Deliver in Batches

The mail gets delivered once a day. Usually, at a consistent time. Usually, at the same location. It is predictable and dependable.

Compare this to modern notifications. How many times a day do Slack messages get delivered? How about email messages? Instagram posts? Messages from your bank?

Modern notifications come all the time. In multiples that often pile up. They are usually overwhelming and often gratuitous. They disturb our most precious resources: attention and time.

Here's a modest proposal: deliver notifications in batches by default. Instead of getting notifications delivered continually throughout the day, deliver them in batches. Perhaps morning, mid-day, and evening batches.

The exact batch timing could be set up depending on individual schedules. For everything else, only immediate-action-required notifications would pass through. A fraudulent bank transaction that needs verification, for example.

When actively using an application, notifications would also be allowed. A behaviour that would follow closely the online/offline paradigm used by IRC clients. When the application is shut down, the notifications would arrive in the next batch.

Yes, this might be a big departure from how modern notification work, but the emphasis here is on the default behavior.

Defaults are important. They set the expectations for behavior. A setup like this is possible on any modern phone or computer right now. But, very few people consider or change software defaults. It's up to the people designing that software to set defaults that encourage the right behaviours.

Batch delivery can be a simple solution to the current state of notification overload. Time and attention are valuable. The defaults should always favor them. ●

If you want to read more, I write a weekly newsletter called Further Reading where I share articles like this and more on technology, society and culture.

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