The Power of Ten

We all have a faible for the number 10 or X, and I can understand that. Homosapiens have ten fingers and ten toes, which makes ten a nice manageable figure, especially if you’re not to good at counting. Ten is also the base of the decimal system and the base of the common logorithm. Then of course, there are the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament.

Obsession with Top Ten lists

Typography InspirationYes, ten has a somehow magical quality that in one way or another governs our daily lives. But this still doesn’t justify the obsession that many little known and renowned bloggers alike have with posting lists of top ten tips on how to improve your site, your finances, and even your life.

If everything were as easy as following ten basic pointers, well then wouldn’t we all be extremely successful and satisfied with our lives, our loves, and our labours. Unfortunately, nothing can ever be that easy.

Writing Top Ten lists of how to become a successful online author is a popular strategy of many of the most prominent blog gurus. But why is this approach to writing so useful and do these random lists of points provide any real use for readers? On the one hand, the number ten does have its charms, but the ulterior motive for posting Top Tens often has more to do with drawing traffic than providing serious advice.

The forgotten number eleven

Admittedly ten is a convenient number for a list: not too few nor too many points to cover. But who determines why point number eleven doesn’t make it into the list? Who’s to say that number eleven and number twelve aren’t just as useful tips as the other ten words of wisdom? And have you ever noticed that point number ten doesn’t seem that relevant? I suspect that some authors run out of time and energy by the time they get to their last, and somethimes even penultimate point.

A subtle(?) form of link baiting

It must be truly exhausting staying up into the wee hours of the morning to write post after post that contains so many useful pieces of advice. It would also be a worthwhile occupation if each post wasn’t just a regurgitated version or a minor variation on its predecessors or of top ten lists posted on other sites. In other words, such posts amount to no more than link bait: Are you hooked? Many avid readers do believe that the author’s intentions are honest and that the author genuinely wants to help the likes of you and me in their humble endeavours to dress smarter, behave appropriately at work, or write more effective posts.

Top -Tenitus

A new form of viral marketing

The term viral marketing often appears in the context of writing posts as a clever strategy to pursue. Maybe it is, but if you think about it, anything that involves “viral” can have some quite nasty connotations. I mean viral marketing isn’t exactly synonymous with the black death, but anything related to or caused by a virus doesn’t typically conjure up the most pleasant of images.

Titles or subjects reminiscent of the average spam mail

Nevertheless, “viral” crops up in many top tens about writing good posts, which is ironic considering that the top-ten trend has spread like wild fire – not so much a contained virus as a veritable epidemic. Some might say, fodder for the fools who eagerly anticipate the next “10 Best Ways…”, “Top Ten Ways…”, or “Ten Ways to…” article when they check their RSS feeds or those who are beguiled by the promise of a larger penis if they would just read their spam mail.

Easily digestible, but no real depth

But a top ten is not just a cunning way to lure people onto Web sites with minimum effort, excessive posting of top tens are an insult to people’s intelligence. Top tens have their place – in product test reports, for music charts, bestsellers, and cinema blockbusters, and also in teenie magazines and gossip columns. Why? Because a top ten is an entertaining way of passing on easily digestible information, but is generally superficial, at most a tiny bit thought-provoking, but not the ultimate shortcut to success, as many authors would have you think.

Surefire recipe for success

Back on the subject of writing: Being a serious and competent author involves hard work and and a good portion of luck. And not to ignore the number ten completely: expect to fail at least ten times before even getting a glimpse of your goal.


Not Another Top Ten