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New Notifications System

Why is it changing? What's wrong with the old system?

There are a few reasons for this, of which, we'll try to briefly and clearly explain below but, the biggest reason for the change is stability and to explain what we mean by this we have to go back to when Buzz was first in its infancy. 

Buzz was developed a long time ago when a lot of Social Media websites were also in their infancy and ePHOTOzine soon realised that some of the methods the social media sites were implementing were key to retaining an active community on site. These methods included a clear system for informing members of recent activity on topics/content they were participating in and newly added content that could be of interest to them. For example, new uploads from other photographers where they find their photos appealing/inspiring.

Buzz was built alongside the previous notifications system, which still exists, with the ultimate aim of replacing it someday, but it never really has and as a result Buzz is secondary to the notifications you receive either via Email or Private Message.

Since its launch, Buzz has been largely unmanaged which means for the last ten years, or thereabouts, every single action made by members has been stored. As a result, we have hundreds of millions of database records that are full of redundant data and this massive bulk of data has now become unmanageable (we're surprised it's not failed or caused issues already). If the worst were to happen it would have a devastating effect on the site; essentially bringing it to its knees making the site unavailable so, for obvious reasons, we need to action this threat.

Having liaised with a few site members about this issue already, we've been asked: " Can't you just delete the old records, say everything over a year old? " We do wish it was this simple but, unfortunately it's not because, as we mentioned earlier, Buzz is essentially a duplicate of the existing site data stored. For example, we have a table dedicated to storing 'likes' on the main site and Buzz also stores 'likes' but when the 'like' data is displayed in Buzz, the quantity of 'likes' is gained by counting the records within Buzz, so if we delete the old ones... well you can see the problem.

So the dilemma is how do we quickly fix this? Statistically, Buzz isn't used that much as most members happily receive their notifications through the other channels such as email or private message. The easiest solution, therefore, has been to enhance the email & private message system and rework it into a notifications system so, going forward, this means we can steadily remove Buzz and its threat.

The confusion caused by the three existing systems (emails, private messages and Buzz) will be remedied by our new approach. The new notifications system will be the unification of them all. Also, whether you're a Plus or free member the same system will apply; you'll all have a notifications feed with one simple choice which is whether you also want to receive the same notifications via email as well.

The final reason for the removal of Buzz is that it's built on the old ePHOTOzine framework, which looks dated and isn't responsive (mobile friendly) as the majority of the site now is. If you visit older areas of the site, the design changes and the removal of Buzz will be a huge step forward in us finally being able to migrate the entire site to the new framework - it's been holding us back for a while.

What will we lose/gain?

All being well, you shouldn't feel like you lose anything as the same level of notification will still be available. There's a degree of urgency to switch over but, if we've missed anything, we can work on adding it back into the new system and you can get in touch by using the usual report system to let us know.

To avoid falling back into the same trap of storing huge quantities of data, there are a few considerations worth pointing out.

Firstly, the new notifications system has been simplified as the theory is you'll return back to the content associated with the notification to further engage with it. In doing this, you'll reset future notifications on that item. Plus, if you're no longer interested, you can ignore the notification and delete it from your feed.

There will also be an automated clean-up system working behind the scenes so any read notifications that aren't deleted by yourself will be deleted after a period of time, most likely 3 months. The same will apply for unread notifications but these will have a longer shelf life, probably 6 months or a year. In doing this, we're ensuring that it doesn't grow out of control again.

The new notifications system is essentially using what was previously known as 'Private Messages' but it will now be called 'Notifications & Messages'. Both will pass through the same feed, with a new filter system, so you can just view Messages from other members. This means personal messages won't get lost within the notifications. 

Also, on the topic of personal messages, these won't be automatically deleted and will remain unless you choose to delete them yourself.

Depending on what system you're currently using will depend on what you're gaining. For example, Plus Members who are currently receiving notifications via Private Messages (now Messages), probably won't notice anything that's radically different. You will just see a mixed feed with a fresh look and the option to receive the same notifications via email.

For those Members who currently mainly rely on receiving email notifications and looking at Buzz, the emails will still keep coming but instead of getting a Buzz indicator in the top navigation bar you'll get a new indicator for the new system.

"What about Following Photos, as that's under Buzz"

This is one part of Buzz that's been a success so it will remain and get a facelift. 

The way you manage notifications about a member you follow uploading a photo has been greatly simplified too, but you will still get a page of the latest photos from the members you follow with the option to easily toggle whether you get a notification each time they do.

If you want to limit the number of notifications you receive, you can just select the key members you're interested in for the actual notifications and then the other members' latest photos will feature on the 'Following Photos' page. As you will see, it's mainly just about introducing a new look with less clutter. 

Getting to the notification system and finding other info:

As a new notification comes in you'll get a counter icon on the top navigation bar. When you click this you'll be taken to your feed. Then, because you visited the feed, all of the notifications will be deemed as �read' and your notifications count will be reset.

Personal messages will show in the top navigation as an envelope icon with a number. Clicking this will take you straight to any personal messages you might have and will reset the counter.

If you've navigated away from either the notifications feed or messages page you can use the 'Profile' dropdown menu item to rapidly return to either, or simply click back on your browser if you've only visited a single page.

Our stats show that very few members actually use Buzz so, for most, this won't apply, but it was possible to leave a comment on a topic from within Buzz (along with some other actions). Obviously, with Buzz being removed, this will no longer be possible so on the receipt of a new notification, such as a new comment within a topic or on a photo/article, clicking the notification will take you directly to the topic/photo/article to engage with it there.

Notifications of 'likes' will also show in your feed, but not via email. It will link to the item 'liked' and tell you which member 'liked' it. There's no counter this time but by following the link you'll see the like button and the number of 'likes'. By clicking the 'like quantity' you'll be able to see all the members involved. The same applies to votes on photos but the 'and 15 more' link will reveal who.

Some members may have noticed that under the Reviews, Cameras, Lenses, Smartphones & More (for News) top menu items, there's a 'Latest Comments' link at the bottom. Clicking this link will take you to the latest comments made on articles within that field so you can see activity from other members on-site and join in the discussion.

To find out what an individual member has been up to recently, you can visit their profile and click on the 'Activity' tab where you'll see any photo comments or engagement within the Forums. This isn't new, but it's a great way of finding out useful information.

Final notes:

Hopefully, this article has been helpful and you understand the need for the change. 

We believe that the vital removal of Buzz isn't going to be of any detriment to the site because, once you've experienced the new notification system, it will become familiar and easy to use. Also, the removal of Buzz is a huge benefit to the site as once we complete the transfer to a single framework it will allow for the rapid development of exciting future projects we have planned!

Once the new notifications system has been rolled out, the key to making it work for you is how you manage what you receive with the important action being that notifications are reset on the content you're interested in.

This will be automatically done via the links from the notifications system but, if you do lose some notifications, you can 'Reset vote notifications' on your own photos and 'Set notifications' from just above the comments within Topics, Articles & Photos along with other placements.

You can also reset the notifications (Votes & Comments) on all your previous uploads from Settings -> Manage the emails & notifications I receive -> Reset Photo Notifications.