Saying that list type articles are mostly linkbait isn’t a profound insight. By now, we have been so inundated by the “10 Ways to x”, that we’re really numb to it and Cracked.com was fun for one month. But Paul Graham’s essay reminded me that lists are better as writing tools than a way for a reader to acquire knowledge.
Some of the work of reading an article is understanding its structure—figuring out what in high school we’d have called its “outline.” Not explicitly, of course, but someone who really understands an article probably has something in his brain afterward that corresponds to such an outline. In a list of n things, this work is done for you. Its structure is an exoskeleton.
Sadly a lot of them aren’t exoskeletons, but something someone is forcing into a numbered list.