Dear YouTube

Dear YouTube,

You have done so much to enable creators to make and share exciting videos, whether that be mini series, cooking shows, films, music videos, news, podcasts, top 10s, documentaries, you name it.

Many communities have spawned around channels and topics, with comment sections ranging from support, to fully-blown drama. And whilst there is quite a lot of trolling, the positive and supportive comments far outweigh the negativity.

However, many of us viewers are frustrated. Those of us who spend hours watching content (and ads) have been receiving videos with worse content during the past year, more clickbait, less meat, more in-video ads, and fillers due to the 10 minute mark for mid-roll ads.

Additionally, too many creators are making videos complaining about YouTube’s policies and demonetisation, even on channels that didn’t use to post regularly about that (e.g. PewDiePie, h3h3Casey Neistat, Philip DeFranco, MrBeast, Jörg Sprave, and a myriad of other creators). A quick search for “demonetized” on YouTube returns around 369,000 videos. That’s a lot of angry creators.

This means that these YouTubers are derailing from creating the content they are known and loved for, and instead they resort to making videos talking about the platform’s problems that are directly affecting them, and in turn this means we, as viewers, receive less of the content we actually want to watch.

The way we see it is that there are three groups of problems currently plaguing the platform: monetisation, content rules/flagging, and UX issues.

1. Problems regarding monetisation:

After demonetisation was introduced over a year ago, a lot of creators were concerned, and after the first few high-profile cases started coming in, users and news outlets started calling it the “Adpocalypse“.

One solution that is increasingly being used by creators is to use Patreon, and in some cases that works really well, for example: musicians, artists, writers, cartoonists, animators, etc. But it is still an extra action (and account) a viewer has to make on a 3rd party website, which means a lot of potential contributors will be alienated. This would be solved with channel-based subscriptions similar to Twitch. We know you are experimenting with (and currently rolling out) a paid subscription system for channels, which is a good solution on paper, but in our opinion this is not the best solution.

An option to consider instead might be to establish a pot for monthly payouts. For example, a user might decide to contribute $5, $10, or $20 per month, with a similar model to Spotify or Netflix. The amount then gets divided at the end of the month between YouTubers with a percentage-per-creator calculated by an algorithm based on subscriptions, likes/dislikes, time viewed per channel, amongst other parameters.

In return, viewers are rewarded with fewer ads depending on how much they contribute per month. Google naturally takes a cut from these proceeds.

Furthermore, this can work without disrupting the business model of YouTube Red (now apparently called YouTube Premium). If we contribute $25 or more per month, why not offer the option to subscribe to YouTube Premium, but instead of keeping the $10, your revenue would depend on viewing habits, keeping $5-10 a month depending on the amount of time viewing regular YouTube, versus YouTubePremium exclusives.

2. Problems regarding content rules and bots:

One of the issues here has been communication in the past regarding changes. Recently Susan Wojcicki has stated you will be making changes in 2018 regarding how you communicate with creators. However, the wording seems to favour giving a “heads up” instead of proactively holding discussion of changes that will create major repercussions for creators.

However, that is only one part of the problem. One common complaint is that content decisions regarding monetisation, and the automatic “category / subcategory” the video falls under is not transparent enough. Some people even figured out how to enumerate the category IDs for sensitive content. Interestingly enough, that document also dives into the case of systematically suppressing demonetised videos from “suggested videos”. By making this information visible to creators, they will be able to make decisions that will influence the direction in which they wish to take their channel.

Rules also have to be made explicit, and reasons for flagging, or why videos were categorised in a certain way should be easily viewable in the Creator Studio, along with any additional information that could help the creator understand where he went wrong and how to improve / fix it. Timestamps of infringing content (the same as those applied to copyrighted content) are also a big plus.

Dude Perfect and PewDiePie’s subscribers have also mentioned a couple of instances where X-rated ads were shown on some of his videos, as their videos were placed in categories meant for mature audiences, whereas clearly their viewers have a wide age range.

3. UX and notification issues:

Videos we have viewed before (or almost finished watching and then switched to another video) constantly reappear in the suggestions. These should be excluded by the suggestions filter as few people would want to watch the same video twice (music videos being an exception). And please, do not rework the chronological subscription feed, fix it instead.

