative (and less extreme than bankruptcy) solution:

Some people have come up with their own solutions to the problems email presents. Luis Suarez, lead social business enabler for IBM, decided to take on his inbox several years ago, and by all accounts seems to have won.

He said he had moved most of his communication to public and social platforms. When people contact Mr. Suarez by email, unaware that he is not a fan of that route, he scans their email signature for a social network they use and then responds in a public forum, whether on Twitter, Google Plus or LinkedIn. This way, he says, he can deal with several messages at once.

Over the last few years, he has managed to get his inbox down by 98 percent. He rarely uses email anymore.

“If email was invented today, it probably would not have survived as a technology,” Mr. Suarez said. “Social and public sites are much more efficient.”

I agree that social networks can be much more efficient, but taking email contents to public forums needs to be done with care and consultation. For example, sometimes I get questions by email, and I ask the sender if it’s OK to answer in public on SMUG or elsewhere. That makes the answers more accessible to others who may have the same questions, and also invites others to share their perspectives, which may be better than mine. But going public without permission is bad form, as I see it.

I also would recommend David Allen’s Getting Things Done for some good thoughts on avoiding the need for email bankruptcy. And while I have some basic disagreements with Timothy Ferriss

in The 4-Hour Workweek as it relates to the purpose and meaning of work, he does have some good tips on managing the email beast.

What do you think? How have you managed (or not) the rising tide of emails?

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Not that I deserve a medal for this or anything…

…but tonight as I fly to Tampa to be on a panel sponsored by The Atlantic and National Journal in conjunction with the Republican National Convention, I am experiencing a level of relief that I haven’t had for several months.

Last Monday, after a summer full of travel both for work and for my son Joe’s AAU basketball, I hit an unbelievable six-year high-water mark for unresolved emails, and took this screen shot:

Lots of reasons, but no good excuses.

After six days of dedicated effort during breaks in my daily routine (and several evenings of just plowing through messages), tonight I finally reached my GTD goal:


Since I first read Getting Things Done by David Allen in 2005, I have found its principles extremely helpful. When I started this blog, GTD was one of the main topics. I would particularly recommend this post I wrote in November 2006. which links to some of the important lessons I learned.

I’m glad to be on the right side of the email tsunami again.

Now I hope a literal hurricane, Isaac,  doesn’t cause too many  problems in the coming week.


Blogging 352: Adding an Email Subscription Form to Your Blog

Here’s an RAQ from Katie M:

I am currently using for a few blogs. I am setting up for some doctors and another blog for another pilot program … so doctors can learn from each other…I am wanting to have the similar option that you have for subscribing, that is via e-mail. How do I go about doing this?

The answer is pretty straightforward.

I recommend that you use Feedburner to replace your blog’s RSS feed with one that gives you more features, particularly better tracking. Feedburner is free, and among its built-in benefits is the ability to let your readers subscribe by email.

Here’s how you can add a subscription form to a sidebar widget on your blog, assuming you have set up a Feedburner account and “burned” your feed.

Continue reading “Blogging 352: Adding an Email Subscription Form to Your Blog”

Yammer 107: Avoiding Yammer Email Overload

A couple of colleagues have mentioned that with the recent upgrade to Yammer they have been getting many more emails than they had previously. This post is intended to show them how to prevent the overload, and how to be sure they get the emails they want.

By default, the new Yammer has you subscribe to your general network feed (in our case the network.) That may be fine when you only have a few dozen members who aren’t especially active. But as the numbers grow, and as people start yammering incessantly, you don’t want to get an email message every time.

So, to preserve your sanity (and to realize the promise of Yammer to make your emails more targeted and relevant, not overwhelming), here’s how I recommend adjusting your settings.

On your Yammer home page, click the little (i) next to My Feed

Then, when you see a window like this, be sure to uncheck the top box, next to your Network feed (the one that refers to your email domain’s general feed)

Then click the Members, Groups and Tags links to select the updates you do want to receive by email. You may want to follow your manager or assistant, for instance, under the Members tab. You will definitely want to receive yammer email updates for a Group established for your work unit. And as described in Yammer 103, you’ll want to follow some tags about particular topics, even if they aren’t from a member of one of your groups.

Then you might want to go to the email settings tab and choose to get not only “My Feed” sent by email, but also to have new groups you join added to your feed. That way you don’t need to remember to update your email settings whenever you join a group.

And you wouldn’t join a group unless you wanted email updates, would you?

Once you’ve got these settings in place, it’s a matter of all users learning to Yammer in the right place.

  1. If you have a general observation or information that would be helpful for reference, Yammer from your home page, with tags as appropriate (by adding a # in front of key #words or #key-phrases.) That way, people who aren’t part of one of your groups can have access to the information.
  2. If you want to send a message to a specific group (e.g. the Department, your division or one of your project teams), post your Yammer from that group page. All group members who have their settings right will get the message. They can reply by email and have their responses logged by Yammer. Everything will be saved in chronological order, and you can delete the messages from your email inbox, knowing that you can search for them later in Yammer if necessary.

In this way, Yammer can make it easier to collaborate and share information within a group (and keep the discussion limited to that group) when necessary, but can enable broader discussions and access to information when the need for confidentiality isn’t as great.

Let me know how these settings work for you, in reducing unwanted emails. Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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