GitHub boosts developer productivity with new mobile notification controls

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GitHub is rolling out a handful of new updates to its mobile and desktop apps, including “enhanced” push notifications with more granular controls and the ability to pause them altogether.
The Microsoft-owned code-hosting platform said that the update is related to its growing emphasis on supporting the burgeoning hybrid and remote workforce, which relies on asynchronous communications. Nicole Forsgren, VP of research and strategy at GitHub, recently wrote about developer productivity in a co-authored article published in ACM Queue, noting that ensuring efficient software development and the wellbeing of developers has “never been more important,” with the rapid shift to remote work creating a potential disconnect between developers and their usual workspaces and teams.
“This forced disruption and the future transition to hybrid remote / colocated work expedites the need to understand developer productivity and wellbeing, with wide agreement that doing so in an efficient and fair way is critical,” they wrote.
Going mobile
GitHub launched its mobile app for Android and iOS a year ago, and at the time it only supported push notifications for messages that include a direct mention of the developer. And there was good reason why it was limited in such a way.
“Push notifications was one of the very first features we added via a cross-team hack-week with the GitHub notifications team,” Ryan Nystrom, senior director of engineering at GitHub, told VentureBeat. “From that work, we created early versions of pushes for any type of activity, but we knew that without controls this could overwhelm users. “Notification fatigue is real, so we decided to start at a very high signal with lower volume through the initial direct mentions notifications.”
In other words, developers could end up drowning under a deluge of alerts, particularly when they’re supposed to be “offline.” And so over the past year, GitHub has been taking on feedback from developers to figure out what additional notifications and controls could help them manage their time and productivity. With this latest update, developers can toggle push notifications on and off not only for when they’ve been directly mentioned, but when they’ve been asked to review a pull request, assigned a task, or asked to approve a deployment for a protected branch.
Above: GitHub: Push notification settings
This is important because a manager or senior developer might need to approve key stages in a project when they’re on the move, or otherwise not at their desktop.
“One of the core principles of the mobile app is that we’re helping unblock people,” Nystrom said. “Deploy approvals are a new flow for GitHub — for developers using GitHub mobile, we knew immediately it’d be valuable to get notified when your review is requested, so you can unblock a deploy without the need to be at your computer.”
Above: GitHub: New push notification controls
Related to this, GitHub for mobile also now lets developers set custom working hours, meaning that users can specific when push notifications will be sent to their phone.
Above: GitHub: Custom working hours
This fits a much wider push across the technology spectrum to foster a healthier work-life balance — Google, for example, rolled out “focus mode” back in 2019 to help users minimize and control alerts on their mobile devices.
Elsewhere, the GitHub mobile app also now lets developers view releases natively inside the app, whereas before it would link the user through to a web view. “This was also one of our most-requested features,” Nystrom added.
Above: GitHub for mobile now shows release notes natively
Similar to all of this, GitHub users can also now customize their repository “watch” settings from mobile similar to how it works on the browser version — they can now opt-in to a very specific subset of actions that they’d like notifications for in their inbox, such as issues, pull requests, releases, and discussions.
Over in the desktop realm, GitHub launched version 2.7 of its desktop app that makes it easier for developers to copy individual or multiple commits between branches (known as “cherry picking”) using drag-and-drop.
Above: GitHub desktop app: “Cherry-picking” by drag-and-drop
According to GitHub’s staff engineering manager Billy Griffin, developers would previously have to go to the command line and look up the Git cherry-pick documents to remember the correct syntax to copy the commits. Drag-and-drop makes this more visual and intuitive.VentureBeat
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