• Introduction (coming soon)
    • About Me
    • My Motivations
    • A Stage for Rational Discourse
  • The Mind: Internal Reality
    • The Importance of Belief
    • The Illusion of the Self
    • Consciousness
  • The Universe: External Reality
    • The Origin and Future of The Universe
    • The Illusion of Free Will
    • Control In Understanding
    • Freedom As An Emergent Property of Consciousness
  • Personal Well-being
    • Happiness
    • Selfishness


There was a time when popups were everywhere on the web. Thankfully, through the combined effort of a lot of groups they were almost completely eliminated though browser blocking and perhaps more importantly a global philosophy change with regard to their use. Popups are still important for many pieces of software, for example Anti-virus when notifying you about threats, or when you receive a message. While generally they're done appropriately, there's one relatively minor offender of the popup philosophy that I want to talk about today, and that's Dropbox.

Dropbox is a handy tool no doubt but one of it's more annoying design features is the notifications you receive when your dropbox is almost full. It seems that if you ever reach 90% or more capacity, to let you know this Dropbox will — on all your computers that have it — make an annoying chime sound and show a popup with irritating frequency. It will do this every day, on every computer, and there's no way to stop it. So for me that was seeing it a minimum of 3-4 times a day (both at work and at home), and sometimes more often.


Yes, it's just a relatively small popup in the corner. Yes there are bigger concerns in the world right now than popups. Nevertheless, this is bad design and it is also immoral design and thus it ought to be noted.

The bottom line is that the user should always be able to configure what happens on their computer. To some of you this may be a bold statement. You might be thinking to yourself, "Why? If someone makes a piece of software and you accept the terms of using it, then you should accept however it is designed. If you don't like it, uninstall it!" Indeed, I wholeheartedly agree with that. But the point of having a discussion about design is to talk about what kinds of designs are enjoyed by users and/or useful to meet a particular goal (e.g. make money for the company) and what kinds of designs are not enjoyed by users and/or do not meet a particular goal. I'm pretty sure Dropbox knows about this annoying popup thing and that it annoys some percentage of users. Yet they probably continue it for one reason and one reason alone (and it's not because they are understaffed): it makes them money. All that matters to them right now is that more people upgrade their Dropbox to get rid of annoying popup than quit using it because the popups are annoying (or specifically, that the income gained from higher tier subscriptions from people wishing to get rid of the popup outweighs the loss of paying users who quit because of it). So although it meets the company's design goals of making the most money, it is a design decision that forces the user to do something they don't necessarily want to do just to avoid dealing with the popup, and because of that I feel the need to call them out.

Now, is it really that bad? No, not really. It's annoying for about a total of 6 seconds every day. But it's almost certainly intentional (a company valued at $10 billion likely doesn't just "happen to miss" things like this) and because of that earns an Immorality rating of Dishonest.

Cleverness Rating: None (0/3)

Immorality Rating: Dishonest (2/3)

I should add that Microsoft (the maker of Windows OS) also gets a bit of a slap on the wrist here because of their failure to allow users to customize notifications in the task bar. In Windows 7, you can specifically choose on a per-icon basis whether to hide an icon and its notifications, show an icon and its notifications, or only show its notifications. Mysteriously though, there is no "show the icon and hide the notifications" option.


I don't understand this design. Is it just an oversight? I would think so, but then you notice that now in Windows 10 you have even less options than before: you can only hide everything or show everything.


I don't know if I'd call that straight up Dishonest but it's definitely Dubious. Dear Microsoft: Why are you making it harder for me to customize what I want to see on my computer? :'(

While I may have someone at Dropbox reading this post eventually, there's another thing I want to point out that bothers me: Dropbox forces the use of a link in the Windows Explorer panel even if you manually remove it. See below:


I have Dropbox in my Quick Access tucked neatly alongside Google Drive and I want to remove the duplicate Dropbox link. You can do this by manually editing your system registry:

Navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{E31EA727-12ED-4702-820C-4B6445F28E1A}
Set 'System.IsPinnedToNamespaceTree' to 0

It works immediately when you follow those steps, but once you restart Dropbox (which is every day for me since I always fully shut off my computer before I sleep), the software just puts it right back. This might be just an oversight on their part since I can't imagine how this could relate to them earning money, but is nevertheless an annoying oversight... Obviously the registry entry doesn't need to be updated every time you start dropbox, and in fact the user should be asked if they want it in the first place when installing the software. Please fix this Dropbox! <3

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