An In-Situ Study of Mobile Phone Notifications

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We studied what notifications 15 mobile phone users received during one week, how they attended to them, and how the notifications affected them.

Highlights of our findings are:
* our participants dealt with more than 60 notifications per day, mostly from messengers, SMS, and email.
* Notifications from messengers are largely attended within minutes.
* Notifications from email clients and messengers show significant correlations with people's emotions: emails are associated with interruption and stress. Messages are related to feeling overwhelming but also connected to others.

The paper received best-paper award at ACM MobileHCI '14, which was held in September 2014 in Toronto, Canada.

The full paper is available here: http://pielot.org/pubs/Pielot2014-MobileHCI-Notifications.pdf

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  • Owner picks phone up – check what cause the notif
    Urge so strong – willing to interrupt – driving or conversations
  • http://www.bu.edu/bwhs/files/2012/12/stock-illustration-9688790-Modified-2.jpg
  • Sufficient to trigger emotional effects: boss & urgent = you know
    Response not always required
  • http://phandroid.com/2014/03/08/how-to-get-ios-lock-screen-on-android/
    http://www.androidtapp.com/nexus-4-review/lock-screen/
  • Mix of multiple choice and free text
    Send on morning of next day, because notifications arrive until late into the night
    No ESM, because would add new notifications = bias the phenomenon that we intended to study
  • Mix of multiple choice and free text
    Send on morning of next day, because notifications arrive until late into the night
    No ESM, because would add new notifications = bias the phenomenon that we intended to study
  • Mix of multiple choice and free text
    Send on morning of next day, because notifications arrive until late into the night
    No ESM, because would add new notifications = bias the phenomenon that we intended to study
  • Mix of multiple choice and free text
    Send on morning of next day, because notifications arrive until late into the night
    No ESM, because would add new notifications = bias the phenomenon that we intended to study
  • Mix of multiple choice and free text
    Send on morning of next day, because notifications arrive until late into the night
    No ESM, because would add new notifications = bias the phenomenon that we intended to study
  • Notifications are mostly from communication services / social
  • http://www.bu.edu/bwhs/files/2012/12/stock-illustration-9688790-Modified-2.jpg
  • http://www.bu.edu/bwhs/files/2012/12/stock-illustration-9688790-Modified-2.jpg
  • So, while we have to agree that message notifications frequently distract …
    We believe – on the basis of our findings – that message notifications should still be delivered immediately
  • People have developed very high expectations towards responsiveness in messenger communication,
    So, we believe, our mission should be to help people in managing and reducing those expectations
    We have to remind people that it is not always possible to comply to those expectations
  • An In-Situ Study of Mobile Phone Notifications

