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Remember Twitter Lists? Six Years Later, Nuzzel Makes Them Useful

The neat social news app’s new topic-driven curation feature is built atop a forgotten Twitter feature.

Back in 2009, Twitter introduced a feature it called lists–the ability for anyone to construct a feed made out of the feeds of any number of Twitter users. I got excited over it, and immediately built such a list.

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And then I pretty much moved on, and have rarely thought about Twitter lists ever since. As far as I can tell, I have lots of company: There’s no evidence that the Twitter of 2015 considers them to be a major feature.

But Nuzzel–the nifty iOS app and website that finds worthwhile stuff for you to read based on what your friends are sharing–just made Twitter lists interesting again after all these years. It’s introducing a new feature called “custom feeds” that takes a Twitter list and lets you browse online articles shared by the people whose feeds make up that list.

Nuzzel can do this with existing Twitter lists–here’s a custom feed based on venture capitalist Marc Andreessen’s list of tech-industry figures–but its creators are priming the pump by creating Twitter lists on a variety of subjects. Here’s one on libraries. This one is on wine. And here’s one on hockey.

As always with Nuzzel, what’s appealing is the feeling of loosely curated serendipity. You wouldn’t go to the app expecting that it will tell you about every major news story, and some stories may be off-topic. (The wine custom feed currently has an obituary for fantasy author Terry Pratchett–apparently folks in the wine business cared enough about his passing to share it.) But Nuzzel is very good at alerting you to items that make for rewarding reading and might not make it to the top of a news site such as Google News or Techmeme.

The feature still feels a bit experimental, in part because there’s no organized way to find custom feeds in the iOS app other than to stumble across them in your friends’ feeds. But Nuzzel CEO Jonathan Abrams tells me that the company is planning to add search, subscriptions, and bookmarks, which should let you use Nuzzel in a more topic-driven fashion. (He hinted at this direction for the app when I talked to him last year for a Fast Company feature.)

I’m excited about custom feeds mostly because they should make Nuzzel better, especially as the company builds out their functionality. But six years after I discovered and then forgot about Twitter lists, I’m suddenly interested in them again. Who knew that it would be a company other than Twitter itself that would do the job?

About the author

Harry McCracken is the technology editor for Fast Company, based in San Francisco. In past lives, he was editor at large for Time magazine, founder and editor of Technologizer, and editor of PC World.

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