First Look: Twitter Lists

Twitter’s “Lists” feature has been floating around for a few weeks now, but it looks like Twitter has finally rolled it out on a wider basis. So I can talk about it on a wider basis.

So what are Twitter Lists? You can learn a lot just by creating one. Go to your Twitter account and look for an item on your nav bar that reads “New Lists”. When you click on that you’ll get a popup window that asks you to decide what to name your new list and whether you want it to be public or private, as you can see in the screenshot.

Making a List in Twitter

(Yup, I’m ResearchBuzz on Twitter. I use my Twitter account to post all those short research stories that I occasionally post on the Web site as “LittleBuzz” items. Using Twitter is a lot easier. :->) As you can see from the screenshot I created a list called “Discworld,” with an idea of finding as many of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld characters (or at least their names) as I can. (Alas, it didn’t work too well.) Once you’ve created your list you have the option to populate it. If you’ve ever used Twitter to search for people before, you’ll find the screen for adding people familiar — it looks much like the people search screen. When you find someone you want to add to your list, just use the lists button to add them:

Nanny Ogg gets added to a list

You can also use the lists button with the people you normally follow or who you just come across as you’re surfing Twitter. If you wanted to add John Cleese to a Monty Python list, for example, you can see in the screenshot what it would look like.

I think this is the most screenshots I’ve used in a writeup in a long time. So anyway, you see how easy it is to make lists and add people to them. Strangely many of the lists I’ve wanted to add (people at WRAL, librarians, tech folks) have already been created. So before you start making your own lists, poke around to see if there are any relevant to what you’re interested in.

Adding a Twitterer to a List from their Information Page

So how do you do that? So glad you asked, grasshopper. Or maybe I’m not, because at the moment there ISN’T a good way to find lists. You can stumble across them, of course. (Notice I said “poke around” up there and not “use Twitter’s search.”) Some sites/blogs are listing lists they find good, and there are some tools being created that will allow you to find lists, but at the moment your best bet is to see what lists other people have put YOU on. Also look at the people you follow and see a) what lists they’ve made and b) what lists they’ve been put on.

Failing that, use the Twitter people search box for a purpose for which it was not intended. Say I’m looking for lists dedicated to firefighters. I go to Twitter’s people search page and do a search for firefighters. I get several search results. Discarding those that are clearly not about fire fighting per se, I look for a recently updated account. I choose Alameda Firefighters and check out its page to see what lists that account is on. At the moment that account is on five lists, two of which look promising: @SARQandA/fire and @afdcaptain58/fire. If I didn’t find any lists I wanted, I would go back to the search and start over again.

There are lots of things about the list idea I don’t like. They’re hard to find once created, they don’t appear to have associated RSS feeds (??!), I can’t find a mechanism to suggest new items for a list, and I also can’t find a mechanism to create a new list based on an old one, if I want to add more items or adapt a list for my own use. On the other hand, these lists will be useful. I review a lot of Web tools but I don’t normally follow their Twitter accounts because my Twitter feed is already nuts. But now I have created a WebTools list, and will be using that to follow the Twitter accounts of Web-based tools I find useful. (Note: for the purpose of this list I’m defining Web tools as things like Aviary and LovelyCharts, and not search engines.)

Categories: News

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