X Most Blank Lists: A Cautionary Tale for the OCR World

As you may be aware, Ekaterina Solovieva has created a list of the most inspirational women in obstacle racing.

Before the cautionary tale bit, which is funny and kind of shocking and actually true (rather than many of the things that I post), let me give you a few quick thoughts about the list.

  • First off, it’s a reaction to another list, Mud and Adventure’s 50 most influential people in obstacle course racing. And more specifically, it’s a reaction to the fact that there were only 6 women on that list. To which I say, very good. Not the small number of women on the first list, I mean. I mean good that Solo’s reaction was to rectify what she saw as the shortcomings of the list, rather than to go nutso about how offensive it is that the original list wasn’t more balanced and how the author of the original list obviously hates women and how now women’s suffrage is threatened and all sorts of other fake outrage that the internet does so well and that does so much bad for humanity. Doing is a far greater act than complaining about what other people have done, so good on her.
  • This type of list is completely meaningless. It’s based on the quantification of an inherently nonquantifyable thing (there is no “inspirationalness score”) and based on a single person’s opinion. So really, you should ignore it.
  • Unless you like reading that kind of thing, in which case you shouldn’t ignore it and instead should read and enjoy it. If it don’t actually hurt me or anyone else, then it ain’t a bad thing.
  • And I guess if you’re featured in this list, it does seem a genuine compliment. I guess compliments have meaning. And even if they didn’t, there’s not enough nice in this world.
  • Of course, this kind of list is a tried-and-true way for publications to make content when they don’t have any. Lists like this are hugely popular and attention-getting, and they don’t require having much to say to make them. They usually generate more good will than ill, with no reaction harsher than “I can’t believe you left off Z!” (but see below), so they’re pretty safe bets from a publisher’s standpoint.
  • Whether you enjoy this kind of list or not, if you read it, you encourage more of the same. Online, publishers can react to what readers do, rather than what they say they do. So keep that in mind.
  • I’m totally going to make up my own lists very soon.

Now, the cautionary tale. In a previous job, the magazine I was working for published an end-of-year “Leaders we Lost” feature—an obituary spectacular a review of I think 10 industry leaders who had died that year. The fact that we got complaints about it was nothing—our readers complained about everything. But one of the complaints stands out for its absurdity (and yes, that is saying something): the complainant was angry that her father had not been included in this feature, despite the fact that a) he had not provided any type of national leadership to the industry, and, b and much worse) he was not dead.

I really hope OCR people are better than that.

(“Obituary spectacular” is a phrase that’s not used a lot. Neither is “spectacular obituary,” like the one I had to write for the lady who got killed by a pack of wild dogs. Also a true story.)


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Filed under Commentary, Funny, Obstacle Course Racing

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