From Social Patterns
As Randy Farmer is fond of reminding us, "context is king." As human beings, we rely on context to derive meaning from our sensory inputs. One of the unfortunate side effects of augmented universal oversharing is that we get these streams (torrents, really) of updates and objects from all of our connections across multiple social facets, usually with most or all originating on conceptual context stripped away.
This dissolution of context is alienating and disorienting for most normal people. Even those of us who are capable at times of surfing these unrestrained information feeds usually eventually grow weary of the onslaught.
The first resort for most people is "social filtering," meaning relying on the pointers of friends and those we follow for deciding what to pay attention to. The ordinary follow and subscribe interfaces suffice for enabling users to "tune in" to the recommendations of others, but you can use this pattern to give people additional handles on which to filter for context.
Use this pattern when the potential for information overload and jumbling together of unrelated contexts grows intolerable.
Provide affordances for restoring (or, if necessary, imposing) contextual filters on data streams so that they can be parsed in more manageable groupings.
Filtering can also be achieved by giving users a way to hide people or specific types of objects. Instead of singling out a context and showing just items in that that context, which tends to be a temporary choice, hiding involve singling out a context and filtering items in that context out of view.
Giving people the ability to filter incoming information based on various contexts (type of content, closeness of relationship to the sender, timeframes), enables them to get establish a stable point of view from which to explore the rich neverending stream of new objects and information.
As Seen On
- Google Reader