The inbox hasn't been very nice to me.
Often I will see a red number at the top left of the page, indicating that I have some new alerts in my inbox. It is a useful feature and I would definitely make an "Eeeek!" post if it were gone, but there are quite a few things about it that confuse me.
Here is an example of one that I had today:
The first thing that confuses me is that the number 2 indicates that there are two new items in my inbox--but three items are highlighted. This annoys me because I automatically start at the bottom higlighted item and work my way up, in chronological order of the alerts, much like I do with my e-mail. The problem is that the bottom highlighted items are not new, and it leads me to something I have already seen. That often makes me look through a few extra alerts and is very annoying.
So my first feature request is, please make the highlighted items correspond to the new items. As an aside, what does it currently even mean when an item is highlighted? I haven't been able to figure that out yet.
The second thing that confuses me is the meaning of the red number. In the screenshot above, the only item in the inbox that was actually new was the "2 comments on Confusion in Verbs". From that, I assume that the red number means the total number of new comments, and not the number of new items in the inbox.
However, if I see the red number 2, I instinctively assume that the top two items in my inbox are new. The way it is now is not very intuitive. It seems like it would make more sense to make the red number correspond to the number of new items in the inbox instead of the number of new comments.
Another thing that confusing thing: earlier today, I saw the red number 4, and the new item in the inbox was "5 comments on Suggest the next feature". I looked at the comment thread, and there were only four comments that I had not seen before. Why does it say 5 comments when there are only four new comments?
At first, I assumed it meant that there were 5 total comments. But there were 13 comments. It would make much more sense to make the comment number on the alert correspond to the number of new comments. As it is now, I am still puzzled as to what it even means by "5 comments".
Last item: as I said earlier, I treat my inbox much like my e-mail inbox, and think of the highlighted items as "unread", and the others as "read". However, when I go to read one of the new items, everything gets marked as read. That makes some of the new items that I haven't seen yet marked as read, and I have to think for a little bit to figure out which ones are new and which ones aren't. So my last request is to not mark anything as read until I have read it.
It is surprising that such a commonly used feature as the global inbox has such confusing behaviors that have been around for so long. To me, all of these seem to be common sense in consideration of the usability principle, don't make me think.
If you disagree, and think the the behavior as it is now is acceptable, please tell me why. I am very curious about the reasoning behind the current behavior.