Another thing Google haven’t thought of yet – filtering

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One of the first things I’m often asked when I show people Google Reader is: can it filter? It’s a very valid point and further enquiries reveal that a lot of people want this too.

You can perform searches that effectively filter for news. Just go to Google News, Yahoo News, Google Blog Search or a blog platform’s keyword search – for example WordPress’s own feature – type in your search terms, and subscribe to the resulting feed.

This is seriously powerful but just filters like any news filter, that is, across many sources. It would be great if you could filter an individual source – a feed or a blog – for specific items, whether to allow individual items in or keep unwanted ones out. For example, if you subscribed to Friendly Ghost you might only want items which mention Google Reader, or if you’re sensible, not display items from this blog tagged ‘humour’.

One quick workaround is to use the standard search feature for any web page – by which I mean Edit/Find in Internet Explorer or CTRL-F (I used to use Firefox but I can’t remember what the search is on that browser). Simply type in your term, and you can scan whatever Google Reader is displaying for that term. This only works for headlines in List View or headline plus preview text in Expanded view, however, and only what Google Reader is currently showing.

So, enter the Google Reader filter. As with the Google Report I recently came across, this is another smart utility that Google could – and should – have thought of (they probably are thinking about it right now, this instant). The Google Reader filter searches a feed for a given term so, for example, if you wanted to know how many features mention the word ‘power’ in my PR Feed, simply type http://feeds.feedburner.com/FriendlyGhostPR into the feed field and power as the search term, and hit the filter button (see graphic above).

It’s not lightning-fast and it seems to stop at 500 items (which could be the feed limitation) but it does the job. If only Google could bolt something like this onto Google Reader, even as an interim solution to true filtering.

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to work with feeds from news searches. For example I just tried doing a Google News search for PR, taking that feed URL and filtering it for something that appeared in the results of the search, and it didn’t find anything, nor does this work for an equivalent Yahoo News search. I’m probably missing something obvious here but I would class them both as feeds which should be searchable.

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2 thoughts on “Another thing Google haven’t thought of yet – filtering

  1. I just did a bit more digging around and came up with some interesting alternatives from this page.

    There’s a script you can embed within Google Reader but only in Firefox. I know Firefox is cool – I have used it, and Thunderbird for email – but a lot of people at work I know use IE exclusively, so that’s not a worker. Plus it’s not an easy solution, and ease of implementation and use is critical.

    Yahoo Pipes looks like it can do just about anything, and I’ve heard about it before but never used it. I played around with it but got a bit lost. I would need to spend time figuring this out but I have a feeling it’s a bit overspecced for my needs.

    However, Feedshake looks interesting. It seems to be a Feedburner-with-filter, and it was easy to set up (although the website can be a little flaky). The feed doesn’t currently have any items in it but I’m prepared to wait and see if stuff comes through.

  2. We have created a high powered version of your suggested filters we call Smart News Filters. Indeed, our clients do use our news/blog filters for Google News alerts. We at Netro City (www.netrocity.com) are in process of introducing a thin/free version. We are looking for Alpha users.

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