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‘Ping’ Sends You Mystery Notifications

Another Excuse To Stare At Your Phone

Secret, creators of the popular anonymous mobile app of the same name, have returned with a brand new offering: Ping. The app was released for free last week, and provides its users with a series of notifications sent at random points in time. Mysteriously, the notifications have no source attached to them, and can come in the form of anything – from what's trending on Twitter to the recommendation of a great film. “There are no signups and no usernames,” Secret claimed in an official blog post. “Just content.”

Secret's move is typical of a Silicon Valley startup, where the shift to a multi-app strategy is becoming more and more common - even for companies as established as Facebook and LinkedIn.

The app’s primary appeal is in its simplicity. The user interface is words on a solid background. Its app store description simply states: “You’re going to like me.” If you  trust this description and decide to download, it will ask you to select from a series of categories (which include random thoughtsweather updates and, naturally, Kanye West's tweets). This ensures you will only be notified by the things you care about.

Once you’ve told Ping what you’re interested in (I have nothing selected except Kanye West’s tweets, personally), just sit back and wait. There’s no way to request a test notification or find out when the next one will be. All you can do is go about your life and remain patient until you get your first one. After that, you can look back at alerts from your past, reminisce and shed a little tear (or whatever it is you're supposed to when viewing a list of outdated notifications). 

According to Ping's developers, it was spawned during an internal company hackathon, “where the goal was an exercise in simplicity.” Created over a single weekend, Ping follows the principle that our content should come to us instead of making us seek it out. An intriguing premise, and one which may prove to be slightly more than the novelty it seems at first glance. The app has sticking power in its ability to happily run in the background; it doesn't even attempt to compete with Facebook, Twitter or all the other apps which vie for our attention.

A lifetime’s use of Ping will pay dividends if it provides only one day-saving weather update or app you can't believe you ever lived without. Interestingly, the developers even claim that the app evolves over time, so the notifications it brings you should become more relevant as you go along. 

While the app only offers eight or so categories to choose from at the beginning, these will expand in ways we don’t yet know. For example, the app may notice your favourite updates are links to celebrity tweets. With that information, it could choose to offer you more celebs (just what our culture needs). In an email to Re/code, Secret CEO David Byttow revealed why the app has been designed to evolve in this way: “The key with AI is to start small and simple.” It will be intriguing to see where it goes next.

In fact, while writing this article, Ping told me there was a new category available: "Ping updates." Now, my Ping will ping whenever Ping's creators ping something about Ping. How deliciously meta.

Emile is a postgrad from the University of Saint Mark and Saint John. He’s hoping to break into journalism or publishing, and won’t stop blogging until he’s managed it! Follow him @EmileAtSMF.

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‘Ping’ Sends You Mystery Notifications Reviewed by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 Rating: 5
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