Slate’s Top Right: A Gathering of The Best

Like most the Internet world, FishbowlNY loves a good list. From the ridiculous New York Observer Power Couple list to the top 10 most looked-up words on The New York Times’ website, if there’s some sort of ranking happening, we’re checking it out. We might not always like them (grocery lists, Power Rankings for “Becker” seasons, etc.) but we always read them.

One of the latest ranking features that we’ve come to love is Slate’s Top Right. Launched in late July, the feature seeks to bring together a list of 25 Americans – divided into categories like “Culture,” “Business,” and “Technology,” with five people in each – who are coming up with not just brilliant, but useful, ideas.

The name  Top Right comes from the quadrant graph, made popular by New York’s Approval Matrix, so those who are on this list are the best of the best. To make the list really pop, there are people you’ve heard of (Jack Dorsey) and some relatively unknowns who deserve to become known (Salman Khan).

Julia Turner, Slate’s Deputy Editor at the site’s New York headquarters, told FishbowlNY that the idea for Top Right came about when they decided that there was a void in the world of lists and rankings.

“One thing we noticed is that a lot of the lists out there focus more on ideas than on execution,” explained Turner. “So we decided to hunt down the people who best combine innovative genius with the ability to put their ideas into practice – people in the top right quadrant when you graph their innovation vs. their practicality.”

She said that picking the people to be featured was no easy task. Editors and reporters at Slate were asked to assemble their own lists, and from there they began to narrow it down. When we – perhaps not so eloquently – asked how Slate avoided the list becoming just a bunch of rich white guys in their 60s, Turner said that the nature of Top Right made that easy.

“If you look at who is doing inventive, wonderful, practical work in the world these days, you don’t find a bunch of rich, old white guys. Thank goodness! Whenever you make a list like this, you consider the mix – household names like Jeff Bezos vs. lesser-known folks like the couple that runs Archeophone Records, corporate vs. academic vs. nonprofit types, etc. Luckily we had a lot of great candidates to consider.”

One of the best features of Top Right is that readers can create their own rankings by dragging the people on the list onto a chalkboard (Slate! Get it?) quadrant graph of their own. Visitors can then see how their picks stack up against the picks of editors at Slate and other readers.

Turner said that the reaction to Top Right has been overwhelmingly positive, and – as a good list will do – has “started some debates, too.” There are two more categories to go – the five picks for “Government” will be released on August 9 and “Design” on August 16 – so be sure to check them out and rank your little heart out. There’s no doubt we’ll be doing the same.