Alert Fatigue: A Problem With Few Easy Solutions

Getting a message to the user is one thing, having them see it is another…

An article review.


In IT we often focus on identifying and communicating risk: to our users, to our superiors and to others in the field. Over the years, we’ve even developed new tools and methods to identify issues and notify the right people–there are few times an IT professional isn’t available through some device or another! One thing that we haven’t been able to make a lot of progress on, however, is making people–especially end users–really aware. 

It’s a problem outside of IT as well. A recent CBC News article on the roll-out of an Amber Alert system in Canada provides a great example: cell phones 15 hours away from the incident in question were receiving multiple alerts, and many reported that they were “tuning them out.” If this is how people respond to a missing child, what are the odds they’re going to pay that much attention to your new user agreement, or a pop-up about a suspicious file attachment?

Now we don’t believe people are ignoring a missing child on purpose, of course! The problem arises when you have too many devices making too many demands on your time. Something has to get tuned out, and it is often that pop-up dialog box when opening an email or your phone buzzing on your desk. An alarm that goes off too often loses the ability to alarm people.

Unfortunately, it’s an issue that is easy to talk about but much harder to solve. Our own Dan Hadaway is working on a Dan’s New Leaf post that will help shed some light on the subject, though, and you can look for it here soon.

Original article by CBC News.



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