Inbox Alert Miniconf

On the delivery of notifications

Email is the backbone of social media. Virtually every network, forum and blog sends email followups to any interaction that happens within the network. Even Twitter, which for the longest time positioned itself as a new messaging platform with better engagement than email, took to email newsletters as a way to get their own users more engaged.

And yet, email isn’t the only effective channel. In India, virtually every online transaction is followed by an SMS alert. Two-factor authentication when you login to Google? SMS again. Facebook and Twitter have been experimenting with bi-directional SMS, letting you reply directly from your phone.

SMS, like email, can be frustratingly limiting, so you have on-device notifications. iOS nailed this early on with a consistent API for apps to deliver notifications while leaving users in control of what they wanted to receive. Android was late but delivered interactive notifications, allowing users to respond without switching context.

Less visibly, we have WebSockets to overcome the lack of push in HTTP, IM (mostly with the XMPP protocol) used by the late Aardvark service for interactive Q&A, the venerable IRC, with its various bots, and anything-to-anything switchboards such as IFTTT.

So many different ways to contact users and bring them back to your application. Which of these should you be using, and how do they work?

Presenting Inbox Alert, the third Miniconf of 2014. Join us for a day of explorations into how various apps use email, SMS, IM and in-app notifications to stay in touch with users, and the technical details of how you can do this too.

If you are an app developer who has tackled this challenge, please submit a proposal to explain your approach. If you’re seeking ideas on how to do it, please vote for the proposal that makes the most sense to you. Speaking proposals must be technically detailed. If you aren’t diving into the nuts and bolts of your notifications system, it isn’t detailed enough.

Finally, if you have a solution to sell, pick up a sponsorship. Your money will subsidise participants.

Inbox Alert will be sometime in June 2014. We’ll announce dates and selected talks as June gets closer.



  1. What does it take to run an outgoing SMTP server in the modern era with new anti-spam standards such as DKIM, SPF and DMARC
  2. Cost-benefit analysis of running your own SMTP vs outsourcing to a commercial provider
  3. When an email bounces, how do you notify the user? Linking email activity to the user’s other forms of presence in your app and on the internet
  4. Can users respond via email? Understanding what it takes to run an incoming SMTP server
  5. Connecting incoming email to the right endpoint in your application
  6. Parsing email to extract message vs quote; parsing and storing attachments
  7. Running your own newsletter software with custom targeting
  8. Etc (greater detail soon)

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Inbox Alert is a proposed conference series on messaging and notifications. more