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Getting distracted by the very same tools you use to do your job in your every day work is really new to our species. Our brain has been developed for hundreds of years with non-intrusive tools. The pen and paper on an architects office, would never pop up a notification to let you know about their new versions. Neither would the hammer in a blacksmith’s workshop. On the other side though, we are getting constant “update notifications” from our own tools, when we work. These notifications are the exact distractions that is the arch enemy of focus in creativity. We are not and should never get used to that.

I am a relatively happy Brave Browser user for more than a year, until recently. I have started noticing more and more the constant nudging to update the browser with an intrusive green, then yellow, then red button implying danger and prompting to Update Brave. Given that I spend about 6 hours working in a browser per day, this is really getting in the way of my focus. I can’t even recall if there has been a single month without me seeing the red button.

I can imagine several justifications for this. It’s for my own good, for security reasons. It’s not that often. I can just update and it will reload my tabs. But all this is bullshit. That’s because as a grown person, I get to decide when such changes happen and the software I use should treat its users like that. A gentle nudge and then getting out of the way is enough and is good enough and certainly better than the current approach. An even better approach would be live update of the browser, without the user even noticing, as even the Linux kernel can do with LivePatch or kpatch — let alone JavaScript.

Also, a few words about the user experience of this approach. Viewing a red-alert-like button so often about security updates (I guess) I do not even know what they are about gets me thinking. How would the browser distinguish a critical update for a zero day exploit? In addition, using red colouring on a button implies danger and is usually reserved for potentially destructive irreversible actions, like deleting an account. Last, seeing a red update prompt, without accompanying context about why should I do that is anything but encouraging.

The intrusiveness of Brave, along with the vagueness of its updates is the main reason I am considering switching back to Safari. It gives me about 4 updates per year with non-intrusive notifications and I really do not care about updating my browser to get the latest JavaScript features or a security exploit that I am not informed about.

We all feel the importance of working with software that is calm. I started building better reflexes around this though, after I read an excellent book; Calm Technology by Amber Case. It’s a great read and I suggest it without second thought.

Software should be considerate, non-patronising, calm and get out of your way. This is the only way we can do work and also live in peace with software. It should put on our service and do the magic, without even noticing.

Thanks for reading 🙏.

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