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Why Muting is the next big era of the Internet (zackshapiro.com)
41 points by kine on Jan 13, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 27 comments



I dont belong to twitter or facebook or subscribe to many feeds. I filter my email. I dont answer my phone if the caller id is blocked or calls from 800 numbers or out of area numbers that I dont recognize. Presto, a manageable information flow.

I dont worry about being in a filer bubble. I sample other viewpoints, but I certainly dont want a flow of conservative or religious views. I like my bubble. After all, it includes HN.


Quite frankly Muting in HN would be great, especially during the times like these when a celebrity dies and people go nuts over it.

I want this to happen.


I believe it's possible to do with AdBlock Plus and the Element Hiding Helper addons in Firefox, with a custom rule.

I use it to hide a few annoying toolbars and news bars on several sites.


Interesting. Thanks Jake. Going to check this out!


I agree. It is pretty timely that this article was posted around the same time when almost half the front page is covering the same topic.


I think there definitely is a market for better filters. But i do think it's a bit weird that we seem to need more technology to save us from technology. Instead of muting users you follow the more obvious fix is simple; unfollow some of those people, unsubscribe from those newsletters, mailing lists and RSS feeds and basically close the tap instead of corking the firehose.


Well consider HN frontpage during the past 24 hours. I like to read stories, and I dislike it when half of the stories cover the topic I've already read about a few times.

I want to ignore the stuff I am not interested in, while being subscribed to the feed.


I completely agree. Self-restraint is a huge piece and something I don't talk about in the post.

I'm more talking about muting topics from sources you like. I want to subscribe to you on Twitter but I don't want your SXSW tweets, for example.


Yes that makes sense. Not an easy problem to fix as ideally it would take minimal management but as new 'keywords' need filtering with every new event flooding your stream you'd be spending all your time filtering. Kinda defeats the purpose. Maybe you'd want to set a maximum distraction level per day over all your social media and simply mute the biggest meme offenders automatically. I might even sign up for that :)


But i do think it's a bit weird that we seem to need more technology to save us from technology.

When you think about it, that path is extremely well-trodden.


I think a Muting API is just demonstrative but probably over-kill. Needing a muting API across apps is a clear symptom of over-using technology for the sake of it.

Sure, it makes your "life" "easier", but really, how hard are our lives right now? The best way to be "productive" with technology is to choose it selectively.

In my own experience, I found I can be 10X more productive than my peers if I choose to be. Its easier to choose to be with the less distractions / follows / whatever you have in your life.

I've been writing code for 16 years, butter my bread from the technology industry. But really, I use VIM for my coding, read Hacker News, browse Reddit as a guilty pleasure, use Amazon for shopping.... and thats it. Thats really it. No Facebook, Twitter, iphone/android apps, feed readers, chat roulettes, literally nothing. Its all superfluous.

This also means I have a pretty good eye for great software, as if I can see getting value out of it I know its a winner because my bar for "value" is pretty high. I was speaking with a local Austin start-up because I saw the value instantaneously and wanted to be a part of it. They were acquired before I could get an interview. In fact, I could probably use this intuition to make angel investments and just live doing that.

The "muting" concept should be reserved for cleaning up the experience from Trolls, my whole point is if thats the problem you are facing - you have over subscribed. This is true for software, why do you need an app for each and every task in your life? Its crazy.


Computers are superfluous. You can live without them. Yet we prefer to deal with them and take advantage of their benefits; the same can be true of Twitter, Facebook or feeds (though I only use the latter).


diminishing returns


How do I apply this to all the Aaron Swartz stuff on Hacker News?


Damn, you beat me to the post. I've been attempting to do it manually by upvoting all non-Swartz posts.


I tried that as well to no avail. Downvoting people who keep going on about it seems to work though.


