User Intent and Email Notifications

Today I read a great post that happens to be on a Posterous blog, and I wanted to send my kudos to the author. Feeling lazy, I clicked Posterous’ version of a Like button, which is a heart with a tooltip that says “Unlike this post” when I hover over it.

A few short minutes later, I saw a comment notification in my email inbox.

Posterous has this feature where people who leave comments receive notifications when people post additional comments. This way, people will see replies to their comments.

It does the same when people like posts, though. But the main reason for wanting to see comments doesn’t exist when people like posts. People generally do not reply to likes, though I admit I’ve seen it happen once or twice.

The lesson in this is that default actions software takes should be based on user intent, and that this is especially important when it’s a loud interaction like sending an email.

I’ll go further and say that this is one of the major pros to having threaded discussions in blog comments. DISQUS does this and they’re very wise to do it. They only send me email notifications when someone specifically replies to one of my comments. If I commented on Posterous posts nearly as often as I did on DISQUS widgets I’d have email notifications turned off for Posterous comments by now.

One final note: I posted a test comment without realizing it would get emailed instantly and that I didn’t know whether or not I can delete comments on Posterous (I can’t), and it got deleted soon afterward. Apparently the blog owner was close to his email. ;)

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