Bother me less (or: I don’t want your notification’s nose under my attention tent)

"DoorBell 001" by HNH - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Apple Watch seems to be inspiring a lot of uninspired thinking. Things like all the news that fits on the wrist. I for one cannot imagine why I would spend hundreds of dollars so a device can annoy me with yet more notifications. I certainly don’t need to have my work/flow/conversation/meeting/meditation/relaxation interrupted with news about people I don’t know in places I’m not. That crap can wait until I’m ready to lean back and browse the headlines. That’s what Feedly and Flipboard are for. I see articles of other app developers eagerly working to get out their own Watch versions and/or extensions of their apps.

That’s great! But … no thanks.

I don’t want more, streamlined, easy-to-access notifications. I don’t want yet more interruptions to pull me out of what I’m doing.

I want fewer notifications.

Right now, I have basically two levels of stuff being pushed at me every day: the most important stuff that I always want to know about asap (e.g., phone calls from my family); and the rest of the stuff, which on any given day might include things which I may be interested in seeing right away, but not always (e.g., an email from a long-lost friend, a call from someone I’m meeting tomorrow, a text from an acquaintance with whom I chat asynchronously, a server alert requiring attention), intermixed with the general crap I’m inundated with all the time (e.g., outsourcing spammers, newsletters I find myself magically subscribed to, newsletters I actually subscribed to, professional listservs, non-urgent business emails that may or may not require any response, Kickstarter updates, email from developers of apps I’ve downloaded over the past several years, non-urgent server notifications from my own sites, server alerts of all kinds for clients I had eight years ago, political action emails of all stripes, and so on — all of which arrive with the rhetorical fanfare of OMG YOU WANT TO READ THIS NOW!!!).

I’d love to be able to have multiple levels of urgency smartly applied to the things that interrupt me. The phone, with its dozens of apps, each with their own arcane notification settings, does not offer that. The system is too dumb, as in limited by the simplest of algorithms. Same with email rules.

Maybe, just maybe, something like the Apple Watch can allow me to set up yet another level of urgency filtering, so that I can leave the iPhone in the drawer, thus enabling it to leave me alone and bother me less. That makes me hopeful, and is the #1 reason I’m interested in the Apple Watch. Maybe I hope for too much. But there must be an improvement upon the Monolith of Distraction.