Twitter Lists Are Here to Stay – Deal With It

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Twitter Lists! Twitter Lists! Twitter Lists! It’s all we hear about on Twitter and blogs about Twitter and tweets about the blogs about Twitter Lists. It’s nuts. Yes, I’ve been playing around with the new shiny feature too. Why not? I’m nuts myself about Twitter but I have my own reasons for that. So what’s the big fuss? Robert Scoble loves ‘em. Chris Brogan…not so much. (I’m largely with Scoble, but I understand where Brogan’s coming from.)

There are different ways to view Twitter Lists:

  1. They’re ego-expanding
  2. They’re ego-shriviling
  3. They’re exclusionary
  4. They’re inclusionary
  5. They’re meta-data
  6. They’re organizational tools
  7. They’re networking media
  8. They’re wet dreams for spammers
  9. They’re relational databases.

It’s not always easy to see the ramifications of what appear to be minor technological changes. Twitter itself exemplifies this principle: just as the invention of zero or the wheel appeared inconsequential at first, entire new branches of mathematics and economies realed out of them. A wheel is just a round thing – but soon applications built around that shape led to radically fundamental shifts in technological upheaval. Now think of Twitter’s API. The automobile is the result of the wheel’s API. Human imagination is the ultimate API.

So too with Twitter Lists, the consequences at first are hard to envision. Lists expand the reach of Twitter’s extensive Web. Twitter is a Web on to itself: a metaphorical protocol of people-to-people connectivity, as fundamental as TCP/IP. Soon machines will be tweeting each other. Let your imagination streach on that one. No less with Lists: we will see them used in ways Twitter, Inc. never considred.

Now you can follow Lists – entire ecosystems – just as you could follow individual accounts. In addition to following the Individual, you can now follow the Collective. With Twitter’s API, we can now add context and curation to Lists – just as services like Twazzup contextualize individual tweets, new services could do the same for Lists. In addition to What does the public think of Twitter Lists, for example, we could ask What do tech bloggers or venture capitalists or journalists think of Twitter Lists.

Depending on the events of our childhood, Twitter Lists will appeal and wound our egos. That’s OK – if you’re hurt a little by being exluded from the cool kids table, you’re human. But look past what Twitter Lists can do for the social web and figure out your own way to keep the Web as human and useful as possible.

For as much as we welcome or curse Twitter Lists, they are here to stay – one way or another. They will help and enable people to connect in new ways. They’ll hurt people too. We can hope that Twitter, Inc. will appreciate the powers of this tiny addition to their service such as permissions, but I wouldn’t count on it. Whatever Twitter does or doesn’t  and however Lists evolve, we’re all just going to have to deal with whatever comes our way.

May the Goddesses help us.

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