Too soon man


I've been wanting this for a different reason than information overload: to hide spoilers. Whether for TV shows, movies, or sports, it's easy to come across a result you'd rather discover later on, and one shouldn't have to switch off all channels just to avoid coming across it. This affected a lot of Americans suffering under NBC's delayed Olympic coverage.

I see this tech being relatively dumb at first and saving you seeing results for a fresh event, but over time, becoming smart enough to, for example, automatically adding spoiler alerts for an old movie you haven't yet seen.


A possible impediment to company support for this would be the rise in sponsored / promoted posts used by apps such as Twitter and Facebook. Users might want to be muting things that appear in these advertisements and if a company makes these un-mutable then you have user satisfaction going down.

Of course this a concession users might have to make in order to reap the benefits of such a system. It is a good idea, though dubious it is the 'future' of the internet especially since it exists in a self-contained platform that is opt-in by its nature.


I would assume any brand with an ounce of wits would not choose to spend time and money trying to reach users who have explicitly stated that they have no interest in the topic. Especially when there always is a whole bunch out there how are clamoring for said topic.

Still, I must confess there are many brands who have yet to reach this level of understanding, but that doesn't mean services would necessarily choose to enable those types.


Muting … can only be the first step.

I don't want to mute Aaron Swartz because I'm sick of hearing about him but I want to tell my computer that I know of the fact that he died. I also read his wikipedia article.

My computer now should know what facts I know to not bother me with them or even better gray out paragraphs in longer articles when these paragraphs only contain stuff I know.

To teach a computer about what I know, I guess, some TLDR-interface would be needed, where users can tag paragraphs and whole articles (or videos?) with facts discussed in that article. Interested users could have edit wars about the appropriate facts but I would just have to confirm if I read and understood an article with some minimum interaction (slowly scrolling to the end of the article or not clicking a headline link for example).

Better than with some temporary hype like CES, such a system could help to dig deep into some more complex topic. I follow every news about my favorite subject but it gets so annoying to read the same introductions to my subject over and over again. I want to skip that part without missing the news. I want to skip the old news without missing the twist they found on that old news. A tool that could help with that would save the majority of users a lot of time. Of course people that profit from such a system would also have a high incentive to tag paragraphs, too, which should not cost too much time neither. Some day hopefully computers can do the tagging part.


FWIW, this post was written long before the tragic events of Aaron Swartz and is not intended to be about this tragedy.

Thoughts and condolences to his family, friends and peers who loved him so much.


Muting is heavy-handed and only half of the issue. When you mute you often block out content that you do want to see. The other half is promoting the content that interests you so it rises above the rest.

Once you've defined what you like and dislike in a nuanced way, you can adjust your signal-to-noise ratio on the fly. See also: http://signaltonoi.se/ (disclaimer: my app, and not yet available.)


Muting is anti-growth. You're methodically reducing the content users may be exposed to.

The only benefit I could see is counter intuitive. People follow/friend people they have no intention of paying attention to, so maybe this is a socially acceptable way to ignore them.



Next big era? IRC had muting, banning, ignore, moderated discussion, voiced and unvoiced, ops only, password-protected rooms, etc. like decades ago.

Twitter should hire Khaled Mardam Bey and stfu


But IRC is a single type of service. The point is not that muting has not existed for a long time - it has, in many variations. The point is that we're reaching a point where the information flow is so great that managing muting across services is a massive time drain in itself.

If I don't want to hear about sports, I can filter out all kinds of stuff about sport in many services, but I need to do it manually in each one. I chose that as an example, because it is real for me: I don't care much about sport. Yet "every" news aggregator service etc. I might care to sign up for automatically assumes that I will care. So when I downloaded Google Currents to my phone, for example, it automatically pulls down a bunch of sports news I don't want.

Muting in this context is "filtering as a service". The ability to pay someone (whether with my eyeballs or cash) to keep track of what I like and what I don't like and ensure that when I sign up to new services I don't have to configure each and every one to exclude the information I have no interest in (or more positively, to tell them what I do care about deeply so they prioritize that).




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