Sunday 1 November 2009

Whats wrong with twitter lists & how to fix the problem

Everyone went nuts for Twitter Lists. As soon as the whiff of their existence was detected, like the technocrack addicts we are, we wanted an invite. What did it do? Who knew? Who cared? Just, lemme in!

Understandable of course.

So when I got access I was very excited. And sad to say, woefully underwhelmed with what I found.

I can create lists of people, to aggregate their content. So if you are looking for a group of social media experts, great news, there are loads of lists of such experts.

As I see it the problems are three-fold:

1) Anyone can create a list
Regardless of your knowledge, skillset, expertise etc you can create a list about anything and out anyone on it. This creates list spam. Sure people can block a list owner and thus remove themselves from lists owned by that tweeter. But that a) creates list spam and b) puts the onus on me to ensure I am on lists I approve of.

2) Lists are about content first and people second
When you view a list you see the content. Really, lists would be much more interesting if there were just about the people. For me, I have been disappointed 100% of the time thus far when looking at a list as the content tends to be wildly off-topic. This is because of point 3. Additionally, as we can all recommend each other already if one comes at lists from a people angle then what problem does this solve or what ability does this enhance? Given that follow memes like #followfriday are waning due to abuse I would argue this solves nothing and enhances only the negatives of the follow memes.

3) Tweeters are not one-dimensional
This means that the content of a list tends to be all over the place and NOT focused on the topic the list name indicates. So what is the point?

There are many experts out there who have already created lists and most are indexed (that was quick?) on Listorious but browse some of those lists and you'll see what I mean. Finding out who works at Mashable and tweets should not require a third party list. Finding out who Robert Scoble thinks are the Top 10 tech tweeters should not require external lists that he has to manually update. Just follow Robert Scoble to get the picture. Or follow the tech #tag. Or search for tech and follow that RSS feed. WeFollow is more useful to be honest as its the reverse of Lists i.e. we tag ourselves. And even that is flawed due to the gaming of followers. We all know that more or less anything that involves human markup is subject to ego so is gameable, spammable and sadly, ultimately, doomed to be more noise than signal, more crap than crucial.

A more intelligent thing for Twitter to have done would be to allow people to digg both people and tweets. Now, if you took that, combined it with hashtags, you would have an index of respected tweets and tweeters by hashtag etc.

I am still waiting to find a useful list. As soon as I do, I'll recant.

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