The real genius is that it fits Apple's brand really well, way better than Google's. If they can make this a serious digital wellness campaign, I could easily see Apple joining in. It won't affect their bottom line and it'll make them look good. And with that, both mobile platforms and ~all of Facebook's user base get nudges to become less addicted to and pay less attention to Facebook.
Through internal studies, they already knew quite a few years ago that Google engineers where as likely as to get addicted and waste time on cat videos, the kardashians and whatever else as much as the people the platforms end up hooking. Those results produced some internal 'what about my kids' outrage.
What they then discovered is deaddicting ppl is much more complicated and takes a whole lot longer than getting them to turn into screen touching addicts. It was so complicated not to mention the opposite of what generated rev that it got quietly shelved and ppl left No big diff between Google and Big Tobacco in this regard.
What you are seeing today is them dusting off the cobwebs on that project as the unintended social and psychological consequences are finally taking a serious unignorable toll.
I don't see Google or Facebook contributing to the solution. They will play the same game Exxon Shell Philip Morris et al play. And that game remains empire defense.
It's up to you to keep your kids safe.
If they were really focusing on digital well-being this wouldn’t be a notification; they would just stop auto-playing the next video. They would hide the "related videos" list after your time is up, etc. They don’t have to be drastic; there’s "small" changes that aren’t far-fetched that they could make if this really was a "focus" for them.
"Reminding" you you’re bingeing while you’re bingeing is the kind of stuff a team comes up with when they know doing something to keep people from bingeing is the right thing to do, but they also don’t want to have those crucial-yet-awkard meetings with the Growth team downstairs or argue with the Playback Time team in the next building.
Additionally, Facebook already turn down video in newsfeed (it decreased time-spent), and changed goals to 'meaningful social interactions'. Long term, being useful is more important than grabbing attention (and FB plays long-term game). The fact that FB, Instagram, Youtube, are "grabbing attention", is only byproduct of thinking that time-spent like metrics are good proxies for usefulness (and they were really easy to optimize), which turns out not to be true (or at least they don't tell the full story). Hackernews is grabbing my attentions the most for me, should I blame the ranking model?
Most engineers, managers, designers, ... in these companies are people who want to build useful stuff, rather than maximizing short term gains for share holders (additionally none of these companies are paying dividends, so if you maximize value for share holders, you should play mid to long game). If you can make these engineers realized that what they are building is harmful, they will change it.
Disclaimer: I worked at Facebook and it from inside, so have different "trust" model for these companies, and expectations how they work internally. I don't believe that there sinister master-plan behind every feature they release, instead, they are complex organisms with many players that are optimizing for different goals (sometimes sometimes seemingly opposite).
How are they called? (Looking at my S9 and can't find anything similar.)
This sounds very nice but is a little hard to believe considering the behavior of the company.
> I don't believe that there sinister master-plan behind every feature they release
You don't need to have a sinister master plan - extreme greed, a lust for power, and a lack of ethics is more than sufficient.
Yah, and hooray. Google may be more powerful and invasive even, but there's tons of reasons they have a less-manipulative, less-awful business model overall. Any successful attack on Facebook is a good thing.
All these companies are bad, but Facebook is the worst of them. I'd say Facebook < Google = Amazon < Microsoft < Apple < FLO (free/libre/open).
All these companies are shitty in certain ways, but some are shittier than others. Apple's walled-garden censorship of copyleft software on iOS is what led me to embrace GNU in the first place, but the level of dark-patterns they do is nothing like Facebook.
Some business models require this; most newspapers wouldn't be in business without both subscription and ad sales.
Windows 10 is apparently a case in point: it's not free and it has ads.
> Google may be more powerful and invasive even, but there's tons of reasons they have a less-manipulative, less-awful business model overall.
They sell ads too. Sure, they don't have THE newsfeed, but they're still trying. Google Now is a feed with personal and non-personal content they're trying to sneak into your life. They're still trying to make their way into your feelings and social network with Google photos, their Clips camera, etc.
