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"Baseball, Baseball, Baseball!" (AKA, Twitter, Please Give Me A Frickin' Filter)

I have a main list on Twitter called influencers. It’s a group of people whose tweets I don’t like to miss – tech pundits and blogs, VCs, news feeds, Twitter personnel, one or two comedians, and a couple of novelty accounts. Each has an impact on Twitter, both for me personally and (to a greater or lesser extent) the entire ecosystem.

It’s an eternal work in progress, and people come and go from the list all the time.

However, in the last couple of days the list has seen a major purge. Why? Baseball.

Baseball, baseball, baseball.

I don’t care about baseball. I don’t care about the World Series, and I don’t care about the San Francisco Giants.

However, it seems that a lot of tech folk do care about baseball, do care about the World Series, and do care (a lot) about the SF Giants, because suddenly that’s all they seem capable of talking about. Which is fine – everybody should feel free to tweet about what they like. That isn’t the point of this article.

All this baseball talk does, however, present me with something of a dilemma – either my ‘influencers’ list is clogged up with useless, personal opinion tweets about baseball, or I have to remove a lot of people.

I went with the latter. Now, I have no baseball updates, but it means I’ll have to monitor the folk I’ve removed to re-list them again once all this baseball talk is over. Well, some of them at least. You’d be amazed how many players in the tech world have the most mundane, ‘this is what I had for breakfast’ personal Twitter feeds on the planet. And lots of them work at Twitter. Some of them even run Twitter.

This would all be a lot easier if Twitter allowed me to use permanent filters.

Yes, I know TweetDeck and some other apps have filters, but they’re very superficial. The tweets you’ve filtered out are still being delivered to you by Twitter, and simply hidden by the app. I don’t want that. I want filters I can set that mean I’ll not only never see the content in question, but that it won’t even be sent to me by Twitter.

In a way, I want to be able to do a Gmail and mark tweets as spam. Or, for want of a better explanation, mark tweets as irrelevant. Anything filtered out would go into the folder of irrelevancy, just in case Twitter screwed something up. Which, of course, it would for the first few weeks, up until it had enough information to learn exactly what I didn’t want to see.

And taking another cue from Google’s excellent email service, I’d also like to be able to mark tweets as important. These tags would be carefully monitored by Twitter and it would do its very best to make sure I never missed anything that was vital to my wellbeing, perhaps by using a version of Friendfeed’s super-convenient Best of Day functionality. This could be coupled alongside a take on Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, so that it learns what I expect and, more importantly, want to see in my stream. These important tweets would float to the top, guaranteeing a moment of my time. Once read, I click a little tickbox and they drop back into the abyss.

Hashtags are not the answer, as they’re easily gamed and, to be honest, mostly full of irrelevant nonsense, and/or good, old-fashioned mentals.

I don’t want to mark users as important, because not everything any one person says is interesting 24/7. This is a fact of life. But certain types of content can be interesting 24/7, and that’s what I want Twitter to do for me.

In fact, I want it to bend over backwards to try and do this for me. Me, me, me. I’m the important one in this relationship. I don’t want some generic answer, like trending topics. I want a personalised experience. YOU want a personalised experience. We all do. Why compromise?

Important Note: As usual, I’m not looking for apps or external services that mirror this functionality. I realise some of these things already exist elsewhere, but as I’ve said before – if I have to leave Twitter to enjoy Twitter, then Twitter has failed. I want everything built into the roots of the service, so that Twitter.com and any client I would like to use has that functionality available from the core.

I realise that user-led filters can put a lot of strain on the system, but there has to be a better way to improve the noise/signal ratio in my stream without having to remove and/or unfollow somebody because they’re going massively off-topic for a few days, or even weeks.

Yes, I suppose we could all simply ‘get over it’, but that’s not the way most of us like to live our lives. Moreover, once you start getting over things and just accept mediocrity and poorly-conceived functionality as ‘the way it is’, it won’t be too long before you start looking somewhere else. Tweet relevancy is an absolutely vital part of the Twitter experience. But it has to be relevant to me.

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