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Exposure Notification
I don't see why everyone is so hungry for BAD news, but fine, I'll give in to feedback and add a dark mode.
Title text: I don't see why everyone is so hungry for BAD news, but fine, I'll give in to feedback and add a dark mode.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a BOT THAT RECENTLY HAD CLOSE CONTACT WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS NOT TESTED POSITIVE FOR COVID. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.


During the coronavirus pandemic, several apps were developed to implement digital contact tracing by using one's location along with the location of others, or locationless device proximity detection, to notify someone if they had been potentially exposed to COVID-19. Participation is completely voluntary as data is self-reported, so such apps become more useful as more people use them. This normally only works in retrospect, as infected people are isolated, and the contacts notified after the positive test result. In this comic, a different type of app has been developed. Instead of notifying someone if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, the app produces notifications if they have been exposed to someone who has not tested positive. (Perhaps it also notifies the user if they have been exposed to a person who has tested positive, but if this is the case, it hasn't happened to the user in question yet.) This is much less useful because it is not possible to tell whether anyone has actually been near anyone who was infected, but rather annoys the user with excessive notifications. Also, being exposed to someone who has not tested positive is not good news, because it is still possible that the person might have COVID-19; it is simply less bad than being exposed to someone who has tested positive, but still worse than not being exposed to anyone.

Socially and psychologically, people being close to each other normally is a positive behavior. For a stereotypical human, it could be considered a sad sign of our times if you needed an app to tell you whether you did right in social interactions and compliment you.

The GNOME desktop environment in dark mode

Dark mode is a common feature in apps which allows users the options to have a darker user interface. The title text, however, refers to dark mode not in the sense of the color scheme but rather that receiving notifications bearing the bad news that you have been exposed to COVID-19 is "dark." Because nobody likes his current app, Randall decides to give in and create a dark mode, which would make his app much more desirable for users.

Randall has published similar "useless useful apps" in 937: TornadoGuard (a tornado-alert app that has lots of great features, except it doesn't actually alert the user about tornadoes) and 2236: Is it Christmas? (a web page that correctly identifies most days as "not Christmas", but then fails to identify Christmas Day as Christmas, for a >99% "accuracy").

Transcript

[Cueball standing, holding out his chiming smartphone to review alerts it has received.]
Alert 1:43 PM
Good news: You recently had close contact with someone who has not tested positive for COVID.
Alert 1:38 PM
Good news: You recently had close contact with someone who has not tested positive for COVID.
Alert 1:36 PM
Good news: You recently had close contact with someone who has not tested positive for COVID.
Alert 1:31 PM
Good news: You recently had close contact with someone who has not tested positive for COVID.
[Caption below the panel:]
No one likes my new COVID exposure notification app.


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