All I Want for Christmas is a Mute Button

…for Twitter.

Look, it’s not you. I like reading your updates, I always open your links, and I care about your coffee habits and your drive in this morning (I really do). But sometimes I just wish I could turn down the volume of messages that are flooding my stream, you know? Not all of them — I’m not saying I need a button to keep me away from Twitter — I just need some way to selectively parse out the noise.

How Things are Now

Suppose there’s a high-profile basketball game on, and I don’t really care for basketball. What do I do when a quarter of the tweets coming down the pipe are from passionate basketball fans? Well, I have three lame options:

  1. I can do nothing, and put up with the fact that one in four tweets I read will be nothing but a nuisance.
  2. I can unfollow everyone that talks about basketball, then follow them back later, and hope I don’t forget anyone.
  3. I can turn off Twitter.

Which of those solutions is best? Well, they all kind of suck. Doing nothing is the most annoying of the bunch. How useful is Twitter when the noise-to-signal is that high? Not very. I don’t want to have to work to see those tweets.

Number two would solve my problem somewhat elegantly, if I could script it and if those that tweeted about basketball were consistent. But of course they rarely are: sometimes their tweets will be about basketball, and sometimes they’ll be about incredible statistics. Ideally, I want to keep the awesome videos and lose the stuff about point-guards.

Our third option requires the least effort. Which do you think I choose most often?

How Things Could Be

I want mute options. Lots of them. I want to be able to mute people I follow, I want to be able to mute by hashtag, and even by keyword. I want to be able to toggle mutes as I please, mute for specific amounts of time, and save my common mutes in a mute-friendly screen. For muture mutings.

Let’s get back to our basketball example. If I know some blogger I adore is a Cavs fan, I want to be able to mute him for a couple of hours when the Heat roll into town. Furthermore, I want to mute a few keywords, so that I don’t get hassled by anything containing the words “Lebron James”. And maybe also a few tags; #miamiheat, #basketball, that sort of thing. Basically, I want to define a few basic conditions to filter my stream so that it has more meaning to me.

How We can Get There

While it would be great to see Twitter implement this functionality, who knows what their priorities are like. The good news is that third-party clients can handle this themselves. And how hard can it really be? Before displaying a tweet, check it against a few simple conditions. I could probably hack that together myself. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there’s already a client out there that allows me this privilege (is there?).

(And if not, maybe there will be soon? Please?)

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7 Responses to “All I Want for Christmas is a Mute Button”

  1. Leah Menard Says:

    I actually had a very similar issue recently with Facebook. I have a friend who was constantly posting about one thing that I didn’t really care about. I thought if I clicked the “x” in the corner of one of these posts I would have the option to “block similar posts” or something. But no such luck. I had to block out all posts by that person, including ones about me. Slightly frustrating.

  2. Caroline Evans Says:

    Dan! I was having the same internal struggle the other day! My solution: there should be a twitter bible that fellow tweeters should spear upon before tweeting. Violations as severe as sin! First on the list: thou shalt not have reply coversations on my feed; messages between tweeters should not exceed 3. Unfortunately, I stop following a good deal of people for their annoying habbits. I can only put up with so many sinners a day. Good post!

  3. David Says:

    I know that tweetdeck has filtering options, but I’m not sure if they’re as extensive as you would like. I will check when I’m home and report back.

  4. Sylvain Says:

    You might want to pass that to the guys at Lazyscope. I submitted a defect and within a couple weeks it was fixed.

    They adhere to the minimum viable product approach (MVP), they have very few features and the way you articulate this Twitter problem might very well fit in something they judge being of high value.

    One thing I know is that I would use it.
    Cheers!

  5. Gord Says:

    A social network is like throwing a party. First the people you know show up, and you have some great conversations. Then the fashionably late people come around and you figure the more the merrier. Then that guy you knew at university shows up and it’s good to catch up for five minutes. Then suddenly the room is full of people that you tangentially know (plus some guy trying to sell you pills.)

    When you spend more time managing than enjoying a social network, the solution is to leave. It’s why Orkut and MySpace died. It’s why Facebook will die.

  6. Gord Says:

    Also, to back up my assertion that this isn’t an engineering problem: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar's_number

  7. dan Says:

    Thanks, everyone, for such lovely comments!

    @Leah – Yes, I could use something similar for Facebook. It’s less of a problem for me there than Twitter, but the same situation.

    @Caro – It would be *awesome* if society followed some basic Twitter etiquette (twettiquette?), but I’m not holding my breath. Also, unfollowing seems to be a pretty popular solution, I’ve heard a few similar comments from others.

    @Dave – I should really have checked the popular clients before posting. Lesson learned :)

    @Sylvain – Thanks for the tip, I’d never heard of Lazyscope. Maybe I’ll try out a few new clients over the break and see what I find.

    @Gord – Ever the cynic ;) Your point about managing vs enjoying is spot on, especially for Facebook. Lately it seems it’s been gaining bloat while I’ve been struggling to keep up with my feed. This is exactly why muting/filtering options are so important.

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