Some Messengers Need Shooting

Maybe this is just the flu medication talking, but you know what’s irking me these days? Web 2.0 apps that send me email notifying me that I’ve got a message, but don’t actually send along the message’s content. They require me click a link and log into their service so that I can see the message.

I assume this is a tactic to drive more traffic to the site, but it’s a petty one. Why not just include the message content? I might not, after all, want to deal with the message immediately, but I might want to know what it’s about. Most of the time the message sender is friend or colleague outside of that particular application, so I might want to reply to them using some other medium.

The result, of course, is that I’m less engaged with those services which require me to visit their sites. I don’t, and so my connections to those communities are lessened.

Your users’ time is precious. Respect it.

Thus far, these are the services that I’ve identified as guilty of this quirk:

Ma.gnolia UPDATE #2: Those cheeky moafs at Ma.gnolia fixed this and sent me a message whose contents explained that, indeed, it was fixed. Thanks!
MyBlogLog UPDATE: MyBlogLog fixed this a couple of weeks ago for personal messages, and are working on doing likewise for community messages.

As they almost always do, Flickr does the right thing, and lets me see the message in the notification email.

Can you think of any other services on either side of this ledger?


  1. Heya Darren, we changed this last week and even blogged about it. You now get the message AND moderation tools in the body of the email. Why you want to do us this way? 🙂

  2. Eric: Good to hear you’ve made that change, though that’s not the behaviour I’m seeing. I sent you an email to explain.

    John: Me too–only a few messages thus far, but their opportunity cost is higher because I have to log in to verify that they’re spam.

  3. SparkPeople is really good about sending me the content of a message when it emails me to let me know I have a message. I’m such a big fan of that site now it’s just silly.

  4. Darren – apologies for the inconvenience. I had no idea this was troubling you. We can fix it, of course, all you had to do was ask.

    John – If it’s reported, we take care of spammers with haste.

  5. Don’t get me started. YouTube is an offender. They send an html email that says something like “you got a new comment on your video – go to the site to check it out”. They might as well attach a .gif of a middle finger. Is that page view ( on my own video page) really necessary? Why why why.

  6. Hey Darren,

    Like Lee said, YouTube is a big offender.

    I wouldn’t say Flickr does ‘the right thing’ because I still have to go through the hassle of going online to flickr to mark them as unread in my account. That’s just annoying.

  7. Hey Darren
    We just deployed a fix for this. The message content is now in the notification as well.

    @Andrew, I’m not sure how flickr could know if you had read an email unless they had a link for you to mark it as such. Maybe you could write to them and ask for that.

  8. MySpace just wants inbound traffic. And they really don’t care if you like it or not. If you leave, there’s a 17 year old ready to take your place already in the wings. I assume they get complaints all the time about how they run EVERYTHING… but they still grow and grow and grow.

    That’s great encouragement to ignore rational change.

  9. I agree with Meg.

    Darren, how do you feel about blog posts displayed in RSS readers? Do you prefer (and do you think people in general prefer) to see the whole post? My mother and I both feel we’d rather have people come to the site to experience its design and get us some traffic, but if they simply won’t come because they have to click on it first (after reading a short excerpt), well… Is this a symptom of laziness on the user’s part or ignorance on mine?

  10. Erika: The prevailing view is that people prefer full posts to excerpts. In fact, I just read that (in a very informal survey) it was the third most popular reason people cited for unsubscribing from a blog.

    Personally, the blog had better be pretty great if they only publish excerpts. 95% of my blogging reading happens in an RSS readership, and I’ll generally unsubscribe after a while if I have to click through to read the whole post.

  11. If you want to see by computer I will hand over to you is asked. I want to know what this is all about.

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