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Steven Levy: ‘What the Apple Watch Means for the Age of Notifications’

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Steven Levy, writing for Medium’s Backchannel:

We aren’t at that level of desperation yet with online notifications. But the Age of Notifications is about to face its biggest mess yet, as alerts move from phone screens to watch faces. Notifications are just about the entire point of a smart watch — you’re not going to be reading books, watching movies or doing spreadsheets on them.

I disagree, strongly, that “notifications are just about the entire point of a smart watch” — or at least for Apple Watch. There’s a reason why Apple didn’t mention notifications prominently at either of their Apple Watch events. Take another look at Apple’s Watch pages on their website, and see how much attention is paid to notifications.

But, notifications are without question one of many important features. And if you feel like your watch is more annoying than helpful, you’re not going to wear that watch. One of the most important pieces on Apple Watch in the last few weeks was Jeremy Keith’s, which wasn’t about the Apple Watch itself but rather about being ruthlessly parsimonious with regard to allowing apps to send you notifications in the first place.

Back to Levy:

So what’s the solution? We need a great artificial intelligence effort to comb through our information, assess the urgency and relevance, and use a deep knowledge of who we are and what we think is important to deliver the right notifications at the right time. As time goes on, we will trust such a system to effectively filter all our information and dole it out just as needed.

I think he’s on to something here: some sort of AI for filtering notification does seem useful. I can imagine helping it by being able to give (a) a thumbs-down to a notification that went through to your watch that you didn’t want to see there; and (b) a thumbs-up to a notification on your phone or PC that wasn’t filtered through to your more personal devices but which you wish had been.

But: this sounds too much like spam filtering to me. True spam is unasked-for. Notifications are all things for which you explicitly opted in, and can opt out of at any moment.

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Intendedeffect
2725 days ago
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I've been using the new Outlook on my phone for email, and main reason I've stuck with it is that its filtering is smart enough that I only see notifications for email I definitely want to read. So much easier than trying to achieve the same thing in the built-in Mail app using a carefully-managed VIP list.
San Francisco
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jhamill
2725 days ago
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Sounds like Google Now to me - get the information you need when you need it - is the whole premise of Now. And is extremely useful.
California

WSJ Pours Cold Water on Bloomberg Report of Google Developing Uber Competitor

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Rolfe Winkler and Douglas MacMillan, writing for WSJ Digits:

What might have been a budding partnership suddenly appeared to boil over into a pitched rivalry on Monday. Besides Uber’s disclosure that it will work on its own self-driving car technology, a Bloomberg Business report citing a source close to Uber’s board said Google is prepping its own car-hailing service, most likely in conjunction with its self-driving car project. The report said the Uber board had seen screenshots of what appears to be a ride-sharing app being used by Google employees and that the Uber board is considering whether to ask Drummond to leave the board.

But a person familiar with the matter said news that Google is developing an app to rival Uber has been blown out of proportion. The person said a Google engineer has been testing an internal app that helps Google employees carpool to work, and the app isn’t associated with the company’s driverless cars program.

Feels like a non-denial denial to me — but perhaps I’m too cynical regarding Google’s history of backstabbing former partners.

My hunch: Google rolls out driverless cabs as soon as they’re legally able, localized at first in the Bay area. They undercut Uber pricing dramatically, with targeted ads based on your Google profile — and do things like play music you like or show you YouTube videos.

profile.

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Intendedeffect
2796 days ago
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You could put Mozilla in that group, too, though the problems with Firefox certainly contributed heavily to that divorce.
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aaronwe
2796 days ago
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What former partners has Google backstabbed? (Serious, not trolling.) I presume he's referring to Apple, but I'm having trouble coming up with an incident I'd describe as backstabby.
Denver
ahem1234
2796 days ago
He's talking about Apple. Not sure what the plural would refer to though...
invinciblegod
2796 days ago
Well, obvious answer is when Google was on Apples board and had some knowledge of the iphone. Besides from that, I can't really think of any.
ahem1234
2796 days ago
Now that I think about it, he could be referring to the fact that they licensed out Android and later developed their own phone products, going so far as to buy Motorola just to make their own phones...
aaronwe
2796 days ago
Yeah, I suppose that could seem backstabby if you squint at it right, but it's not like Moto made a dent in Samsung's sales.