Fixing the iMessage notification explosion

Lots of talk today about the Messages beta for OS X, and how to deal with the swarm of notifications that can occur if you use the same account on two or three different devices, like an iPhone, iPad and Mac. Most of the solutions talk about adding more IM-like features to iMessage, but there may be a more elegant solution.

If you used Macs in the dark pre-iPhone days, you may remember a mostly abandoned Mac app called Salling Clicker. It was a remote control program that connected with some dumbphones over Bluetooth, allowing you to do a limited array of stuff that we largely take for granted now, like controlling iTunes or advancing slides in Keynote. One still unique feature used the strength of the Bluetooth connection to tell when you were away from your Mac. If it saw that you were no longer nearby, it could pause iTunes, lock the computer, and most importantly, set your iChat status to away. When you came back into range, it would wake up the screen and resume playing music.

Apple could leverage the extensive location and context information their modern devices have to prioritize and reroute notifications based on the devices’ proximity to all the other devices. They could assume that, if my iPhone is in my pocket most of the time, and it has an extremely strong Bluetooth connection to my Mac, I probably want notifications to appear on the Mac. If the phone is plugged in, I’m less likely to be near it, so notifications might first appear on my Mac or iPad, depending on what the last device I used was. Ideally, notifications would shortly appear everywhere if they haven’t been looked at on the first device Apple decided to send them to.

There are certainly privacy concerns with Apple constantly monitoring the state of my devices down to which one I last used, but I already let them know where the devices are for iCloud, which is a far bigger deal than anything else. Other location- or context-specific settings, like “If I’m at home, don’t bother me with a password to unlock my phone,” could also make Apple’s devices even more pleasant to use with no extra effort from the user. If it could work reliably, it would be far preferable to having to actively remember to set your status to route notifications – very It Just Works.

“depraved indifference to the consequences of one’s actions”

Boing Boing‘s Cory Doctorow on Consumerist:

Even though a substantial portion of my living comes from the entertainment industry, I don’t think that any amount of “piracy” justifies this kind of depraved indifference to the consequences of one’s actions. Big Content haven’t just declared war on Boing Boing and Reddit and the rest of the “fun” Internet: they’ve declared war on every person who uses the net to publicize police brutality, every oppressed person in the Arab Spring who used the net to organize protests and publicize the blood spilled by their oppressors, every abused kid who used the net to reveal her father as a brutalizer of children, every gay kid who used the net to discover that life is worth living despite the torment she’s experiencing, every grassroots political campaigner who uses the net to make her community a better place — as well as the scientists who collaborate online, the rescue workers who coordinate online, the makers who trade tips online, the people with rare diseases who support each other online, and the independent creators who use the Internet to earn their livings.

“An interest in preserving the status quo”

The Harvard Business Review:

SOPA and PIPA are prime examples of big companies trying to do everything they can to stop new competitors from innovating. They’re also examples of how lobbying in the United States has become one of the most effective ways of limiting this sort of competition.

But one characteristic is the same across all of SOPA’s supporters — they all have an interest in preserving the status quo.

If by “the status quo,” they mean “the status quo of 1995.” They can’t put this genie back in the bottle, even with something as drastic as SOPA.