I showed a friend this site recently and she loved it and loved the idea of it being a throwback to the early internet. She mentioned that one of the things a website like this needs is top 10 lists and I've seen others in the small web community talk about that too. So I think to myself "okay, cool let's bang out an interesting top 10 list." and after ruminating on it for a bit I hit on something: I hate top 10 lists. Well sort of. Hate is a strong word, maybe describing it as being aggressively indifferent works better.

We Can Do Better

Top 10 lists create this sort of forced arbitrary curation which can be an interesting constraint but only when it's not already it's own weird pseudo culture of discourse.

Top 10 roguelikes? Boring. "My favorite roguelikes that started out as 7DRL entries"? More interesting. Hell you can still include 10 of them but don't tell me it's the top 10.

Top Is Subjective

Obviously top is subjective, it's so obvious it doesn't have to be said. But wait it kind of does have to be said. Top 10 lists are rarely a ranked list and not even necessarily representative of what the author thinks is the best of the subject.

Like, yes, ideally you want the author to be telling you the top 10 things from whatever they're talking about but frequently it's more like the top 10 things the author wants to talk about at that given moment rather than the best of the subject. Which is fine but don't tell me it's a top 10, lean into that subjectivity! Give me your "Horror movies for when you're feeling emotionally vulnerable and you don't like it so you're watching horrorstuff to scare those feelings back into their hole." list! That's something I wanna read! I want to experience those opinions without them being filtered through decades of top 10 listicle culture.

Attention Spans Are Too Short Already

Look, I have ADHD. I'm unmedicated by choice. I have enough difficulties with my attention span without listicle culture encouraging bad behavior on my part. Broadly speaking of online culture I think that's true as well, we've been gorging on troughs of short form "Content" (I hate that word. Hate it.) for so long that engaging with longer form "Content" (gagging noises) can feel onerous. Bring back the essay! Bring back the webshrine! Bring back the long form analysis vi- wait no that ones doing okay. I see you 20 hour Skyrim retrospective.

Flow It Ruins The, Ideas Stilted They Are, Says Haiku Yoda

When you need to chop, slice, and dice your flow to fit into 10 evenlyish long sections it's going to lead you to making some of them too long and some of them too short. Let's say you're recommending movies:

Psycho Goreman is a what if scenario involving a power ranger villain being controlled by a sociopathic 8 year old.

Epic Movie is a deeply unfunny spoof that makes fun of popular mid-2000s fantasy movies, in the vein of Kentucky fried movie but bad.

One of those is underselling what it's about, the other is if anything too many words expended on the subject. I'll leave you to decide which one is which. But that's the curse of the top 10 format, everything should be roughly the same length and it hamstrings your ability to make your point while also not being an interesting constraint because it is just so common.

Discoverability Is A Nightmare

Many, not all, top 10s are about discovering new things, showing off indie projects and just shining a light on overlooked stuff or underappreciated things.

If that is your goal then don't make it worse by making your top 10 Mongolian throat singing albums post harder to find because it's a top 10 list and you're not great at SEO. Think that example is ridiculous? Go ahead and google "top 10 mongolian throat singing albums". It pulls up multiple lists that you probably won't be able to compete with in google's eyes, but I can almost guarantee anything the hypothetical 'you' would write about that would be better, you just can't fight the SEO (okay, you can but just like... ew SEO.). Speaking of...

Stop Feeding The SEO Goblins

Top 10 lists were at one time and probably still are good for SEO due to engagement, click through rates, the ease of production, the alignment of certain constellations and the fact that mercury is always in retrograde even if it isn't. Maybe. I don't know. The point is fuck SEO.


They're too easy to consume which encourages us to be lazy readers, but they're also too easy to write which encourages us to be lazy writers and like, dude look at this nonsense. I do NOT need more encouragement in that department. You need to push your limits to get better at skills and writing top 10 lists doesn't really push your skills as a writer. It can push your creativity if you try to really bend the format but because the format is "10 subjectively best things with a bunch of asterisks after best" it's not likely you're going to be pushing those limits often.


I actually have more to say about this and may follow it up, especially with how it relates to discoverability but I'm stopping this before this becomes a meta top 10 list about how top 10 lists suck. Wait... Is it not being a top 10 list somehow more meta? Goddamnit. Whatever, the point is don't make top 10 lists. Be more authentically you and by doing so be more interesting.

Further Reading