371 reasons why blog lists are dumb

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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:

  1. They’re typically not unique
  2. People tend to share them without thinking
  3. Claims within these lists tend be wild exaggerations, over-simplifications, or poorly distilled details
  4. They’re single-handedly causing the sharp decline in western intelligence
  5. They often begin with the claim that, “Hey, people love lists, donchaknow!?”
  6. Their often-random, arbitrary length — “8 reasons,” “13 ideas,” “216 dance moves” — makes them feel disorganized
  7. They make me grumpy
  8. They rarely feel like they’re unified under a cohesive theme, even though they claim to be
  9. Bad infographics are even worse than bad list-based blog posts
  10. They also tend to end either poorly or unceremoniously
That’s all.

Image by Paloetic on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

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5 Responses to “371 reasons why blog lists are dumb”

  1. Sarah
    August 22, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    Top three reasons I like this post:

    1) Spot on.
    2) You’re hilarious.
    3) People are lazy jerks.

    Now I’m off to see how many list blog posts I’ve done! EEEEEP!

    • Adam Rozenhart
      August 22, 2012 at 8:47 am #

      You’re actually guilty of this? YOU MONSTER!

  2. Jeremy Bibaud
    August 22, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    What if I’m Santa Claus and require a list of no less than 7 billion items? What do I do then?

    For me though, this was good timing. I had been mulling over an epic-sized list post just two days ago. I think I’ll just forget about it now.

    • Adam Rozenhart
      August 22, 2012 at 9:09 am #

      Hey Jeremy – I’d be pretty choked if Santa published his present list to a blog!

      Is there a way to break down your blog list idea so it’s a little more simple?

  3. Mack D. Male
    August 22, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    “They’re single-handedly causing the sharp decline in western intelligence”

    I think infographics would have something to say about that!