Filters: yes, no, or maybe so?

By | December 20, 2011
So, the slider is not here yet, but it seems that the effect of the slider is. It brings the question of filters back to the table. At the center of designing usable filters is two things that explain what filters are supposed to be – as opposed to what they are.

1) Do we need information filters? Before a certain information threshold, no. But we are flooded with information today, so we do need information filters. We simply can't consume the amount of information out there. The first filters were called 'teachers'. You received filtered information for your age group in a class. Then technology came along and introduced 'search engines': You typed in a term you wanted to search, and got a result. Now, filters are more complicated: some are enforced even without you activating them.

2) What would a good filter design look like? Of course, it depends on what you are filtering. There are several types of filters:

a) Information filters – information filters allow you to sift through redundant information and find particular bits that you are looking for. For example, a topical filter on green cars shouldn't give me pictures of cats.

b) Content type filters – filters allow you to sift through material of certain types only. For example, audio podcasts without close captioning is useless for deaf people, and pictures are desireable when looking for clipart or good photographers.

c) Source filters – these are filters created based on who creates the content. Examples include the original creator, company, blog, or referrer. This is what the Circle concept in Google+ introduced.

d) Priority filters – this is what the (not-yet-visible) slider imposes: some AI algorithm helps to determine what content to display to me. This can be semi-transparent (like Bottlenose), or a mystery magic box (like the Gmail priority filter).

e) External filters – these are filters imposed based on predefined criteria. This may be state-regulated (e.g. the great firewall of china) or self-imposed (e.g. net nanny).

Other than external filters, I think any content-bombing service should provide usable implementations of these filter options to foster consumable content and maximize communication effectiveness. Now, if only these filters could be kept separate from each other and not bundled together automatically, that would make my life as a content consumer (and occasional content contributer) much easier!

Reshared post from +Kee Hinckley

Sliders have arrived on individual Google circle streams. The sliders determine how much of the content of that circle shows up in your main stream.

By default, the slider is NOT set to 100%

So if you are reading your main stream, and you expect to see all of your friends posts, it is no longer happening! You will need to go to each of your streams in the left column and adjust the slider to full.

I can't believe they set the default to "not everything". I really can't. If someone from Google wants to tell me I'm misunderstanding the interface, I'd love to hear it, but it sure looks that way to me. This is right up there with quietly changing the defaults so that you no longer get notifications when strangers + you.

3 thoughts on “Filters: yes, no, or maybe so?

  1. Craig Perko

    That's true, although I would probably take the opposite approach: let the poster decide what topics he's going to post on, and let the user sign up for the "channels" they want.

  2. Sophie Wrobel

    +Craig Perko agree, i'd consider that to be an information filter. Maybe a bit ahead of current technology status quo, but I'd expect semantic matching of post content (e.g. photovoltaic) to be matched with the appropriate category (e.g. solar power, science, etc). Why? Because the average user is not good at brainstorming possible keywords for simple filters, and the average geek is going to miss the 'normal user' keywords and (if at all motivated to do so) pick technical keywords instead.

  3. Craig Perko

    One more filter worth thinking of: a category filter.

    For example, I post all sorts of things on all sorts of topics, and there are lots of others like me. If people could follow just my solar power posts, or just my game posts, they'd probably be less likely to unfollow me. I know I would be less likely to unfollow people if I could ignore specific categories of their posts.


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