Daily Archives: October 30, 2009

Twitter Lists: Categorize your friends and contacts in public…!

When I logged into Twitter today to follow up on a bit of monitoring of mentions on the projects and services I work on I spotted something new and exciting:

Day one of Lists for me and I find myself already on 4!

Behold! I had finally been allowed access to the much discussed* Twitter Lists. I won’t lie, I felt a bit insulted not be included in the first wave of List-enabled accounts (thinking myself a pivotal member of the Twitterati) but it’s fun to have them and, since I am a bit slow to get them. there are some tools already available including Listorious (http://listorious.com/).

Anyway, the reason I’m mentioning them on this blog is because the Lists radically alter the way you behave with the people you engage with on Twitter. You can no categorise and thread and theme and label them. That may prove useful to dealing with a torrent of information BUT it may also mean less wacky cross-pollination. Importantly I think it will also mean people looking at what they’ve been listed as and either boasting or being horrified about how they have been perceived by those following them – it’s one thing to know someone follows you but very different to know why they are interested in you. I foresee a world of unintended fallout…

For my own part I did, of course, look at where I had been listed and it turned out that I had already been added to 4 lists:


Poking around those lists I was relieved to understand all of them – I am a uni colleage of Marie, I attended the webcast (and almost the live event) of #gov2010 a few weeks ago, I’m on the e-learning MSc with Richard, which is how I know him, and I attend events arranged by informaticsventures (although I haven’t previously followed Andrew Mitchell on Twitter). But what if I start appearing on someone’s outspokenbutok list or gayfriends list or irritatingw*nkers list or… some other list I don’t want to be on? Well at the moment I’ll be able to view that list, see how many people it follows and how many people follow the list back… and that’s it.

I’ve been followed by spammers in the past on Twitter and I always feel that, fine, that doesn’t reflect on me. But my followers will be able to add metadata about me – maybe in private, maybe in public – and, aside from wondering what the spammers will do with lists, it does make me intrigued/excited/mildly horrified to see where I’m being filed.

Stanley Kubricks Archive in shipping boxes

It also brings to mind the Stanley Kubrick Archive – Kubricks gigantic personal collections and the fact that he used to file every single letter he received which were organised in laborious detail. I remember watching a documentary by Jon Ronson on these and wondering if the people firing off a short irate note to a production company thought they would be categorised and filed away somewhere. The new Twitter lists also ask some weird questions of how your own voice can be interpreted and thus shared/referred/controlled by others in ways that you may or may agree with. I think this ties back significantly the notions of voyeurism and authenticity inherent in any sort of ethnographic work. Which does make me pause somewhat on how validly I will be presenting and describing the activity amongst my Torchwood Tweeters.

*Related links: