Twitter Lists Revisited… Good Idea or waste of time? Research opportunities?

Yesterday my brother posted a tweet, acknowledging that he is on 35 lists on Twitter.1  This got me thinking about how these lists are created, and actually made public…. and thinking once again about the notions of “Crowdsourcing” and the “The Wisdom of Crowds.”

As I understand it, Twitter added “lists” because people wanted a simple way of grouping the people they follow according to some sort of structure that made sense to them.  Tweetdeck had added that capability through “groups” and I had even started using that feature.  I had built groups based on my major categories of interest:  Family. Close (real) friends.  Local people. Educators.  Twitter took that idea, allowed us to create lists through them, and then also offered the option to make the lists “public” and subscribe-able.  People can see your public lists, and if they like them–follow them!

Once Twitter released that option I had actually abandoned the notion of groups and lists.  I wasn’t so sure about what I wanted to use them for anyway.  I have since gone back, adding a private list of just family and friends.

So here is what I am wondering as I peruse the 35 lists that have listed my brother, and the lists that have added me:

Are they all really that different?  And if not, are they a “waste” of time?

In my lists, I see I am listed on a number of Supply Chain Management lists.  And educator lists.  My brother’s lists are understandably predominantly discipline related, and education related.  There are a few others, but those dominate–and that’s the point.  There appears, on a curory look, to be significant overlap on these lists.

The concept of “Wisdom of the Crowds” and “Crowd-sourcing” is that crowds, when gathered together, make better decisions, and are more creative.  Potentially (and grossly oversimplified).   By building lists of people that share common interests we can see the views of others who are thinking about the same things, and get a wide range of perspectives. 2

So here are the “research questions” (or “investigative questions”) that I have:

1.  How many groups have identical or very similar themes? (Like “supply Chain Managers”)

2.  On similar lists, what is the membership overlap?

3.  How much time is spent developing these similar, and perhaps redundant, lists?

4.  Is there a better way to “share” lists, so people aren’t always reinventing the lists (and taking time to do that?)

5.  Is there some psychological need that gets filled by creating one’s own lists, rather than following someone else’s list?  Control? Ownership?

  1.  For those that can’t find it, he wrote “Wow! I am honored. I am on 35 Twitter lists. I know that isn’t much to many of you, but I am surprised at how many!
  2.  This does violate one of the concepts that makes crowds “wise” though–the notion that they don’t all share the same backgrounds and disciplines.