Ask any human being on the planet: lists are fantastic. People love making them, they love crossing things off of them, and they love writing them. Lists are also a common link-bait tactic for bloggers. But they’ve gotten completely out of control, to the point where they’re utterly useless.
I can’t believe I have to actually write this, but lists are meant to summarize and/or highlight. However when your summarizing or highlighting is exhaustive, all you’ve done ir regurgitate existing information and added sequential numbers to the beginning of each sentence. That’s not really a list. I don’t even know what to call that.
Among my favourite dumb-lists these days:
- “73 things you might have missed this week, in exhaustive detail!”
- “61 easy steps to blogging success!”
- “107 reasons why you business should be on Twitter!”
- “108 reasons you’re doing Twitter wrong!”
- “371 reasons why list-based blog posts are dumb!”
I could go on and on (also note the exclamation marks: common and mind-numbing).
My point is that what was once a common and incredibly useful way to distill information has become an insufferably bad way to summarize. Because lists are supposed to be short, snappy, and to the point.
Now, if I want to catch up on the “73 things” I missed this week (“!”), I may as well just go back and read all those individual things. Because all you’ve done, blogger with a post quota, is copied and pasted a shit-ton of content from those posts — stripping them of context — and provided me with just little enough information that I need to go back to that thing you’re referring to and read it in its entirety.
So thanks for nothing.
Other things I hate about list-based blog posts:
- They’re typically not unique
- People tend to share them without thinking
- Claims within these lists tend be wild exaggerations, over-simplifications, or poorly distilled details
- They’re single-handedly causing the sharp decline in western intelligence
- They often begin with the claim that, “Hey, people love lists, donchaknow!?”
- Their often-random, arbitrary length — “8 reasons,” “13 ideas,” “216 dance moves” — makes them feel disorganized
- They make me grumpy
- They rarely feel like they’re unified under a cohesive theme, even though they claim to be
- Bad infographics are even worse than bad list-based blog posts
- They also tend to end either poorly or unceremoniously
Image by Paloetic on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.