First Click: Blocking Star Wars spoilers

December 8th, 2015


I’ve had enough — I’m now filtering all Star Wars-related mentions from the internet in the hope of blocking spoilers.

With just 10 days to go until the premiere of Episode VII, the hype surrounding The Force Awakens has reached a deafening crescendo that’s nearly impossible to avoid. My social media and news feeds are increasingly obsessed with every last detail. It’s as if the world’s media has transformed into a fanzine, breathlessly searching for factoids and hints no matter how small. Anything to sate a need for more. But not me, my aversion to spoilers is absolute.

So, last night I setup my first iteration of filters meant to spoil the spoilers by blocking all mentions of the film, cast, characters, and creators until I finally enter the theater. I’ve had to change my default browser on the Mac because Chrome has far more extensions than Safari, albeit at the expense of performance (and possibly security). And I had to pay $4.99 to install Tweetbot 4 on my iPhone because Twitter’s official iOS app doesn’t offer any filtering whatsoever. My setup's not foolproof but it’s a good start.

Here’s what I see now when I browse to The Verge:

verge unspoiled

My Chrome extension of choice — Unspoiler — blocked two potential spoilers above, both of which I can see by simply clicking the red box. It works the same when browsing Twitter and Facebook. It's not perfect, sometimes missing stylized text like "Star Wars" and I do get the occasional false positive from partial word matches. It also won't block images associated with an offending keyword which might present the biggest risk. But on the whole, the glitches and limitations still make the extension worthwhile to me.

I've also tested Spoiler Alert but I find it too aggressive, blocking the whole page instead of just the offending article or Tweet. It's fair to think of Spoiler Alert as the hammer of spoiler extensions, and Unspoiler as the scalpel. Spoiler Alert is very easy to setup, though. Just search for "Star Wars" and before you can type "Force Awakens" it'll autocomplete the film name and offer to turn on spoiler alerts. Unspoiler, on the other hand, required me to add all the alert tags ("Star Wars," "Force Awakens," "Han Solo," etc.) manually. Fortunately, I'm friends with Rich McCormick who threw together a comprehensive list of alert tags in about five minutes.

For Twitter, I also setup TweetDeck on the Mac to mute Tweets (Preferences : Mute) matching the same tags I setup for Unspoiler. On my iPhone, I did the same with TweetBot and its powerful mute filters:

tweetbot star wars mute

And yes, if you're concerned about Star Wars spoilers then you should definitely mute Rich forever, because he'll be spoiling things well into 2019 with Episode IX.

I'll be honing my filters over time in preparation for the world premiere on the 18th. Until then, why not share your own strategy for avoiding spoilers in the comments below. Together, we can rule the galaxy.

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