Twitter Makes Lists … Competitive

// // November 01st 2009 // Social Media

Twitter finally got around to launching lists and immediately created a whole new competitive mania that may render them useless.

Listed

Twitter Listed Metric

By simply showing Listed as a major metric Twitter encourages comparisons. Listed will be the new Followers. We'll see Followers to Listed ratios cranked out by the companies who traffic in these sorts of meta data measures of authority and influence.

Instead of using lists to help users manage the stream of data, they've turned them into a competition.

Following Twitter Lists

The ability to follow lists also creates competition. Which SEO list is best? Who's Ruby Rock Stars list should you follow? Lists allow users to segment, but how many instances are you really going to follow? Does it help me to follow 25 instances of an SEO list? Probably not.

Suddenly a person's lists are going to have an attached Followers metric. You could argue that the number of Followers helps define comparative quality, but that hasn't worked for users has it? So why would it work for lists?

My motivation for creating a list isn't to attract followers, it's to help me turn data into information.

Twitter Lists Do Not Equal Authority or Influence

The impetus for creating a list is for the user to manage their data flow. (Or it should be!) Using a data segmentation taxonomy as a proxy to show authority just doesn't compute. The motivation is not to grant authority to those on a list, but to simply shape data.

Lists is a grouping, but it assigns no weight to an individual within that group. We all know people who are ubiquitous but might not be well regarded. Nevertheless you'd likely put them on a topical list.

Volume is essentially what Listed measures. People with varied interests will be added to many lists. People who have played the Followers game will be added to many lists. Quantity wins, not quality.

Furthermore, once people understand that lists are the new Followers you'll have people asking to be added to lists, trading list additions and new accounts will spring up for the sole purpose of getting users on the 'right' lists. It's an obvious gaming nightmare.

Twitter Lists Don't Define You

There's an offhand defense of lists I'm hearing many employ: "lists show how others think of you."

Who cares! Guess what, I stopped caring about that my sophomore year in high school. But isn't that the DNA of Twitter? A navel-gazing popularity contest that somehow is supposed to validate value and contribution.

Thanks but no thanks.

The Real Problem with Lists

The idea behind lists seems to be around user discovery.

Twitter Lists

It's supposed to help you find "interesting accounts." But lists (of any kind) don't effectively do this because people are multi-faceted.

I have a varying level of expertise and contribution in many fields. My inclusion on Danny Sullivan's Search Marketing list is nice, but will people following that list get value from my bicycling and book related tweets?

Lists give you a complete timeline for a group of people to whom someone has assigned a certain user defined attribute. It doesn't mean you're going to actually get content matching that user defined attribute. This mismatch makes it difficult to find 'interesting accounts'.

Lists are simply a blunt instrument in the transformation of data into information.

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  1. Pingback: Twitter’s “Listed” Stat: Is It a Measure of Influence? on November 2, 2009
  2. Pingback: The trouble with (Twitter) lists… | Tamar on November 20, 2009

Comments About Twitter Makes Lists … Competitive

// 6 comments so far.

  1. schoolroomearth // November 01st 2009

    Great post! Good food for thought. List build ego too, another bad thing… twitter is about community and ideas… so easy to turn into ego game of comparisons.

  2. Rebecca Leaman // November 01st 2009

    In all the recent heated debate for-and-against Twitter Lists, you raise a point I haven’t yet seen zeroed in on – the “listed” metric. Now that you mention it, I can’t for the life of me see what purpose it does fill, other than to foster a spirit of competitiveness that serves no one and can do harm.

    Also, your point that people are multi-faceted is a good one, and key to why so many of us struggle with list-making, I think.
    Setting up rigid expectations –
    After all, if you create a list of “mobile home archictects” and people follow that list because they have a passion for pre-fab domestic cubes, won’t the people on the list feel pressure to restrict their tweeting to mobile-home-related topics? And won’t the list-followers (the 2nd-hadn followers, if you will) feel cheated if the listed folks develop a sudden passion for “pre-WW2 golf trophies”, say, and want to tweet about that instead?

    You’re right, this mismatch between people and list labels can make it difficult to find “interesting” people to follow. My solution, at the moment, is to create a (private) “holding pen” list into which I can pop people who catch my eye, watch their tweets, and think about how they might fit into my own (highly idiosyncratic) Twitter List filing system.

  3. Chris Lawson // November 01st 2009

    Excellent points! Twitter Lists is the reason I quit my account. Lists are meant to be a way to organize those folks you follow. Why do people need to have a running total of how many lists they are on, other than as just another number to brag about? People are already tweeting their list number and thanking people as if they have won a popularity contest (which Twitter Lists pretty much are). Twitter was fun when it was stumbling upon new and interesting people. I don’t want to have to hope I make anyones “List”.

  4. thehandsomeman // November 02nd 2009

    I care less about list. I want quality results not quantity mess.

  5. SEO by Just Say ON // November 04th 2009

    I don’t want nor care to be on anyone’s Twitter list, but it does give me an opportunity to recognize others I feel are on the right track. Hopefully others will notice my list and recognize that person’s contributions as well.

  6. SEO Seattle // December 06th 2009

    Personally, I think Twitter is reaching the top of its S Curve. The whole thing is pretty played out imho. You know it’s become MySpace like when the local weatherman in BFE says to checkout him out on Twitter for more weather info… Barf… Gag… Puke…

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