Twitter Lists: Steal, Hoard, and Make People Feel Bad; Or, The Best Twitter Feature Ever

THE LIST! (Volume 1 of 7897123912)

Photo Credit: The List! Jonathan W on Flickr

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I love how the unveiling of Twitter lists has put some people in a tizzy. From Chris Brogan worrying that lists make people feel left out to Robert Scoble overreacting to Brogan’s post and Justin Kownacki being his very readably grumpy self in the middle, there has been no shortage of thumb-sucking over lists.

I have a take on Twitter Lists. You didn’t ask for it, but here it is- in list form:

The Beta experience was weird and mysterious. I got into Lists early, but had no idea I was a Lucky Beta User. I got no notification from Twitter and was about a day from being blissfully unaware they existed at all. Wait, I’m supposed to be grateful to have been included in such an elite (just how elite, exactly?) group.

I will use Twitter Lists. This is a huge statement for me. List-like functions have been available for a long time on Twitter clients like TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop, but I have been too lazy to use them or make them work for me. However, I follow a lot of people and have long felt the need to do something about finding easier ways to follow sub-groups of people—especially my closest friends and colleagues. My inclusion in the Beta spurred a responsibility to at least try Twitter Lists.

The fact that Twitter lists is a native Twitter feature is my deal-maker. There is no question in my mind that the fact that this feature is an integrated part of the Twitter service, rather than tied to a third-party application that may or may not be usable across all my Twitter touchpoints. Already, Seesmic Desktop (my Twitter client of choice) has integrated Twitter lists into the latest version of its software. Easy!

The ego factor involved in seeing what lists you are on (and hw many) is enormous- and fun! Just because we’re not supposed to count things like numbers of followers—and the number of lists we’re on—doesn’t mean we won’t do it. It doesn’t even mean we shouldn’t. And it certainly doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. I rode the thrill ride of seeing people actually (gasp!) find me worth of being added to lists, and then see my numbers lag behind those of Twitter pals I admire.

A personal favorite list a friend put me on is called “Old School Twitter.” I like being considered “old school.” I’m pretty sure it was a compliment.

I’m with Chris Brogan. I’m compiling my Twitter Lists privately. However, I don’t feel as strongly as Chris does about making people feel left out. Deal with it people! The main reason I am compiling lists privately so far is that my first lists are private. They are my friends and my closest colleagues. If I wanted to make a more definitive list of.. anything: PR people, Red Sox fans, comedians, then I might make it public so others don’t have to duplicate the work. Which leads me to…

Others’ public Twitter Lists are a great pilfering ground. If you want to see what lists I am interested in, don’t wait for me to publish lists, see what lists I am following. A lot of people have done “good enough” work that, despite statements above, I am too lazy and practical to duplicate on my own. Theft is the only way to go!

In all, I see Twitter lists as a great utility. My hope is that this unifying feature will goad more people like me into finally grouping the people they follow on Twitter, and even serve as a more updated surrogate for the Twitter directories that seem to keep popping up—and falling into disuse and outdated-ness.


  1. Thank heavens I’m readably grumpy, or else I’d just be a monosyllabic curmudgeon…

    Another thing I’m noticing about lists: if you don’t use them, they don’t matter. I made one as a test of the process, and I haven’t found a reason to make one since — partly because others already made lists about the same topics I’d be interested in (so I can just subscribe to theirs), and partly because I’m not that interested in seeing my Twitterstream through subdivided prisms.

    If anything, the ability for you to make lists is more valuable to others than it is to you. Good list-makers help people find relevant content more easily, and help the relevant content-makers be found. It’s the arrival of Twitter curation as a reputation-building mechanism.

  2. Justin,

    Good point on lists– I’m a bit the same one, though one list I have made I do use– and it remains private. I’m definitely up for following good lists by others– and have selected a few.

  3. Funny – I could have written this. It is EXACTLY my thoughts point by point on Twitter lists, including being too lazy to start them in other apps.

    Good post

  4. The “list” would be very powerful if I could tweet the list specifically, without all of my followers viewing my tweet. This would help keep content relevant to each list and would spare the rest of my followers from having to wade through out of context tweets.

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