On the pervasiveness of communication.

We’re living in an age where we’re inundated with communication and information all the time. Smartphones are expected to exceed 50% of all cell phones in circulation this year and with that, millions of people will join the already large ranks of the constantly connected. A smartphone in your pocket brings voice and text, along with personal and corporate e-mail, video chat, instant messaging and social networking to you with always-on push notification in addition to pulled services like navigation and search.

We’re constantly being bombarded with attempts to reach us, but the software we use to manage these attempts hasn’t really caught up. Google Voice takes a stab at organizing voice and text-messaging, providing a number that can deliver messages to your mobile device or to any web browser and offering up the ability to set rules, ring groups, calling times and default behaviors per-caller but there’s no good solution for the other items. For example: I wake up in the morning, and see my phone will have a few notifications. Typically, a few text messages, e-mails on both my personal and work accounts, and frequently several instant messages or a missed call or two. That’s a lot of messages to sort through, and the phone’s default behavior of handling all incoming notifications from any source exactly the same way just doesn’t match the way I want to organize my interactions.

I’d like my phone to be able to decide what to do with a message automatically based on rules I set up. Rules that let my device decide what to alarm about based on the day and time, the sender, the medium and keywords in the message. “Don’t make noise for incoming messages between Midnight and 5AM unless it’s from a priority group, in which case make extra noise”, “automatically send all unknown number calls to voicemail”, “always alarm for boss phone call even if otherwise muted”. Right now, all the settings are either on or off all the time: either notifications make noise, or they don’t. I either miss things I don’t want to miss, or am woken up by alerts for spam e-mails. I think we’re just slightly too early for this kind of granularity, but I expect it’ll catch on soon.

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