3rd November 2009
Twitter's 'lists' feature demonstrates again how the twitter development team totally understands the way that the web works. They have managed to create a feature that not only improves a user's individual twitter experience but also adds value to a user's network.
Unsurprisingly, the new functionality allows a user to add people to a number of created lists. These lists then provide the user with a manageable method of getting the low-down on a subset of people that they follow. It's a simple system but importantly the created lists are by default, publicly viewable meaning that anyone can view the tweets and tweeters within the list.
Personally, creating a 'web developer' list is beneficial to me, as I get a snap-shot of tweets on a specific topic, but because the list is public it also means I am declaring: "Hey everybody, these are the web developers that I respect most". In effect, creating a personal recommendation to also follow these twitterers and so becomes a great way to recommend your favourite twitter users (much better than follow-friday anyway).
In addition, it is possible to add people to a list even if you don't follow them. This enables users to get more from twitter without overcrowding the main twitter feed, which therefore keeps the signal to noise ratio low. This is ideal for people who are unwilling to subscribe to more users.
Furthermore twitter allows the 'following' of other people's lists. So someone else will keep the list up-to-date and you can just follow the stream of messages at your leisure. Providing an ultra-low-maintenance way to keep on top of the latest developments in the chosen field and thus lowering the barrier to entry for potentially new twitter users. This is a big win for low usage tweeters and people with little time to manage large lists.
Interestingly, by creating lists we are also helping out the twitter team, possibly in terms of monetisation. By categorising users e.g. lists of 'funny', 'programmer' or 'political' people, twitter then has the data to target any readers of such lists, which was not possible before. How long before specific lists can be sponsored?
Finally, I feel that the most powerful part of this feature is its underlying simplicity. I think people will get up to speed pretty quickly and soon we'll all wonder how we ever managed without lists.