Lists, Lists and More Lists – Why Lists Will Dominate 2009

Attack of the Show recently came out with a list of top 5 Android Apps. If you didn’t have a chance to catch it, it is available on Hulu.com and I have embedded it below.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The five apps mentioned are worthy of being on the top 5 list, but I suppose you have to take into account the type of person using the Android device. For example, someone that was really into Facebook or Twitter might have fbook or twidroid in their top 5. On the other hand, someone that likes really cool utilities that makes their phone that much more useful might have Anycut or Steel on their top 5 list. The point is that lists have to be put into some sort of context, either from the perspective of the person creating the list or the audience that the list is being created for.

So Why Create Lists?

One thing about lists that is true, is that they make great water cooler conversation or in the current techno-speak, they make great comments pages for blogs and videos. Every one has an opinion and these days, voicing that opinion has become easier than in the past. With a single click you can add your 2 cents to any list, you can even remain anonymous in most cases, further enabling the silent majority to voice an opinion. Want to send off a comment to a post you heard over coffee with a friend, no need to wait until you get home, just type away on your phone. For the truly brave, you can even comment on a list with a video response. Just to keep the comments page growing, the list author answers back at the critiques with further proof that the list is correct resulting in another barrage of comments.

Comments to lists ususally follow a typical flow. They start off with a counter list, then question the list author’s intentions and credentials to create such a list while using their own background or experience as proof that thier counter list is better. The final blow from the commentors puts the proverbial nail in the author’s coffin as they critique the author’s 3rd grade list of “Top 5 Things to Eat for Thanksgiving” in which he mis-spelled “chicken” as “chikin”. There is no response that the author can give, except for maybe a new list of “Top 5 Worst Online Personalities”.  

Agendas and Intent

Lists are not generic and usually have some intent and/or prejudice built into them. That’s what’s so great about them and also why they generate so much interest. Why else would someone want to write a list other than to deal with some hidden childhood issue of being excluded from groups? Creating your own list and excluding 99.9% of the world is the best medicine I say. When I read a list, the first thing I think about is the author’s ulterior motive. For example, a few recent Top NFL Franchise lists have the Pittsburgh Steelers or Dallas Cowboys at the top. That’s when I look at the bio of the author to find out which Texas or Ohio college/high school the they went to. Sure enough 3 times out of 4 the author was the water boy for his high school football team in Dallas or Pittsburgh. 

Another list I recently commented upon turned into a very interesting debate about Social Media Experts. The original list on this blog post was meant to be slighlty sarcastic and a little truthful. Combining those two things in a list has only been done successfully by David Letterman or Comedy Central in recent times so it was an uphill battle to begin with. I have taken a note to attach the following warning at the top any list I create: Contents of this List May Combine Both Truth and Sarcasm, Minors Should Close their Eyes

Controversy is not bad when talking about lists, in fact, controversy is the best way to keep lists relevant. If a list doesn’t incite some controversy, then the author should take a week off from writing, ban themselves from Starbucks as punishment, and return to writing only when they have a truly controversial list that will incite online protests and fund raising drives from Moveon.org and on air commentary from Bill O’Reilly.

Don’t Give Readers the Power to Rank Listsrankopedia

What happens when you let readers vote on the ranking of a list? Almost nothing as I recently saw in a Web site called Rankopedia. The site is basically a collection of user generated list topics with rankings by members. There are some interesting lists like, “Greatest All-Time Men’s College Basketball Team” or “Most Evil Person Ever” but it is missing the inciteful author effect. What fun is it to have people vote to create a list when it is much more fun to call out an author for making a boneheaded move by putting New York ahead of California for the best states to live in? Realistically speaking, would you rather have the public vote for the Time person of the year or have that decision come from the magazine’s chosen list creator? Even though the result would be Barack Obama either way, it is much more interesting to tear apart Time for their cler hidden agenda.

So what are the top 5 things to remember about lists? 

1. Lists must inspire comments

2. List authors usually have some hidden agenda, so call them out in your comments

3. List authors are dealing with deep childhood issues, so be kind in your comments

4. Any list intending to be both sarcastic and truthful must have a disclaimer stated someplace in the list

5. Democratizing list creation is the first step to armageddon 

 

Lists are here to stay so get ready to add your 2 cents worth in 2009.

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