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Reference: Email-Notifications

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RidgeStar sites tend to be interactive, real-time sites servicing a relatively large number of end users. This ranges from a few dozen individuals to tens of thousands. Some of the Site Users are heavy and active users of the sites, while others are less frequent or even casual users of the sites.

Real-Time sites generally have a lot of things happening...all at once. It's not uncommon for an activity or event to occur that one or more other Users of the site might like to know about. RidgeStar strongly encourages the integration of this information into the normal flow of a User's use of the system, which might take the form of an informational message at entry to a Segment, a listing of events of interest on an appropriate page, etc.

Unfortunately, many casual Users of the site may not return to the site sufficiently often to check in and notice the information about the Key events that may be of interest to them. We are left with a design problem, which is how to distribute information to users in a way in which they'll be aware of it.

User checks in

There are a variety of mechanisms that can be utilized by the end User to periodically check in with the site. They can be summarized as:

Use a Browser
connect a Browser to the Site, logon and LOOK at What's New and whatever the primary Segments are for the User. This is the most obvious approach and, to our way of thinking, the smartest approach for ANY real-time system (not just a RidgeStar system, ANY real-time system).

It's a real-time system, use it that way!

Configure a RSS Reader
Configure a device (Browser, Desktop computer, Cellular phone, etc.) to periodically pick up a properly maintained RSS Feed (What's New, List of Upcoming Assignments, etc.). The end User (recipient) can then choose when s/he would like and how s/he would like to pick up information from the site.

We need to empower the end User/Recipient to manage his/her own information retrieval.

Have the site send an Email Message

Yup, we hear it all the time....."Have the site send me an Email". Why not? What can possible go wrong...

  1. Email is not verifiable (meaning, we cannot determine when or even if it gets to the User)
  2. Email messages may not arrive in the same sequence in which they are sent (which can lead to confusion)
  3. Email is not a real-time mechanism. By the time the Message gets where it's going, the conditions that caused it to be generated may have completely changed.

That said, there remain those folks that believe they understand these issues with Email sufficiently to insist on it being a good mechanism for "Notifications". It (simply stated) is NOT a good mechanism for real-time notifications (there, now you cannot say you've never heard that).

However, if you're a RidgeStar client or Webmaster that just KNOWS it's the approach for you, we've implemented several mechanisms to implement Email based Notification. We continue to recommend against building any real-time system around Email as a mechanism (Email is a wonderful tool, just isn't a good tool or mechanism for real-time operations), but will implement it if ALL of the following are true:

  1. You promise to never contact RidgeStar and ask why an Email Notification did not arrive, as expected
  2. You promise to never ask why an Email Notification arrived in a peculiar order or at an unpredicted date and/or time
  3. You promise to handle confusion amongst any of the recipients yourself, without involving RidgeStar

Email IS a great tool for communications between individuals. We use it all the time and are big fans of the mechanism. It's just not a mechanism that you should build on or do anything that is time or sequence critical.

Email is not built for that.