Google invented the "shadow profile": they were there, checking which website's you visited before Facebook was even a thing. They're even doing it without cookies now .
Google is the company Facebook has been trying to become. They're very colorful, they have those cute doodles, Android is "open"; they're an older company that's been smarter at PR. Part of that has been not making huge waves, keeping all data closed (as opposed to Facebook, which has an open platform), and keeping quiet.
> Any successful attack on Facebook is a good thing.
Facebook isn't going anywhere, and if it does, who will step in to cover the social networking space? I can assure you Google will be the first in line. You'll have a single company with full information about you. Then what?
> I'd say Facebook < Google = Amazon < Microsoft < Apple < FLO (free/libre/open).
I know it's perhaps a bit much to ask, but would you care to elaborate with why your raking is as it is?
These rankings are so often just personal hunches based on what has been on the headlines lately and it leads to sentiments like this.
I'm not trying to defend Facebook, but rankings without factual evidence make little sense. Of course Facebook will be at the bottom, cause the media and Facebook have always been at odds . Media is a big business with interests too, and Facebook is one of, if not its biggest threats.
Apple and Google collect more location and app-usage data than Facebook. Apple had big controversies about suicides in its manufacturing plants: latest was this year . Amazon workers are treated like cattle  and even have to pee on bottles to save time .
Why is Microsoft not on top of your list? Is it because the "innovation" Apple brought last decade offsets those lives lost at Chinese factories? Why is Google collecting data about which apps you use and which websites you visit on your phone not worse than Facebook doing it through a VPN ?
This is not meant to address your comment specifically or personally push you in any way shape or form, I just want to address all comments of people claiming "Facebook is worse than Google" and putting Google in some sort of moral high-ground.
There's no good company vs bad company here. These are all companies, and companies have morals when it makes business sense. Our job is to not fall for PR games and make them accountable on all fronts, and if you look past the PR, I personally think, you realize that vouching for a company to beat another just hurts everyone.
It was Google Plus that pushed Facebook to even acknowledge and support at all the idea that people had different personas in different contexts and wanted to relate to and share with different people in different ways.
Google has long offered far more actual control and transparency than Facebook. Google offers products that should exist at least, such as web searching to state the obvious. Facebook-style social media shouldn't exist — they want to be an AOL-type walled-garden.
My opinions have nothing to do with the media, and I'm not apologizing for Google or Amazon's real problems.
I don't want to get into defending Apple (their direction with iOS years ago was the final straw that drove me to move to GNU/Linux full time). I could go on about why I now still feel MS is worse though.
Overall, you speculate a lot about how my judgments are probably superficial. What I'll admit is that they ARE general impressions, not a detailed analysis. But my concerns are not johnny-come-lately scapegoating or unthoughtful.
> some sort of moral high-ground
GNU has the moral high ground here, not even Linux has that.
To be clear, I'm not even saying Facebook is useless. It has some value and has captured a ton of value (which is why it makes sense for people to use it to get the value they've captured). On that note, consider that Facebook does far more to destroy the long-term archival value of the internet than Google.
There aren't comparable complaints like this: https://daringfireball.net/2017/06/fuck_facebook for Google or the other companies, even though they have their own serious issues.
I'm highly critical of them all.
If they can shift the discussion from "phones are bad" to "some apps are bad", suddenly it's not their problem anymore. People looking to collect scalps will be focused on the ones creating the most exploitative experiences. Which is not only good for Google, but good for everybody, in that's putting pressure closer to the right place.
Plus, you mention Facebook, maybe because it's popular to shit on them here, but it's really not just them, this is systemic problem across our entire industry.
Netflix has created an environment where people can spend an entire 3 day weekend watching just one show, and barely leave the couch. It works for the brand, but is it healthy? Amazon has built a model that searching for one problem leads you down a rabbit hole of product reviews and other suggestions where you most definitely can waste hours and end up buying tons of junk along the way.
