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Page history last edited by Tantek 11 years, 2 months ago

Troll Filter


original inspiration

I believe it was Hugh Macleod who first remarked to me that it would be nice if there was a way to do a search on Technorati (like on your name or links to your site) but remove results from particular sources, namely Trolls and other griefers, to reduce the LimbicHijack that one experiences when reading ad hominem attacks and other unpleasantries designed to cause emotional damage to the reader.


Twitter Search

While I know of no way to do this on Technorati (other than perhaps a Greasemonkey script, or the scope of KillTroll could be expanded to support this), I have figured out how to do this with Twitter Search formerly known as Summize.


For example if I want to search Twitter for my firstname but avoid public mentions from known mean people with Twitter usernames troll1 and griefer2, I can filter out their tweets from my egosummize results as such:




add more trollusers with additional +-from%3Atrolluser substituting "trolluser" with the troll's username on Twitter.


better replies and mentions search


Using this same technique you can actually get a much better list of replies (and mentions) than what Twitter itself gives you in the "Replies" tab (not counting replies from private users).


To search precisely for mentions of a username (which may otherwise have common-language usage) not counting tweets from that username, include the @ symbol in the query portion, represented by %40 in a URL. e.g.




replacing both instances of username with the actual Twitter alias.


(Note from Ariel: This is super useful for more accurately measuring conversation. For instance, just today I wanted to see on Twitter Search who had talked to or about @AstrobiologyNAI without including the tweets from @AstrobiologyNAI - so now I can count how many times someone had a conversation with the account).




Last night (2008-07-30) I saw the movie Hellboy II.


Minor spoilers.


In the movie, before the protagonists can find and enter the Troll Market, they must don masks that "let them see the world as it really is" and thus actually *reveal* the trolls for who they are, as well as the secret entrance to the Troll Market under the Brooklyn Bridge, naturally.


This morning (2008-07-31), the thought occurred to me, what if you could build the inverse of one of these masks, that hid trolls from your view?


Then I remember that Hugh Macleod had asked for this exact feature, so I decided to dig into the Advanced Search options of Twitter Search and see if I could find anything.


There was an obvious option to find tweets FROM a user, but not to find tweets NOT FROM a user (or users).


Knowing that from experience, often tricks and additional features are hidden in examples, I took a look at their page of example search operators.


Two examples stuck out at me.


  • beer -root - containing "beer" but not "root" (aside: I happen to prefer root beer to "normal" beer which in general I tend to dislike, with the exception of lambics and ciders, which I do like. Related: FoodPreferences.)
  • from:alexiskold - sent from person "alexiskold"


I wondered, what would happen if I tried combining the negation operator with the from operator? Would it work?


So I looked up my name:




and then to answer my own question empirically, I tried filtering out my username (as if I were the troll):




And saw that it worked perfectly!


Try clicking the two links above for yourself and note the difference in results - the second link removes results that came from me (my Twitter username is "t").


Thus I came up with the template for filtering out trolls from Twitter Search results:




feed tip clean feed name field

If you subscribe to the feed of such a search, e.g. the feed for the sample search is:




Edit your feed reader's display of the feed to change the title to remove the troll username(s).


E.g. in NetNewsWire, once you have subscribed to such a feed you have to ctrl-click on the feed and choose "Show Info". In the window that pops up, edit the Name: field to remove the troll usernames. You want to do this because NetNewsWire (and presumably other feed readers) shows the name of the feed with every result for the feed, and since even the mention of a specific troll's username can be enough to cause emotional damage, it's better clean the name of each such search feed of any troll usernames.


It would be even better if you could customize the name of the feed returned from Twitter Search, perhaps in another URL parameter, that way you could share a troll-filtered search URL without having to worry about configuring every feed reader user inteface, but I don't know of a way to do this (currently).


next steps

It would be great to somehow integrate the nascent block-list format work. Imagine if you could publish or share a list of trolls publicly, and then have a service turn that list automatically into a Twitter Search query that filtered out results from those trolls.


With such a standard block-list format it would be possible for any service to offer this functionality by simply providing a URL to your block-list, without having to retype your list of trolls into every service.


see also




Return to Trolls \ FrontPage


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