Quora’s Notification Fatigue

quora notification fatigue

Collapsed/downvoted image by Quoran Sed Chapman in reference to Quora notifications

Oliver Emberton, founder of U.K.-based software company Silktide, wrote a post earlier this year that sums up nicely how many Quora users — Top Writers or otherwise –  feel about the company’s updated and out-of-control notification system.

Titled “A typical day on Quora for me, or why notifications need to be burned before they lay eggs,” it begins: “I have a few spare minutes, grab my phone, and see 1,075 notifications.”

Thoughout the post, Emberton painstakingly tries to navigate through, and whittle down, thousands of Quora notifications, demonstrating with detailed explanations and screenshots.

Regarding blog notifications, Emberton points to the absence of the “Previous” and “Next” buttons seen “on every other website ever.”

This turns notifications into a fun whack-a-mole game, where I have to stay alert to click the same button on each page.

Like questions, I’ve basically been encouraged to unfollow all blogs because you get 100 notifications for every good post, and I’m forced to consume them now, on Quora’s terms.

After much time and difficulty, Emberton manages to get down to 910 notifications, hardly a victory. In sum:

Quora — I love you, like for real — but this is madness. I’m actually purposely avoiding engaging with your site more and more now because it takes so much effort to extract the relevant experiences from your notification system.

I know my circumstances aren’t exactly normal, and I’m the 1 percent complaining about how lucky I am, but I suspect other Top Writers can relate. I don’t have eight hours a day to spend on here. Like many busy people I’m immensely precious with my time. And it can’t be good for either of us if I feel I’m wasting it on your site.

If you want to attract and engage bigger names to Quora — a Bill Nye or Daniel Dennett, say — you might want to think how bad their experience would be. They have less time and more demands. As Quora grows, this problem will only become a greater barrier to your success.

Suggestions:

  1. (Easy) One tiny checkbox that turns off notifications by type. I don’t want to see upvotes, or tweets.
  2. (Hard) Group notifications like Facebook or Twitter. I just want to know “Bob and 28 other people followed you,” not see all 28 people individually over multiple pages.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have six hours of clicking to do.

There are several other questions posted from Quora users asking the company to do something about its notification system, which was updated more than a year ago to explode mode: Why can’t I change my notification setting on Quora?:

I’ve used Quora for a long time and I don’t check the site very often so whenever I do, there are always over 100 notifications waiting for me. And they are not separated by type, so things I might actually want to see (answers to questions I am following) and things I don’t care at all about (someone voting up an answer that I wrote two years ago) are given the same priority.

This seems completely ridiculous to me and is one of the main reasons I no longer use Quora except on rare occasions.

Top answer: “Quora is under process of revamping the notifications setting and have publicly announced that an update is imminent. I suggest waiting out a few weeks to see what they come up with. In the meanwhile, you could use the Quora Extender Chrome extension.”

The company touched on the issue in a blog post on May 15 about upcoming product improvements. “A revamp of notifications will make them much more manageable for people who engage with a lot of content on Quora.”

It’s been one month since then and nothing appears to have changed. When reached by SocialTimes, Quora declined to comment.

Emberton also offered examples of how Twitter and Facebook handle notifications:

See the difference? Notifications are grouped. “Jane and Bob and 280 other people did a thing” not “Jane did a thing. Bob did a thing. Greg did a thing. Susan did a thing …”

This is a solved problem. We have the technology.

Forcing users to “clear” every notification doesn’t appear to work. Google+ updated their notification system to change a similar function to behave more like new emails (you don’t need to mark an email as read once it’s displayed in the read view). Facebook’s notifications clear automatically once the user accesses the display. Too often, unread and new notifications are not adequately separated.

It seems unlikely that Quora hasn’t realized that, and it’s odd that it hasn’t fixed its notification system. It may be their technology stack is preventing them from making notifications more user friendly.

Another post to Rage against Quora from Quora user Jay Best says:

I am at breaking point with:

Notifications Hell
Low Quality
Lack of communication from Quora about what they are doing.

Is there anything on horizon for notifications?

The first comment under the post echoes the answer mentioned above: something is in the works, but is in need of “extensive work.” Users are once again encouraged to use the Quora extension for Chrome and Firefox, which “occasionally doesn’t work.” Meanwhile, the site is losing users like Jay Best, who writes: “I am leaving Quora until Notifications get fixed but may be back someday.”

Oh, Quora.

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