10. Ten? Why ten? Don’t some topics merit, say a top-20 list? Or on the other hand, sometimes there are only a few deserving items, so the list ends up getting padded with pointless choices.
9. Like this one.
8. Top-ten lists are often served up one or two items at a time, forcing you to click through page after page of items just to see what #1 is. If it’s a list, shouldn’t it be displayed in, you know, list format?
7. Top ten-lists often give no justification at all for the selections, or for the order of the selections.
6. Top-ten lists are often not even credited with an author, so you have no idea who to blame for the choices.
5. When there is an author, he or she often feels obligated to pick a few items you’ve never heard of, just to show off. If you’re listing the “Top 10 Movies of 2010,” don’t include three French documentaries you saw in SoHo and were never released outside of Manhattan.
4. Authors like to be controversial, so they also always list some “underappreciated” item like Gigli or Death Rampage 2007: The BloodPocalypse. Bad idea. They’re underappreciated for a reason.
3. Often top-ten lists are just linkbait. Why else would a site called “online psychology degrees” have a list of the top ten psychology blogs (or even better, the top 100)? Because then unsuspecting bloggers link back to the post (“Goody! I’m the #57 psychology blog according to this spammer I’ve never heard of”), which in turn gives the site a higher Google PageRank, so the next time some unsatisfied hairdresser contemplates a career change, she’ll be directed to the spam site instead of someplace where the proprietors are actually concerned about the quality of information they provide.
1. You see now, here I am at #1, and you’d think I’d have something really relevant to say. But whatever it is, you’ll probably disagree. Which is the entire point of top-ten lists. Everyone loves to disagree with them. They’re absolutely ruthless psychological tricks. And they work. Which means, despite the fact that I hate them, I’ll probably click on the next link to one I see.
(Shameless linkbait: Thanks, Brian Romans, for suggesting I write this post)