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should email from askbot be improved?

asked 2010-09-14 09:39:31 -0600

niles gravatar image

The other day I decided to try receiving "instant" email notifications from the askbot at asksage, and I think there are a few ways it could be improved, roughly along the lines of making email look more like the "responses" section of my user profile:

  • emails could contain the actual content of changes, or at least snippets; right now they just say something like "user X did something at question Y".

  • email subjects could the the same as question titles, whether the email is about a new question, new answer to an existing question, new comments, or edits of any of these. With this change, those who group e-mail by subject would have all email pertaining to a particular question grouped together. Currently the subject lines are something like "new answer for [question title]" or "new question comment about [question title]", which means they show up as separate threads in my Gmail.

  • default from address could be included. The email from asksage doesn't include a from address; this probably is a defect with their installation rather than askbot in general, but it might be helpful to include a default from name, at least (perhaps derived from the site name?).

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The default from email address should be configured in asksage, the entry is blank currently.
Evgeny gravatar imageEvgeny ( 2010-09-14 12:49:43 -0600 )edit

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answered 2010-09-14 16:48:03 -0600

niles gravatar image

moving this response to a separate answer, since it's longer than comments allow...

Evgeny wrote:

I guess it takes two steps from receiving email go to visiting the site - click to open a message, read it and click on a link. At each step there is a chance that person will decide to do something else and the optimization goal here is to increase the "clickthrough".

I know increasing clickthrough is one way of thinking about email, but instead one might think of creating something as useful as possible for users, with increased clickthrough being a side effect. Being able to see what activity is going on at the site helps people stay engaged without having to visit the site; of course they will visit if they want to respond to questions, or ask their own questions, and maybe also to vote. With that in mind, how hard would it be to include a vote button in the email? (The link would have to contain some non-guessable key associated with the user, and maybe unique to that email. Maybe this is not feasible.)

In any case, perhaps one could think of improved email as "bringing the site to the user", at least as much as is reasonable.

Regarding subject lines:

Not everyone uses Gmail (I do use it, btw) so that optimization will be very specific to Gmail users.

What I'm suggesting really is that email from askbot should be similar to email one expects to receive from a discussion board or forum (or better!); I think that makes sense for users of any email system. And I agree that the descriptive phrase "new X" is not so important.

Of course my bias is that the sage community switched to askbot as a possible replacement/supplement to their user-support email list, so I'm paying particular attention to the ways askbot compares with an email group. But I think it's a natural comparison to make in general.

In any case, thanks for considering our suggestions :)

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Thanks, Niles. I think we're on the same page here, by increasing clickthrough of course I don't mean something mechanical but based on a better value to the user. Regarding voting from email message - it's possible, but I think it'll have to be a link that will send you to the forum when clicked.
Evgeny gravatar imageEvgeny ( 2010-09-14 17:14:54 -0600 )edit
Would simply "Re: Question title" work better in the subject line?
Evgeny gravatar imageEvgeny ( 2010-09-15 02:31:19 -0600 )edit
I was just thinking the same thing this morning :)
niles gravatar imageniles ( 2010-09-15 10:17:34 -0600 )edit
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answered 2010-09-14 13:01:35 -0600

Evgeny gravatar image

updated 2010-09-14 13:02:04 -0600

Allright let's try adding content to emails. Regarding the identical subject lines - not 100% sure, maybe adding author name to subject would make users more likely to open the email? But then, the subject line will be less identical. Not everyone uses Gmail (I do use it, btw) so that optimization will be very specific to Gmail users. Perhaps a phrase "new question"/"new answer", etc is not so important? What do you think?

The main purpose of emails is to encourage people participate in the forum. It's hard to say at once what is the best thing to do here.

I guess it takes two steps from receiving email go to visiting the site - click to open a message, read it and click on a link. At each step there is a chance that person will decide to do something else and the optimization goal here is to increase the "clickthrough".

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Asked: 2010-09-14 09:39:31 -0600

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Last updated: Sep 14 '10