wetware.engineering /

Changing app defaults

jun 2019 –– 4 min read


A few changes can make a big impact on your time: disabling auto-play, disabling URL auto-completion, taking control of algorithmic recommendations, and reviewing notification settings.

From the firehose of notifications, feeds, and suggestions, modern technology often diverts our attention from what matters most.

Applications' default settings often work against us. Here are four small changes you can make to improve your time spent on devices:

1. Disable Autoplay

Clicking disable on YouTube's autoplay

Autoplay can lead you into the black hole of content. Have you ever looked up a single video, and winded up watching a 30-minute fail compilation, or a 3-part documentary series?



2. Disable URL Autocomplete

When I type "r" in a new browser window I see:

reddit.com auto-completed in address bar

I had a bored habit of opening my browser, followed by hitting a key like 'r', and then hitting enter. I'm only two key presses away from visiting these common websites. This haphazard action often led to a half-hour spent browsing the website.

What keys do you naturally gravitate towards when you open a new tab, and what do they auto-complete to?

Beneath these website suggestions, Chrome shows the most popular searches by default. These may also lead to time sinks.



3. Take Control of Recommendations

a mouse hovering over an unfollow button

Filter bubbles. Echo chambers. Feedback loops. There are many terms for the amplification effects AI has on our suggestions.

More personalization isn't always better. Whether you regret wasting the time or enjoyed it, the type of content you've shown interest in in the past will influence your future recommendations.



Limiting algorithmic recommendations can make it harder to branch out. Instead, get recommendations from a wider variety of sources: friends, forums, Google searching, articles.

4. Review Your Notifications

Notifications are the purest form of a distraction. They force you to notice them and often interrupt what you're doing.

Sometimes, notifications are crucial. Appointments, meetings, reminders, etc.

A vast majority of notifications, however, aren't essential:

We're facing 365+ friends' birthday reminders and dozens of dying apps trying to eek out one more visit from you.



The apps we use compete for our attention. If we're not deliberate in our choices, we will be guided by apps' default settings and our own bad habits.

Changing the default settings to benefit us takes a matter of seconds and can give us hours back of our life.


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