California fires: smart speakers and emergency alerts

Sean Donelan sean at
Thu Jul 26 18:28:30 UTC 2018

On Thu, 26 Jul 2018, Chris Adams wrote:
> My biggest concern is them making such alerts mandatory.  At a minimum
> they should be opt-out; a one-time notice during setup (or when the
> functionality is added) to allow opt-in would be better IMHO.

That's a reason to get involved early, when everything is voluntary and 
the decisions haven't been decided yet.

Even though no rule requires it, Google adds emergency alerts to the top 
of its search result pages. shows government 
alerts around the world. Google does a nice job of integrating the 
results, even giving suggestions about what to do for several standard 
types of alerts. Its possible to create a nice user-focused design.

When I was the SBC (now AT&T) u-verse "emergency alert product manager," 
because no one else wanted that job, I discovered the EAS/WEA rules 
are very flexible. Lots of things being done by competitors weren't 
actually required. Instead it was because things had always done that way, 
not because any rule required it.

For example, I added a "dismiss alert" button to u-Verse EAS alert product 
so you could immediately get ride of alerts you didn't care about or 
change channels.

I also worked with the IPTV middleware vendor to ensure u-verse EAS alerts
were not recorded by the DVR, and didn't interrupt the DVR recording. 
One advantage of not recording the EAS by the u-verse DVR, if EAS came 
during the game-winning home-run during the World Series, you could hit 
rewind on the DVR and see/hear what you missed because it was still 
recording in the background.

I've felt that some companies deliberately make the emergency notification 
product on their cell phones and cable/tv as attrocious as possible as 
a middle-finger response to the government requiring them to do it.

Because almost all emergency notifications are voluntary, company product 
managers can give you a lot of choice which, when, and how you get 
emergency notifications. But its easier/cheaper for product managers to 
treat it as a compliance thing, lobby against it, and not spend any 
effort on a user-centered design for their alert notifications.

I keep expecting after catastrophe happens in pacific northwest or silicon 
valley, some company executives and product managers will suddenly add 
emergency notifications to their smart speaker and smart tv product 

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