Note: Apparently the global inbox wasn't loading responses for a while, but now it looks like it has resumed its normal operation.

Sometimes I click on my global inbox and I get shown an empty box:

alt text

As Grace Note points out, this could just be the inbox not loading up. This is confirmed by Michael Mrozek's comment that the HTML view is empty too when this happens.

  • I think this is actually an issue of the inbox simply not being fetched. Otherwise, normally you would still have all of the old stuff in there as well. But right now, for example, my inbox is empty despite the fact I know there is content in there (without the red number). I had this happen last week as well. – Grace Note Oct 13 '10 at 17:23
  • @Grace - Oh. I thought it was new behavior, since the "all sites" and "hot questions" load up okay (though that's not a meaningful indicator). But I guess I don't know which one it is. – Peter Ajtai Oct 13 '10 at 17:27
  • Grace is right, the HTML view is empty too – Michael Mrozek Oct 13 '10 at 17:40
  • @Michael - Yes. It seems like it. Looks like it's back up now. – Peter Ajtai Oct 13 '10 at 17:54
  • Is there a way to fetch the global inbox without using the little widget? – Stefan Lasiewski Oct 13 '10 at 17:58
  • 1
    @Stefan There's an HTML view and the JSON the widget pulls from. I don't think using either directly is really supported though, so you probably shouldn't rely on it – Michael Mrozek Oct 13 '10 at 18:44

This is [status-bydesign-but-will-probably-be-improving].

Basically, when we haven't seen you for a while we drop your inbox out of memory*. The instant we see you on any site we start rebuilding it, but that can take some time (generally, less than 5 minutes). If you come to the site (after a prolonged absence) and immediately check your inbox you run a non-trivial risk of catching it "empty" ; naturally, improving this is a mid-term goal.

To give you an idea of the scale, the global inbox has been live for less than a month and it already has 1/2 million persisted entries. Holding this (naively) constantly in memory would eat about 1/8th of our network-wide cache, and it's growing rather rapidly.

* Or if we experience any technical issues that force us to restart our servers.


A little before our datacenter migration the way inboxes are loaded was changed, it should have made loading much more reliable in the face of load. Now that everything's settled down, I'm pretty confident this problem has been resolved.

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  • How long is "awhile"? The two times I've seen it were probably due to your asterisk-noted case, but I'm curious nonetheless. – Grace Note Oct 13 '10 at 19:12
  • @Grace Note - 12 hours, though that's subject to change (it was 8, I think, when we launched inbox). – Kevin Montrose Oct 13 '10 at 19:25
  • Thanks. Looks like I was gone for 16 hours, so that explains it. It seemed to take about 1/2 hour or so to rebuild though, fwiw. ---------- To conserve resources, each account should be given the option to completely disable the global inbox.... I'd take advantage of it :p – Peter Ajtai Oct 13 '10 at 19:34
  • This sometimes happens after I've been browsing SE sites for a bit (SO and Gaming mostly), so I'm guessing there's a bug somewhere related to this. – Powerlord Oct 13 '10 at 19:40
  • There has been some flakiness on the back-end lately. – Kevin Montrose Oct 13 '10 at 19:47

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