The Sunday Times Social List

On Friday evening, I was invited to the launch of a new Sunday Times-related website, The Social List (as this rather cryptic post hinted). The organisers asked us to refrain from blogging about it until midnight tonight, but despite that, Twitter is now absolutely full of news about it. (point of embargoes on live websites in a social media age: discuss) The cat is well and truly out of the bag.

And what is the Social List? Well, it’s a site that ranks activity around your postings on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare, and calculates your influence as a result – and thus ranks you. I fed it all four of my accounts on Friday evening, and this was the result:

Adam Tinworth's rank on The Social List

I think we can safely say that’s the highest I’ll ever rank. 🙂

The graph on the right shows levels of activity on each of the services, proving that I’m very much a Twitter man, and the developers, VCCP, were keen to emphasise that the algorithm focuses on other people’s activity around your postings, rather than raw follower numbers. The graph will be updated weekly, with the slider below kicking in after about four weeks.

Inevitably, as the audience pointed out, the top echelons of the list will come to be dominated by celebrities (which means I was only keeping the number four spot warm for Stephen Fry). And that’s where the second listing comes in – your comparative rank to those you know. This is how mine looks this morning (I’ve sunk to number 32, FWIW)

The Sunday Times Social List lists

The obvious question is how does this service compare to, say, Klout or PeerIndex? They were soundly dismissed as “techie” services, of no interest to the general consumer. This is meant to be a social ranking service for the average consumer. And to try and drive traffic virally, you’re encouraged to share your current rank with networks:

Sociallistonfacebook

Beyond that, Gordon Thomson, online editor of the Sunday Times, was keen to point out that The Social List follows a long line of Sunday Times lists, most notably The Rich List – which cynics might note is very heavily promoted in the footer of the new site.

“The Rich List can only be accessed by the monied few,” said Thomson. “This can be enjoyed by everyone.”

The Social List launch event

He also suggested that the Social List is reflective of how important the Sunday Times feel social media is – an interesting statement coming from a man whose website is locked behind a paywall…

The creative director of the site, Andre Assalino, quipped that they’d put all their time and effort into developing an “astonishing three page website”.

“The potential to show more over time is quite great,” he added. And I suspect the longevity of the site will be measured in how well they add additional functionality onto this initial offering to keep people coming back.

There’s going to be some promotion from the paper product – it’ll be officially launched next week, and the paper will continue publishing the top placed people for the foreseeable future. But, in the main, they’re relying on viral spreading and people’s competitive spirit – and ego – to drive use.

Privacy came up as an issue, but the only specific response the team gave was that you can make yourself anonymous on the service, if you wish (and you can see some Anonymous folks in the lists above), and control which of your services are publically linked:

My Social List profile

In the above shot, only my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts are active links – as they’re the ones I consider “public”.

Verdict

This feels like principally a promotional effort for the Rich List, but on the other hand it seems like an awful lot of time and effort has gone into this, just for that. I’m sure it’ll be a roaring success for the first month or so, but given the lack of clear benefit to the Sunday Times from it (bar the reputation boost), a lot will depend on how it develops and how relevant it is in six months’ time.

Reservations?

  • Will it last? The competitive league element of it might see people coming back – but I can easily see people using it for a few weeks, and then it slowly dropping off their radar.
  • How spammy is it going to be? The OAuth links to other sites grab a pretty large number of permissions, and at the launch event they specifically told us that it would publish your position to your most-used network once a week. I can’t find a setting anywhere that turns that off. And that’s a little concerning.