The bell / subscribe system is broken and has been mentioned by both viewers and creators. You have denied this vehemently in the past. However, recently a video on one of your own channels you mentioned the issue happened to you and mentioned this would be escalated. In this specific issue it might just have been an MQ (message queue) issue with sending out announcements (or your email service provider experienced downtime).

A mitigation strategy here would be to implement better monitoring of users that requested notifications VS users that received notifications and emails. Most push notification services, as well as email services provide receipts of reception, and also give statistics on the percentage of emails marked as spam. You should graph this (using DataDog for example) and make it visible on a monitor at all times in the HQ; this will allow you to see the actual problem, and formulate strategies to improve notifications.

As a UX bonus, if a creator uploads something new and a user is currently on YouTube, display a toast message mentioning “{CREATOR} just uploaded a new video titled {TITLE}”, you can do this easily with WebSockets or a service such as Pubnub or Pusher. The whole feature would probably only be 20-30 story points (excluding mobile).

What have been the consequences on the current policies and problems?

Jörg Sprave started The YouTubers Union movement recently, where he has 15K+ followers on his Facebook Group. He plans to take direct action such as strikes, and communicate constantly with you to try to convince you to make changes that will improve the lives of content creators.

PewDiePie has been talking about the issues for more than a year, to the point he changed his entire delivery style accordingly. Casey Neistat interviewed YouTube’s head of business (which was a great start, as mentioned in the comments of the video), however, much is left to be done.

As viewers, we don’t really want to meddle with the politics of what is happening at YouTube, nor with the frustrations of the creators. Instead, we want quality content. Many of us don’t watch Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime; instead, we rely on Youtube for our daily dose of entertainment. But something is really wrong when a lot of the content we watch includes long segments with complaints or rants about demonetisation, and the other issues mentioned in this article.

Our proposal:

We know the issue of figuring out a compromise between ads, paid subscriptions, and YouTube Premium is a complicated one, potentially involving everyone from your legal team, accounting, engineering, product, designers, and project manager.

An intermediary step may be: While you figure out subscriptions (and please make it easy to pay), then you should at least cover part of the salary of the creators that get millions of views, but are heavily demonetised, maybe based on the amount of views and likes per video.

Afterwards, we would like to offer a few strategies on how to develop and implement the changes. We’ve written these down in the following section.

We would also like to re-iterate the demands posted on Jörg Sprave’s union website, which we have split per section. These give a good idea on some of the major complaints the community of creators has:

  • Monetisation:
    • Monetise everyone: Bring back monetisation for smaller channels
    • Disable the (auto-flagging/demonetising) bots. Add a voting system aided by AI (see Valve’s VACnet)
    • Pay for the views
    • Stop demonetisation as a whole
    • Pay according to delivered value
  • Content / Rules:
    • Transparent content decisions
    • Equal treatment for all partners
    • Clarify the rules

You can read the extended version of the union’s demands on their website.

How can you implement this?

Set up three fireteams, one dedicated to the monetisation issues, each one dedicated to one of the topics mentioned above.

These teams should be nimble and be able to act with few constraints and red tape. I’d suggest the following structure:

  • Each team has 1 senior backend engineer, 1 medior frontend developer, 1 senior frontend developer, 1 QA engineer, and 1 team leader who is also experienced with the code base and can help with code reviews and basic project management. Some teams might require additional backend developers depending on the complexity of the issue.
  • Each team should start the project with a kick-off, determining all milestones from the start. One strategy might be to hold a 1-day meeting with several senior product managers, designers, backend engineers and infrastructure/devops, a compartmentalised list should be brought and each topic should be discussed, either accepted or rejected, and difficulty determined via planning poker.
  • 1 additional project manager who oversees all 3 teams, reports status directly to Susan, and attends daily stand-ups for all 3 teams.
  • 1-2 Infrastructure/devops engineers ensure that CI/CD are setup, test/production clusters are ready, and can immediately help with any needs (subdomains, socket.io, anything that needs to be deployed) during the whole part of the process.

This approach, with a positive attitude towards change, and a healthy dose of open-mindedness, may ultimately not only save YouTube whilst feeding content creators, but it may also establish a forward-thinking platform which could outlive us all.

Signed,
The viewers.

PS. Big props to Dear Github for the inspiration for the style and wording of this post.

PPS. You have our permission to re-upload and modify this post as you see fit.

