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Under "edit email settings", the only available frequency options are:
"off / 3 hrs / daily / weekly".

So if someone answers my question or leaves me a comment, the quickest I can choose to get a notification of that is "within 3 hours"?

My initial reaction is: that seems like such a blatantly ridiculous limitation that now I'm wondering if there's some weird reason for it?

Like, it being a technical limitation makes no sense (right?), so... is it based on some sort of weird little bit of social engineering theory?

But why would Stack Exchange - the company - want to slow down "community engagement" or whatever?

Could I have the option to receive email notifications immediately, rather than waiting 3 hours, or is there some reason I'm missing for why Stack Exchange doesn't already provide such an option? (Not asking to change the default!)

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  • 1
    Hey folks, I'm cleaning up the comments here. If you have a response to the OP's post, particularly if you have reasons this feature may not be desirable, I'd encourage you to summarize them in an answer below. In the meantime, please try to keep this comment section to clarifying questions for the OP, if you're unsure what they meant from their question.
    – Slate StaffMod
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 22:15

2 Answers 2

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Think about it: do you really want to get an email for every comment on one of your posts? Wouldn't that just clog your inbox? It's better to wait and get the bulk in one email in case you are away for a period of time, rather than scattered all over the place.

Besides, there is already a built-in real-time notification inbox, which you can monitor. There is no need to redirect everything to Gmail. Personally, I think 3 hours is still too frequent; that's 8 times a day, which would quickly turn my cluttered inbox into more of a mess than it already is.

I think it comes down to if people would actually want to use it; I'm not sure if anyone really uses the Gmail system since the built-in one is pretty sufficient. Adding more frequent notification options wouldn't do any good for community engagement.

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  • ... All I can do is repeat my comment to @Nij (from the question): Multitasking?? I'm doing other things in that time of "maybe 5 mins, maybe an hour or more" while I'm waiting for a response, not just obsessively keeping an eye on stackexchange? Like, isn't it a bit "No, it's the children who are wrong!" to say I have no valid use case for being able to set the setting I wanted enough to go looking for it, write this question, and then deal with everyone bizarrely apparently hating me for wanting what I want?
    – dwawlyn
    Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 0:52
  • And it's a normal feature for other forum sites! And it would be trivial to implement and "maintain", and if you're all really correct about me being insane to want it, then like only 1% to 10% of people would use it! (And therefore the argument about it using a lot of "resources" wouldn't make sense!) I feel like I'm taking crazy pills here, the response to this was so unexpectedly bizarrely negative! (Actually, to be more exact, I feel like everyone else is taking crazy pills...)
    – dwawlyn
    Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 0:52
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    @dwawlyn so you are checking your email but not stack exchange? In any case quickly glancing at the notification counter could alert you of any potential responses whereas you would have to pay more attention in gmail. Also, Stack Exchange is primarily a quality Q&A site, not a forum, so there is no reason for us to emulate one.
    – bobeyt6
    Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 0:56
  • My email is already set up send me a notification ("ding" or whatever) without me needing to check it, or actively think about it at all. I can just mentally focus on other things until and unless I actually get something new to respond to. And calling it "a quality Q&A site" is as nonsensical as saying "it's not a dog, it's a poodle" -- it's still a type of forum, and the half-conversational/half-letter-exchanging nature of the communication is still exactly the same. [... Please forgive how I'm starting to feel pretty irritated and attacked here... Again, feeling crazy pills.]
    – dwawlyn
    Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 1:05
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    Well in theory you could set up a filter and have them organised better somehow. Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 7:23
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I think there's a few things here.

Firstly - generating emails from dynamic content is ... surprisingly difficult. At an old job, one of the things we had to do was send confirmation emails for certain forms being filled and it occationally bogged down our system.

Secondly - on more 'exciting' posts I follow, there's significant numbers of comments coming in at high volume and velocity. I got 15 inbox items overnight. Do I want 15 single emails, or one? Does SE want to run a job checking for unread messages constantly, every hour or every 3?

I mean, there's a simple solution - web push notifications that would work great here but its been on the backburner for years. The old mobile app did this gloriously for years and I'd say for a power user, being able to be pinged for, and knowing when a comment or other inbox event happened as soon as possible would be useful.

Basically, its a good enough compromise, works for most people. and the 'best' solution isn't more emails, its an appropriate tool for the job.

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  • Thank you, that is at least a good guess at a good plausible technical reason. [(I admit I'm emotionally tired of people insisting I'm wrong for keeping my own personal preferences, even though I'm not asking for anything that would affect them)] However, I think there are nevertheless some simple sanity checks that your guess-at-a-technical-justification-for-the-limitation doesn't pass...
    – dwawlyn
    Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 2:30
  • (-) Instant email notifications are a standard feature for forum-ish sites (yes, stackexchange is basically forum site in all the relevant ways) [In fact, stackexchange as opposed to other forum-ish sites should if anything maybe have a slightly lower proportion of activity on each post that is new-answers-and-comments-activity? (As opposed to just views-and-votes, which I am not asking for instant notifications on.)]
    – dwawlyn
    Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 2:49
  • (-) I'm not asking for instant email notification to be made the default, I just want the option. So relatively few people would turn it on (those who personally do find it useful), and they'd tend to simply turn it off again if they ever started getting too many emails. So even if stackexchange was somehow significantly more badly designed for this than all those other forum sites that already handle it just fine, does it really seem likely id'd be so much worse that it would be strained by the supposedly relatively small number of people who would enable the option?
    – dwawlyn
    Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 2:52
  • (-) Speaking of "Do I want 15 single emails, or one?", that also doesn't pass a simple sanity test: The default feature of the extremely common gmail for example is to group new notification emails from the same source into a single "thread", most recent at the bottom, which can be dealt with exactly as easily as a single email.
    – dwawlyn
    Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 2:53
  • (-) So as for: "the 'best' solution isn't more emails, it's an appropriate tool for the job" -- isn't that really just saying like: "In this specific instance, for some reason, we really should just let the "perfect" be the enemy of the "good-enough".? ie, "web push" may be the "best" solution, but more emails should be a trivially quick-and-easy solution to actually implement already right now, for the users who already feel the need for at least a tool to do that job now.
    – dwawlyn
    Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 2:55

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