Issue 55 Nov 12, 2023

Notifications need a reboot

I’ve had it with notifications.

The idea is good: A service and/or app will tells you about important things. For example, food delivery app Foodora lets you know that your food is on its way, that it’s getting close, that it’s sitting outside your door. That’s good.

Less good: Foodora pinging you daily about how you should treat yourself, order groceries, did you know you can get underwear now, and so on and so forth.

I only enable notifications from Foodora when I have an order going (and I try to limit those, I’ve got legs dammit). In fact, I keep disabling notifications. They’re a nuisance.

Apple knows this is a problem so they introduced Focus, a setting that limits notifications, and other things, on your device. I’m sure there are similar solutions for Android. That’s great, I’ll shut everything but the closest family up when I’m at home, and tailor my notifications in a different manner when I’m at the office. Problem is, I might need an app I’ve silenced during these periods of time.

Which brings me back to notifications as they are today. Focus modes and the like can solve some things, but what if I need to get a notification from Foodora while at work? Or what if I need to get a work notification at home, for whatever reason I couldn’t think of when I set up those focus rules?

Notifications should come with granularity. There’s nothing that stops the app developers and service providers to add this, but there’s also no real purpose to doing so. Where’s their gain, not bothering me so much?

For starters, I’d keep notifications enabled. But that could be just me.

Duolingo, the language learning app, is truly obnoxious. They use all means necessary to get you to do your daily lesson, keep your streak, you don’t want to miss your streak, I’d be so sad if you didn’t get your lesson in – all that jazz. When you don’t get your lesson in, don’t sweat it, I’ve frozen your streak this time, and it all starts over. I like Duolingo for what it is, and had a reasonable streak going, but various matters made me take a break.

Boy, did the app nag me.

I kept the notifications on, curious to see how far it’d go. Soon enough, I got a notification that said that Duolingo saw that the notifications wasn’t working so they’d pause them. Okay, that’s good, that’s an interesting move. Maybe you could’ve done that on day three, but fine, whatever.

Thirty days later, I got a Duolingo notification asking me to get back to Duolingo again. I can’t decide if this is good or bad, but I’m leaning towards the positive.

Despite all that, even when done sort of right (like Duolingo did in the end), notifications are too much. They’re too annoying.

We need granular control of notifications, and we need it on a user level, with punishments for apps when they don’t follow whatever framework is behind these controls.

Apple, are you listening?


😤 I loathe CAPTCHAs, those puzzles and blurry images that supposedly keeps bots from accessing sites, submitting forms, and the like. AI already beats them, so now the CAPTCHAs are going to get even worse. Lovely.

🍷 If catastrophic weather, famine, and general horribleness that’ll be the end of the human race won’t make you care about global warming, consider this: Wine production has fallen to lowest production level in 60 years due to climate change.

🚻 Signal is closing in on support for usernames, which clearly should’ve been part of it from the start as you might not want to share your phone number with everyone you chat with.

📓 A few surprises on this list: Six books you didn’t know were propaganda.

🪧 The Sag-Aftra strike might be over. Great, can we get something good to watch now?

👺 Warner Bros keeps shelving finished movies for tax breaks. What a horrible company to work for.

🗡️ There’s going to be a Legend of Zelda movie, which has been rumored for years and seems the obvious next step after the mammoth success of the Super Mario Bros. Movie. Disney, watch out…

🍑 Tumblr is downscaling, which is sad but not surprising. As a social network, it’s weird and hard to get into, and as a blogging alternative, well, it just isn’t very good.

📹 Creator Camp teaching kids to become Youtubers. Fine, express yourself any way you like, but maybe not tailored to a platform like this? Make them bloggers instead.

🏙️ Into Marvel movies? Then this Lego set is for you.

📼 Hunt down and scan old mail order catalogs because you were obsessed with them growing up? That’s what Cabel Sasser (of Panic fame) has done with the DAK catalogs, and I applaud his enthusiasm.

⏰ An industry group of sleep doctors is asking to abolish Daylight Savings Time, saying it's harmful to personal and public health and safety. Personally, I hate DST, and would argue that our society mostly has outgrown the need for such a hassle.

🐴 I jumped on the app defaults blogging bandwagon with my own list. And, for the first time in what feels like forever, I wrote another blog post the same week: Apple Music radio.

Got something I should read? Send it to me, either by replying to this letter, hitting up on Bluesky, or any of the other means that appeal to you. Thanks!


📚 Not much reading going on, although I did look at some of Stan Sakai's older works. Interesting to see how Usagi Yojimbo develops.

🎵 Sometimes when I work, I play an album and then let Apple Music’s algorithm act as a radio station, without the babble. It’s been a lot of that this week. If you haven’t you should try it. I wrote a piece on it here.

📺 Late to the party, but man, Yellowstone is quite good.

🎮 I gave the 007 Cypher game a go, but then I forgot about it and started playing Slay the Spire instead.

Lots of things in the pipeline. I hope to talk more about them soon. For now, stay safe in this mad world of ours.

— Thord D. Hedengren ⚡

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