Those are just 4 big brands, but for us, Github keeps iterating to make its platform more addictive. I've spent hours in there finding novel projects and reading code. Or let's not forget about Reddit, I've spent an entire day at the park on Reddit instead of reading the book I went to the park to read.
Agreed. Of course, Apple would hate to look like they’re late to the party, but it’s probably too late for this to be introduced st this years Apple Developers Conference, right? Or perhaps it doesn’t need to be introduced there and could just be rolled out on the next version of iOS this fall?
Regardless, I wonder what will be the fate of apps like mine (BeeLine Reader), whose entire purpose (making reading on-screen easier by using line-wrapping color gradients) would be thwarted by Wind Down. We’ve already seen implications from Night Shift, which is especially annoying for our users who use our app for accessibility reasons and have to toggle the mode just to use our app.
Of course, you wouldn’t want apps to be able to unilaterally exempt themselves from the greyscale mode. But if you let users choose which apps to exempt, then would they just end up whitelisting (“colorlisting”?) Facebook and other addictive apps — defeating the purpose?
I think most people don't know and/or don't care, but you can get the best of both world with CopperheadOS.
Note: CopperheadOS is not for everybody though, I suggest reading this before trying it: https://copperhead.co/android/docs/usage_guide
I don't understand the commenters responding negativepy to these proposals; by all means be circumspect, but don't criticize a company for making a positive change just because you think it doesn't go far enough.
It's surely true that execs looked at this and made sure the ROI wasn't blatantly large and negative. And there's definitely another level of analysis where a lot of good behavior turns out to be useful to the organism, in the same sense that moms love kids because genes need new meat-robot bodies to run around in. But that complimentary to your frame of analysis, not contradictory to it.
Recommended videos are very good though, and always very accessible. There's always another great, tailored video auto-playing after the one we're in. A better effort IMO would be to simply stop auto-playing after XX number of minutes; or even just hide the "recommended videos" section behind a button.
Notifying you you're bingeing while you're bingeing and calling it an effort in digital well-being is the kind of stuff a team comes up with when they know doing something to keep people from bingeing is the right thing to do, but they also don’t want to have those crucial-yet-awkard meetings with the Growth team downstairs or argue with the Playback Time team in the next building.
They’ll also hold shareholder value above “product values” (as google users are their product). It encourages half measure and ineffective solutions.
The government has a moral obligation to make sure we aren’t spending too much time on our devices? People can’t think for themselves anymore.
It’s the same thing as the war on drugs. The government can provide medical assistance and services but otherwise it’s not their place.
No-no-no, do not try to spin it like that! Corporations are made of jobs. People have obligations working those jobs. Sure, they are people, but only in the sense that they have human rights as well.
What Google is trying to do is not "positive change", it is an effort to make the user responsible for their addictive behavior instead of being responsible selling addictive tech themselves.
Those same things that are addictive are also empowering and useful. Giving someone a way to handle it properly is a responsible way to do provide that service.
What I've read in the article means to me that Google will toss away the responsibility to users by making them aware of their usage patterns. "We told them they need a break from consuming our apps, but they won't listen! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯" Well, good luck with that, I guess? Consumers will buy anything, even that joke about "making consumer tech less consume-ry".
It's things like that which motivated Henry Ford to pay his workers are more fair wage than his competitors.
Google's founders still control either the majority or a large plurality of the voting stock, so they can have the company align with long-term profit motives, and sustainable existence.
Google in particular has shown itself to be perfectly capable of setting and following a long term strategy.
I don't subscribe to the responsibility shift. Unless they make their notification and metrics bogus, hard to notice etc it's a good measure. And yes, let's make user "responsible" or IMO.. in control. The system informs me, I decide. You see this as a trick to get away with murder, personally I don't.
Also, unless they decide to retire from business I don't see how Google can improve the life of their users.
Though how often have you found autoplay by default makes YouTube useful?
Youtube videos are up to 12 hours.
That's reminiscent of the good ol' VCR days.
