Following Lists

The Twitter Lists Feature is a Game Changer

Guest blogger Brian Ahier is a City Councilor in The Dalles, Oregon, and he works in Information Systems at Mid-Columbia Medical Center. He is passionate about healthcare reform, government 2.0 and health IT.

One of the interesting things about the new Lists feature is the expansion of the asymmetrical nature of relationships on Twitter. I use Twitter Lists to control the flow of the fire hose of my data streams into manageable list streams. But another important aspect is the ability to create lists composed of accounts I don’t follow. This is radically changing relationships and the way we build communities on Twitter.

As Mark Drapeau pointed out it will become more important which lists you are on than who is following you. You could actually follow no one at all and have lists for each group of accounts you want to follow. You can create listreams to follow rather than following individual people. This is also going to add a new dimension to some of the social aspects of twitter. People will share lists, recommend lists, and get bent out of shape when they are not included on certain lists.

But you don’t have to go out and find all the accounts to create great lists. You can subscribe to lists created by Twitter superstars such as Robert Scoble’s fascinating lists, Tim O’Reilly’s great resources, or Muck Rack’s list of journalists lists. A new service called Listorious will point you to some useful lists to follow. I have created some lists and my best so far contains most of the Twitter healthcare community. Companies will create lists of employees like the Twitter employees list and you can follow their tweets without having to follow every employee.

Twitter Lists also eventually means the death of the Suggested User List. At the Web 2.0 Summit Tim O’Reilly asked Ev Williams if it wasn’t time to move past SUL. Tim admitted that he has benefited from being on the list, but implied that it did not reflect actual authority and suggested it may be time for it to die. Ev Williams said, “It has been time to retire suggested user lists for a while… once we get lists rolled out we can retire the Suggested User List and make that, as we like to say, much more Twittery and democratic.” Since you can follow other people’s lists, others can follow yours, and you do not have to actually follow an account on your list, Twitter Lists is a game changer.

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  • http://www.thermik.net/ D.K.

    I the way how the new Twitter Lists work and change the wohle follow game :)

  • BMoreKarl

    So wait, if I follow someone’s list, like @jboitnott/social-media am I not following the individuals in those lists by default?

  • http://osumcnews.wordpress.com Ryan Squire

    Good thoughts Brian. I agree that lists can make twitter more efficient and effective. A very smart friend of mine blogged about why twitter is transformational here: http://www.nickseguin.com/tag/digg/ and I think lists just enhance the transformations that Nick describes. Is there a point at which this can get to efficient and we loose the personality, and one-to-one benefit of twitter? I think we have to be careful about how much stock we put in lists as opposed to people.

  • http://ahier.net Brian Ahier

    Karl – that is correct, following a list does not affect your follower count…

    Ryan – I agree that personal interaction is very important. Lists will not replace following individuals for me, but only enhance my ability to follow large groups. It will be interesting to see the third party apps that are built around lists and the capabilities they may provide. I could see some possibilities for combining a list with hashtags…

  • Bernhard Schulte

    I was one of the chosen few to test lists and I am still totally underwhelmed.

    You can’t attach meta-data to them at creation time – as opposed to identica’s groups which you can tag – hence it’s all about perceived values such as “most listed”, “listed by whome” etc. Just one more bizaare of vanities.

    Twitter threw away a great opportunity and the ball has been picked up by 3rd parties like Listorious.

    So, nothing new here – let’s move on.