I have an upcoming doctor’s appointment, I know because I’ve received two emails and a text reminding me of this. Reminders are great, but do I need so many? The text reminders are the most frustrating, especially since I never asked for them. This one joins a growing list of texts I receive that I never asked for–and can’t turn off. I have two companies that send emails and texts when a new bill is available AND when it has been paid–even though both are set for auto-payment. This feels less like helpful information, and more like nagging.

Do you really want to nag your users? I hope not. Notifications should be used judiciously. Those of us responsible for user experience (I’m looking at all of us, including product managers, developers, customer service, founders, CEOs… everybody) should really take a hard look at our notification strategy from the user’s standpoint and make sure it is serving them.

Here are a few of my suggestions:

  • Seriously, consider whether you need to send that notification at all, really.
  • Give your users the ability to tailor which notifications they will receive, how they will receive them (email/text/in-app/etc.) and how often and/or when.
  • Be smart about initial notification preferences, don’t just turn them all on by default. Most of your users should be perfectly happy to never adjust their notification preferences. A little user research goes a long way here.
  • Make sure notifications make sense, they should be specific, succinct and actionable.
  • Speaking of actionable. Instead of ending your messages with “Don’t reply to this message.”, figure out a way to let the user reply to the damn message. You’re the one that decided to send it, let them reply.

Now I’ll sit back and take my lumps from anyone who was notified of this post. At least none of them are getting a text about it, as far as I know anyway.

As I write this, I’m enjoying some Boston piped through the Robusto Amp. This was a pretty simple, yet satisfying build.

Robusto Assembly

The Verdict

With the bypass switch, I can compare the amp’s sound to the source. So, how does it sound?

  • With crap earbuds, there’s no difference.
  • With slightly better headphones, it sounds a bit “fuller” with the amp, maybe.

Overall, the difference is pretty minor (if it exists at all). I need to try two things: Line level input and higher impedance headphones. Even my good headphones are fairly low impedance.

Lessons Learned

  • The polarity protection diode payed off. While messing with the power supply, I reversed the polarity at least once.
  • I’m not so good on perf boards. Next time, I think I’ll spend a little more time up front laying things out. Also, I think I’ll try not using the component leads as traces, this makes it really hard to get them off the board if need be.
  • Don’t underestimate the time the enclosure fitting and final build will take. Granted, I’m pretty slow, and I don’t have much of a workshop, but this is a big part of the project. Where putting together a simple circuit on a breadboard is fast, fitting everything and soldering the final circuit can take an order of magnitude longer (for me anyway).

I spent a good portion of yesterday doing the final assembly on the headphone amp. All I had left this morning was to wire up tube and pop the top on. I plugged in the power and…

In the words of Isiah Whitlock Jr.: Sheeeeit! The LED was flashing, it’s not supposed to flash.

After a bit of poking around with the meter, I found the problem: I wired the LM317 regulators improperly. The output was shorted to ground. I carefully disassembled enough to get to the bottom of the circuit board and rerouted a few things. Once the LM317 was wired up correctly, it worked fine. I’m a bit surprised that the components stood up to such abuse.

Here’s the final product playing some classic rock:

Robusto Amp

Dave Rupert has some thoughts on the current state of the mobile app business in Addiction, the Mobile Currency. He offers a good analysis of where we are, and I agree with his conclusions:

In the wake of recent events I’d encourage those of us who build hypertext to have discussions about how you measure success. Are all of your KPIs attention-based? Are you driving addiction? Are you comfortable with the repercussions?

On a personal level, I’d encourage you to vote with your dollars and help create alternatives for attention- and addiction-based models of monetization. Subscribe to a newspaper. Fund a Patreon. Seek trustworthy sources.