Tagging – Only Follow, No Filter

For consumers of content tags, or #tags, serve two primary functions:

  1. The Follow function: To follow news of interest (e.g. a column with #lbl tweets showing latest updates from the race without me having to follow it live on TV), and
  2. The Filter function: To filter out specific content from the stream for various reasons, such as
    1. to either avoid listening news before we want to (match scores, movie spoilers), or
    2. to avoid getting drowned in updates during big events (SXSW, Google IO, WWDC, IPL, SuperBowl tweets taking over the timeline for brief periods), or
    3. to remove news from the timeline that we’re not at all uninterested in.

Content & platform companies all love the follow function, and have tried to make it as easy as possible for users to access it.

It’s understandable. Apart from allowing easy search, this also presents a straightforward way of targeting advertising to users based on interests. This ability to show relevant advertising – Specialized Shivs to users following IronMan world championships, and the latest BAAS to developers following Google IO – is extremely valuable to these companies.

The filter function, on the other hand, is almost universally neglected. None of the content consumption platforms that I use –  Twitter, Google+, WordPress and Pocket – offer any easy built-in way of filtering out content. All of them make it trivially easy to follow specifically-tagged content using tags or #tags.

A large number of popular 3rd party Twitter clients have the feature to filter out specific content, indicating the strength of user demand for the filter function. That 3rd party clients have this feature, also indicates that technical complexity isn’t the reason holding back content platforms themselves from providing this function.

Users want to cut out noise & irrelevant info from their content streams, yet none of the content serving companies make it easy for them.

Are there any technical, UX, business, or legal reasons for most content companies not providing filtering functions, or is it just a conscious, unfortunate, neglect of end user needs?

I’d really like to know.