There is a problem on Twitter and that problem is free speech. People are allowed to say what ever they want, when ever they want, and this costs Twitter money. Money that isn’t being well spent if people are getting no value from it and it’s causing unnecessary calls to their API and use of their service.

I’m not saying Twitter needs to censor, in fact far from it. I’m a huge advocate of free speech and all the inalienable rights we enjoy in America. What I’m saying is Twitter could save money and increase the value people get from it by allowing users to setup filters on their side.

Twitter is already filtering conversations based on who you’re following and who they are talking to. If someone you’re following sends an @ message to someone you’re not following the tweet never appears in your stream and you don’t see it. Why not extend that capability and make it so people really get what they want out of Twitter?

I live in Utah, and this past weekend was the LDS conference which happens 2 times a year and for 2-3 days straight my Twitter stream is filled with #LDSconf appended tweets and content doesn’t interest me at all. I like all of my Utah twitter friends and associates, but I have no interest in their religious based events.

Last time this came around I unfollowed everyone using this tag, made a list, and then followed once again on Tuesday when it was all over. I hate doing it, and this year I just moved my “Utah” column out of view, but that didn’t really help. As a last resort I just filtered out the tag using the built in feature in TweetDeck, but it’s very limited and so plenty still flooded in.

During the last election I saw many reports of people unfollowing people till it was all over, heck I did it too. I got sick of seeing the same stuff over and over so I made a list, unfollowed and once it was over refollowed them. I see people talking about it when certain conferences roll around (Blog World Expo, SxSw, etc) and people get burnt out on seeing all the same info from a dozen or more people.

Events have an odd effect on Twitter users. Usually low key tweeters become power users and start sending out more tweets than usual. Some twitter power users go into overdrive and it’s like you’re at the event as they tweet everything that’s said. It’s easy for it to wear on people, and TweetDeck’s filtering option just doesn’t fit the entire bill.

Right now when a big event we don’t care about comes along and floods Twitter we have 2 options.
1. Make a list, unfollow people, and then follow them back later.
2. Stop using Twitter until the event is over.

Ignoring tweets with a certain tag or subject is just not practical with the way Twitter is currently built and everything is mingled and mixed together.

The subject of why we would individually use filters isn’t the real reason of this post, it’s about the benefits we could gain from it. Besides allowing us to control the conversations and topics we see a bit more it would help Twitter with some of their own problems.

1. Spam – You could create filters based on currents spam trends so that you never even see the tweets. If you never see the spam then, for the most part, Twitter becomes a dead end for spammers.

2. API calls – Twitter is always worried about calls to their API because it costs them money in operational costs. Add to that the additional loss if it’s a tweet the end user doesn’t even want to see. This would lower API calls while increasing the value of what we did see.

3. Keep interest – It is so easy to get on, start following several hundred people and get overloaded. If users had the ability to filter out certain things and “tame the firehose” a bit it would make it much easier to manage for new users.

Twitter is obviously evolving, and who knows, maybe this is already in the works. I just hope robust filter options are in the works. Being able to filter and use operators like And, If, Or, But, & Not so that we as users can narrow down what we see. But what do YOU think? Would our ability to filter tweets be a good thing or would it ruin some of the subtle values of Twitter?

Thanks for reading,
Josh “Shua” Peters

image by stephend9