Posts Tagged 'YouTube'

YouTube

My wife and her friend get loud when they’re talking on the phone together.

They have such a good time with each other that over the course of their conversations the world gets smaller and smaller until they are barely aware of anything outside of a very small bubble. Inside that bubble there is nothing but their friendship and whatever topic they’re laughing about. Their “bubble-space fun” is great enough that they’ve decided they want to try sharing their fun with the world (or at least a few interested friends) through YouTube.

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

It’s not an unreasonable thing to try. Though it’s hard to find exact numbers, there are, at a minimum, hundreds of thousands of YouTube channels out there that have a sizable following. As of today, YouTube’s statistics page mentions that they have over a million content creators monetizing on their videos with thousands of channels making six figures a year.

But even if getting rich isn’t your aim, what makes a YouTube channel worth watching? How do you make videos that appeal to people?

I am a shift worker, and every two months I rotate between three shifts. Only one of those shifts has reasonable hours, so on my days off while on the other two shifts I often find myself looking to YouTube to help pass the time (I am not much of a night owl). I currently subscribe to 84 channels, though many of those belong to people I know personally who rarely upload anything.

This blog post is not meant to be the end-all, definitive lesson on how to attain success on YouTube. However, I do want to share what keeps me coming back for more from some of my favorite channels, and a few things I’ve learned over the years about this sort of thing.

Disclaimer: if I were really good at this stuff I’d be making a living doing it. The following consists of a lot of conjecture and heartfelt opinions intermingled with some useful facts that I know. And I’m not claiming to be sharing the secret to viral videos or anything – I’m sharing what I know about content production and audience retention. Also, to get the full benefit from this “lesson” you’re going to have to sit through some videos, and a few of them are rather lengthy and not all of them are kid friendly.

Let’s get started.

Conventional wisdom in the entertainment industry seems to be based around the misapplication of a basic (and true) principle of human communication: know your audience. Rather than just knowing their audience, they are trying to know their audience. Like, in bed. They want to give the audience what the audience wants because that’s what makes the audience grow and shell out money. Appeal to the widest possible audience and you’ve got yourself a profitable YouTube channel in no time.

But what about you? Will you be happy? And what of your audience? Will your audience come back for more because they’re interested in what you’ll post next time, or are you just generating views because your videos show a thumbnail that got someone to click on it out of interest (boobs)?

Cyril Connolly said: “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.

I believe that all entertainers should do what they love for their own reasons. Going further than that (here comes your first video assignment, and it’s almost twenty minutes long), Simon Sinek teaches leaders how to inspire people to action by centering everything you do around a primary idea that answers the question, “why?” You will need his advice when planning your content and video “format” (what and how you do what you do).

“Why” is a great place to start. And if you do it right, your “why” is something that is based mostly around feelings. But you’ve got to try to describe it in words.

Now, YouTube is an interesting place. There are a lot of problems with the “audience” on YouTube. The next video I want you to watch covers these issues through a satirical and tongue-in-cheek presentation pretending to be excellent advice on how to run your YouTube channel.

The real trick is in clearly defining why you’re starting your channel and figuring out what kinds of people are going to be watching it. Then you figure out whatever you can about that audience and tailor the presentation to them (not your content).

pewdiepie

pewdiepie (Photo credit: pixesophie)

A great example of this is a guy called PewDiePie. He records himself being an idiot playing video games. As of right now, this guy has over thirteen million subscribers (I am not one of them). YouTube channels that focus on gaming are really big right now. A lot of people want to watch people play video games. But what makes PewDiePie number one?

Another channel I watch from time to time is The Game Theorist. He records videos in which he speculates on gaming related issues, carefully researching the topic and assembling an informed theory to explain what might be going on. He has a great video in which he basically proves that Sonic is not very fast. Very fun videos, but not consistently fun enough to get my subscription.

The Game Theorist did a really great video about why PewDiePie is so popular, and in it he outlines a lot of things that any new content publisher should know.

OK, one more long-ish video that you have to watch all the way through, then we’ll get into individual channels.

This next video is by a guy who I honestly did not expect to subscribe to. I remember the first time I saw one of his videos. I thought, “this guy is ugly, strange, and I do not feel like I connect with him.” That, however, was before I started getting into woodworking. When my wife and I started building a major piece of furniture I began looking for woodworking YouTube videos that were helpful for a novice like me.

That’s when this ugly guy’s channel came back up. After watching a few of his videos I subscribed. Then I found out that he had another channel in which he talks about the videos in his main channel. This intrigued me, so I checked out that second channel. Again, I subscribed.

Then I stumbled upon the following video in his auxiliary channel in which he talks about the video equipment he uses to make videos. But that’s not why I’m having you watch it. I’m having you watch it because the guy is awesome at little tips that make videos better for viewers. His video is kind of long, but it is full of outstanding advice for new channel owners.

If you’ve watched all of the videos I’ve prescribed so far, you’ve just watched 50 minutes and 46 seconds of video. Maybe you did it all in one sitting, maybe you broke it up into manageable segments over the course of a day or more. It’s possible that not all of those videos kept your attention for the entire length, but I’m betting that most of them did (if not all of them). Why did you watch those videos? Not just “because I’m trying to learn how to make good videos.” