Twitter lists are a handy way of paying attention to a group of people with a common interest. But the trouble with using lists to focus attention is that people often tweet on more than one subject. When following a list of people interested in “government 2.0″, the list stream will include a lot of posts on other topics. But if you filter the stream on a hashtag, you now have a stream, with posts by interesting people, only about the topic you care about.
Topically filtered lists can be particularly useful for group activities where you want to focus attention or avoid spam. Filtered lists help readers focus attention without steering contributors to post only topically, which makes Twitter more publishing-oriented, less individual, and overall more boring. Amy Gahran writes about the potential for relevant discovery here.
A search subscription on a tag or search term is vulnerable to spam – spammers can add the tag to their self-promotional posts. But a list filtered by the tag or term is easier to protect against spammers. For example, redhookd is a twitter feed with hyperlocal news about the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. The feed is produced by a small team. If they wanted to also take community input, a hashtag would get spammed by real estate and other spammers, but a tag-filtered list would enable them to create a community feed with contributions from people who have interesting things to say and don’t spam.
Today setting these things up is a bit of a hack — I suspect this is going to quickly attract features and services, because it’s the heart of an important emerging design pattern – customizable social filters.
Online communication is moving toward streams; popular streams quickly become floods; and the neural networks in our minds; and the social networks in our lives are very effective ways of turning the stream back into a water fountain.
Here’s the recipe for creating your own topical social filters:
1) Twitter doesn’t yet have an rss feed for list streams. Until they release this obvious feature, you can create an rss feed out of a twitter list using this tool:
2) You can create filter for the desired hashtag using this tool:
3) Then get the get the feed. As an example, I created a feed that contains all posts by people on Adriel Hampton’s #cadata list who mention #gov20. Voila, a focused feed of Government 2.0 posts from involved folk in California.