Notification Sweet Spot

When I was in my first year of university, I had to take a class in chemistry. It was one of my favourite subjects. The grad students who taught the labs seemed to have a grudge against engineering students and were overly strict and harsh in their marking.

Before the labs started, we had to watch a video on lab safety. It was produced in the early 90s and I seem to remember we were watching it on a VCR. One item regarding smell caught me attention. At very high concentrations of a scent, the smell receptors can be overwhelmed and you can actually stop smelling something.

I thought about this again when I got setup with a new phone. Notifications were turned on again and instead of dealing with messages and clearing them out when I opened an app, I’d start to leave messages unread altogether when there were too many of them. I got to notification overwhelm.

When gamification was the craze for apps, notifications proliferated. They never really went away but people have become desensitized. It’s one of the reasons why response rate of normal correspondence, such as through email, from millennials is so low.

There is a sweet spot for notifications. In fact, it could be a notification of aggregate notifications that is more effective than any single notification. Hold that thought, my phone is ringing…


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Leor Grebler

Independent daily thoughts on all things future, voice technologies and AI. More at