Personal Tech

Lists Finally (At Last!) Make Twitter Worthwhile

Microblogging site Twitter is polarizing: You either need it like air or you've grown so tired of hearing about it that you want to cry. Let me show you why it's useful.

You see, one neat new feature has turned Twitter on its ear, at least for me, taking away all the confusion, surpressing the hype and noise, and actually layering in some real usefulness.

Q: Is Twitter really worth my time? How is it different from the countless other social media sites I belong to? How do you make it useful, for god's sake?

A: If you’re one of the thousands of people who’ve written me saying “Clayton I don’t get Twitter,” believe me, I understand your apprehension. You’re on Facebook, you’re on MySpace, and you’re on LinkedIn. Why would you want to another social media platform — one where 100 people are describing what they had for lunch, another 100 want you to read some new article, and still another 100 are posting videos of cats playing piano?

Twitter is different. And Twitter can actually be useful, I promise, though it was a frustrating mess of noise for me as well. Mixed into the stream of worthless Tweets were the quality nuggets of information tweeted out by a few people.

I’ve got two words for you: Twitter Lists.

Introduced to the masses a few days ago, Lists are the first big update to the micro-blogging site in a long time. They give members the power to group those they follow into simple lists based on certain qualifications.

You want to create a list for ‘family?’ Done. You want a list for ‘mommy bloggers?’ Done. You want a list for ‘business leaders.’ Done. Imagine lumping together all of the people who describe their lunch into one list — 'useless content'!

Before Lists, logging into Twitter around 10 a.m. meant I missed a quality tweet at 8 a.m. from a journalist I regularly read and respect. Now I can log in whenever I want, click on my "journalists" list and voila! Quality tidbits of useful data lying before me in a tidy list of informative goodness.

Sorry, Ashton Kutcher, the number of followers you have doesn’t amount to a hill of beans under this new model. With Twitter Lists the true measure of your value and popularity rests on how many lists you're on. As of this writing I’m on 243 different lists, everything from 'FOX’ to 'Social Media.'

In addition, the way you’re grouped can give you insight into your value as a Twitter user. I lookied to see if I was on a list called 'hunks.' Sadly, no dice.

Social scientists recently discovered that toddlers begin to create categories for objects and experiences when they're as young as two months old. Human beings love putting things into manageable lists. It’s a wonder it took Twitter years to figure that out.

Lists are public by default, though you can opt to keep them private, and they're linked to your profile, meaning other people can parse through them (if you let them).

If you’ve been holding out on Twitter because it seemed like a big noisy room, now is the time to give it another shot. With Twitter Lists you can pull people out into the hall and have a quiet conversation. Still worried? Follow me, I'll help you get started. Just add me to your list of "quality journalists."