Two factors are starting to have a major impact on the seamlessness of the technology experience: our increased usage of social media and the growing number of ‘screens’ we utilise.
The problem that I am starting to perceive is that all our devices are configured by default to receive alerts from the various services we subscribe to. For example, when someone replies to one of my tweets, I receive an email alert in my inbox and an iOS notification on my iPhone and iPad.
All these devices are vying for our attention, and developers have done a fairly good job of ensuring that their services are all hooked into the various devices’ alert systems.
The problem is that I am only needing to use one device at any one time. When I am at my desk, I don’t need my phone and my PC to alert me to the same thing throughout the day.
Tweets are spilling out of every digital crevice, duplicating themselves all over my office. But the devices don’t know that. Each one thinks it’s got my sole attention, and is doing its job. There’s no workflow master plan. And because of that, everything becomes overwhelming and hard to use efficiently.
What we need is a unified approach to multi-device usage. Apple are addressing the data aspect with iCloud, but have so far neglected to address the less defined workflow perspective. Apple are clearly on a drive to improve seamless interactions between the Mac and iOS, so I really hope they look to address this. We are reliant on them, as this sort of integration needs to be baked into the OS.
Here’s a cool solution, using Bluetooth or GPS. If a device notices that is within x metres of another device, you can choose which device ‘shuts up’. A GPS implementation would be costly on battery so perhaps Bluetooth (or NFC?) is the way to go. I assume my iPhone is casually scanning for Bluetooth devices anyway while BT is switched on, so this shouldn’t have too much additional battery life impact. Or perhaps some way to ‘check in’ on a particular device which then silences notifications on other devices.
I happen to think that the updated notification functionality on iOS leaves a lot to be desired, so it would be great to see an overhaul that included some form of acknowledgement of this problem, as it is only going to get worse.