Don't get me wrong, I truly think Google wants to be the good guy here if possible. But if they can combine that with even more tracking (= more money) they won't hesitate for a second.
My understanding from talking with folks at Apple and Microsoft is that they track time spent in various apps/applications so they know what is popular with users. Is Android different?
I like the put down gesture silencing phones, but there's two things wrong with it. 1) it encourages you to leave the phone easily accessible instead of turning it off 2) its exactly the kind of corporate move to give just enough control to the individual to make it seem like Google's business model is that person's own moral failings.
You might say, "You should" and I'll say, "And if my family needs to get ahold of me for some emergency? Should I just ignore them calling about some emergency with my three year old daughter for dubious performative gestures?"
As for 2, once can imagine a world where Google doesn't want to have such revenue concentration in ads. Destroying the industry as they leave it is not a bad idea, if it gets them where they need to be. But of course, I'm skeptical.
This axiomatically assumes it's better or that a pejorative notion of "addiction" is bad. You raising this isn't some kind of brilliant metapoint, it's circular. "You disagree with them and therefore that proves the point!" Hrmm.
I think there are pros and cons to pervasive mobile use. For example: it's realistic for me to run an entirely remote software team. Everyone gets more time with their families, but we can all adequately respond when problems exist. Because of my ability to respond, I spend more time with my daughter than my family ever did, and even when I'm away I can be engaged with her in a way that she recognizes and appreciates. Again, no one else my family had this option in your pastoral 90s. I never saw my family; they were chained to work.
And in the 90s, my requirements for technology to support myself sequestered me from society. I can realistically do my job, take a lunch break and meet friends, and simply resume work wherever that ends. I could not do that before. I see mobile sturation as freedom from being cloistered by my career and interests.
So maybe, just maybe, there are arguments and experiences to consider beyond a feral distaste for google?
(Yeah, this is annoying - Android versions come out really fast, but their support in most phones lags couple of years, even if you just throw away your current one and go buy a flagship.)
Based on the website and the PlayStore video, I already love two of your ideas: unbranded icons and batching notifications. Not sure if the former might have much productivity or health impact, but it sure as hell makes the interface looks nicer.
EDIT: I saw a comment on PlayStore about opt-out telemetry in your product. Could you elaborate on exactly what kind of data you're sending? Or do I have to packet-trace it myself?
I have been trying to live in Apple’s walled garden because they are more of a privacy company. But, I periodically turn Google Assistant, Google Maps, and Gmail on - largely turning my iPhone temporarily into a Google device as far as tracking goes. I do this when travelling or when I need the better ‘AI’ experience that Google provides. Google Assistant really is very useful, and sometimes turning over my life event data is worth it.
every app now wants to notify you about everything.. so every phone i get, i need to go in and turn off notifications for everything bar calls & text messages.
Pity they don't sync your preferences when you get a new phone.
Well, that sounds like a totally disinterested move that has nothing to do with Google's strive to track every single thing you do.
It's good tech companies are pushing for open access.
I view this is a political / strategic positioning to guard against legislation I don't see it having any real effect or being of any significance just as I don't consider addiction the fault of clever algorithms but rather human nature. Instagram is probably the best example of that. It's the one considered to pushing most people into depression yet it's mostly based around people sharing images not clever algorithms (yes I know they use algorithms on instagram)
You're not wrong, but this is more nuanced, because it's the moral scapegoat many use when addressing this issue.
Someone at Youtube trying to optimize for watch time might be aware that making people watch more videos might not the best thing to do. Yet, if it's not Youtube "someone else will step in"-- people will always watch more videos no? Might as well be us who make money out of it.
It's hard to do these types of warnings with a naive implementation because the system doesn't know the context in hich you are using the progress, it can only guess, and when it guesses wrong, it leaves a bad impression.
Maybe Google can do a better job with its execution, and maybe making it 'opt-in' will solve that disconnect. I guess we'll find out.
You've been playing /r/outside for too long. Maybe take a break?
