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A New Way for Developers to Tame Their Notifications

By John Lafleur 4 minutes read

This morning, I woke up with 52 new emails from Jira. 52 is actually an okay day, it could be much worse! And like every day, I spend half an hour going through all the updates. I go through those updates and open a page in my browser for the tickets I need to have a better understanding of. After that, I have dozens of Jira browser tabs open, and then I go through each one of them, one at a time. This is a loooong process every day. And the worst of it is that when I’m done, I feel like I should be happy about it, but hey – here comes a new update. So I don’t even get that feeling of relief. The only way to cope with this is to book some notifications-off time in my day. I know some people who just turn them off; I feel like I should do that as well…

Does that sound familiar? But maybe, just maybe, there could be a better way…well, a LOT better way.

Jira has all the features my team needs. It took some time, but we fine-tuned our workflow pretty well on it. So what’s the problem then?

Current Tools Are Not Made for Personal Productivity

Getting up to date

Current tools only let you go through all those updates chronologically, one update at a time, regardless of whether they belong to another milestone or component.

You can go through for your missed updates looking through emails, but in that case, you will see only the tickets you created, are assigned to, or are mentioned in. You won’t see the other tickets, which is good in some ways, but you might miss some important information, too.

Or, you can do it through the Jira Slackbot. In that case, you will receive all notifications of all changes, even those of no interest to you. A bit spammy, but a lot of developers do this as a way to make sure they don’t miss anything.

In both cases, you will lose some time switching context from one ticket to the other, as they might belong to different parts of your project, different milestones or components. Plus, you won’t be able to see everything you have missed on the same ticket since your last visit. Unfortunately, events are not grouped by tickets so you can understand at once what happened on this particular ticket. The only way to cope with this is to open all ticket pages in your browser so you can see all the tickets with titles of interest to you.

It’s just not an efficient process, and we lose time every day because of it.

Collaborating with focus

Another point of inefficiency is notifications. I think we can all agree that interruptions are the top productivity killer for developers. We can’t easily go back to where we were right before an interruption. We need to get into the mindset for development and then slowly trace back to where we left off. This can easily take more than 30 minutes. And the more interruptions, the more frustration, the less quality work, the more bugs — and so on and so forth.

Current tools send notifications (email or through the Slackbot) for each new event, and this might disturb developers in their work. As a result, more and more developers turn off those notifications to avoid interruptions. But then, you’re back to square one with all notifications being in chronological order.

What If There Was Another Way? Feeds to the Rescue…

Feeds to get up to date

Feeds do three things that help developers a lot in their day-to-day work:

  • Feeds are contextual: Developers can create dedicated feeds for their own needs – one feed for the current sprint, one feed for a component you’re active on, etc. So you can follow the new events on matters that you’re interested in, even if you’re not mentioned in them. Because they are organized in context, you won’t feel the same loss of focus that you might have otherwise when switching back-and-forth on several tickets that are not related.
  • Feeds group events by tickets: You can see everything that happened and that you missed since your last session for a given ticket at once. This way, you can go through a list.
  • Feeds are actionable: You can add a comment on a ticket as easily as you add a message on Slack within a ticket right from the feed. You can click on a ticket in the feed to display its details in a panel to the right without switching pages.

Stay ahead while keeping focus

Feeds don’t send you notifications; they let you focus. But, they display a badge so you know at any time how many tickets were updated since your last session.

If you use GitHub or Jira, you can start testing feeds right now on anaxi.com.
Let me know what you think about them. Do you agree they help you become more efficient on a day-to-day basis? How much so?

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