The Top 10 Worst Top 10 Lists

September 4, 2009

Well it’s finally happened. The Internet has been so oversaturated with Top 10s that we can now compile an entire list about how wrong Top 10 lists can truly be. While some rue these pieces of content, there's a reason there are so many on the internet. You read them. And here's yet another that points out the worst kinds.

10. The Painfully Timely Top 10

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Hundreds of writers online are guilty of this, even yours truly. But there are far too many "timely" lists out there that are little more than an attempt to get traffic by capitalizing on a recent death, celebrity meltdown, or dramatic news story. Bloggers are sometimes like lawyers chasing ambulances down just to get a few bucks out of a crippled client.

When Michael Jackson died, the internet instantly lost its collective s*** while TMZ flashed a gigantic grin from ear to ear. After just a few days I never wanted to see another picture, video, or news story about the man ever again. But in slutty internet fashion, hundreds of sites still tried to force MJ down our throats at every turn.

But the fault doesn't rest on websites alone. It seems bloggers have no choice but to write about these topics because people just can’t get enough of the drama.

9. The Trying Way Too Hard Top 10

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I can’t stand lists that have outrageous titles that try to entice readers to click on the link based on how shameless it is. There may be a part in all of us that wants to see the Top 10 Most Ridiculously Racist Moments in Human History, but we damn well know that it’s only because websites make the content so zany and ridiculous that we have no choice. You're probably Googling for that article right now.

I do understand that over-the-top examples like this are what make the Internet the Internet and free speech blah, blah, blah, but we really need to show a little self-control from time to time. Please try and hesitate the next time you see a title like “Shark With a Penis In Its Mouth.”

8. The Bandwagon Top 10

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When Top 10s starting hitting their peak a year or so back, major news outlets started to take notice. This created a wave of major publications trying to dip their foot into the Top 10 pool. From TIME to Spin, a lot of these websites realized immediately that what they could get away with in a magazine or newspaper most definitely did not fly on the interwebs. Why, you ask? Because with the internet, readers finally had the power to control the popularity of stories. Not only that, these internet folks are able to voice their opinions through clever comments, tearing writers down at the drop of a hat. It also made it quite clear that a lot of these commenters were actually more talented in the writing department than the so-called professionals getting paid to do it. The subset of this is the Plagiaristic Top 10. Where a major portal takes the ideas of a smaller site, twists them a little bit, and basically plagiarizes the article. We've seen slight tweaks on some of Spike.com's top 10s appear on almost all the big boys (surprisingly a week or two after they ran here). Tsk tsk.

7. The Factually Inaccurate Top 10

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How many more times will we be forced to read a Top 10 that is not only horrible, but factually inaccurate? Nothing whips users into a frenzy like an opinion article that's also filled with false information. If you are supposed to be a professional and write for a living, please do your damn research! If a 15-year-old kid from Iowa has to inform you that Nirvana’s first album was Bleach and not Nevermind, you really need to find another profession.

6. The Lazy Top 10

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Not too many are guilty of this, but there are definitely a handful of notorious sites that just throw out their choices for a list and don’t give any explanation of why they made the cut. What a crock of poop. Any idiot can make a list of crap they hate or love, but it takes some real talent to break things down in an orderly fashion and show why your views are fact and not just opinion. It's pompous to think that you can write one of these and just assume the reader is so enamored with you that they'd accept your opinion with no explanation.

5. The User Poll Top 10

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Depending on the site, you can run into some jaw-dropping choices for Top 10s that are based on readers voting for the picks that make it to the top spots. Do these really even count as legitimate Top 10s if the winners are based on cult-like users taking over voting polls? Hell no.

When TIME did voting for the most influential person of the year in 2007 it proved how flawed this system really can be. The winner was Korean R&B pop star Rain, who won by a large margin because his fans are f***ing obsessive sheep who have nothing better to do with their time. I blame TIME for giving these people the tools to accomplish this sacrilege.

4. The YouTube Top 10

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YouTube can be fun, but the copyright and technological difficulties of the site make it a little bit difficult for the Top 10 format. Half the time, the list will feature videos that have been removed for copyright infringement. Besides, I just want to hear the song the person is talking about instead of just looking at stupid pixilated photos of the band.

It's also really strange how much people enjoy feeding the fire when it comes to some of these YouTube lists. I find it hilarious when middle-aged music fans go off on teenagers who just put King of Leon’s “Sex On Fire” as the best rock song of the last decade. It’s like two people that speak two different languages trying to have a rational discussion about politics. It’s a dead end street, people.

3. The Pretentious Top 10

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When reading a Top 10 list, nothing is more frustrating than a writer who crams an entire piece with obscure references just to show off his arcane knowledge. Is it really a legitimate Top 10 list if the entire Internet has never heard of a single pick in the article? Nope. The writers of these pieces seem to be scared to make a firm choice and stand behind their picks. Instead, they would rather protect themselves by referencing things no one's heard of. A Top 10 list is supposed to reflect the overarching opinion of the audience, not the inner workings of an elitist who thinks they're too cool for school. 

2. The Turn-the-Page Top 10

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Some of the worst Top 10 lists are the ones that make you turn a page to see every single choice in the piece. Advertisers must've been drooling when they came up with this concept: “We’ll think of a really creative idea for a Top 10 list and make readers sit through an advertisement for every choice on the list. Brilliant!”

Arrgggh! How annoying. By the time you finally get to the number one spot, you don’t even care anymore. Or, in most cases, people never make it past the third page. We get it. Making a living on the Internet is a challenge. Especially right now. But destroying the user experience is not a smart strategy for long-term success. It’s like living out They Live on the internet. Obey!


1. The Amateur Top 10

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Welcome to the Internet where any slug with a keyboard can barf out 10 things in order at will. Any human being with a blog seems to think that they have what it takes to write Top 10 lists. These lists devalue the articles of those who are really putting some thought and research into their work. People, spend some time on your articles and they'll actually gather a readership, and keep people from shying away from similar pieces of content on other sites. 

What's your most-hated type of Top 10?

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