Notifications

Scott Francis
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With the arrival of the Apple Watch, much attention has turned to notifications in blogs and news articles about the Watch and other wearable devices.  John Gruber of Daring Fireball (as he often does) pulled this issue out of a longer review by Steven Levy:

“We aren’t at that level of desperation yet with online notifications. But the Age of Notifications is about to face its biggest mess yet, as alerts move from phone screens to watch faces. Notifications are just about the entire point of a smart watch — you’re not going to be reading books, watching movies or doing spreadsheets on them.” – Steven Levy

I would agree with Gruber that notifications can’t be the whole point of a smart watch. Especially if we get many of these notifications already on other devices (raise your hand if you turned off the ability to receive calls on your laptop when it is in range of your phone, because you got tired of multiple devices ringing and blaring at you while you’re trying to work?).

I found myself nodding along with the post until the last bit:

I think he’s on to something here: some sort of AI for filtering notification does seem useful. I can imagine helping it by being able to give (a) a thumbs-down to a notification that went through to your watch that you didn’t want to see there; and (b) a thumbs-up to a notification on your phone or PC that wasn’t filtered through to your more personal devices but which you wish had been.

I think the answer is not to have AI do this filtering for us. The answer is to just have a lot fewer useless notifications, and to realize that we don’t need them.  Try turning off all the app notifications and badges on your phone for a few days.  Your quality of life will improve because you get fewer interruptions.  Then try turning on your ringer and your text messages. That’s really about all you need.  Anything someone sends you on another chat app, on Facebook, on Twitter, on email – they’re not expecting you to respond on their time – they’re expecting you to respond on your time.  But notifications rob you of your time in much the same way that a calendar full of appointments will rob you of your day.  You need opportunity to focus, to work, to communicate with the people in the room with you (or on the Facetime or Google Hangout).

As an industry, we techies are too focused on collecting data and thrusting it in front of people.  We need to focus more on collecting the data that matters to us, and realize that most of the data we can collect is noise.