The notification system is broken, how can we fix it?

What is the problem?

Notifications are treated equally by default, but not all notifications are created equal. The OS assumes that each app takes responsibility in determining when we should divert our attention to it, but that’s right in a conflict of interest with the OS’s goal to ensure a wholesome and zen-like user experience. A flashlight app developer thinks you need to drop your conversation with a friend and look at a new promotional in-app purchase that allows you to adjust flashlight brightness. The same notification alert and style also reminds you that an important crash has happened on your host server.

They are simply not the same. Not every app on your phone is worthy of your attention. And even for those apps that are important, not every event within the app deserves it.

The current paradigm of information organization centers around the medium via which they are transferred. Everything goes in and out of apps. Want to share a web page with your best friend? Pick a messaging app first in the sharing dialog. You really care about this one friend and her snaps, but don’t really want to see all other Snapchat notifications? Too bad.

The flaw in this organization framework is that new information is not organized by where they come from or how useful they are, but rather who delivered them. If my mom sends me a message asking me when I will come home for Thanksgiving, I don’t care if it comes through iMessage, Messenger, WeChat, Line, or Email, I want to hear an alert sound and respond to it. But if Verizon sends me a new promotional blurb, whether via text, email, or call, I don’t want to be distracted by it.

Unfortunately, that’s not how our operating systems work today. Continue reading “The notification system is broken, how can we fix it?”

The World is Iterating on Silicon Valley

Examining Japan’s iteration on the startup ecosystem & why we can’t just clone the Valley — feat. Nulab’s CEO, Masanori Hashimoto

Photograph from Masanori Hashimoto’s Twitter

Silicon Valley has taken the world by storm. Google, Amazon, Apple, Uber, the titans of the Valley have been spread into every corner of the world, yielding the envy of foreign entrepreneurs and governments alike. And it’s not just foreign envy and ambition, but even domestic. New York City, Boston, cities in every state have been trying to incubate Valleys of their own as local governments realize that the next long-term drivers of economic growth are entrepreneurship and industry disruption.

But in the hubris of its success, Silicon Valley has stalled in its own innovation. Valley evangelists such as myself have been blinded by the roaring opportunity that the Valley presents, and we campaign relentlessly to distribute its elements in the name of human and technological progress.

Ironically, we forget the very tenet we shout the loudest — Change is good, never be satisfied, and things can always be better: even if it’s something working as amazingly as the Valley.

Continue reading “The World is Iterating on Silicon Valley”

The Future is Without Apps

“There’s an App for That.”

It’s the trademarked slogan that defined the mobile world since 2008. Surely, apps seemed to be the way to go. Coding bootcamps that claimed to teach you app development chops within weeks popped up everywhere; products used commercials to go out of their way and show off their new apps; heck, even that family restaurant around the block got its own menu app built. Continue reading “The Future is Without Apps”