By Chris Cardinal on January 28th, 2009
Just today I was bemoaning the lack of any capacity to filter Tweets from people I want to follow… but don’t want to hear that much from. There are plenty of people I follow because they’re occasionally interesting and I like to keep a peripheral awareness of things in their communities… but some of these people tend to tweet a LOT. Facebook offers you a way to customize your feeds, both by specifying which individuals you want to hear more or less from, and which types of updates you want to hear about.
The problem with following these people is that, while they keep things interesting, they sometimes drone out the people I care most about.
Enter Filttr. Filttr is a clever tool that grabs your twitter timeline (as your home page is called) and applies some algorithmic magic (the best sort of magic, we always say) to show you tweets it thinks you’ll be more interested in.
Filttr offers you the ability to add whitelist and blacklist keywords, which I don’t find particularly useful, since “blacklisting” any particular word or phrase is a bit strange to me (since, without context, how do you know if you’re really not interested, unless you just want to “mute” a particular topic for a bit) but it also offers the ability to rank individuals. So I’ve gone ahead and put a few of my friends on “less” and a couple others on “more” and Filtrr’s timeline is showing me a compressed version of the regular timeline, without all the crap. You can still view hidden tweets, but they’re compressed and cleaned up.
I’ve already suggested that they do a better job aggregating filtered tweets, since they still take up one “row” worth of space, but they’re on the right track here. Further, Filttr threads replies when a friend is replying to someone who had tweeted at them. This is a REALLY nice feature because it gives you context right there. I don’t particularly mind following through an interesting looking reply to see the other side of a conversation, but this is just a nice feature.
You can also establish groups of friends, much like you can do on Facebook, to only see a timeline of a certain subset of the users you follow. This is another useful feature that I’m glad someone else has bolted on to Twitter.
Filttr also offers a free Adobe AIR application to show the feed on your desktop. The app is new and a bit buggy: Scrolling is slow and can spike CPU usage, the app can’t be properly minimized to the system tray, and there are absolutely no options which they say was related to their effort to keep things as lightweight as possible. The app is lightweight, but I’d like to be able to configure a few things, and the lack of even a minimize button is a little strange to me.
When someone builds what is, to me, such an obvious feature for Twitter, it always piques my interest. There’s essentially nothing stopping Twitter from offering the exact same featureset. In fact, I’d expect them to add at least a few of these features. This brings about the argument of the platform versus the provider—many people wondered what would happen with Facebook’s third-party developers, since Facebook’s applications sometimes had direct competition in third-party apps. Thus far, they’ve been able to co-exist, but a third-party app will always be at a disadvantage if the platform decides to start delivering the same applications that the provider is offering. I’ll save the rest of my arguments on that for another post.
For now, try Filttr. It requires you to change the way you do things a bit, but there are some compelling reasons to give it a shot. What do you think?