Twitter’s lists make Chris Brogan feel bad

Chris Brogan wrote that Twitter’s Lists make Chris Brogan feel bad. Why? Because he sees them as exclusionary. Chris doesn’t like that lists exclude people, by their very design.

Here, look at my list of programmers. It excludes me.

That makes me feel bad, according to Chris Brogan.

Except, well, I’m NOT a programmer so why should I be on a list of programmers?

I can’t STAND this attitude that everyone should be included in everything.

I should NOT be on a list of golfing greats. Heck, I’ve never even played the game, but let’s say I played. Are you KIDDING ME by saying I should be mentioned in the same breath as Tiger Woods?

I’m not on my Venture Capitalists list either. Should I be included in that list? NOOOOO! First, I don’t have the money. Second of all, I don’t invest in companies. I SHOULD BE EXCLUDED from such a list and being excluded from such a list does NOT make me feel bad.

Oh, I didn’t make my Web Innovators list either. Come, now, is writing about the web innovative? No. I don’t deserve to be on that list. Damn it.

Sorry Chris, but life isn’t fair. Steve Gillmor tells me all the time I’m not in control of how people view me. That’s why I don’t feel bad about lists I’m not on.

I CAN control my own lists, though, and even when I do my own lists I leave myself off of most of them. That does NOT make me feel bad.

Chris: I think you just got included on my list of people who have bad opinions about lists. :-)

UPDATE: I had lunch yesterday with @nk who runs the team at Twitter who makes lists. He says “following” someone is just another form of lists. Since there’s 45 million people on Twitter and only about 100,000 that Chris is following, I’d guess that Chris is exclusionary.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

103 thoughts on “Twitter’s lists make Chris Brogan feel bad

  1. I CAN control my own lists, though, and even when I do my own lists I leave myself off of most of them. That does NOT make me feel bad.

  2. I CAN control my own lists, though, and even when I do my own lists I leave myself off of most of them. That does NOT make me feel bad.

  3. Love your comments. I agree. We can't all be listed…but it would be nice if everyone in the world would notice us or at least the important people.
    Thanks for your post. It was great

  4. Unfortunately following people does not always mean “I actually have them in my twitterstream”. Plenty of people who follow 100 or more people use tools like HootSuite or TweetDeck that allow them to organize who they follow and basically ignore some people or groups of people since they don't use their uncategorized stream any more. Since I'm a big phone user, those tools never appealed to me, and so I've found other ways to achieve the same thing, mostly through multiple accounts.

    Even so, we don't give the same attention to everyone in our streams. We all have favorites, people we'll go back for, and people who when we see them in our stream we pay attention. @hotdogsladies said at SXSW that people pay you with their attention if nothing else as a way to tell people not to rush to monetize their blogs or Twitter streams. I still stick to that. I know that some people who follow me barely notice, but others are very engaged.

    The rush to measure all this stuff is short-sighted. Those things are helpful, but they don't do a good job of gauging influence.

  5. I do agree with you there. I like Twitter, but don't have time trying to think of mundane crap to put on the timeline. I look there to occasionally be inspired, sometimes to laugh, and to connect with like (and not so like) minded people. I like ideas and opinions, not tuna sandwiches.

  6. Hey, Robert,
    I am taking a wait and see attitude about the lists, mainly because I don't quite know what they are yet. So far, I don;t think they are evil or anything. Time will form my opinion, as will understanding.

  7. Hi. Sorry to butt in but I feel I need to make a little point or two. It's to everyone generally but I read this far and it seemed a good place to put it.

    I have huge respect for both Chris and Robert and this is just a difference of opinion not a personal attack. The two of them see things differently and express things differently. I highly doubt this would dent the respect Chris has for Robert or even offend him since one of the qualities he admires – and has even written about – is Robert's honesty. Fans of Chris will understand this and not feel the need to lay into someone he respects, I'm sure. Personally, I think it's healthy for two intelligent and experienced people to express differing opinions because it opens up the conversation. People can disagree and even throw a few currant buns at each other and still respect each other. It's not a soap opera.

