Tuesday, December 16, 2008
And don't take it personally Alan, Despite the fact we disagree on a range of topics I consider you a person who puts forward their views rationally without being aggressive or insulting. Unlike the pea-brained morons I am beset by on YouTube.
Friday, December 12, 2008
There's an interesting article in today's New York Times about YouTubers who are actually making a living doing videos. Prominently featured are two of my friends from the site, Michael Buckley of "What the Buck" and Cory Williams of SMP Films.
It's good to see some non-hysterical coverage from a mainstream media outlet, pity the same can't be said for a lot of the people who read the article. The comments from the readers are amusing in their bitterness and ignorance. My personal favourite said :
"Nice to know that someone making amateur Youtube videos (they are a bit entertaining I admit)makes more money than most people I know, with advanced degrees that work 60 hour weeks in offices.
Time to think of a new career path or at least a way to pay off those undergrad and graduate student loans."
No shit, Sherlock! If you know people who spent years at university racking up massive debts only to end up in dead end jobs it's fucking obvious they should wake the fuck up! It appears they didn't learn many worthwhile lessons in their studies.
Anyway, this is as good an excuse as any to post a video I made with the fabulously wealthy Cory while I was visiting him in the US recently. Oh, and for those who are interested, I make more like $100 a month from YouTube rather than the $100,000 per year Mr Buckley is lucky enough to be making!
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Breaking it down, YT seem to have two main goals. First is to randomly generate the thumbnail for videos to fight what's commonly referred to as "thumbnail cheating" and second is to remove or at least demote the more "adult" content from the "most viewed" etc. lists of videos.
The change to thumbnails isn't going to generate a significant outcry. For those who don't know, prior to this change, YouTube chose the exact centre frame of video to represent that video as a thumbnail. Once you knew that you could edit your video in such a way that you controlled what would appear in the thumbnail. People have been complaining for years that showing boobies (or the suggestion of boobies or something similar) automatically grabbed a huge number of video views and many high profile YouTubers were accused of gaming the system.
I know from my own depressing experience that this works. My most viewed video was one where I exploited this. Horny desperadoes who were fooled by the hot babe in the thumbnail and/or the deceptive description were instead lectured by me on the perils of excessive masturbation. Two millions views later I wonder why I bothered. That statistic is really depressing to someone who puts a lot of effort into most of their videos (my highest views for non-thumbnail cheating video is about 300,000). It will kind of suck to not be able to choose how a video is represented (a grey blur does not attract many viewers) but if it stops the boobie thumbnails I guess it's kinda worth it. [update: I've noticed YouTube is giving the opportunity to upload a specific image as the thumbnail but they threaten to cane you if you break their guidelines]
The demoting of "adult" content is where it gets interesting. One of the main ways to get your videos seen by new and/or casual YouTube viewers is by appearing on one of their "Most..." lists. If your video is "flagged" as inappropriate then you don't appear on these lists (or the video may be removed altogether) and so your video is likely to get viewed less overall. Admittedly, this has a bigger effect on people who are already reasonably popular. YouTube hasn't said they'll be deleting more videos but they have said they'll be broadening their definition of "adult" and any videos identified as such will be removed from the listings.
The fact that prominently displayed boobie cleavage and booty shaking will disappear from the "most viewed" videos will be a massive relief to most YouTubers. By "most" I mean those not blessed with nubile female bodies that can attract crowds simply by parading around while scantily clad. There, I'm jealous, I admit it. Also to fall under the hammer are videos dealing with sexually explicit topics. No more hot blondes giving instructions for the perfect blowjob appearing on "Most viewed videos".
YouTube have also decided to demote videos with excessive profanity. Oh fuck. Several people have sent me messages asking "Won't this affect you?" To which I have responded "Derrrrrrrr!" After thinking about it for a while, I'm not hugely bothered by this so long as YouTube only "demotes" swearing videos and they don't remove them entirely. Me saying "shut the fuck up" 20 times in 60 seconds may not be the most suitable viewing for children.
