20 November 2009 |

The trouble with (Twitter) lists…


Considering my recent post “Trusting you life to digital – am I paranoid?” and the response it got (in a nutshell – yes, I am being paranoid!) it may come as no surprise to you that Twitter‘s recent roll-out of their new “lists” functionality has got my paranoia radar spinning – but I’m finding it hard to figure out exactly why.

633630631258716708-paranoiaA quick Google search for “twitter list issues” will give you any number of blog posts listing problems with the new service – some of which are valid, some of which aren’t. This post for instance says that you can’t add people to a list if you’re not following them – but I know for a fact that this isn’t true (though it may be a recent change, to be fair). This post makes the valid point that using “listed” as a metric for authority can be very misleading. But neither of these, or indeed any of the other issues I’ve found, are making me paranoid.

There’s another big issue with lists that I’ve spotted, which will be particularly difficult for brands to work around if they’re being followed largely by list users – that is, when you’re being followed via a list, you can’t DM any of the people following you. For a brand, being able to direct-message (i.e. send a private post) to a consumer who is following you can be a great way to resolve issues, particularly sensitive ones, without having to have the solution (or particular private details) aired to all and sundry.

article-1189706-000B5A5B00000258-68_233x371I think the thing that makes me most concerned about relying on lists is very similar to the Spotify issue I talked about in my previous paranoia-themed blog – essentially, the list’s creator can add and remove people from it at will, without the list’s followers every knowing. If I, for instance, decide to prune a few of my Social Media-related friends and instead go with a list called “Social Media experts”, there’s a definite benefit to using this method – not least of all, the author can add new people to the list that I might not have thought to even investigate. But they can also remove people freely, and unless I’ve got a Dominic O’brien sized memory, I could be deprived of the tweets of a number of people without ever spotting their disappearance.

The obvious come-back to this slightly panicked concern is that a person could stop tweeting and I’d never really notice a lack-of-tweets in my stream because there is so much other stuff going on. But at least the person in this example has actively chosen to stop tweeting – if they had been removed from a list without my knowledge, it might just have been due to a petty falling-out, or a person changing jobs and thus taking a competitor off their list.

Okay, maybe I’m being too paranoid – I did warn you of that at the start! But I think there are definitely some kinks to the list system that need ironing out before I trust my follow-choices to it completely.

Henry Elliss

Managing Director at Tamar, I've also headed-up the Search team for 7 years.

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