The Age of Notifications

The Age of Notifications by Steven Levy for Medium:

“Instead of making you compulsively visiting dozens of apps, the apps vow to send you the most important items they generate, so you can get a taste of what’s happening without opening the app. Done right, notifications are a wonderful Feed of Feeds, weeding out the stuff you really need to see from all the usual chaff in the stream.
But it’s hard to do this right when every single app wants to send you notifications. Even given that the system will limit itself to notices worthy of instant notice — and The Melvin Renaming is evidence to the contrary — there are just too many notifications elbowing their way into what should be a narrow passage labeled, ‘Stuff I absolutely need to see.'”

This is the crux of the problem, and as the rest of Levy’s piece lays out, the consequences are significant.

Some users have a manageable notification stream, though they’re likely an extreme minority. The patience, self restraint, and technical apptitude required to tune their devices is a rare combination of user skills. The vast majority are more likely overwhelmed to the point where the choice is to delete a notification-heavy app or to simply suffer and ignore notifications all together.

Every user has a strategy, conscious or not, about the notifications jockeying for their attention. The problem is that every user is different; one may value work email notifications while at work, while another may be exactly the opposite. The challenge is to engineer the tools and guidance necessary for every user to have notifications be meaningful to their particular needs.


p id=”899c” class=”graf–p RIL_KEEPER_CLASS RIL_KEEPER_CLASS” style=”text-align:start;margin-right:0;margin-bottom:1em;margin-left:0;padding:0;-webkit-hyphens:auto;”>And it is a challenge with high stakes. Given the narrative of the wearable driving down phone usage, the success of the category may depend on the evolution of notifications.