Babel filter - smart language filter for microblog systems

How to follow more people and still have the signal to noise ratio increased?

It’s really simple. The whole idea is to only show you messages written in a language you are able to read. If you simply define which languages you can read, and which you can write, it’s not hard to match.

In Norway, a lot of techies have two Twitter-accounts. One for regular tweets (written in Norwegian), and one for technical stuff (written in English). That way, they can get fellow twitters that only understand their English tweets to follow them back on their English speaking account.

And when people tweak or use your software in ways it wasn’t meant, thats often a telltale that you’re missing a feature. Good examples in Twitter-world are re-tweeting and #hashtags.

Some of the people I follow that have two accounts for this reason: @sjetilv / @kjetilv, @nerdegutt / @schei, @nordmarcus / @marcusramberg, @ingve / @vormestrand, @abrunvoll / @m_mnemonic

With this filter you could follow people from China, India, Russia, Japan etc. without risking a lot of garbage in your feed.


UserA writes both Norwegian and English:

Last message is in Norwegian and goes like this: “Anybody ready for a beer after work?”

UserB only reads English:

Only English tweets showing up in UserB’s feed.

UserC only reads Norwegian (that’s rear, but humor me)

Only Norwegian tweets showing up in UserC’s feed.

What do the users need to set up?

The languages you’re able to read, and the languages you’re able to write.

Which language is being written?

The easy way to implement this feature is to make the users/writers define which language they are using. Then you only have to match languages read with messages written in these languages.

The harder, but slicker way, is to automagically figure out which language is being written.

A mix of the two is to automagically figure it out, but let the user override if he or she doesn’t agree.

The regular Twitter feed before you click in the input-box.

The input-box with a language selector for you tweet.

Will it happen?

Maybe not. A couple of reasons for that:

  • Most of the sites in that could need this type of filter is developed in English speaking countries, and it’s not seen as important.
  • It may take up too much of the screen estate compared to the added value.

I’ve tried to counter the second reason with not adding anything to the user interface before you actually click inside the Tweet-box. Then the language drop-down will show, but not before. Can be made smaller by using a drop-down with flag-icons instead.

Anyway, if you want to use the idea, I’ve put it under a fairly flexible lisence: CC-BY-3.0 . Need another license? Send me an email . Don’t believe in licenses? Don’t really se that as a problem either. First time I wrote about it was January 21. 2010 .

Any comments or ideas that would make it more likely to happen?

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