The problem with lists

Lists are a modernist creation used to organize and categorize. The objective is a sort of control — an attempt to manage life through organization. Lists certainly have their place in life, but they don’t belong in the understanding of the blogosphere.

Every few months we go through a series of postings from various bloggers expressing joy at being on somebody’s list or dismay at not being included. The most annoying of these arguments involves the whole “A‑List, B‑List” thing, as if we were actors being quantified by agents in Hollywood. If you’re “A‑List,” you’re big and powerful and have a large audience and get lots of links. Aren’t you something, eh? If you’re “C‑List,” the assumption is that you’d like nothing better in life than to work your way to the A‑List. And, if you’re not on the list, you’re, well, nobody.

It’s is a funny thing, this blogging. Some people make up their own lists of favorites (it used to be called a blogroll), which then encourages people on the list to acknowledge their placement, thereby creating a flurry of traffic and links. Good for them.

Somebody took Jeff Jarvis to task for being on a list, to which he retorted, “I’m sick of people attacking me because I ended up on a meaningless list. I didn’t create a club, join a club, go to any club meetings. I am not now and have not been a member of the worldwide A conspiracy.”

The top place on (almost) any list is a mass marketing goal, especially when it involves potential reach. This is at enmity with the WWW, because this is a bottom-up meeting place — a level playing field of unbundled bits of information and entertainment. Rebundling is done at the individual level, and it’s based on individual wants, needs and tastes. This is why the quest for the top is foolishness in this world. I read Jeff Jarvis every day, and not because he’s on anybody’s A‑List. I happen to like the guy and find value in what he says, and this is the way it should be.

Dave Winer said it best: “Why bother. Just blog what you find interesting, what you believe in, and everything is fine.”


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