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Businesses The Internet

'Best of' Lists Are the Worst (theoutline.com) 84

Ann-Derrick Gaillot, a writer at The Outline, shares thoughts on listicles about best products in a genre. From the article: National websites with armies of writers are churning out best lists left and right, motivated by affiliate advertising more than the desire to share an opinion. Thanks to them all, I've gotten to try all the bests: just-ok restaurants, ineffective beauty products, slippers I guard with my life. [...] Articles claiming that something is the "best" should be rare, eyed with suspicion by the ever suspicious consumer. But they're not. I would have probably been alarmed to not find at least one article telling me where to find the best desk (wherever it still is). But with the race to find the best at the heart of so much media we consume today, such articles can only be trusted if they come from an established outlet with legitimacy, the same institutions that are slow and struggle to add marginalized people to their ranks.

'Best of' Lists Are the Worst

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  • o rly ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by penandpaper ( 2463226 ) on Thursday August 10, 2017 @02:02PM (#54984535) Journal

    Here is our best list of reasons why best of lists are the worst!

    • Try owning linux some time and see if you can find the best of anything.

      I wanted a program to do backups, and went to google [google.com] to see if there was one or two favorites to choose from.

      The first page of results lists "14 outstanding backup utilities for linux", "10 best linux backup solutions", "10 outstanding backup utilities", "34 best free linux backup" (wtf?), and "5 awesome open source backup software for linux".

      None of these sites has the programs sorted in the same order, so... which one is the best? Whi

      • Whether what your looking for is Linux-related or not, if you're paying any attention to "best of" rankings, you're doing it wrong.

        At best, as you point out, these lists should be taken as "here's a few related things that exist."

      • by unrtst ( 777550 )

        Next I'm going to implement a web page on a Raspberry pi - I'll start with a google search for "top open source web server". and see what's popular...

        If you tried this, then the results are perfectly acceptable.
        Google suggests: Apache HTTPD, Lighttpd, Apache Tomcat, Cherokee, Caddy, ...
        First link (https://opensource.com/business/16/8/top-5-open-source-web-servers) suggests: Apache HTTPD, NGINX, Apache Tomcat, Node.js, Lighttpd.

        You'll still have to see which is best for your situation (which you could probably just include in your search), but those are perfectly good ones to try first.

        The problem here, IMO, isn't the list, it's the requirements, speciali

      • The first page of results lists "14 outstanding backup utilities for linux", "10 best linux backup solutions", "10 outstanding backup utilities", "34 best free linux backup" (wtf?), and "5 awesome open source backup software for linux".

        they are all one and the same blog.

    • by thsths ( 31372 )

      Yes, and this is why Slashdot is even worse than best of lists.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Many of these lists are simply paid advertising in disguise. Fake news, so to speak.
    • Many of these lists are simply paid advertising in disguise.

      Sure, but these lists can still be useful. Obviously #1 paid to be there. But #2 and #3 may not have, and may be pretty good if they were placed high to give the list legitimacy. And #9 and #10 are the products that #1 sees as their biggest threats so you should look into those as well.

      Even if you mistrust the list entirely, you still have a list of ten products that you can use for further research.

  • by thebullshitpatrol ( 4673009 ) on Thursday August 10, 2017 @02:07PM (#54984573)

    The problem is that doing an ACTUAL best-of list is time consuming, difficult, and above all expensive.

    Wirecutter is an incredible site, because they are one of the few that actually does proper analysis of the things they are comparing. Think about how expensive and time consuming it is for a site to buy a bunch of the same type of product and actually draw meaningful conclusions from using a dozen of them side by side.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The Wirecutter is good at sounding like it properly evaluated the products, but I don't think it really does. Any the advice is all too often "buy the expensive one" when it's not really the best.

      • Not the experience I've had TBH. They describe their test methodology as usually involving several people that test and rate sometimes dozens of different products for a variety of metrics, and usually the main author has some sort of background that qualifies them as knowing what they're talking about.

        Most recently, I heeded their recommendation that the AKG Y20U is one of the most well-rounded pair of earbuds under $50. Did not disappoint, and that's coming from someone whose main headphones are all mid

    • The second half of the problem is that the "journalists" doing these lists aren't really journalists and not trained to actually find stuff out. This is not the online presence of Consumer Reports.

    • Time consuming yes, but many of the products are loaned or provided for free.
      • For individual reviews, yes.

        The guys that are comparing products are *most likely* spending out of pocket for a good percentage of the items.

    • The problem is that doing an ACTUAL best-of list is time consuming, difficult, and above all expensive.

      Not to mention pointless and click baity

  • by Black.Shuck ( 704538 ) on Thursday August 10, 2017 @02:08PM (#54984583)

    Things I hate:

    1. Graffiti
    2. Irony
    3. Lists

  • Okay, so a lot of best "X" lists are crap. But surely some are good. Does anybody have a list of the best best lists?

