Tuning my notifications

I’ve been having problems with notifications in various computer contexts for a while now.

For example, notifications that I missed were a contributing factor to the awfulness at work that ate up half of my year last year. More recently, I’ve been getting lots of iOS notifications from Mary Anne’s calendars despite having turned off notifications for them on my Mac. (And they buzz my phone even when I have Do Not Disturb turned on.) And at work yesterday, I discovered that although I get lots of notifications for posts in chat rooms that aren’t very relevant to me, I had received no notifications for posts in several chat rooms that are directly relevant to me during the week that I’ve been back at work.

So yesterday, aided by suggestions from a new colleague, I dug into the chat notifications in more detail, and eventually I discovered that I had Chrome notifications in macOS set to briefly display at the upper right corner of my screen and then go away. So probably the computer had notified me of those chat room messages, it had just done so very briefly in a way that I hadn’t noticed. (Though I’m still not clear on why Gmail is much better at notifying me about the less-relevant rooms than about the more-relevant ones.) So I changed the notifications-from-Chrome setting (in System Preferences) to leave the notifications in place until I explicitly dismiss them, and that immediately paid off, by showing me a very important time-sensitive chat notification that I might well have missed if it hadn’t stayed on my screen.

Emboldened by that success, this morning I went into iOS calendar notifications on two of my devices and manually turned off notifications for each calendar that I don’t need notifications for. I wish these settings would sync across devices and between macOS and iOS, but at least now things are set the way I want them.

I probably have a lot more notification-tuning left to do, and I suspect that some of the things that have been bugging me about notifications are unfixable (without strong AI that can distinguish between things I want to be notified about and things I don’t). But even so, it’s nice that some things that I had been assuming were just random quirks of computers that I couldn’t do anything about are turning out to be things that I can improve.

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