Message Priority, Urgency, or Importance


With email, authors can indicate their messages to be of low, normal, or high importance. Similarly, with modern productivity-collaboration software, authors can indicate delivery options indicating a message to have a high importance or urgency.

The ideas presented here include adding priority, urgency, or importance as a schema property for messages and, perhaps, for mentions, potentially by extending ActivityPub.

Use Case Scenarios

Focus Sessions

Some operating systems provide users with the capability to utilize “focus sessions”. During these sessions, notifications and interruptions from applications are reduced or altogether minimized. In the future, users might be able to easily synchronize these sessions across their devices, across their workstations, tablet computers, and smartphones.

Messages having priority, urgency, or importance can enable new possibilities for focus sessions and productivity. Users would be able to indicate that certain instant-messaging, social-media, and other collaboration applications notify or interrupt them only when a message was sufficiently urgent, sufficiently urgent from a co-worker or teammate, and so forth.

Benefits would include that students could more easily complete sessions of uninterrupted homework and workers more easily complete sessions of uninterrupted work while simultaneously feeling connected to their peers, co-workers, and communities, not concerned about missing any urgent or important message.

Virtual Assistants

Brainstorming along these lines, perhaps, in the not-too-distant future, users might, upon entering focus sessions, be able to configure these sessions and connected virtual assistants with rules. As envisioned, artificial-intelligence virtual assistants would then be able to engage with users to determine whether to take a message for a user or to immediately notify or interrupt that user in their focus session.

Technical Discussion

Simple approaches to modeling messages’ priority, urgency, or importance might involve enumerated sets (e.g., “low”, “normal”, “high”), more granular ranges of values (e.g., 0x00 - 0xFF), or floating-point intervals (e.g., between 0.0 and 1.0). If using numerical ranges or intervals, text-string values could be mapped to certain numerical values.

Providing users the means to differentiate their messages with respect to urgency and importance may involve creating an extension namespace for ActivityPub that includes these properties.


Thank you. I look forward to discussing these ideas with you!