Fixing mobile push notifications
It’s hard to overhype the power of mobile push notifications. For the first time in human history you can tap almost two billion people on the shoulder and say “hey! pay attention to this!”
With this much power in such a small feature it was ripe for abuse. And abused it we have.
The basic problem with push notifications is they are used as an email replacement. I can see marketers and growth hackers getting all hot n’ heavy realizing that they they can now send the weekly “people you should follow” email that nobody reads as a push notification to your everybody’s mobile device.
An email is like retrieving mail from your mailbox - you do it on your own terms. Push notifications are somebody knocking at your door saying “look at this!!” Next time you decide whether something should be an email or a push notification think about whether you would want somebody knocking at door with this message.
To make matters worse apps treat mobile notifications as a binary setting - either everybody can interrupt you (notifications ON) or nobody can interrupt you (notifications OFF). That’s not how life works. Certain people in our social and professional circles are allowed to randomly interrupt us, while others need to reach out in less intrusive ways and schedule time. Apps are blunt instruments and they treat all of the contacts they import from your address book exactly the same way.
The situation has gotten so bad that most people simple err on the side of caution and just say no when prompted to turn on push notifications.
OK, we get the problem. What are the solutions?
- Increase cost of sending push notifications. Interrupting somebody is not free. App developers would think hard about when it’s appropriate to send push notifications if it cost more to send them.
- Ok to Interrupt Me: Either at the address book level or in the app set certain people as “Ok to Interrupt Me” — which means that you’ll receive push notifications from them each time they send you a message. If I work at Oracle it’s fine for Larry Ellison to interrupt me, but I don’t want to be interrupted by somebody in HR.
Any other ways to bring sanity back to mobile push notifications?