Top 7 Things I Hate About Top 10 Lists

Two months ago I wrote this blog piece for JB at BMoxieBmore.  It was well received and I quite liked it too.  I have been thinking about sharing it with everyone for some time.  Today is the day.  I hope you enjoy it.

James Henry Winston, III always wore finely tailored suits, lived alone in a flat in London, and drove a vintage Jaguar.  He liked history.  He didn’t like change.   The sound of the metal lock clicking as he entered the flat always brought a level of comfort to James, as he liked security.

Once, a few years back, the cleaning lady who came every Monday and Thursday had left the door unlocked.  Though nothing had been disturbed, he had felt uneasy ever since.  And Mrs. Poleridge had been dismissed.

The locked door though comforting was offset by the feeling of horror which overcame him when he saw the tiny overcoat hanging on the 4th hook in the hall.  It was on this hook he had expected to hang his umbrella.  For a moment he was more concerned with breaking his routine and with being forced to use the hook next to it than he was with regarding the probability that someone was in the flat.

After fidgeting and finally choosing the hook to the immediate left, he removed his own coat and hung it on the proper hook.  During this moment, the realization that there might be a very tiny person in his abode struck him.  He took two steps from the hall into the study, and there, among all the Victorian finery and sitting behind his desk, was a Lemur Monkey, in a very nice suit, smoking a pipe and reading the London Times Business section.

“Bollocks,” he said, “not again!”

*******

Would it kill someone to use their brain to a write blog post?  You probably thought you were going to find a list of ‘Seven Things I Hate about Lists.’  Well, tough!  No list for you.  The amount of bilge being pumped around the world of social media is massive.  This is my rant about it.

I blame all of the people who have devoted years of really hard work, and thus, become overnight successes.  Currently I believe it takes around three years to become an overnight success.  I don’t know what the metric equivalent is, but I would guess it is around 1095 days.

Were the last two sentences of the preceding paragraph funny?  No . . . unless you are a math nerd.  The point is — we hear numbers thrown around all the time.   “It’s a numbers game.”  And yes it is true, to an extent.  If someone has a blog, which they intend to monetize with ads, then 500,000 page views is better than 250,000 page views as it will generate more at the end of the day.

The problem is — most people don’t understand that meaningless numbers are, well, for lack of a better word or nearby thesaurus, meaningless.  Having 50,000 people follow you on Twitter, because you launched a campaign of “follow me and I will follow you”, doesn’t mean you have 50,000 people listening to you.  It means you have 50,000 people who don’t get it either.  When the day comes that you want to get those people to read your blog, you will be more likely to find a lemur at your desk than you will a solid reader base.

Social Media is about connecting.  Meeting people, exchanging ideas, and helping one another achieve dreams . . . yada, yada, yada.  Even if it were true that sort of schlock won’t get you anywhere.  Platitudes and clichés don’t work either. This is why I hate lists.  They are only slightly better than the follow me/follow you nonsense.

*******

I knew a woman who started a weblog, or blog as it is now called.   She was stunning to look at.  One might say she could be a model, often men in bars would say that.  She had long legs, looked great in a pin stripe suit, and had stunning jet black hair.  I am sure that more than a few people followed her because of her picture.

She read somewhere that people are naturally curious and like order.  She knew that her brother and his friends were always creating all sorts of silly lists:  best albums of all time, top teams of all time, and on and on and on.  She decided that she would use this new thing called Twitter and tease people with a list she had just written.

She tweeted the ‘Top 10 Reasons: Plaid Is the New Black’, and people ate it up like she was passing around a tray of assorted snack items.  She started to do one list per week, then two, and finally she wasn’t writing meaningful stuff any longer, she was just listing anything that came to mind.

The money which her site was generating was staggering.  She was on the cutting edge of list technology.  She became so wealthy that when she finally needed a break, she decided to seek out a little bit of adventure.  She was killed while on Safari by a herd of roaming wildebeests.

*******

The point of this story is twofold.  First of all, this story is not real, as is the case with most of the stories of success you will read. Secondly, didn’t you think this was much more interesting than reading a list of ‘Top 14 Root Vegetables?”  Put some effort into your blog.  Try to educate in a way that is not totally self serving.  Tell a tale of someone else maybe you admire.  Don’t just bang out a 3-minute list.

If you are reading this paragraph, it is likely that you prefer something a bit more substantial than a quick list of drivel.  So let me ask the resilient few who have made it this far, are you more likely to return to a blog that you discover because it has a list of ‘Top 10 Scantily Clad Super Models’,  or to a blog that you are able to count on to provide interesting content?

If you are like me, you would chose the models, so perhaps that was a bad example.  But I think this exercise still was better than that root vegetable list.

Feel free to comment, or if you prefer, you may list either the top 3 things you found utterly disagreeable about this blog post or 5 reasons middle aged balding men who wear silly hats are likely to die alone with a bevy of cats.

28 comments
Jim Gleeson
Jim Gleeson

I share your distaste for lists. It reminds me of a Michael Caine quote from one of the Austin Powers movies "I hate two things, people who divide other people into two categories, and the Dutch."