This post has been reposted on Github where you can make amends via a PR.

Is Ubuntu the right option for you?

When you ask a Linux fan “I am buying a new computer, should I get Ubuntu or Windows 7?”, they usually vouch for Ubuntu straight away, many times without considering the actual needs and limits of the user. They usually recur to a slur similar to the following: “Ubuntu is like Windows but much safer, plus you can open Microsoft Office documents, you have Firefox, it is much harder for you to get infected by a virus, and in many ways is easier to use than Windows”.

If that doesn’t convince him/her, they might end up with the classical “you can get cool effects that look like Mac OS X by installing Compiz”.

However, in my personal experience, Ubuntu is not for everyone. I have recommended it before (As part of the Dell-Ubuntu offering), I have heard other people recommend it to others, and I witnessed the Ubuntu-boom when netbooks gained popularity; The return rates were much higher for Ubuntu netbooks as users generally dived in because of the price tag not knowing that what they were receiving was essentially not Windows.

That said, Ubuntu is a great distribution of Linux. I’m sure most hardcore Linux fans would debate me on that issue, however, in terms of usability and getting things done fast, I regard Ubuntu as top of the pack right now.

So I have developed a little insight into the main features of Ubuntu to help newcomers choose whether they want to install Ubuntu or hang on to Windows or Mac OS:

Viruses

There is no escape from viruses, on any single operating system, however, in Ubuntu it’s much more difficult to get infected by a virus as the system has directory-based, user-based and computer-based security instead of only user-based security found in standard versions of Windows. This means that a virus could only potentially wreck the directory where it has installed itself in Linux, while under Windows it can wreck havoc in any directory it chooses.

Most system file changes under Linux require administrator password which gives you extra control over what is going on with your system.

Internet

It is basically the same thing as a Windows PC with the exception of not being tied down to Internet Explorer. Firefox comes pre-installed on Ubuntu, but you can install Chromium (Google Chrome for other OSes) and it is pretty stable nowadays. Flash/audio usually works out the box, unless you have an old computer with unsupported hardware. There are quite a few other browsers you can install from the software installer with just a couple of clicks.

Audio

Ubuntu comes with a default audio player called Rythmbox, I am not very fond of it as I am used to iTunes, but it plays your music, has playlists, visualisations, and common functions found in most audio players. One of the problems I have encountered with this audio player is that it verifies your whole playlist every time you open the program, so if you have a massive playlist it may take a couple of minutes to verify each file still exists.

Rhythmbox, banshee and guayadeque are really good open source audio player equivalents and the first 2 allow iPod syncing easily. I tried syncing my iPod Touch a year or two ago without success and found out that there was an encryption system on the iPod Touch which made it hard to sync with anything other than iTunes. Apparently I have been proved wrong as I’ve been told by several people on Google Buzz; You can supposedly sync to an iPod Touch nowadays.

There are several recording programs which I have found easy to use, however, I haven’t found any professional open-source programs that can substitute great sequencers that run in Windows such as Cool Edit Pro, Live, etc.

Video

Comes with necessary codecs for standard video, and if you want to play AVIs and WMVs you can always get the necessary codecs for free. The OS tells you which ones you may need when you try to play an unsupported video. This means: No messing about on-line trying to find codecs hour after hour through spam and adware filled websites.

Documents

Well, obviously OpenOffice.org is the way to go with this one. OOo is pre-installed with Ubuntu. I don’t love OOo but it is compatible with MS Office 2003/2007 and gets the job done. It lacks a few features available in MS Office 2007, and doesn’t have a great look-and-feel but hopefully some day the guys will develop a more competitive version.

Graphics Design & Editing

GIMP is a complete graphics editing suite, it can’t compete against Adobe PhotoShop in any way, but it gets the job done, however, it does have a bit of a learning curve if you are used to Photoshops GUI. I would compare it to Paint.Net on Windows. It has layers support and a full set of tools but the interface is not that intuitive.

Programming in PHP

If you are a PHP programmer you will find LAMP has everything you need to get started with about 3 clicks.

Programming in .NET

If you are a .NET programmer you might find MonoDevelop quite useful. You can develop using C# code mostly compatible with Windows. I haven’t tried out Mono on Ubuntu yet as I generally use my Windows box to code .NET but I have heard it is quite good nowadays.

