Push not Pull
What differentiates our system a little from traditional forums is that we have a push model, not a pull model. In other words, the author/originator of an update gets to choose who will be notified, rather than people having to request to be notified.
Why did we go this route? On a traditional large-scale forum, there may be thousands of users, so it’s impractical to allow someone to spam them all with updates. By contrast, an Obsidian Portal campaign is a tightly cohesive group that often requires that everyone be up-to-speed on the latest info. Therefore, it makes sense to allow someone to dash off an update and have it sent to everyone else in the group, or a subset if they choose.
I didn’t get the email!
The biggest complaint we got is that people kept forgetting to check the boxes to send the updates. Most of these complaints were combined with a request to be able to subscribe to updates. In essence, they wanted the pull model in addition to the push.
I held out as long as I could, but it was affecting enough people that I had to do something. In response, we added the ability to subscribe to notifications in your user profile. It’s sort of an all-or-nothing setting, but from what we were hearing that’s what people wanted. The frequency of updates was low enough that people would rather be hit with everything rather than miss something important. This matched up well with my own experiences.
Bringing it together
Last night we pushed a new tweak that brings the push and pull together. Now, when you select in your profile to receive all notifications, this simply means that the notification box next to your name is automatically checked when someone is making an edit. If they do nothing, you’ll receive an update. However, if they want a little more control, they can un-check your name and choose to skip the notification.
Hopefully this will solve all sides of the issue: You can choose to be automatically notified, yet authors/editors can choose to disable this for individual edits if it doesn’t make sense.
As always, we’re open to suggestions for improvement. If there’s another system that does this better or cooler, let me know and I’ll definitely take a look.