What is with the proliferation of top 10 lists on the Internet? There are an enormous number of them appearing, almost on a daily basis. To be honest, it isn’t the number of top ten lists that bothers me, its the need for every list to be “10 things”, even when there really are less (or perhaps sometimes more). You rarely see “top 8 worst somethings” or “top 11 best whatevers”. In the spirit of trying to fix this problem, I have a Top 1 List of Problems with Top 10 Lists:
- Too many of these lists have filler items to make it come out to exactly 10 items
The eWeek website has been absolutely terrible in this regard, publishing top-10 lists of one kind or another almost on a daily basis (and multiple lists on one day). Again, I wouldn’t mind, except so many of them insist on filling out lists with items that are only vaguely related to the topic at hand. For example Engadget published at list of Top 10 Things Apple Doesn’t Want You to Know About the iPad, but when I read the list, there were really only 3 things on it that Apple would prefer (and has tried obliquely) to hedge or cover up. Most of the rest were things that were obvious public information on the website, or obviously never going to be in the product in the first place. But, it had to be a top 10 list, so 10 things it had.
CNN had a similar list about the top 10 things that went wrong at the Vancouver Olympics. The introduction slide implies (to me, anyways), that the list will cover things that went wrong that VANOC could have avoided or prevented. The list starts out well, but the last 3 items were issues that had nothing to do with events that were under VANOC’s control: a snowboarder with racy pictures, a bobsled driver who got scared and quit, and a downhill skier that underperformed. So, really it was a top 7 list with 3 filler items to bring it to 10.
So that is my Top 1 List of Problems with Top 10 Lists. For whatever reason, editors and publishers are obsessed with lists that have exactly 10 items. I just wish that they would work up some courage and publish a list with only 3, 6 or 8 items, or go crazy and allow 11 or 12. Something that is a complete, concise and consistent list, where all of the items apply directly to the topic. No filler, no byproducts.