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Notifications and user presence


(Apologies, but this got a bit long. I've warned ya...)

Hi all, I'm interested in the idea of making user presence more useful
desktop-wide, and notifications seem like a good candidate for

notify-osd intends to solve certain issues by:

  *  not getting in the user's way (click-through bubbles, queuing)

  *  not interrupting the user's thoughts (subtle, no actions, not for
critical information)

  *  looking pretty :)

In other words, notifications are just that: notifications, not requests
for immediate response.

Although notify-osd does its best not to interrupt me, notifications
seem inherently interruptive. (One catches my eye, I want to read it.
One doesn't catch my eye, then I wasn't notified of anything - did it
even need to be shown?). I could think of the following classes:

  1  Confirmation messages:  (like in the wiki) Visual acknowledgement
of user action, e.g. keyboard-caused change of volume/brightness, a/c
plugged in/out, wireless enabled/disabled, music player attached, etc.)

  2  Critical messages:  Messages which demand attention and the user
ideally *must* see. Note these don't require action by the user; the
system is being forced to act to prevent data-loss or damage. The only
case I've thought of is an emergency hibernate/shutdown to preserve the
user's data in the case of extremely low power. There might be others..?

  3  Interesting messages:  Messages the user *wants* to see. This
should be decided by the user (with "typical" defaults). We can use
presence to indicate to the system exactly what notifications the user
deems worthy of his attention. Each status can hold the interestingness
(namely, something is or isn't) of reasons for notification.

  4  Trivial messages:  Messages the user *doesn't want* to see, i.e.
whatever isn't considered Interesting (or Critical or Confirmation).

So what's Interesting when I'm surfing the net might be Trivial when I'm
watching a fullscreen movie, or working on my report, or...

Thinking of notifications in this way, when would a trivial message be
shown? Hopefully never! Does this (adequately) ease the issue of
notifications interrupting a user's workflow? The only notifications
shown are known to be desired by the user, thus the user wants to break
her thoughts to address them.

There's those two special cases there, Confirmation and Critical.

Critical should be shown no matter what; the user deserves some
explanation why his computer is shutting down unexpectedly. It could
even pulse between black and scary red (#920000?) to differentiate it.

Confirmations are generally expected. I up the volume, I'll see a
bubble. I plug in the a/c cord, I'll see a bubble. These would
probably(?) be interesting; I want to see what level my volume is when
my movie is too quiet. Even if it's something unrelated, like attaching
my camera during writing a report, the bubble won't be distracting me
as I've been thinking about attaching the camera.


It would be interesting to see others' thoughts. I don't imagine I'm the
first to think this sort of thing; it seems hinted at by Canonical but
it would be cool to flesh out.

Gee re-reading this I sound a bit pretentious or know-it-all, but I
certainly don't! I'm not every use-case out there, but I thought I'd
chuck a few thoughts down into the mix (keep on stirring everyone :)

Jim Putt


I've left out my desire to replace 'click-through' with 'single click
dismisses' (Ha! but I snuck it in just now!) but my instinct when seeing
something popup is to focus on it with my eyes and have my mouse at the
ready, but then it suddenly disappears when my mouse hovers over it!
(Serious question,) does anything else in the desktop behave like that?
And to continue with the click-to-dismiss thing, the bubble absorbs
clicks from when it starts to appear till x00 milliseconds after
appearance, and it provides feedback to mouse hover (highlight?).

The end. Really.

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