Colm Doyle A Developer Relations professional in Dublin, Ireland.

You have another notification you didn't want or need

Linked notification

I must get a notification like this from LinkedIn at least once a week. Perhaps it’s the result of a notification job triggering that requires such a complex data fetch to display the actual intended message that it’s more efficient to simplify notify me that something is waiting for me on LinkedIn, but I cannot help but assume that a team somewhere in LinkedIn has a metric they’re goaled on which tracks the conversion rate from pushes sent to app opens, and this notification is absolute rocket fuel for that metric. And when it comes to metrics, you’ll always get the behaviours you reward, even if they’re not the behaviours you want.

Notification abuse is commonplace

The reality is that whilst this is a standout example of clickbait style notifications, LinkedIn is far from the only culprit. Almost every app considers notifications as a “growth” channel and not as a tool to notify users of important or time-sensitive information. Just last week, Instagram felt, at 11pm local time, that I urgently needed to know “Check out some of the most watched reels in Ireland today 🇮🇪”. I’m sure that’s true, but I’m also sure that I can find that information for myself if I want to and there’s no way it was time-sensitive.

Uber has even gone so far as to put literal ads into their push notifications. Apple updated their guidelines in 2020 to explicitly allow promotions, so I’m not sure this is even a violation of their own rules, but it’s still a pretty egregious example of how notifications are being abused.

Less is actually more

The funny thing is that a recent piece of research by Meta, who probably in total send more of these notifications than any other company on the planet, suggests that fewer and better notifications will actually lead to higher engagement and lower churn.

We discovered that the initial loss of visitation from fewer notifications gradually recovered over time, and after an extended period, it had fully recovered and even turned out to be a gain.

The problem is that it takes a long time to get to that point. Meta ran that experiment for a year. Most companies don’t have the patience to wait that long, and so they just keep sending notifications, hoping that one day they’ll get it right.

It’s time for some self restraint

So if spammy notifications provide short term gain, and it’s so common that even the platform owners themselves have done it, then what can we do about it?

Honestly, when it comes to punitive actions, there’s nothing we can do. Clearly Apple is okay with this behaviour so they’re not going to update the App Store Guidelines, but I don’t know that I’ve ever met a user that is excited about notifications like these.

What’s really missing is a way for users to provide actionable feedback to developers to say that specific types of notifications are not useful to them. Being able to identify valuable types of notifications like that is how Meta knew what to keep and what to trim in that year long experiment, but there’s very few companies who have the resources to do that kind of research.

Until the platforms build that kind of capability, or we’re all willing to invest in building it app by app, all we can really do as people who work in the industry is ask ourselves if the notifications our apps send are valuable for a metric we’re chasing, or valuable for user receiving it, but honestly, we’ve shown that those two things are not always the same thing

At the end of the day, shouldn’t we always be optimising for the latter?

New laws on tipping in Ireland

From the Workplace Relations Commission in Ireland:

From 1 December 2022, the Payment of Wages (Amendment) (Tips and Gratuities) Act 2022 introduces new rules as to how employers have to share tips, gratuities and service charges amongst employees.

I’d noticed signage in various businesses recently which outlined how tips were disbursed, so I assumed legislation was coming, but apparently it’s already in effect.

I lived in California for a few years, and even though that certainly felt like a state with some modicum of worker’s rights (from the perspective of an EU citizen anyway), it still had scenarios that felt bizarre to me, like tips being used for a worker’s basic pay instead of the employer paying them directly. This legislation specifically outlaws that practice here in Ireland. It also specifcally calls out gig worker style arrangements and how tipping should in that situation.

A ‘contract worker’ is a person who carries out work other than as an employee, including on a contract for service. ‘Platform workers’ who are engaged in contracts for services will benefit from tips and gratuities. Those who use contract workers to deliver services will be required to display a contract workers tips and gratuities notice.

It’s great to see progress here, and also means I no longer have to clarify how much my server is going to get if I pay by card.

Followgraph: Find awesome people on Mastodon

Followgraph is a new tool from Gabi Purcaru that helps you discover new people to follow on Mastodon. The decentralised nature of Mastodon makes it hard to do this kind of discovery, so it’s good to see someone trying to solve this problem.

One particularly nice feature of the tool is that it doesn’t require any kind of privileged access to your account. It uses public data from the Mastodon API to find people you might like to follow.

Now you can see view counts on Tweets, but it ain't pretty

Mitchell Clark, writing for The Verge:

Twitter announced that view counts for tweets are now visible on iOS and Android and that they’ll be coming soon to the web (I’ve already started to see them there). The feature lets you see how many times someone has looked at your tweet, or anyone else’s, though there are a few exceptions that we’ll cover in just a moment.

You know, they say that great product and design is as much about saying no to new features as much as it is about saying yes, and that if you’re making the right choices, you’re probably saying no a lot more than you say yes. Something to ponder as you view the ever increasing list of features coming out of Twitter of late.

A screenshot of the metadata associated with a tweet, displayed in the Twitter app for iOS.

Tech giants ditch office space in London and Europe

George Hammond and Cristina Criddle writing for the Financial Times:

Google’s parent Alphabet, Facebook parent Meta and enterprise software giant Salesforce are among the US technology groups seeking to abandon leased office space in London and Dublin, according to people familiar with the plans.


Meanwhile, demands from staff to work remotely during the coronavirus pandemic have turned some tech companies into accidental landlords that are now jostling to sublet surplus space in a challenged property market.

There’s been a lot of talk about what is going to happen with return to office plans in the new year, with many companies mandating that employees come back in.

Much of the public commentary from various CEOs has been around “the value of in-person collaboration”, but it’s hard to wonder if it’s less to do with that and more to do with the fact that these same companies have sunk millions into office space and are now trying to recoup some of that investment.