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I read a fascinating article on one of my favourite blogs, Rands In Repose, recently: The Anatomy of a Notification. Rands comes up with five defining features of a notification, of the kind we see on Android’s drag-down bar. I’ll quote:

  • Human Consumable: built for a human to assess, not for a machine.
  • Brief & Relevant: the content inside of a notification takes only a smidge of your attention in order to assess a next step.
  • Portable: a notification stands on its own; you need no additional external application to assess it. They stand outside of the data or application they might represent.
  • Disposable: if for some reason the notification doesn’t get to you, you have an obvious means of recourse to find the data.
  • Timely: the usefulness of a notification decays as a function of time. Late notification arrival incites nerd rage.

Text messages, phone rings, Tweets, and an alert to let you know that your photo was successfully uploaded to Facebook: these are all notifications, according to Rands’s definition, and they all fit nicely in the Notifications section of the pull-down bar at the top of any Android phone (or bottom of a Honeycomb tablet).

However, some developers are using the Notifications section for other things; the biggest example I’m aware of is AirPush, a service we covered earlier this week, which allows apps to show an advert in that area. It’s caused a lot of controversy because people feel like their Notifications area is sacred and shouldn’t be tampered with — I believe it’s because these ads are neither Relevant, Disposable, nor Timely, in Rands’s terms.

Is it a bad thing for developers to use the Notifications section for other purposes? I’m automatically against it, but perhaps I’m being too harsh. After all, one of the great things about Android is the openness of the platform, and the way that new ideas such as this can be explored. What do you think?

Commercial posters and messages were written on papyrus back in the days of Ancient Egypt, as were political campaigns in pre-eruption Pompeii. As the mobile world develops to a state where we all have a constant internet connection, advertisers have jumped on board the mobile bandwagon and brought new, interactive ways of advertising on these platforms.

Apple launched iAd last year – an initiative to make ads more featured and almost an app within an app – while Android has had its own fair share of new advertising methods. A recent, controversial approach was taking by Airpush, who placed ads inside the notifications bar of Android handsets. (more…)