Recently, Twitter launched its list feature which allows users to create lists of people one follows so that they are grouped and their updates can be viewed without the noise of others one follows. Some client applications have already done the same thing. Now the game changer is that lists are officially supported by Twitter. I guess, many hope that these lists can then be used in the clients as well.

Many people have already written about Twitter lists and how they are not quite sure how they will be used (Steve Wheeler), or how they think lists will change the social economy (Dave Troy), or where the dangers lie within public lists (Mark Trapp).

I know that categorizations help me. Heck, I do it every day by tagging resources in Diigo to be able to hopefully find them again when I need them, though the search is most often done in Delicious as I prefer their bookmark panel. Putting things in categories is neat and I know where something belongs. I don’t have a problem with it when I call it tagging because I can give the resources any number of tags / keywords.

Lists and groups, however, seem to have a different connotation. They are stronger categorizations and identifiers that can have lots of impact as Mark Trapp’s and Dave Troy’s blog posts indicate. I have not heard complaints about tagging resources with the “wrong” tag or a defamatory tag (maybe I haven’t looked close enough?). It always happens that people disagree on categorizations and be it only because they come from different backgrounds and contexts in which they encounter a thing or a person. Of course, it is not nice to be publicly be labeled “douchebag” list, but except for blocking this person on Twitter I couldn’t really do anything else.

Would the Twitter lists be as discussed if the lists were called tags? Is the list feature so hotly discussed because it categorizes people and not their blogs / websites / articles / videos etc.? Are the lists thus more personal?

I had set up groups when I checked out Mixero and ran into the problems of not being able to classify people in just one group. However, to avoid seeing tweets twice (the whole point of creating groups for me was to reduce the noise), I did put everybody in just one group which was hard. As these groups are entirely private, it did not matter and I couldn’t hurt anybody’s feelings publicly. Currently, I am still debating whether I should replicate these groups in Twitter itself or whether to find a different classification system and which groups I want to make public and which ones to keep private. I will keep an eye on the Twitter lists and see if I can get comfortable with them.

My groups in Mixero
My groups in Mixero

CC BY-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

7 thoughts on “To list or not to list

  1. One of the things that lists offer people out of the can are aggregated twitter streams constructed from the the tweets of list members.

    It has been possible to do this in an ad hoc way before (eg Tweetdeck group, or bookmarking twitter IDs to delicious and then using a Yahoo pipe to aggregate feeds of people tagged the same way), but the ‘true service’ offering makes this capability available to everyone without any serious barrier to entry.

    The lists are also social objects that can be easily shared, as well as trivially subscribed to/unsubscribed from (though I’m not sure what happens if you follow a list that also contains someon you’ve blocked? Are their tweets blocked in the stream?)

    I imagine the next step (eg in client evolution at least) will be the ability to filter tweets from a particular group so that you only see tweets within a group that contain (or mayb, do not contain) a particular term.

    For myself, I’m going to explore the use of lists a hashtag discovery mechanism:

    1. You are truly the God of YahooPipes, Tony. 🙂

      The feature of being able to subscribe to a list of somebody else is good when I share their opinion about the categorization. If I really wanted to drill down I can still follow individuals or put them into a list of my own. The lists can be great to discover people whom to follow. That’s the case for any categorization / directory etc.: A pre-selection already narrows the field of potential suspects.

      It’s interesting that I can put people in lists without having to follow them. Then I could have strong ties (people I follow) and weak ties (people who I only have in lists).

      Having lists in the web interface is not streamlined yet because I have to go to each group to see the updates. Or did I miss anything? Client apps will be better once they have implemented the “official” lists.

  2. I was also a bit confused but now i tried to open a list called name/podcasting4learning. Alsoi think it is ok to ask perple if they want to get listed there. What may happen is to get a better overview on topical fields. But in fact: You cannot determine which content people will be tweeting in future. So what will be placed in the list?

    Interesting subject of research will raise up

    I am sharing your couriousity but: Each list has its own followers – this could be a good anchor to hook on a topic. 🙂

    1. Andreas, your suggestion of asking people if they want to get listed reminds me of a common social network profile / blog comment feature: 1) allow anybody to [make contact / comment …], 2) allow friends to [make contact / comment …], 3) moderate any activity. That would give everybody certainly more control over their inclusion in lists.

      I think it would be good to receive an email when you are listed to have the possibility to opt out / block a person as you also receive an email when somebody starts following your tweets.

      The entire approval thing is not implemented in Twitter as danah boyd writes in her recent post on Twitter and Facebook status updates. You don’t have to follow back in order to receive updates on Twitter whereas you need to approve friendship requests on Facebook to have access to the other person’s stream.

      I rather like that I am not required by default to follow another Twitter user but can decide on a case to case basis still allowing him / her to receive my updates in their stream.

  3. I find it interesting to observe how people use Twitter lists and how they categorize other people on Twitter.

    It seems that there are many different things people aim at when organizing their contacts in Twitter most notably (1) facilitating search, (2) reducing noise and (3) gaining publicity.

    What do you think are other possible aims?

    I decided to categorize by regions and organize into public lists.

    Here is my blogpost on this:

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