Re: Alerting users to news items?

Subject: Re: Alerting users to news items?
From: julie -dot- harrison -at- holset -dot- com
To: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2006 13:43:02 +0000

Thanks for your comments Geoff, yep I agree with your suggestions.

The news is targeted at the people who need to know, it is often to make
their life easier and is often changes due to feedback.
I agree with the email, although we were targeting the right groups
unfortunately much of the email we receive is not, for instance I work in
the UK and get lots of emails about the changes to benefits for US
citizen's. Very interesting, zero relevance.

Someone suggested the date blinking the first time a user logs on after the
news has changed.

As I can't change anything else in the corporation, we'll give that a go.

And perhaps include the test on Fridays in the pub - I like that idea :-)


Julie :-)

Geoff Hart
<ghart -at- videotron -dot- To: julie -dot- harrison -at- holset -dot- com, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
ca> cc:
Subject: Alerting users to news items?
30/03/2006 14:28

Julie Harrison wondered: <<We have a web application used internally,
and we created a news area to inform users of changes to the system,
scheduled downtime, new features, improved help, etc. Previously we
emailed everyone, but received complaints such as "I get loads of email
everyday, how am I expected to read it all"...>>

The problem (in my experience) is that about 90% of the e-mail is
useless to them, and they've learned that lesson well. As a result,
they have no motivation whatsoever to read the mail. Of the 10% that's
potentially useful, only 10% is something they'll actually feel
inclined to use. If only 1 in 100 messages actually means something to
them, where's the incentive to read the other 99?

The vast majority of corporate e-mail is that it's all about the
sender, and only rarely about the reader. See the problem? It violates
the key principle of technical communication: it's not relevant to the
reader. Make the messages relevant and people are more likely to read.

<<... and as we are a large organisation maintaining the list was a
nightmare too.>>

Maintaining the list should by no means be a nightmare: any network
administrator worth their salt should be able to set up and regularly
update an e-mail address called "everyone" in about a minute. Ask their
manager to assign them this duty and the problem goes away. Similarly,
the Personnel or HR department could be given this responsibility: who
knows better than they do when someone has been hired or fired?

<<We've just received moans and groans that people aren't reading it,
it's too hard to remember to check to see if it's changed,

Of course they're not reading it. Why would they? If there's a problem
they need to solve, they'll go looking for a solution--usually down at
the next cubicle--but until they hit the wall, they'll simply plug
away, even under increasingly uncomfortable conditions, until the
problem becomes unbearable. So long as it works, they won't try to fix
it. (It's called "satisficing".)

<<Now we're trying to find ways of ensuring users read the news, or are
at least alerted to it.>>

There's no way to ensure that they'll read it, short of having a test
each Friday at lunch, and firing anyone who scores less than 75% on the
test. <g> The real solution in this case is not to send out information
to everyone, but rather to send it out to the key few people who need
to know. For example, maybe you only need to send the updates to
managers, who can then sit down with their staff and explain the
implications of the change only if it's relevant.

If you really need to alert everyone, there's always a solution. If
broadcast e-mail messages aren't working for you, perhaps try something
like an RSS feed. See, for example, the description at:

Alternatively, ask the network administrator to customize everyone's
computer so that as soon as it boots, it launches a Web browser, opens
an "updates" page, and forces the person to at least click to close the
window. They can still choose not to read, but at least they can't
claim they haven't seen the update.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - --
Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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