    1. 1. Research An In-Situ Study of Mobile Phone Notifications Martin Pielot Telefónica Research Rodrigo de Oliveira Google Inc.* Karen Church Yahoo Inc.* * this work was done while working in Telefónica Research ACM MobileHCI ’14, Sep 2014, Toronto, Canada (Slideshare edit)
    2. 2. Motivation On notification, people often interrupt current activities to check notification … We aimed to better understand why Practice Cell Phone Etiquette Step 4 by Wikiphoto, via WikiHow, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
    3. 3. In-Situ Study on Mobile Phone Notifications (1) Quantitative analysis of notifications and attentiveness (2) Fusion with daily subjective feedback on emotional impact (3) Implications for strategies to improve notification handling
    4. 4. Methodology
    5. 5. Participants 15 Volunteers (6 female, 9 male) Europe and US Late 20ies, early 30ies Information workers
    6. 6. Notification Monitor
    7. 7. Notification Posted
    8. 8. Opening of Notification Center
    9. 9. Launch of Apps
    10. 10. Attentiveness Time
    11. 11. Attentiveness Time
    12. 12. No notifications on lock screen!
    13. 13. E-­mail Other apps (updates, games, etc.) Diary Survey – Daily for 7 Days * 5. How much did the majority of these messages/notifications interrupt you from your daily tasks? Very frequently distracted Frequently distracted Occasionally distracted Rarely distracted Very rarely or never distracted NA Mobile instant messaging apps (WhatsApp, SMS, Skype, etc.) Social Network apps (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) E-­mail Other apps (updates, games, etc.) Please tell us more about the application or notifications that cause the most distraction
    14. 14. E-­mail Other apps (updates, games, etc.) Diary Survey – Daily for 7 Days * 5. How much did the majority of these messages/notifications interrupt you from your daily tasks? Very frequently distracted Frequently distracted Occasionally distracted Rarely distracted Very rarely or never distracted NA Mobile instant messaging apps (WhatsApp, SMS, Skype, etc.) Social Network apps (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) E-­mail Other apps (updates, games, etc.) Please tell us more about the application or notifications that cause the most distraction
    15. 15. E-­mail Other apps (updates, games, etc.) Diary Survey – Daily for 7 Days * 5. How much did the majority of these messages/notifications interrupt you from your daily tasks? Very frequently distracted Frequently distracted Occasionally distracted Rarely distracted Very rarely or never distracted NA Mobile instant messaging apps (WhatsApp, SMS, Skype, etc.) Social Network apps (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) E-­mail Other apps (updates, games, etc.) Please tell us more about the application or notifications that cause the most distraction
    16. 16. E-­mail Other apps (updates, games, etc.) Diary Survey – Daily for 7 Days * 5. How much did the majority of these messages/notifications interrupt you from your daily tasks? Very frequently distracted Frequently distracted Occasionally distracted Rarely distracted Very rarely or never distracted NA Mobile instant messaging apps (WhatsApp, SMS, Skype, etc.) Social Network apps (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) E-­mail Other apps (updates, games, etc.) Please tell us more about the application or notifications that cause the most distraction
    17. 17. E-­mail Other apps (updates, games, etc.) Diary Survey – Daily for 7 Days * 5. How much did the majority of these messages/notifications interrupt you from your daily tasks? Very frequently distracted Frequently distracted Occasionally distracted Rarely distracted Very rarely or never distracted NA Morning of next day – to capture late-night notifications Mobile instant messaging apps (WhatsApp, SMS, Skype, etc.) Social Network apps (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) E-­mail No experience sampling – to not add new notifications Other apps (updates, games, etc.) Please tell us more about the application or notifications that cause the most distraction
    18. 18. Notifications
    19. 19. 6854 notifications in 7 days messengers 49% email 32% social networks 4% other 15% Participants did not have to alter notification settings • 2 of 15 did not receive email notifications • 7 of 15 did not receive social network notifications
    20. 20. 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0 Notifications per Day Messengers Email Social Networks Other 63.5 notifications per day (Median) Weekday Day in Weekend
    21. 21. 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% MIM Email Social Other User Responses How many notifications have you received on your mobile phone? don't know way more more the usual fewer way fewer
    22. 22. 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 Messages: breaks and evening Emails: work hours Messengers Email Social Other 0 4 8 12 16 20 24 Number of Notifications Hour of the Day
    23. 23. Attentiveness
    24. 24. Attentiveness - Expectations 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% With respect to the people you communicate most with How fast do YOU typically respond? Within a few days Within 24 hours Within a few hours Within an hour Within a few minutes Immediatey
    25. 25. Attentiveness - Expectations 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% With respect to the people you communicate most with How fast do THEY typically respond? Within a few days Within 24 hours Within a few hours Within an hour Within a few minutes Immediatey
    26. 26. Actual Attentiveness 220 200 180 160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0 Time until attended (min) Messengers Email Social Networks Other From: 3.5 min (messages on weekends) To: 27.7 min (emails on weekends) Weekday Day in Weekend
    27. 27. Ringer Mode Vibration mode  faster notification attendance No difference between silent and normal mode
    28. 28. Emotional Impact
    29. 29. How frequently felt distracted? 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Msgs Email Social Other User Responses NA never rarely occasionally frequenty very frequenty
    30. 30. WhatsApp was distracting a bit in the evening when I was out at the opera and then for birthday drinks with friends. It was not important to answer, but still a matter of politeness I had to answer in a reasonable time span.
    31. 31. Please tell us more about the application or notifications that cause the most distraction Daily Diary * 6. With respect to the messages/notifications you received on your mobile phone on Tuesday March 5th, 2013. Strongly disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly agree I received a lot of notifications I felt overwhelmed by the amount of notifications I felt stressed by 3/13/13 [SURVEY PREVIEW MODE] Push Message/Notification Study - Diary Survey the notifications www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?PREVIEW_MODE=DO_NOT_USE_THIS_LINK_FOR_COLLECTION&sm=%2ffVLBq9vJAztCbrM44%2bMhq0hVuR… 2/4 I felt interrupted by the notifications I felt annoyed by the notifications I felt connected with others. I felt that others are thinking about me.
    32. 32. more emails Keri J. Email customized icon. via Flickr, Mar 3, 2010 (CC BY-ND 2.0)
    33. 33. Increased feelings of overwhelmed interrupted stressed annoyed LaurMG. A frustrated man sitting at a desk. via Wikipedia, May 24, 2011 (CC BY-SA 3.0).
    34. 34. Email notifications are usually from exchange server, so they are work related. It means if I am not near my computer, I should get to my computer and reply
    35. 35. more messages
    36. 36. Increased feelings of having to deal with a lot of messages and being overwhelmed Jhaymesisviphotography. Texting. via Flickr, Dec 10, 2011 (CC BY 2.0)
    37. 37. WhatsApp users don’t have option to stop other side of users knowing if you have already read or not [...] people tend to expect immediate answers.
    38. 38. BUT also feeling connected with others Brinks Alo. Week 11/52: How Sweet It is To Be Loved by You. via Flickr, Oct 3, 2010 (CC BY-ND 2.0)
    39. 39. I was talking to my sister. She was sad [and] I wanted to respond immediately to comfort her.
    40. 40. Design Implications for Notification Handling
    41. 41. Reducing number of interruptions Rosenthal et al. 2011 e.g. by muting the ringer when notification is predicted to be “unimportant” or context “unsuitable” … Not advisable for communication services as users will check their phones anyway
    42. 42. Defer notification ‘til opportune moment Horvitz et al. 2005, Iqbal and Bailey 2008, Fischer et al. 2011, Leiva et al. 2012 e.g. detecting break-points or wait until activities are finished Advisable for work/emails, but difficult in case of personal communication
    43. 43. Communicating non-availability Harper and Taylor 2009, Reynolds et al. 2013, Pielot et al. 2014 e.g. by communicating context or predicting attentiveness Advisable for personal communication, to manage expectations
    44. 44. Take Aways 63.5 notifications per day, mostly from communication apps People attend fast to notifications, in particular from messengers (3.5 min median) … even if the phone is in silent mode Notifications, in particular related to work, correlate with negative emotions However, personal communication also correlates with feeling connected Implications depend on type of notification Other/Non-important = mute ringer Work/Email = deliver at opportune moment Personal/Messages= communicate availability An In-Situ Study of Mobile Phone Notifications Martin Pielot Rodrigo de Oliveira Karen Church Telefónica Research * this work was done while working in Telefónica Research ACM MobileHCI ’14, Sep 2014, Toronto, Canada Google Inc.* Yahoo Inc.*

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