I can think of three reasons just off the top of my head why a shortcut to messages is useful outside the scope of recent notifications:
- Returning to an already read private message to reference information it contains. e.g. “Oh hey what was that cool link that guy sent me that I didn’t have a chance to check out before.”
- Returning to an already read private message to make an additional reply. e.g. Bob and I have been chatting about this new game, I just now saw a news item on it so I want to message him about it, except I want to use the long conversation we’ve already been having instead of starting a new one.
- Sending a private message. Unless you happen to already be looking at their profile or a post they made so you can access their user card, the option to send a private message is fairly buried. First you have to go to your Profile, then scroll down, then click on Messages, then send a new message.
I think these are all legitimate use cases and don’t necessarily constitute “a bunch of private below the radar conversations,” i.e. they’re not automatically abuse of the system. There are real needs to use private messaging sometimes.
In any case, @sam 's latest changes using glyphs seem to solve the problem nicely.