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Ready when you are – actions and “notific-actions”

When it comes to email, the trend is to have merely one type of notification: new email. Not a qualitative notification, and often not even a quantitative one. When it comes to option, you’re presented with the chance to merely turn these notifications on or off.

Sending texts on our mobile phones is now as integral to their function as making calls. And for some demographics, they even supplanted calling as the device’s primary function. But the fact remains that an SMS is merely a happy by-product of your phone pinging the network, and operators actually don’t spend any kind of resources maintaining that service. It is a clear example of function-minded engineering.

And the spirit of a message piggybacking on GSM signal could find a similar outlet in the realm of notifications. Those pesky little updates from a myriad of platforms are always waiting to strike at you at any moment – often, glancing at your mobile just to check the time presents a cornucopia of updates from a legion of applications.

But when it comes to email, the trend is to have merely one type of notification: new email. Not a qualitative notification, and often not even a quantitative one. When it comes to option, you’re presented with the chance to merely turn these notifications on or off.

However, there’s a whole realm of possibilities here. The simplest presents itself easily enough: sort email by importance, and only get notified of top tier incoming email. Although we do appreciate Aunt Rosie checking in from time to time, perhaps an email from our boss deserves more of our immediate attention – if not our immediate affection. And once you go from there, why not set up alerts for incoming email with “Urgent” or variations thereof in the subject?

But this is merely one avenue to explore. We can also think about notifications as alerts for our future selves. An email related to a project that will only kick start in a month? Forward it to me with a push in about three weeks. Emails regarding a meeting? Forward it to me only when the person that decides a time and place replies.

And yet we’re still only dealing with email’s nature. Notifications find their natural habitat in devices which are equipped with GPS, so why not set up a notification for when you find yourself near a place connected to that email.

Notifications can be more than annoyances you swipe away, they can be the next best thing to a personal assistant.