I love making lists! I'll make a list for just about anything anything; it frees my head to focus on other things. So here's another list, a list of my lists:

  • My (rarely updated) blog - Blogger
  • Twitter
  • My photos - Flickr
  • Things I want - Amazon Wishlist
  • Books I want to read - Amazon Wishlist
  • Music I want to hear - Amazon Wishlist
  • Movies I want to watch - Netflix Queue
  • Recipes - Bookmarks stored/tagged in Delicious
  • Links I like - Delicious, Email
  • Music I like - Last.fm
  • Restaurants I want to try - Google Maps
  • Restaurants I like - Google Maps
  • Code I wrote - GitHub
  • Links I want to read - Instapaper
  • Videos I want to watch - Boxee Queue
  • Stuff I've seen that I like (pictures, quotes, etc) - Tumblr
  • Quotes from books - kindle.amazon.com
  • And of course, the TODO list, which I just keep in a Google Doc

Some of those lists I hardly ever use; others I visit on a daily basis. I don't really think about where all this data is stored, but looking over it all now, the lists can be categorized into three broad categories:

Things I create blog, twitter, photos, source code Blogger, Twitter, Google Buzz, Picasa/Flickr, GitHub
Things I want to consume Things I want, books/links to read, music to hear, movies/videos to watch, restaurants to try, recipes to try, todo list Amazon Wishlist, Instapaper, Netflix Queue, Boxee Queue, Delicious, Google Maps
Things I like Links, music, restaurants, quotes, random stuff Delicious, Last.fm, Google Maps, Tumblr, kindle.amazon.com

The first category, "Things I create", is small by nature because its a lot easier to consume than to create. And even when one does create, its limited by our own capabilities. I can write code or snap a cellphone pic, but I'll never write a book or record a hit song (sadly).

The second category, "Things I want to consume" is the biggest and longest of the lists. It's an ever expanding list, growing at a rate far faster than I can ever consume. The lists are fragmented across different sites: one for books, one for movies, one for restaurants, etc. Even when the list is similar, they are captured in different locations. For example, movies vs. online videos (Netflix vs Boxee), or books vs. online articles (Amazon vs. Instapaper).

Lastly, the "Things I like" category is like a mirror of "Things I want to consume". Its represents things that have survived the filter of consumption. If I like a song, its gets "loved" on Last.fm. Highlighted text on my Kindle automatically gets updated on kindle.amazon.com (which I wish was public).

It surprises me how little parity there is between the sites that help you manage these two categories. An album I want to hear starts on an Amazon Wishlist, but ends up on Last.fm if I like it. An article I want to read starts on Instapaper but ends up on Tumblr. The flow feels disjointed, and some information isn't even captured. For example, I'm not quite sure where to say that I like a book or a movie. Sure I can share a favorite movie on Twitter or Facebook, but its just some text, the "movieness" of that item is lost. I think this is why all these social networks can feel overwhelming sometimes; they aren't organized lists, they're out of control blobs!

Though these lists are fragmented across various sites, there is a flow to them.

Create things to consume -> Queue up things to consume -> Highlight things you enjoyed consuming

Someone writes a blog post. That post ends up on someone else's "to read" list, who then reads it and adds it to their "favorite posts" Delicious account. But looking over the fragmented list of sites above, I don't see that flow being captured, especially not across all media types.

I'd love to see a site geared towards list addicts like myself. Some features could include:

  • The ability to add various media types. Books, music, video, links, restaurants, articles, concerts etc... anything is fair game.
  • Let me view the entire combined list, or filter on each media type (book, movie, online video, album, etc), or filter or other variables (date added, etc)
  • Customize views for each media type. Songs/Albums show the album art, addresses appear on a map.
  • Tell me where I can get it. Links, of course, point to where the actual item lives. Songs/albums have 30 second clips from sites where I can buy them. Books have Amazon links with an extra link if they're available on the Kindle. Movies or TV shows have pointers to where I can stream them on Netflix or Hulu or wherever.
  • Once I consume an item, let me say whether I liked it.
  • Don't make me write a review
  • Items I liked can be filtered in different ways: media type, date I liked it, date the media type was created. This would enable me to easily, say, see all my favorite songs from the past year and expose it as a mix.
  • And of course, let me share these things, so others can add the things I like to their own list. Expose the lists as a feed (but only if an item is not marked private).

Delicious comes really close to being a "universal list engine". The simple ability to tag items means that you can use Delicious for a list of just about anything (as long as it has a link). But the output format of Delicious is a bit boring. Its tough to pick a movie or a restaurant from text links. I think Delicious would benefit from views tailored to a particular link type. For example, movie links could display the movie poster, or restaurant links could map the restaurant location.

Sites like Netflix or Amazon or Tumblr also come close. But at some level they are all siloed along specific media types rather than across categories. I would love to see a site take a step back and organize along the broad actions of things to consume and things consumed.