Filtering out uninteresting content online

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What’s uninteresting content? Well that’s obviously pretty subjective. One thing’s for sure – we’re constantly being bombarded with too much online information, whether on Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader, etc. and we just can’t cope with it all. One way to ease the information firehose and stay more productive is to filter out content which we’re really just not interested in based on the appearance of certain ‘switch-off’ keywords in blog titles, tweets and stuff posted on Facebook. This can be done relatively easily with userscripts – these are just small bits of JavaScript which customize how a webpage displays. Thousands are already available at  Userscripts.org but don’t panic, these can be easily installed in your browser. I’ll be looking at Firefox and Chrome here as these are the two browsers I work with but they may also work with other browsers.

Installing userscripts in browsers

Google Chrome: This is the easiest browser to work with – but not all of the scripts work with Chrome. You just install the userscript as an extension, that’s it. In Chrome you can view all the extensions you’ve installed by clicking the spanner icon (Settings) at the far right end of the browser. From there, go to Tools and then Extensions. You can also quickly uninstall any extensions that don’t work.

Firefox: You must install Greasemonkey to manage your userscripts first, then install your userscript.

Let’s look at some popular sites now where we might want to filter out content and the filtering scripts we might use. I’ve uncovered most of these filters by searching the userscript site using the search term filter AND site, for example, filter AND Facebook and picking out the filters which looked most useful.

userscripts

Filtering Twitter

Filter Tweets: This filter script was last updated on 3 October 2010. Works only with ‘new’ Twitter. This is the filter that I use. It works with Chrome and Firefox. You can filter out tweets from people and/or with certain keywords in the tweet. It’s case sensitive and can filter out tweets with links.

Tweetfilter: Last updated 13 October 2010. Works with ‘new’ Twitter and with Chrome and Firefox.

I should mention that these obviously all work with the Twitter website. If you use a Twitter client like TweetDeck, you can filter out tweets from your followers, but it seems to be just single word excludes. You can filter by text, name, source or time and selecting the minus sign excludes the keyword you choose:

tweetdeck2

Filtering Facebook content

Better Facebook: Last updated 3 November 2010; allows you to control what stories you want to see; hide one type of story, or only if posted by a few specified users, or only if they contain certain keywords; define rules to move stories to separate tabs so they are logically grouped how you want them to be. Runs in Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera.

Facebook Filter Manager: Last updated 4 April 2010; allows you to add filters for news feeds; This script only works with Firefox.

Filter Facebook Stories: Last updated 30 May 2009. Filters out Facebook stories that match customizable strings.

Filter FB Updates: Last updated 21 October 2010. Script for filtering Facebook updates about a specific topic. Filters out likes, new friend connection, attachments, etc.

I have to say I’m not a great Facebook user yet and haven’t tried these filters. Let us know how you get on in the comments.

Filtering Google Reader Content

Google Reader Filter: Last updated 6 September 2010. This is the filter that got me started on filtering content and I’ve blogged about using Google Reader Filter before. I’ve used it with Firefox and Chrome. I spend a fair bit of time reading RSS feeds and this filter is absolutely invaluable in removing content I’m not interested in and keeping me more productive. I should point out that I did have some problems initially getting it to run in Chrome but found that if you use google.com as your access site rather than say google.co.uk or another local Google site, it seems to work fine.

Google Reader Filter Duplicates: Last updated 17 February 2009. Filters duplicates from a folder in Google Reader (removes items with the same title and or link href). I’ve only just installed this one in Chrome. Comments on the userscript webpage suggest it only works in list view.

Filtering Digg content

Sinkhole: Last updated 26 August 2010. Eliminates articles from showing up based on any keyword. The keywords can include any text and the filter will search the title, description and the user that submitted the story. This filter works with Digg version 4. Doesn’t seem to work with Chrome though but I have it working with Firefox.

So how do you filter out content you don’t want to see? Have I missed any useful userscripts? Drop a comment below.

Image credit: Rick E Dick

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