Wandering Thoughts archives


Notifications and interruptions, and my view on them

On Twitter, I got irritated at Apple News:

Congratulations, Apple News: for allowing some random news service I've never indicated any interest in (or even looked at) to push a notification (complete with a sound), you have completely and permanently lost all notification privileges.

(For bonus points this was on the lock screen, which means that Apple News made a noise to attract my attention to an otherwise inactive device.)

I'm not the only person that Apple News is doing this to; see Matthew Cassinelli's Apple News has a notification spam problem (and my memory of that article was part of why I reacted strongly here). But a large part of this is my general view of notifications, at least on iOS.

On iOS, notifications are interruptions. That's what they're explicitly designed to do, when they pop up on your lock screen or shove themselves into the top of your screen; they're there to push something in front of you that can't wait. Like many people, I don't like getting interrupted by things that aren't actually important. If you keep pestering me with interruptions that aren't worth yanking me away from what I was doing, in real life or otherwise, I will stop allowing you to interrupt me. Well, putting it that way is underselling my view on iOS notifications, because I consider them suspect unless proven otherwise. If I allow notifications at all for an app, it's on more or less permanent probation; every notification had better be worth it, and if not the app is probably losing that permission.

(To its credit, iOS makes it relatively easy to remove these permissions from apps after the fact, even from vendor provided system apps like Apple News. Apple did feel free to silently and automatically grant Apple News all sorts of permissions when I first ran it, though, which is rather pushing things. Especially since I would have denied it those permissions if it had asked.)

Originally I was going to call this entry something like 'my view on notifications', but then I realized that this wasn't really accurate. This is my view on iOS-style notifications, but notifications in general don't have to be done so that they're obtrusive interruptions. My Linux desktops have notifications, but in the form of little bubbles that show up quietly in a corner of the screen, linger for a bit so I can read them if necessary, and then fold away again (leaving a little 'you have unread notifications' marker that I often don't even really notice). These notifications don't interrupt me or get in the way, and I don't think any Linux desktop environment would dream of having them show up on the lock screen. As a result, I mostly don't turn these off and I even periodically find them convenient.

(There are various problems with doing this sort of notifications on iOS; one obvious one is that phones have limited screen space, so it's much harder to put up a useful notification that's only in an unobtrusive corner of the screen.)

tech/NotificationsAndInterruptions written at 22:37:59; Add Comment

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