Listmania

Everybody in the tech world has a list to share these days -- so why are they all the same?


Damien Cave
April 25, 2000 8:00PM (UTC)

April is the time for showers and the media has obliged, dumping lists, lists and more lists onto its readers.

We first noticed when Vanity Fair's May issue served up snappy descriptions of the eEstablishment 50, "THE KINGS AND QUEENS OF eCOMMERCE, eMEDIA, eENTERTAINMENT, eEVERYTHING."

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Time Digital had already weighed in with its "50 Most Influential People in Technology" article -- crowning Jeff Bezos, who Time magazine later named 1999 Person of the Year, as the No. 1 pick. And not to be outlisted, especially on their own turf, tech magazines also picked, chose and scrutinized all the people they've already covered half to death. The Industry Standard's list arrived this week, with its Net 21 issue, offering lengthy looks at "a few" people who "have influence across the Internet Economy."

Taking a more feminine tack, as if to prove it's "not your father's tech magazine," Upside's list contains the "Top 25 Women of the Web," as chosen by the Bay Area group, Women on the Web. But alas, even that was copied -- by AltaVista, the search engine, which picked out its own best of the technology litter, presenting a "Power 20" list of women in technology.

Of course, no one could possibly get through all the numbers, pithy descriptions and silly, jingoistic quotes that are fattening up magazines already grossly overweight. In fact, you really don't need to. There's a good deal of overlap. Indeed, the only thing keeping Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs off every list is their gender, and had they mentioned a love for their wife, mother or "Fried Green Tomatoes," chances are, the judges at Upside and AltaVista might have made an exception.

What the world really needs are lists of people and places that might provide an antidote to the current rash of riches and/or gender-obsessed lists. So we propose a few lists you've never heard of. Instead of listing the amount of money CEOs have invested in their companies -- as Vanity Fair did -- why can't we see a list of the "Top 10 Digital Dividers," companies with the largest gap between CEO salary and average employee earnings. Or heading toward more positive pastures, why not create a list of "The Top 10 CEO's Who Give Time -- Not Money -- to Charity."

We'd also like to read a list of the "Top Five Life-Changing Getaways": vacation spots that will cure the worst cases of workaholism. A shot of reality wouldn't hurt either. Forget the next Jeff Bezos, how about the next Bill Gates, or rather the crew of Gates successors? Perhaps we could find them in a list of "The Top Five Employees Most Likely to Rule Microsoft's Fragments."

Come on -- it's the 21st century already. If ever there were a time to make a new kind of list, it's now.

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Damien Cave

Damien Cave is an associate editor at Rolling Stone and a contributing writer at Salon.

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