  • Lists in general (Score:4, Insightful)

    by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Thursday August 10, 2017 @02:11PM (#54984615) Journal

    Whenever I'm on YouTube it's only a matter of time before my related videos get me to some kind of list. It always sucks. It's the signal to turn back or quit and do something else; but I can see how people get sucked in. The siren song of best this/that at the end... I usually catch myself; but I'm older and have had years of experience waiting for the red caboose at the end of literal trains (when they actually still had them) and the "no. 1 song" at the end of those holiday count-downs on the radio (always Stairway to Heaven. Always disappointing). These lists... theyr'e just the 21st century train of boredom; but we don't have to stand here at the crossing gates looking like idiots. There are so many other choices now.

    • Did you just downplay Stairway to Heaven?
      Dude.

      • It's a great song and I can understand why it tops so many lists, but if I'm going to be honest with you, I'd probably say I enjoy Kashmir, Dazed and Confused*, or a few of their other songs more than Stairway to Heaven.

        *Yes I'm aware this could technically be construed as someone else's song, but I still like their version of it.
      • That's a good example of the futility of "best of" lists. What is "best" is, always and necessarily, subjective.

  • But with the race to find the best at the heart of so much media we consume today, such articles can only be trusted if they come from an established outlet with legitimacy, the same institutions that are slow and struggle to add marginalized people to their ranks.

    Translation:
    You can only trust a "best of" list if it comes from a publisher that you can trust and that is slow and struggles to hire marginalized people?

    What the fuck? What is this shit? This is pure, meaningless nonsense!

  • motivated by affiliate advertising more than the desire to share an opinion.

    I'd like to think, the /. editors placing this truism on the front page were also motivated by something tangibly rewarding. It is too depressing to think, they sincerely believed it worth our attention...

  • Depending on what you're talking about, people will likely use very different definitions of "best." Forget about "best." What is the metric that you use to define one item as being "better" than another?

    Consider comparing apples to oranges. Which is best? Do you mean which tastes better (according to who), which has more vitamins (which vitamins), which is the better value for the cost, which lasts longer, which is easier to grow. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.

    Without a well defined

  • The summary explains exactly the value that scientific publishers bring to their field. There have been many discussions on Slashdot about scientific publishers, with most views on the negative side. Given the obscene profits and lack of remuneration to reviewers, I am agreed that change is necessary in terms of cost structure. But, many times Open Access advocates miss the value that an established publisher brings to the process of getting a scientific paper published: quality filtering. If you see a

  • by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Thursday August 10, 2017 @02:24PM (#54984705)

    Was there a point hidden somewhere in that rant that I missed?

  • When I'm looking for advice on some product or whatever, I look at a few lists. It's fairly common to find several list sites with the same (identical verbatim) reviews and order for the products on any number of lists, and I discount these both because they are not unique and because the reviews are not unique, and often actually boilerplate.

    It's hard to judge reputation, but some sites have earned my interest. Some are pure advertising, and probably paid.

  • This is news? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TomR teh Pirate ( 1554037 ) on Thursday August 10, 2017 @02:39PM (#54984843)
    I would have thought everybody knew those lists were nothing more than awful clickbait. How did such idiocy end up on /. ?
  • Most of the lists or videos that name X best things in the world, they do that as click bait. I prefer review round-ups.
  • ...from the internet, and acts on it?
    These lists are *opinions* at best. Disappointment should be at yourself for even taking these seriously.

    What a waste of an article.

  • It's unavoidable because what is "best" depends on what your needs are, and that varies from person to person.

    • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

      From Doom9 [doom9.org] forum rules

      Do not ask "what's best" because this question cannot be answered objectively. Each and everyone has their own view about what's best in a certain area. The best is what works best for you!

  • This ain't it.

  • by ripvlan ( 2609033 ) on Thursday August 10, 2017 @04:31PM (#54986071)

    Seriously -- this needed a study? The whole purpose of these lists is to be Click Bait and drive ad revenue to the web site.

    oh wait - the author created an article referencing something stupid to drive clicks to her web site. How very meta !!!

  • This is why you should never visit Seattle, or go to any of the cool restaurants I go to.

    They're on Best Of lists.

    Just stay away so I can keep getting great tables.

    Thanks!

  • See the worst here: http://www.al.com/birmingham/

    Crap like:
    -20 zip codes with the most expensive houses
    -Top 25 defensive backs in the past 25 years
    -Private school tuition: A sampling of costs at 20 more Alabama schools

    Before the weekend they will usually have some crap like "Ten things to do in Birmingham this weekend", and they're constantly having lists of the top BBQ joints, 10 best players ever at ______ school, top 15 most expensive restaurants in ______ county, etc, etc, etc, ad nauseam.

    These lists ar

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