The Case Against Twitter Lists

By Matt Van Hoven 

Recently Twitter announced a new capability that has been built into the software: lists. Lists “make it easier to curate tweets into meaningful real-time experiences on your own sites via the Lists API,” says the Twitter blog. But personally, I don’t see much use for them, mostly because they clutter the conversation.

I have met a lot of opposition in this line of thinking, usually from colleagues who also have blogs and who use Twitter to share their content. Their arguments are all the same: build lists so you can become a resource on whom to follow. Before I delve into why I don’t like lists, let me qualify by saying “yet.” I say this because only when mediabistro has integrated the list API so that we can benefit from the additional traffic, will it serve us (but probably only so far as ad sales can sell against increased advertising, which may not mean much if the CPM model is truly dying).

I don’t like lists yet because:
1. First and foremost they add daunting quantities of noise to the overall conversation. As of this moment we are following some 500 tweeters. If I go into your lists and begin following people, my Tweetdeck feed will be that much more flooded with tweets. Maybe this is a practice issue on my part, but it’s safe to guess many of you interact with the program in a similar way, rarely pruning.

2. Lists only serve Twitter, with traffic, which they won’t use for anything so really they help no one. Right now you have to go to AgencySpy’s list page in order to see my lists (we don’t have any). What’s the benefit to me as a content provider to send people anywhere but my Web site? Currently AgencySpy links out all the time, usually to content sources. But generally we like to keep you here.

3. The more people you follow, the worse the chances are that you’re going to see &#151 and click on &#151 one of my links. Of course we want you to be well read. Go read a thousand sites. Please. However from time to time we’d love you to stop by, as does any site working for traffic. This is the other side of #1 &#151 where noise floods your Twitter feed making it harder for you to find our hilarious-yet-informative commentary (with links).

4. Added work. Building lists, maintaining them and maintaining them so more is the new “blogroll.” Sure, people will check out who is on our lists but for the time it takes to stay up on this stuff, it’s probably not worth it.

5. Did we mention the noise thing?

6. Chris Brogan doesn’t like lists because they exclude people.

Click continued to read why we think it could be good.

More:Is Twitter More Social Media or Search?

OK so when will it be/why is it already “good”?

&#151 As noted, when mediabistro integrates the API with our site and when the desktop applications like Tweetdeck do the same. We assume the latter is in the works.

&#151 When we have someone who can spend the time researching who the best people to follow are. We’ve heard anecdotes of bloggers asking their readers for ideas, meaning they don’t really know.

&#151 It’s already good because it allows us to organize, but it’s too limited.

&#151 That whole “be a leader” thing where people will be amazed at our ability to pinpoint various important influencers.

&#151 It strengthens Twitter as a resource and helps people starting out with the service (or starting over by deleting their following list).