Conclusion

There’s an online community of help and support if you have any issues: Forums on the official website, lots of other independent forums, an IRC channel (or various should I say) on #ubuntu on Freenode: All of it completely free.

Go ahead and try the Ubuntu Live CD before installing it… You can download it at the official website, burn it onto a CD and try it out before installing anything.

Thanks to Mark Skinner who resolved my questions about iPod Touch syncing on Rythmbox.

Learning about: The Operating System of Money

What is the operating system of money? Why are the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer? When did all of this start?

Douglas Rushkoff answers these questions in a powerfully simple way:

Once upon a time, before the middle ages, we had an abundance-based currency. Everyone lived happily, you were issued vouchers based on how much grain you harvested, and those vouchers could in turn be used to pay for things. It was based on abundance… In contrast to our scarcity-based currency model of today.

The monetary system we use today was created so that rich people could stay rich by being rich rather than doing anything.

We live in an economy where the sustainance of the economy itself depends on growth at the rate of interest.

Where do you get the extra money? You’ll have to borrow that too.

Corporations? They were created to support this economic system as well.

This was the value of our currency right through the industrial age. This is the system still in use today. It is an outdated system, one that must be ruled out.

Why and how did this happen?

The following video by Rushkoff explains this in 15 minutes, why the system is broken and how must we change things to create a better economic system.

Via poortaste

An Ideal Economy

In this short essay I will describe what I thought of an ideal economic system, in few words, which should bring an end to the current problems displayed in both capitalist and socialist economic systems.

The Capitalist Economic System (as described by Wikipedia):

Capitalism is an economic system in which wealth, and the means of producing wealth, are privately owned and controlled rather than state owned and controlled. Through capitalism, the land, labor, and capital are owned, operated, and traded by private individuals either singly or jointly, and investments, distribution, income, production, pricing and supply of goods, commodities and services are determined by voluntary private decision in a market economy. A distinguishing feature of capitalism is that each person owns his or her own labor and therefore is allowed to sell the use of it to employers.

Summary:

  • Wealth and production are privately owned.
  • Each person owns his/her labor and can sell the use of it to employers.
  • Each person’s wealth depends on the price set by his/her employer, or his/her own price.

The Socialist Economic System (as described by wikipedia):

Economically, socialism denotes an economic system of state ownership and/or worker ownership of the means of production and distribution. In the economy of the Soviet Union, state ownership of the means of production was combined with central planning, in relation to which goods and services to make and provide, how they were to be produced, the quantities, and the sale prices. Soviet economic planning was an alternative to allowing the market (supply and demand) to determine prices and production. During the Great Depression, many socialists considered Soviet-style planned economies the remedy to capitalism’s inherent flaws – monopoly, business cycles, unemployment, unequally distributed wealth, and the economic exploitation of workers.

Summary:

  • Wealth, production and distribution are owned by the state.
  • All economic terms, goods, services, quantities and prices are centrally planned.
  • Wealth is distributed amongst the people.

The Ideal Economic System:

Why not merge both economic systems and define a system which a minimum wage is distributed amongst all citizens sufficient for purchasing basic food items, schools, living expenses, housing, etc.

Products, Services, Prices and Quantities are determined at national level as a guideline to all industry and commerce, but not regulated by law. Minimum levels are determined, nonetheless every factory, workshop, producer and shop has it’s own right to determine how much they will produce above the minimum level.

Each person has his/her own right to work, however, his/her work work will proportionately generate via taxes income for the government to distribute amongst it’s citizens and to increase general welfare.

As a brief example: This would allow someone not to work and receive minimum benefits to allow him/her to live a decent life. Those who put more effort into their work will be able to generate their own income, but will have to pay more taxes depending on the amount of income they have. People who barely make an income won’t be taxed as heavily as those who are generating massive amounts of money working in demanding positions.

The amount of tax would have a maximum level. For example, someone with a small wage will be taxed 1%, someone with a medium wage would be taxed 10%, someone with a very large income will be taxed up to 20%. That way it is beneficial for those with low incomes as they also receive help by the government to live, but it is also beneficial for those who want to work more as they receive a larger income, and it is beneficial for the government as they will receive more taxes from those who can pay them, support from the masses, and extra money to be able to reinvest into the nation and technology.