Tired of your Twitter timeline being trumped by tedious topics? If an otherwise interesting person has a side obsession with something that annoys you, the temptation to unfollow her can be swift. But before you take your puck and go home, try muting, which can filter out uninteresting or even offensive tweets from people you otherwise enjoy following.
Twitter has its own muting functionality, but like many native features from the company, it’s weak, since you can mute only people, not keywords. As always, other Twitter apps do a far better job. Twitterrific for iOS and TweetDeck for Web and Mac are two of the more popular clients that offer this functionality, but my muting client of choice is Tweetbot by Tapbots, which comes in Mac ($12.99) and iPhone ($4.99) versions that sync perfectly. Its muting functionality is highly customizable, which is essential when it comes to filtering the crud from your Twitter stream.
Muting in Tweetbot for Mac — To create and manage mutes in Tweetbot for Mac, click the Mute Filters screen (the speech bubble icon with an X in it) in the sidebar to see your existing mutes, add a new keyword mute, or mute a Twitter client.
To mute a specific word so that tweets containing it never show up in your timeline, click Add Keyword. Enter the keyword you don’t wish to see, and choose a duration of forever, one month, one week, or one day. By default, you’ll still see @-mentions directed at you even if they contain that keyword, but selecting Mute Mentions prevents even those tweets from appearing. A nice touch is that under Matching Tweets, Tweetbot lets you know how many current tweets the mute filter would have blocked. When you’re finished, click Save in the upper right. Tweetbot asks if you want to remove tweets that match your new mute filter from your timeline, which you probably want to do.
You can also block a Twitter client here, by clicking Add Client and selecting a client from the list. This may seem like an odd feature, but some apps, like Foursquare, can fill your timeline with unwanted automated tweets, and you can use this to block them entirely. Woz, I’d love to hear anything from you other than your Foursquare check-ins.
If you change your mind and want to unmute something, click Edit in the upper right, and then click the red delete button to the left of an entry.
Oddly, you cannot mute a user or a hashtag from the Mute Filters screen. To mute a user, go to his profile, click the gear icon to the left of his avatar, and select Mute from the pop-over. You will be asked how long you want to mute that user: forever, one month, one week, or one day. You can also mute a user by Control-clicking his avatar in your timeline, or by Control-clicking an @-mention in a tweet, and choosing Mute.
Why mute a user instead of just unfollowing her? Perhaps you know her personally and don’t wish to offend her. Or maybe you normally enjoy following her, but she’s gone on a tweeting binge and you want her out of your timeline temporarily.
Likewise, to mute a hashtag, Control-click it in your timeline and select Mute. Some users tag their tweets with hashtags, making it easy to filter out entire topics.
Muting in Tweetbot for iPhone — On the mobile side, muting in Tweetbot for iPhone works similarly.
First, you have to find the Mute Filters tab. The last two tabs can be configured to contain different things, as alluded to by the arrows next to their icons. Press and hold one of those buttons and select the Mute Filters button (as on the Mac, it’s an X in a speech bubble).
If you’ve already set up mute filters in the Mac client, you’ll see them here. If you don’t see editing controls, tap Edit in the upper right. Just as on the Mac, you can delete existing filters by tapping the red delete buttons, and you can add new filters for keywords and clients by tapping the + in the upper-left corner.
Muting keywords is nearly identical to how it’s done on the Mac. Enter a keyword, choose a duration, decide whether or not to mute mentions, and Tweetbot will tell you how many tweets your filter matches. Likewise, muting clients works the same way as on the Mac: simply select a client from the list to mute it.
To mute a user, go to his profile, tap the gear icon, tap Mute, and choose a duration: forever, one month, one week, or one day. To mute a hashtag, press and hold it until a menu appears, and then tap Mute.
Of course, any mute filters you create in Tweetbot on the iPhone will be synced back to Tweetbot on your Mac.
I hope these tips help you increase the signal-to-noise ratio in your Twitter feed — keeping up with the service may be like drinking from a fire hose, but at least you can strain out the bits that leave a bad taste in your mouth.