When I scroll through my twitter feed and get a link that promises lists or tips, I am always "Always" disappointed when I click on them as it becomes obvious these lists were dreamed while eating a stale sandwich in a cubicle, or by committee at a long lunch at a local mid-level franchise restaurant like Applebees. A committee that simply dreams up the list during the appetizer portion, and as they grow weary and tired, they quickly run out of energy so they drop in "goto, or trash" into the hind end of their list.

The fun of the internet is hearing different personalities create material that is interesting and thought provoking. You have gone where many fear to treat, their own imaginations.

Now I need to go back and deliberate over "The 5.2 Things I hate About Lists."

Jim Gleeson
Jim Gleeson

I share your distaste for lists. It reminds me of a Michael Caine quote from one of the Austin Powers movies "I hate two things, people who divide other people into two categories, and the Dutch."

When I scroll through my twitter feed and get a link that promises lists or tips, I am always "Always" disappointed when I click on them as it becomes obvious these lists were dreamed while eating a stale sandwich in a cubicle, or by committee at a long lunch at a local mid-level franchise restaurant like Applebees. A committee that simply dreams up the list during the appetizer portion, and as they grow weary and tired, they quickly run out of energy so they drop in "goto, or trash" into the hind end of their list.

The fun of the internet is hearing different personalities create material that is interesting and thought provoking. You have gone where many fear to treat, their own imaginations.

Now I need to go back and deliberate over "The 5.2 Things I hate About Lists."

Sarah
Sarah

After seeing your comment on my blog page, I naturally had to check out yours. I admit I only read this post, but I will be back. I must say that I hate top 10 lists because I always think, "Top 10? According to who?". I enjoy your writing style. It's smart and makes me chuckle.

Sarah
Sarah

After seeing your comment on my blog page, I naturally had to check out yours. I admit I only read this post, but I will be back. I must say that I hate top 10 lists because I always think, "Top 10? According to who?". I enjoy your writing style. It's smart and makes me chuckle.

RTB
RTB

It'll do.

Susie @newdaynewlesson
Susie @newdaynewlesson

Not sure how I came to you on twitter, but had we not started chatting on twitter I may not have come over to read your blog, so I am glad I did.

You write well and are very interesting and yes followers does not mean you are connecting.

Kacy
Kacy

I presume that the supermodel list had pictures to go along with it? Otherwise, I can't see choosing it over the interesting content.

Two things are necessary for me to follow a blog. First, I like not knowing what I will find when I get their each time I visit. When you can find anything from a ode to mortise and tenon to a pulp fiction detective to a drive through a rural town, that's unpredictability at its finest. Of course, I also like to peek in on unpredictable lives (as opposed to my own), which is why I adore penelopetrunk. Second, I like good writing. It seems to me that there are too many bad writers out in blog-land that should really be journaling for private consumption, until they get the hang of telling a good story. Its not easy to tell a good story in a few hundred words.

Kacy
Kacy

I presume that the supermodel list had pictures to go along with it? Otherwise, I can't see choosing it over the interesting content.

Two things are necessary for me to follow a blog. First, I like not knowing what I will find when I get their each time I visit. When you can find anything from a ode to mortise and tenon to a pulp fiction detective to a drive through a rural town, that's unpredictability at its finest. Of course, I also like to peek in on unpredictable lives (as opposed to my own), which is why I adore penelopetrunk. Second, I like good writing. It seems to me that there are too many bad writers out in blog-land that should really be journaling for private consumption, until they get the hang of telling a good story. Its not easy to tell a good story in a few hundred words.

Rigidly flexible
Rigidly flexible

As a busy orthopaedic surgeon and father of 2 younguns I don't have much time to join the blogosphere. This the first and only blog I have ever read and I find myself looking foward to it everyday. I read because you write well and your usual subject, woodworking, interests me. I would like to write my own blog if I had more time but I ain't to good with words and all. But if I did blog, I would do it for purely for my own fullfillment. I can't imagine how what goes on inside my head could generate a "following."

Spencer Drager
Spencer Drager

You make a good point--but not so much about the invalidity of lists as the overuse of them. The reason people like lists isn't so much because of the structure as it is because people are impatient and do not have time to read every article they come across. They do however have time to skim the leading paragraph and read the ten main ideas, and maybe even enough interest to read one or two of the details of the most interesting points.

Furthermore, the existence of the points means that what the article is about DOES have a point, and they can see it a moment's glance.

Any sufficiently skilled writer (and there are millions of them) can pump out a couple pages about almost any topic without making any real points.

Look, I'm doing it now.

Nick @ Cupboards
Nick @ Cupboards

My list will be short.

Top Reason You Posted a Disclaimer that Above Story is Fiction.

*People are sheep. Sadly, if it's on the internet, "it must be true". It's actually unfortunate- I could do a list on how the internet and technology are dumbing down a once thriving intellectual society... then I read your stuff Brian, and other friends of ours, and realize that I'm glad we have each other.

At least somebody gets us.

;-)

Nick @ Cupboards
Nick @ Cupboards

My list will be short.

Top Reason You Posted a Disclaimer that Above Story is Fiction.

*People are sheep. Sadly, if it's on the internet, "it must be true". It's actually unfortunate- I could do a list on how the internet and technology are dumbing down a once thriving intellectual society... then I read your stuff Brian, and other friends of ours, and realize that I'm glad we have each other.

At least somebody gets us.

;-)

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