FeedRinse: filters for your RSS and a happier Internet

FeedRinse is a service that filters the RSS feeds you subscribe to, hiding items that match keywords or authors you don't want to see. This is a service that's both so vital and so obvious that it's practically an indictment of RSS feedreaders that they don't all include this already.

As Clay Shirky has noted, the pre-Internet world was one of "select, then publish." That is to say, some editor out there looked through a lot of material, picked the stuff she thought you'd want to see and then put it in front of you.

The Internet world is one of "publish, then select." Anyone can put up a blog, publish a feed, post to Usenet, or stick something on a message-board. Your job is to figure out which of those things are interesting to you and ignore the rest.

"Publish, then select" is a lot messier than "select, then publish." But it's also a lot more satisfying, if you can keep up. After all, the editor of a magazine, newspaper, or TV show has to please a lot more people than you, so her selections are never going to be exactly what you want -- for example, your local newscast might give 10 minutes over to sports every night, and only cover MMORPGs when someone starves to death playing World of Warcraft. You might prefer the inverse: lots of WoW coverage, and only fatal NASCAR crashes and hot Olympians on the sports-side.

There are lots of places to go for posts about MMORPGs -- this is one of them. But we publish about a lot of subjects. It's only one in fifty posts that is relevant to MMOs here, so if that's all you care about, there's no point in signing up for our feed.

Or maybe there's a Boing Boing author you don't care for -- it's not a big deal to hit the spacebar when his posts come up, but wouldn't it be nice if you could just filter that on your screen in the first place?

The beauty of this kind of filtering -- eliminating posts that do or don't contain certain words, or that have certain authors -- makes it possible to cast your selection net a lot wider than you would otherwise. I've got hundreds of feeds I read in my RSS reader, but at that volume, there's a lot more than I can actually read in depth. Adding machine-filters would harness a computer's perfect ability to detect the keywords I hate or love, rather than offloading the job of word-searching onto my human brain.

Computers are great at fetishistically counting things, finding things, and comparing things. Humans are good at understanding things. I can understand that certain keywords should never show up in my RSS reader, while others should always show up. It's about time that my computer can be instructed to do the grunt work of checking to make sure that the stuff I know I hate and the stuff I know I love go into the right hoppers.

Every now and again, someone sends us a peevish note saying, "I'm bored of your posts on $SUBJECT, you should stop posting about it." There's no chance we'll ever honor one of these requests, because Boing Boing isn't a select-then-publish site -- no one here is trying to figure out what you like and publish that and only that. Instead, Boing Boing is part of your universe of raw material for your own personal publish-then-select decisions. We publish the stuff we care about and you're welcome to read as much or as little of it as you want. Bored of goatse? Hate anagram subway maps? Not interested in ukes or yetis? That's cool -- just skip it.

The problem is that skipping it is hard -- and it should be automatic. More than three quarters of Boing Boing readers read the site via RSS, and it's a crime that their readers don't include the killfiles and filters that have been standard in email and Usenet readers for decades. I've used several readers and only a very few of them include any sort of even rudimentary filtering.

So it's great to see FeedRinse live and running -- and I can't wait for feedreader authors to get the hint and make this standard.


(via PlasticBag)