Category Archives: Highlights

My Rule of Thumb for Preventing Notification Overload

To keep myself from getting distracted by too many notifications on my phone, I ask myself the following questions whenever a new category pops up:

  • Will I need to act on it? (Likes/favorites are nice, but I don’t need to respond.)
  • How time-sensitive is it? (“Your ride is here” is more time sensitive than planning a get together for next weekend.)
  • How important? (“Server down” is more important than a project update. A conversation is more important than a newsletter.)
  • Is it actually for me, or is it an ad for the app service?

Then I turn off what I don’t need, turn off sound on the less urgent ones, and customize sounds for the most important ones.

So I hear when a text or instant message comes in, but not email or social media. When I pick up my phone I see emails, mentions & replies, but not favorites or boosts, etc.

It helps me a lot with alert overload. YMMV.

Who are phone notifications for?

Phone notifications aren’t just reminders. They’re interruptions, especially if you have sound or vibration turned on. That gives them a lot of power, and means they should be used responsibly.

In short, phone notifications should serve your interests as the person using the phone. Not the app’s. Not the service’s. Yours.

If someone you know sends you a message, you probably want to know that. If you put an appointment on your calendar, that reminder is going to help you. A shipping update, or delivery notice? Probably helpful as well. Completion of some long-running process that you requested or are waiting for? OK. App and system updates? You do want the phone to keep working properly, so there’s a case there.

If your friend tags you on a photo, or replies to your comment, or sends you a message, then yeah, Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or Mastodon can justifiably notify you. It’s the start or continuation of a conversation between you and that other person. (Though you should still be able to mute it if you don’t want to talk to that person.)

But when Facebook starts pushing friend suggestions, or “did you see so-and-so’s comment on this conversation that you’re not part of,” or choosing to promote some subset of people’s broadcasts? That’s not in my interests, and that’s not in the other person’s interests. That’s Facebook advertising itself, because they’re desperately afraid they’ve lost my eyeballs.

It’s no different than the Black Friday through Cyber Monday ads that Amazon pushed into my notifications over Thanksgiving weekend.

We can pare down notifications, but it takes time, and not every app offers fine enough controls over which notifications it sends. And of course you have to re-do it every time you get a new phone, and every time you add a new app.

Advertising in an alert is, IMO, an abuse of the feature. We’re bombarded by so many demands for our attention as it is. Phone notifications should stick to those that help us do what we want, not those that distract us from it.

Re-Engineering the Road

Imagine a dangerous road curve. Do you blame the drivers and call it a day? After all, not everyone crashes over the edge or into oncoming traffic.

Or do you bank the turn, calculate a safe speed limit and add a railing?

It won’t stop all crashes, but it’ll reduce them.

Re-engineering the road doesn’t ignore the driver’s decisions, but it acknowledges that they don’t happen in isolation. Change the circumstances, and you change how many drivers crash and burn.

Double Solar Halo

Thin clouds and contrails cross the sky. A bright rainbow-like ring circles a spot just out of view above the frame. A fainter rainbow-like line runs across the sky below it.

Two solar ice halos spotted at lunch today.

The 22° halo around the sun is really bright and clear, and not that uncommon even in Los Angeles. I’ve seen so many that I still take photos, but I often forget to post them unless there’s something unusual about the view.

The circumhorizon arc below it, on the other hand, I’ve only seen a few times, usually fragments. It’s faint, but it’s the longest and least wispy of these arcs that I’ve seen (though the best was probably this one from 2010).

The lower one could be an infralateral arc. It wasn’t quite long enough to tell in person whether it curved upward or was parallel to the horizon, and it’s hard to tell how much of the curve in the photo is due to lens distortion. But according to Atmospheric Optics, they’re a lot rarer than circumhorizon arcs.

It’s cool to be able to get pictures of these with my phone. There was a time I’d run to get a camera and hope it wouldn’t fade first.

Saturation enhanced. It was really hazy!

Drink From the Bottom Of Your Shoe

I was looking for sandals and found these. They’re flip flops with a built in bottle opener, I suppose to make them more…cool? Gadget-y? But it’s on the sole of the shoe.

Someone really didn’t think this design through.

Update: There are some replies at Wandering Shop from people who’ve worn or used these. Apparently there’s another variation with a built-in flask.