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.

The Smartphone Paradox: Social Media vs. Actually Using the Damn Thing

This post I rescued from my Google+ archive in August 2011 really speaks to how quickly expectations for mobile computing were derailed by the social media feedback loop.

Years ago, I wanted a smartphone so I could write down all the blog posts I compose in my head when I’m away from a computer. Now that I have one, I end up reading Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus instead, and I compose blog posts in my head when I’m away from both my computer AND my phone. Maybe I just need a pencil and notepad.

That’s just me, and just one niche that I wanted to fill with a mobile computer. I also wanted SSH access, control panels, the ability to look up information easily, and photo uploads. But those things weren’t pushed out of the way like actual creative output was when I installed a bunch of dopamine generators on the device.

OK, blogging was fading anyway, and typing on a phone was tiresome. But neither of those made as much of a difference as the fact that it’s so, so easy to check Twitter for “just a minute” and find yourself still scrolling twenty minutes later.

It didn’t slow down photography. That was something that the social media cycle could latch onto. (Follow me on Flickr, Instagram, Photog.Social and Pixelfed!) And when I used a better camera, well, most cameras don’t have Facebook on them.

I think my use of social media is healthier now than it used to be. I still find myself staring at the train wreck of Twitter longer than intended, but I confine most of my activity to one session a day (or less) except for Mastodon, and that’s just different enough that it’s less likely to trigger a vortex to begin with. I do miss out on a lot with friends and family on Facebook by only checking once every couple of weeks, but I’m also happier the less time I spend there.

Still, I haven’t returned to the volume of long-form writing I used to do. And I know there’s so much more I could be doing with an always-connected computer in my pocket.

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.

Afternoon to Golden Hour: What a Difference 90 Minutes Makes

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The air has finally cleared up enough to see Downtown Los Angeles and the mountains. After several weeks of smoggy days, wildfire smoke, and occasional gloom, it’s nice to be able to see something other than a gray blur in the distance!

Also interesting: seeing how much the view changes from late afternoon to really late afternoon. These shots were taken at 4:22 and 5:52pm on the same day. Unfortunately I seem to have held my camera at two different heights, so the foreground jumps around, but the skyline and mountains are in nearly the same spots, and you can see not just different colors, but different details as the shadows move.

What I Miss About CDs

You know what I miss about CDs and other physical music media?

Liner notes.

Art, lyrics, sometimes stories…

…and credits. Who is that familiar-sounding background singer? Who wrote the song? Is it a cover? This one really reminds me of a certain composer, lyricist, or arranger’s style – can I confirm that?

The performer and title are easy to get, even if it’s not in your own library.

But the rest? If the song is notable enough for Wikipedia, great. Otherwise, who knows?

(This post brought to you by trying to figure out just how many songs on a Bonnie Tyler compilation were written by Jim Steinman.)

Originally posted On Wandering.Shop