There is no shortage of people shrieking hysterically about this. By and large, they are fucking idiots. The drama queens calling for mass boycotts crack me up. "I'm leaving YouTube," they wail, "join me and we'll teach them a lesson." Fucking idiots. If this is a step too far censorship-wise for you then refusing to participate in the site any longer is a perfectly valid choice. But for the love of the baby Jeebus stop being such a fucking drama queen about it. Go. Do it. Stop fucking talking and clamouring for attention and GO!
Go ahead. Leave. You know what the effect will be? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Fuck all. Those hundred people who say they're joining you? They're lying. They don't give a fuck and they'll come back to YouTube simply because it has the videos they want to see. Even if they're telling the truth and they never come back, the effect on YouTube would be zero. The number of people who would give a shit if I packed up and left is statistically so close to zero I may as well have never existed. For fuck's sake, Fred (the number one subscribed person on YouTube) could leave and that would barely be a blip on the radar. The site would continue without noticing and other people would take his place.
So please, all the people proclaiming their outrage at these changes: get your hand off it. I mean it. If you pull your (metaphorical) cock any harder you'll rip it right off. Take whatever action you think is right for you but do me a favour and shut the fuck up about it. Nobody gives a shit. To paraphrase Yoda: "Do or do not. There is no pointless shrieking like a whiny little bitch."
The one thing that concerns me is the likely abuse of the flagging process now that YouTube has broadened what content will be flagged as "adult". This doesn't bother me because of any new standards, it bothers me because of YouTube's established track record. Essentially there is a parade of fucking idiotic decisions in their past and I would expect this to get worse, not better.
To clarify, this isn't about me. Almost none of my videos have ever been flagged (maybe two or three). But I have seen flagging decisions in the past that simply beggar belief. YouTube claims that someone on staff reviews all videos flagged by viewers and only takes action if they decide the video truly breaches their guidelines. Given the number of times I have seen videos flagged that definitely DO NOT breach their guidelines (YouTube later agreed and changed the decision) there is one of two conclusions to draw. One is that YouTube is lying and they don't have any comprehensive review process. Two is that they employ complete fucking morons to fulfil this role.
YouTube NEVER respond to the community. Not even to say "No, you can't have that." But if they were going to listen, I'd like them to respond to these suggestions:
- Explain EXACTLY how the flagging review process works. How many flaggings are investigated each day? How many staff are employed to do this?
- Develop and publicise a review process for flaggings. Tell people who believe their videos have been unfairly flagged exactly what steps to follow and what response they can expect in what timeframe.
- Give Partners the benefit of the doubt. Give them someone they can go to directly if they feel they've been unfairly flagged. If they're willing to put their partnership on the line over it then listen to them!
- Give registered over-18 users the option to see flagged videos in the "Most..." lists. Preferably with the ability to filter (e.g. I want to see profanity but not boobies)
Actually, all my suggestions to YouTube always come back to one thing: would you guys PLEASE fucking communicate with us?
Monday, December 08, 2008
I wandered around outside the YTL venue quite a bit before the show. Partly because I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing and partly because there was so much to see. And one of the things I saw was the performer I christened the Post-Modern Beatboxer. Because I had no idea who he was and the way he deconstructed language was brilliant. It turns out his name is Reggie Watts.
When I first saw him starting I was dissing him as another bloody beatboxer. Then the lyrics started. He had me at "Yo, where my gerunds at?" Then the swearing started. At that point, I wanted to have his babies.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Those who have been paying close attention would know that I christened November "Tube-Vember" due to the large amount of YouTube related activity I had that month. And because I am almost totally unembarrassed by using stupid neologisms.
To summarise: we had a mini-gathering in Melbourne on Nov 15th, I flew to the US for YouTube Live a week later and was in Sydney for the big Australian gathering fo the year the week after that (landed home in Melbourne on Monday). That was a lot crammed into about 2 weeks which ended up feeling like both a long time and a short time.
