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1 August 2005

We are all familiar with the difference between knowledge items one has to pull and those one has to push:

  • A knowledge item that must be pulled is one that in order to be reached one has to perform a certain action. For example, a received email must be opened in order to be read. Another example: in many organizational interant websites the news and messages are presented only by title and the user must click the title in order to read the entire item. Clicking in order to reach information implements the 'pull' principle.

  • A push knowledge item is the exact opposite. The user receives the information without performing any activity. Common mechanisms include popping messages, alerts, RSS feeds and other notifications.

The push and pull knowledge principle have existed for a while and have been used in several media. But what is Pull-Pushing?

What is Pull-Pushing?

Contrary to common belief, pushing and pulling are not binary opposites, rather a spectrum which includes a range of possibilities. Pull-pushing is almost pushing, only subtler. In Pull-pushing mode, the user must still pull the information/knowledge by performing some action, yet the knowledge/information is offered in an accessible, almost spoon-fed manner. The action required from the user is minimal. For example, an 'alert' message which informs the user that there is new knowledge which we must "go" and pull is a type of Pull-pushing. So is a message/item 'pushed' to us- yet in summary form; in order to elaborate, we must perform an action. Pull-pushing could also be a 'mouse over' function which presents information every time our cursor passes overt a title. When our 'favorites' list is externalized and isn't hidden behind a link, that's Pull-pushing. And the list of examples goes on and on; all delicate or subtle pushing is Pull-pushing.

Besides being great fun to say, Pull-pushing is a great principle when attempting to create quick and high-level accessibility to important information and knowledge and still save screen-space (or real-estate). Also, it enables the user to see the primary information and decide independently what to read in depth. Thanks to this principle, it is possible to ensure that this information is more than just a title, rather actually relevant substantial content. And finally, this principle is our way to ensure we use the push only for important and urgent matters. In other words, we avoid from crying 'wolf' every time we see a 'push' message.

Nevertheless, there is a disadvantage to Pull-pushing: it still involves some initiative on behalf of the user in order to reach the information.

Think about it.

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