How to filter the IndieWeb firehose

The IndieWeb movement is all about having a place on the Web that you own and control. As Chris Aldrich put it in his excellent introduction to the IndieWeb, “wouldn’t it be better if you had a single website that represented you online?” From the point of view of content creation, there’s no question that posting on your own website is the best way to control your content. But what about consuming content? There are still unresolved issues with that, which I’ll explore in this post.

Content consumption is an issue due to the sheer volume of content now pouring out of blogs, particularly those in the IndieWeb community. Much of it is content that doesn’t necessarily have value to anyone but the person posting it. I’m thinking of things like check-ins, RSVPs and bookmarks. Do I really want to know that you’ve checked into a cafe, followed by another post thirty minutes later announcing you’re at the gym? Not really.

There are a couple of ways this type of content can be filtered.

Feed reader filters

Firstly you, the reader, could do it yourself through a feed reader like Inoreader. The pro version of Inoreader allows you to filter text, with a feature called “Rules.” You can choose to either display posts that include a certain word, or exclude all posts with that word. There isn’t a direct way to filter out entire classes of content, like check-ins. However you could manage it by filtering out words like “check-in,” “Foursquare,” and so on. Overall, you can get fairly granular with Inoreader’s rules, including with regular expressions.

As an example, say I only want to see articles in RollingStone.com about the band Weezer. If so, I’d create the following rule:

That test seemed to work well (and yes, the Vic Mensa article did include a reference to Weezer):

There are some restrictions on how much filtering you’re allowed to do with Inoreader:

“Rule will be applied to a maximum of 1000 most recent articles from the past month. Any external actions (e.g. emails, notifications, sending to services like Pocket) will be limited to 10 occurrences per service.”

But these limits seem reasonable. In terms of cost, you’re allowed 30 rules with the US$29.99/year subscription, and unlimited rules for US$49.99/year. Free users get no rules, but again that’s fair. Content filtering is a feature worth paying for.

The other feed reader I use, Feedly, has only just introduced content filtering into its Pro version. “Mute Filters” allow you to “fine-tune your feeds by hiding mentions of unwanted topics or keywords.”

I immediately made use of this new feature by filtering out any mention of the current US President.

Mute Feeds is a nice addition to Feedly Pro and has a slick design. But it’s clearly not as powerful as Inoreader’s filtering. For example, there’s no easy way to filter out everything except for Weezer in RollingStone.com. Also you are only allowed up to 25 Mute Filters with a Feedly Pro subscription, which costs US$45 per year. So you don’t get as much bang for your buck on Feedly.

Filtering at the source

The second way to better control your content consumption is mostly dependent on the source: subscribing to pre-filtered RSS feeds. Once again, Chris Aldrich is showing the way. He offers a number of topic-specific RSS feeds, for example one with just his math-related posts. For IndieWeb bloggers wanting to emulate this, Chris wrote a post with details.

Conclusion

Offering topic-specific feeds is a great idea and, personally, I’d like to see the IndieWeb community focus a bit more on that. I’m all for owning all your content, but that doesn’t mean all of it is suitable for public consumption.

That said, it makes the most sense for users to control content filtering directly. Which means it’s ultimately up to feed readers to provide that service. Both Inoreader and Feedly allow filtering, although Inoreader currently has the most powerful one of the two. Of course there may be other feed readers that offer content filtering as well.

Let us know your thoughts on information overload in blogging and how to filter it.

7 comments

  1. A good recent and possibly extreme example of this phenomenon is Lillian Karabaic who recently attended IndieWebSummit 2017 where she got OwnYourSwarm working on her site so she owns all of her checkins on Swarm/FourSquare. It was a great accomplishment, but now her feed is swamped with hundreds of checkins! Since I don’t find as much value in them, I just changed the original default feed I was following with this one which surgically removes only these checkin posts:http://anomalily.net/?cat=-153,-154&feed=rss2

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