    There's been a great debate about all aspects of this on Twitter today sparked off by these different views and I can see validity in both of them so it's a shame to view it as a 'pissing contest' because – well – it's just not. It's probably more healthy to get onto twitter, build some lists of your own, have a few thoughts about the possible social ramifications and then blog about it. The more voices that are out there expressing opinions the better. The Bluebird of Guilt is just an annoying budgie at this point. The secret is out. Everyone knows about Twitter Lists, so why don't we all engage in discussing how they are changing things and how we can use that?

    In terms of Robert's list-building, I was also involved in the first BETA testing group and it was a blank sheet. While the majority of us were rushing around trying to work out the best ways to use the new tools and set up the theme park before the customers arrived, Robert was totally focused. He knew exactly how he wanted to use Lists and put way more work into this than anyone else I observed in the original team. I think that earns him the right to express an opinion.

    From my perspective, I don't consider myself an expert on lists. I seem to come at them from a different perspective to most. My focus was to make lists that people would find useful because I was aware that we were setting everything up. My view hasn't changed now everyone's arrived. For that reason, I don't get bugged at all for being 'excluded' from lists because that wasn't my consideration in the first place. It's always nice to be listed but I'm more bothered by lists of mine that nobody is interested in following. These tend to be the lists I haven't finished building yet so the content needs work. Sometimes I delete the unpopular ones but some of them make sense to me anyhow so they stay. For instance, I have one list that nobody follows but I add my favourite tweeter to it every day. To me, this is growing into a great list so I don't care how others feel about it because in a month or so they'll cotton on to how fab it is. Also, often the people I add to this list as my 'tweeter de jour' are really happy to be a featured person on that day and that matters enough that I couldn't care less how many people follow it.

    Anyway, I'm rambling now so I'll round up my points. In summary: Chris=good , Robert=good , open discussion=good . It's all good. That's just about all I have to say about that. If you want to disagree, find me on twitter. Don't throw currant buns though: I'm allergic to currants.

    List Robert. List Chris. Enjoy lists. :)


  8. I don't get the Twitter lists yet. I certainly don't feel elated that I'm only on one Twitter list , but I'm relatively new to Twitter.

    P.S. I'm glad I found your blog. I'm an SJSU alumna so it's good to see successful grads. When I was in Professor Buchwitz's class, I attended the talk you gave.

  9. Agreed! I am with you. I think if anything it is a compliment to see what list you fall on and if you think you should be in another list – get goals & start working towards that! You want to be on the great golf list – get on your game. This isn't something where everybody gets a trophy. Either you do something & people recognize & value it, or you don't.
    BTW – I think you might make my 'ppl to learn from list'

  10. So why was Mr. Scoble so concerned about being excluded from a list of the “Top 100 Twitter Users” posted on The Bivings Report? Why did Mr. Scoble feel so hurt that he bothered to post the following:
    “Your list is incomplete. My account has 2400+ listings and should be on this list. I never have been on the Suggested User List, by the way, unlike most of these.”
    It's just a list. Was he hurt that he wasn't included? Look at how many times HIS account is listed (he bothers to tell us). Was Mr Scobles' “Feely” in need of a little “Touchy”?

  11. Makes sense… but think about all the time we're going to have to invest in maintaining these lists. I'd rather spend that time interacting with people. It's why I've never really managed to twig to the groups feature on 3d party apps – I just don't want to spend the time updating/maintaining them when I could be twittering! :)

  12. I think I get that.

    You know, before I got rid of them yesterday, you were the first person I added to my “People Who Make Me Think” list. You're still top of that list, even if it's not a formal “list” on Twitter any more.
    I may not always agree with your conclusions but I do always find that you make me examine my own perspective and analysis and that more often than not, you add to my awareness.

    I'm very honored to be on your follow list Robert, but I'm even more fortunate to follow you. You're the one who originally made me see the power of twitter and who you follow being more important than who follows you. I've learned a lot thanks to you the past couple of years.

    Thanks Robert!

  13. i like how lists have been made public but at the same time they are personalised based on who has created the lists, this cuts out a lot of the work in finding great people to follow

  14. While I agree with what you wrote here Robert, you and Chris sure know how to have a conversation about nothing in particular :)

  15. I have only made three lists so far, and all are categories with objective criteria (eg, women in tech, Adobe staff). I was thinking about making a 4th list called “friends” to make checking in on my closest friends easier but out of concern that excluding people from it might piss them off, I'm keeping that one on Tweetdeck where nobody can see it.