As you should be. It just gives google more excuse to monitor you. They have justification for monitoring you more closely. To "help" you.
It's so funny to me how the HN crowd who attacked google,facebook, etc relentlessly for monitoring their users are now demanding google,facebook,etc monitor their users even more to manipulate their behavior.
What happened to individual responsibility? And why the focus solely on social media? Should ISPs do the same thing? What about 24/7 stores? What about TV? What about news organizations? Should we only allow news organizations to print on odd numbered days to help news junkies?
I know most of the anti-social media rhetoric is just paid propaganda funded by the elites who want control over social media. But I just don't understand the supposedly "independent minded free thinking" liberals on hacker news advocating for nanny-state and nanny-corporations.
Is this hacker news or geriatric news. It seems like most posters on here are bitter 50+ year olds who rail against technology. There is something so eerie and strange about the HN crowd lately. Is it that most HN are just old now?
I would never expected this type of thinking from developers, let alone "hackers" on "hacker" news.
- shush: if you place your phone on the table you’ll pick it up from time to time anyways, it won’t be out of sight
- colors: I’ve turned my smartphone screen B&W, I haven’t noticed a big difference yet, but maybe there is some research out there
- monitoring: I installed a monitor app a while back. While I was observing my usage in the beginning regularly, today, I just don’t care about the numbers anymore
I highly doubt that these measures will be effective
We hear this every time there's a new public safety campaign: Drunk driving, seat belts, texting and driving, safe sex, stop smoking, gun safety, etc
Every single time, the cry is "but but, this won't solve all the problems, it won't work on everyone." But we have reduced drunk driving deaths, we have reduced highway deaths with mandatory seat belts and airbags, we have lowered the spread of STDs.
Sure, you can give people a label listing calories and tell them to eat healthy and many won't. But an increasing percentage of people are becoming more aware, and awareness is really the first step.
There's way too much cynicism, and way too much, I dunno, either alpha-male macho behavior that chafes at being told to eat your Brussels Sprouts, but being nudged by your phone to stop using it once in a while isn't a bad idea.
Something has to break people out of their skinner box once in a while, besides hunger or bankruptcy.
I wonder if the people that implemented this face down feature know that?
Google really just needs to do their own thing and stop listening to all the chatter about this and that.
It's not about you. Stop humble bragging about your lack of an addictive personality and simply move on.
Is that the best evidence you have? Because it's crap.
IMHO, best results would be obtained by letting the apps emit their own feature vectors to be fed to the learner. Google could aggregate these among all their users. App creators would learn to provide features that actually inform of a kind of proposed interaction. Failing to do so would boot them out of this users' "attention market".
I receive about 20 useless facebook notification for a relevant one (mainly when someone is talking to me in the fb chat). Facebook could clearly publish the following along to the learner with each notification:
* is it a chat message?
* is it from someone I have talked to recently?
* is it from a cluster of users that talks to each other frequently that I am part of
* a representation of the cited cluster above
* location of the content (with some additional feature engineering from the phone, who knows if I've been there previously)
* it is a photo/video/text?
* a doc2vec vector if it is text content
* an image embedding if it is a photo
I believe this could reduce the amount of notifications by a solid order of magnitude, while not lowering the usefulness value too much. We would suffer way less hijacking, and reduce our addiction of the mindless novelty-seeking kind.
> Local Heroin Dealers' Plan to Make Heroin Less Addictive
> Coca Cola's Plan to Make Soda Less Addictive
Sometimes you google something and get a full page of paid for clickable links and you click one of them instead of scrolling to the "organic search".
Sometimes you dont pay enough attention to what are real search results and what are adverts.
A statistically significant sometimes.
Is instant gratification at the cost of long term gain adiction? Not sure. Its pretty close.
Dont put your phone face down, put it away.
If the trend is towards people being more cautious of the addictive properties of tech, being able to offer a less addictive alternative could be a selling point in the future.
Thanks Google for preventing me from becoming a smartphone addict by design!