Electronic communication triage

The things we worry about

As Facebook seeks to become our main communications platform (techcrunch this week) it’s worth noting that its platform has an unusual communication triage system.

Triage is the practice doctors use when trying to decide which patient should be treated first in emergency situations. It’s a way of figuring out who is most important.

Facebook appears to triage communications according to the following criteria:

  • effort required to create – how much (human) effort did it take to create the message
  • importance to user – how important is this message sender likely to be to the user

This means that on Facebook your messages will appear in one of the following boxes. Each is in decreasing order of importance and is given corresponding less space and attention bling on the user interface:

  1. Inbox – Highlighted at the top of the screen with Inbox (1) – who can’t help but check out what your friends have typed out and written to you. It takes effort to write a message so it features highly
  2. News Feed – a whole page of stories and activities from your friends (high importance) throttled and aggregated to make it interesting.
  3. Requests – a few clicks from a friend so the effort value is less but it is coming from a human
  4. Notifications – automated actions from a computer somewhere get a very small piece of screen real estate
  5. Updates – commercial mailings – low importance to the user and low effort (proportionally) to send to you

I for one like this triage – it certainly cuts down the information flow. I find the News Feed addictive and manageable to deal with – I only need to check it once a day (and I always do).

Roll on Facebook as the primary communications platform. At least I’ll never have to remember another email address…

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