    So while in theory I agree with you that people shouldn't be upset by being left off lists, Robert, in reality I'm using lists in a way that's less likely to cause hurt feelings. I guess that means I've got one foot in both camps. :)

  16. Did you feel bad that you were left off that Top 100 Twitter User List posted on “the Bivings Report”. It seemed to bother you enough to post this comment:
    “Your list is incomplete. My account has 2400+ listings and should be on this list. I never have been on the Suggested User List, by the way, unlike most of these.”
    Sucks being left off a list, doesn't it? Life's not fair, right?
    “I can’t STAND this attitude that everyone should be included in everything.”
    Yeah, me neither…

  17. You run your mouth a lot and as a result exceed your allotted “tweeting quota.” I used to think you were interesting.

  18. My lists aren't finished yet and never will be. I aim to have the most complete lists, though, and if you think someone should be on my lists you can DM me.

  19. Yes, it sort of is an endorsement. I'm making a list of hosting companies and information sources about hosting companies. By putting companies and people there I am endorsing them and when Rackspace makes its list it will be endorsing them in a way. Luckily we have great competitors worth endorsing.

  20. I'm hurt by people who are faking their inclusion by me more in the long run than if people are honest and leave me off of lists that I don't deserve to be on. Let's be honest, I WILL be hurt that I'm left off of your “best golfers of all time” list. I WOULD love to be on that list. Thing is, I don't deserve to be on it and if you put me on it you'll make your list suck.

    That said, you're on my favorite geek mommy list and you are on my most important list: the list of people I follow. I read that first before I read any of my lists. Oh, and I'm not done building lists yet. I'm only about 10% done going through my 12,000 followings.

  21. I think twitter lists are more about people and less about ourselves.. Because these lists helps my readers and your readers to find the interesting persons we defined in categories .. sometimes in multiple categories.. private lists i don't really agree with because it defeats the purpose. And I am not upset at all that I am not included in my own list. I've noticed some popular twitters have included their own names into their own list.. well that i another thing I couldn't agree too. These lists should be the recommendation of people that I think others should follow .. just my two cents :)

  22. I agree with you Robert, lists are part of our lives. Let's say you are inviting friends for dinner at your home. Are you going to invite all of your friends and acquaintances? Of course not, you make a list. As a host you have the responsibility to entertain your guests and make sure that a meaningful conversation, adding value for all of your guests at that particular dinner, takes place. After all, the food is not the only reason why your guests accept the invitation. Am I offended, because I'm not on each and everybody's guest list? Of course not, because for me the food is not the only reason either.

  23. Scobleizer, since years I was following your RSS. But now I unsubscribed…

    Twitter may be fine for unemployed or social media expert, but if you bringing home the beacon with real work (I’m SAP Technology Consultant), you simply don’t have the time (and passion) to pay attention to this redundancy (or you do a crappy job…).

    I liked your former articles (in-depth analysis style), but now you gave it up for the 140-char circus, and here now is your new playground for nagging and grousing?

    Feel free to do so, but without me. I unsubscribed from your RSS.

  24. I’m of the loose and unconsidered opinion that providing information to people is usually not a bad thing.

    Lists are a particular, peculiar kind of information, and when used honestly will be able to confirm or enhance what you’ve said about yourself to the world with information about how the world sees you. This isn’t just information for yourself (although those of us who are more narcissistic than most can get a kick out of checking the lists we’ve made it onto) but information for others viewing your profile or Twitter stream. One thing that can happen if a new potential follower clicks over to your stream is that you might be having an off-day, or an off-hour, or a very specifically-targeted set of exchanges with someone over Twitter and your entire stream available on the front page is an even less representative sample of what you Tweet than such a small glimpse usually is. Also having lists available allows potential followers to get a sense of what other people think you do to add value to a conversation when it isn’t obvious from your front page that day.