Long because there was so much activity crammed in there it gave the illusion of much more elapsed time than it really was (this was essentially a year's worth of partying for me crammed into one month). Short because 2 weeks really isn't a very long time. And I would have liked to stretch out the US trip in particular for a month or so.
My one feeling at the end of all this is that it's all about the community. People are fond of bemoaning the lack/death of community in YouTube (I've been know to muse on this myself) but I have to say, the community is alive and well. People who feel like there's no community need to look inwards for the answer rather than outwards. Or better still, piss off as they're clearly part of the problem rather than the solution.
At YouTube Live I met both the high flyers (a significant chunk of the top 20 were there) and the average folk - people I interact with regularly through subscriptions and comments. While it's easy (and a little cheesy) to say the "real" people were the soul of the event I have to say, the "A-listers" I spoke to were universally nice. Even people I didn't "like" were nice. I put "like" in quotes because these were people I didn't actually know but I had formed opinions of them from their activity on YouTube.
I'm still alternately amused, dumbfounded and frustrated with how badly YouTube misses what the community wants. The scale of what they have achieved with a video sharing site would have sounded impossible only a few short years ago and now we take it for granted. They got the hard stuff right and they still don't seem to understand how easy it would be to keep the community happy. And they don't COMMUNICATE! YouTube Live seemed to succeed as a community event despite YouTube rather than because of them.
But still, when I say "OWNZ" I mean the community is the best part of YouTube, not that YouTube has to do whatever some amorphous "community" tells them. YouTube can do whatever they want. Besides, what the community is and what it means will vary from person to person. Communities are like that. It's completely pointless the way some people try to force their interpretation of community on everyone else. Even when they are a part of a community, people remain individuals.
The best advice I can offer is know what you want for yourself and stick to that. If you can't find like minded people then maybe you need to reconsider. Or maybe you simply don't need other people. The idiots who do the bleating about other people not meeting their standards of community behaviour are usually losers that nobody wants to associate with anyway. Leave them to their delusions.
For all its shortcomings, I'll always be grateful for the opportunities YouTube provides. And I know that I'm part of a fucking awesome community.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
(a) I seem to have more first hand knowledge than most people I see presenting, and
(b) I'm a far better speaker than most people I see
And I want some of the money these people are making, dammit! I want to be flown around the world to talk and be treated like I'm an expert! Because I'm shallow that way. I already have some presentation ideas I'm working on:
You're stupid - what to do about it (for management conferences)
Project management - why it's bollocks
IT staff - lazy, overpaid slackers or priceless diamonds you should cherish forever?
Why the latest internet fad is pointless but you should follow it anyway
And a presentation I'd love to give to the music and/or movie business: "You are evil, rapacious scum and your customers will eventually drag you into the street and burn you at the stake"
I'm looking forward to this new career.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Given that I've been posting videos to YouTube almost every day I could simply have posted those here with a bit of commentary. Which I might start doing. Again. But I'm also making plans for a possible career change and writing more would help me develop that. So, in short, there is likely to be much more activity here.
Plus, I'm back from my brief visit to the USA and I didn't get arrested or killed. I have to admit, my paranoia did not subside until I was safely home. At the start of the trip I was simply worried I'd have some nasty run-in with homeland "security" and end up getting kicked out. From then on I was paranoid that I'd lose my gear or myself.
All in all in was a fantastic trip but all too short (3 days in San Francisco and 3 days in Los Angeles). It did fill me with new positivity about YouTube and the people involved. The central part of the trip was going to see "YouTube Live" in San Francisco. The show was actually much better than I expected and everyone I met was really nice - including the people I don't like on YouTube.
I'm not sure if I was star struck or if it was simply sensory overload but being surrounded by a dozen people who each have hundreds of thousands of subscribers on YouTube was a surreal experience. Especially when one of them (Michael Buckley) said he was star struck meeting me.
So I'm going forward with a renewed faith in online "community", feeling creatively charged up and looking for some challenges and new horizons. Watch out, anything could happen.