Embracing Our Differences With Personal Filtering
Everyone uses social media tools for different reasons. Everyone uses social media tools in different ways. There are people that, by nature, feel a need to have the world around them conform to their world view, and theirs only. This post won’t change those people – they are unbending, and seek reasons to complain and force rules onto others. This post will help you if you are accepting of the fact that people are different, and seek ways to take charge of your own personal social media experience.
Let’s take Twitter as a case in point. For some people, Twitter is very noisy (for me personally, it is too quiet since this change). Twitter is the largest real-time example of people using a social media tool for very different reasons (though FriendFeed is catching up, I think). You have broadcasters (people who send tweets out but don’t follow others or converse, often celebrities, though not always). There are link spammers (tweeters who send out nothing but affiliate links). Some tweeters are people and businesses who want Twitter to be a business channel only and get annoyed at games and personal use (these people get annoyed at memes like this weekend’s silly #spymaster game). There are those who use it for fun only; those who talk to family and friends only; people who use it to push a political agenda (#tcot, etc come to mind); people who who use it to live-tweet events or activities (like conferences or church sermons); people who use it to plan events; companies who use it for customer service. Amongst the hundreds of ways people use Twitter you also have people like me who freely mix personal and business (this can be noisy).
If you are feeling overwhelmed or annoyed at this constant stream, you can take charge of your experience using a few simple tools, especially on Twitter, with its API encouraging third party developers to play along and create things for the people who use it. I can not stress this enough: you are in control of your social media experience. Here are a few tools to get you started on the road to personal filtering and the calm it will bring:
TweetDeck is a Twitter client based on Adobe Air. You don’t have to know what that means other than it is something you download to your desktop. It works with both Mac and Windows computers. TweetDeck allows you to sort Twitter in various ways. It offers two filters: groups and keywords. First, you can use the column feature of TweetDeck to sort your Twitter stream into various groups. For example, you can have columns for real life friends, people in your area, thought leaders, clients, organizations you trust, or whatever criteria that works for you. You can then go one step further. On a column by column basis you can also filter out keywords. This means you can fine tune Twitter into groups, and then fine tune those groups even further. For me, personally, I filter out certain hashtags like #tcot, or recommend people filter hashtags like #spymaster if the game is annoying you. You can also filter words IN as well, tracking your friends planning a party, for example. This filter feature is also why I encourage people to use uniform hashtags (see post on it here). It helps people who listen to you fine tune their experience. TweetDeck is my favorite filtering method, personally, though it is key to note that if you close the program, you have to set your keyword filters all over again (your groups stay active). I’d like to see that changed.
Like everything social media, this is a useful service often overlooked because of a silly name. Twalala is a web based filtering service. I recommend it when people want to filter more than just a keyword. If a certain person is on a soapbox, or is not adding value to your stream, Twalala lets you temporarily mute them. This means you don’t have to unfollow them then remember to follow them back later – you can just turn them off for a little while. This is very handy, and worth the pain of using the web interface to do, though a desktop app would please me.
This one gets overlooked because the name is so close to the Twitter + Flickr mashup application Flittr. That aside, Filtrr is a Twitter client that uses keywords, groups, user names and interest to filter your stream down, only showing you the tweets it thinks you want to see. I didn’t like this one, but that isn’t surprising since I like to see all tweets most of the time – you never know where inspiration might strike. On the plus side, it offers a mobile application as well as a web interface and an instant message function, so it is definitely the most versatile filter for Twitter as far as using it where and how you want to goes.
This paid client for Mac offers filtering as well, or so I’m told. I must admit that I haven’t tried it lately. I tried it once when it first came out and didn’t find it useful for me and how I “see” things. Perhaps I should look at it again. According to people who do use it, however, it filters. Your mileage may vary.
New Twitter client Nambu is also Mac-only. It offers groups, multiple account management, and light filters. They seem very focused on adding features, so I would not be surprised to see better filters added in addition to groups. They also thread tweets, which some people like as an additional stream control method.
Tweetie is an application for the iPhone and the Mac that offers tear out search windows as a filter feature. If you are trying to filter something IN or track an idea or event, you can pop out as many search windows as you like. This is also a paid client, though it offers a version with ads for free. I’d like to see them add ways to filter OUT information as well.
This is not for the faint of heart. Using Greasemonkey to filter Twitter can be done, but I know that for me, personally, I don’t find Greasemonkey easy. If you’re game, try this.
There are probably tools out there for Twitter filtering that I missed. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments. In the meantime, know that relaxing about things that might annoy you on social networks, then being proactive to filter them out, will make your online time much more pleasant and productive in the way YOU need it to be.