Review: "open" Listorious vs. "closed" new Twitter suggestion list

Twitter today turned off its suggested user list and turned on a new “suggestions” list which includes a nice improvement. The Twitter team explains the changes in a blog post.

The old SUL had four problems:

1. It wasn’t transparent. We didn’t know how it was made and there wasn’t any official way to suggest people for the list.
2. It wasn’t open. For instance, Louis Gray isn’t on the list (either the old one or the new one) and I think he should be on. He isn’t the only one, there are hundreds of tech influencers that I think are worthy of anyone interested in tech to follow and I have a list of 233 of them. Twitter’s new tech list only has 57 people on it.
3. It wasn’t complete. It’s very easy to browse any technology list over on Listorious and compare who is on those lists to Twitter’s own list to see that Twitter’s list only has a small fraction of the people and brands you might want to follow if you were interested in tech.
4. It gifted un-engaged users to people because it was on by default during the setup process. Anil Dash wrote a great post about why that sucked (he was on the list and got hundreds of thousands of followers who didn’t really engage with him). In short, it sucked because people who got on Twitter to listen to celebrities would also follow the geeks because they were added by default. This made Twitter less interesting for newbies because they were seeing people and brands they really didn’t care about.

Today Twitter only fixed point #4. This is a dramatic improvement, yes, but now we see the other problems with the list, especially now that we have Listorious to compare it to (which was made possible by another one of Twitter’s new features, called lists).

So, let’s compare the new Twitter list to a third-party service that I use a lot, Listorious:

Listorious = Open. Twitter = Closed. What do I mean by that? On Listorious if someone is a jerk and leaves you off of a list, just start your own list. You can participate. You can add. And you’ll be treated fairly by the system. If you’re popular, you’ll be listed first but there isn’t any favoritism like what Twitter exhibits with its own directory.

Listorious = Transparent. Twitter = Opaque. What do I mean by that? On Listorious you know who created every list and you can write to them. You know how each list is produced and can figure it out. Most lists are human curated, but some, like the top 50 tech list done by Favstar are curated by algorithms. Now, quick, tell me who created the Twitter list? How did they chose those people and companies? You can’t definitively say either.

Listorious = Complete. Twitter = Incomplete. Look through Listorious’ directories. You’ll see many times more lists on many esoteric subjects when compared with Twitter’s 20 lists. Why is this important? Because if you are looking for information on very specific topics, like, say, you are a Cricket fan. What’s your choice on Twitter? The sports list. What’s your choice on Listorious? Search for Cricket and get dozens of lists back.

Why does this matter? It’s shocking to me that Twitter is still not putting its best foot forward with new users.

Twitter’s growth has slowed and I believe a major reason is because new users aren’t figuring out anything useful to do with Twitter. They aren’t being shown enough other members with interests that match their own!

I’ve talked with normal people about why that is. Over and over they tell me that they can’t find anything interesting to watch on Twitter.

This is a damn shame, because if you just spend a few minutes looking through the lists on Listorious you’ll find something that is very interesting to you personally. But on Twitter? They are still showing a list that’s not open, not transparent, and not complete.

Oh well, at least it’s a little better than last week.

Another way to look at it? Why can I come up with pretty nice lists of the tech industry (I have 20 lists separated out into separate things like venture capitalists, tech news brands, tech executives, web innovators, etc) but Twitter can’t spend more time getting these right?