Thursday, September 22, 2011

Push Notifications Boost Perceived Popularity

I don't have a lot of personal interaction in the course of a day. I don't see people. I don't talk on the phone. Some people send me text messages when they have an anecdote they think will amuse me. I rarely get personal email. My primary form of communication is instant messenger with about 6 people.

Because of this overall low noise floor I've become quite sensitive to any incoming signals. On the rare occasion when I do hang out with another live person I'm somewhat overwhelmed by how often their phone makes a noise and it's something they have to pay attention to right then.

In those conditions I found that I was grateful that my own phone would sound off from time to time. It was typically just automatic email from the CFI Meetup Group or some advertisement, but I could get out my phone and look at it and pretend to be engaged with it. My phone makes a different noise when somebody plays their turn at Words With Friends or if I get a text message with a picture of some herpetological specimen I'm meant to identify for my friend who apparently goes for walks in a severely fragmented ecosystem in Dallas. According to my phone I'm in big demand!

But then I realized that when I'm home alone I get excited by the email noise. Stop what I'm doing to see that wants me to buy a cupcake maker. Or I'm at the grocery store and I have to get out the phone to see that Delta has a new vacation package to somewhere I can't afford to go. It seemed like it was skewing my reality. It would raise my hopes that somebody wanted to tell me something but it was always something I didn't care about, like a new line of running shoes at Zappos. I mean, I really don't need anything from Victoria's Secret. There's no reason for me to look at those ads every day, let alone the instant they arrive. But what if I DO need something from Victoria's Secret? It could happen! They put the coupon codes in those ads. Well my friend that encouraged me to shut up the constant email from the CFI Meetup Group had an idea for the advertisements I actually might be interested in. Filter them out but archive them so I can look at them on purpose when I actually need something. As for CFI I can go to the website and look at the news there. Also for Google+ I turned off email notification because they put a little number in a red box at the top of Gmail to tell me when I have a message and in a red circle on the icon on my phone. That's plenty of notification for me. I'll look at it when I'm out having a coffee trying to look busy and popular with my phone.

For the last week I've been on a mission to unsubscribe to email lists I really don't care about and filter the ones I might be interested in. It's amazing how much junk mail I was deleting without really paying attention. I thought I would share the procedure in case anybody else wants to try to adjust their email volume so the signal to noise ratio makes actual communication possible. Most automatic ads and newsletters have an unsubscribe button at the bottom. Click that thing and unsubscribe early and often. For the things you actually care about, but not as often as they want to tell you, follow this procedure to filter them. These instructions are for Gmail. We all use Gmail, right?

Start in the Inbox. Pick a message you'd like to filter. Pull down the "More" menu and select "Filter messages like these."

You don't really have to do anything here. It fills in the From: and that should take care of all email from that advertiser. Go to the Next Step.

Next Choose action.  Check "Skip the Inbox (Archive it)." Labels are up to you. I did one just for an example. Be sure to select that box at the bottom to apply filter to all the similar messages in your inbox. This is going to automatically get 300 Adorama ads out of my inbox.

Click "Create Filter" and wait for all of your dreams to come true!

Now if you want to see the things you filtered out you can click the label on the side or click All Mail instead of Inbox. Here's what happens when I select my label for Sales. I get just the daily ad email for the vendors I actually use sometimes.

I have filters that don't skip the inbox as well, like the YouTube label gets automatically applied to comments on my rocket video and Bill gets applied to email from the addresses that send me my monthly paperless statements. The automatic email with job listings get that Job Search label to help me fill in my spreadsheet of weekly search efforts. Filters and labels are handy, and the skip the Inbox feature is extra useful.

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