    What I’d like to see, though, is a very low limit to how many lists you can have active at once. Three lists per user would force people to do some real thinking about what it is they want to promote and who they want to select for that promotion. It would be a scarce commodity worth care and attention instead of a trash can to dump stray thoughts.

    This would be even more exclusionary, and Brogan would probably feel REALLY bad about it, but there is no information without discrimination: seeing a tree requires being able to tell where the tree stops and the sky begins, to be able to eliminate all non-tree things from the input. Without that discernment you have not seen a tree; you have experienced a nonsensical jumble of visual impressions. If Twitter is to be informative at all we have to be able to develop and use tools for processing bare data and achieving information. Lists are just such a tool.

    I’m not worried about abuse or misuse of Lists any more than I am about rain on my windshield: windshields are there to allow drivers to keep their eyes open comfortably even at speeds so that they can see the road and process that info; rain occluding the windshield is a problem for the project of seeing the road, but that doesn’t mean we get rid of windshields. We invent wipers. And certainly the possibility of rain shouldn’t derail the windshield program while it’s in its infancy.

    All that being said, I probably won’t make any lists. I don’t like to make people feel bad.

  25. I noticed that. With my little cheat code, I'm actually on half as many lists and an admitted social media whore who gets retweeted by “power” users and who shall remain nameless.

  26. I think Brogan is making much a do about nothing. I mean he is probably still following me and doesn't even know it. How is doing that any different from being unlisted? Anyways, there is loophole, if you work hard like me (or are a list whore) you can put yourself on your own list and TA DA! You an uber cool listed dork now!

  27. Actually, there’s kind of an irony to me about this whole discussion.

    I met Chris over the whole “Twitter Packs” idea – which I said was exclusionary and contrary to the public spirit of Twitter back in what? 2007? It was his idea and I understood where it came from and how it was intended to be helpful. But I also sow how it could damage the community.

    Now I’m on the same side of the table as Chris – and the opposite of yours.

    Lists *could* be great – if everyone approached them from the viewpoint you do. But they won’t Robert. They’ll be misused, abused, and a whole new source of twitter gaming. Where people used to try and amass follower numbers to convince others they had reach and influence, they will soon game list numbers.
    How long before accounts are created that solely “list” a series of users names under tags like “social media” “social media guru” “thoughtleader” etc so that the number that says “lists” under their name is high?
    How long before we start getting the obnoxious “get on 300 lists today by joining!!” spam?

    Following someone is NOT just a form of lists. It means that I actually have them in my twitterstream. You aren’t ever forced to view a list again once you’ve made it. You can simply list dozens of names and never go back to that particular view, but just stay in your own private view. I can see your lists without ever having to follow someone. Not in the mood to read their crap on a given day? Just don’t look at that list. Following is a level of commitment for me.

    As it is? I’m not on a single one of your lists. And if I’m being utterly truthful? Yeah, it stung just a little bit that I’m worth talking to in person, but didn’t make any of your “more complete” lists. It actually prompted this tweet before I found out you had written this post.

    If anything, I’m finding that lists are one of those shiny objects that get coders in trouble so often… they do something based on “can we do X?” rather than “should we do X?”

    I don’t think you are acknowledging the downside of lists. While they have the ability to be something awesome the way that you are trying to use them? They are also have the ability to be horribly misused and to hurt people. And honestly? I don’t really want to hurt people I like. Do you?

  28. It's worth considering other's feelings. That's part of being in a community. The solution? Each person should take the same approach they took to #FollowFriday. This isn't a new issue :)

  29. 4me it's different strokes for different folks …

    At first, Twitter was just a curiosity, then by following folks that I discovered thru TED, authors@google and so on a whole new world opened up. I'm learning an incredible amount, attending seminars and conferences the world over and staying interested.

    Lists are one way to answer the 'filters issue' and Chris sez so, but I think I get what he means by exclusionary and it's that it's lists of people.

    People are fuzzier than lists allow and it seems to me that each curator of a list has different sensitivities about others' resources, capabilities, groupings, etc.

    So what Lists allow is each of us to pick our own curators of those things that interest us. This is new, but …. it's like picking your favorite DJ who keeps track of the music you like.

    Maybe there's some way to share Tag Clouds…

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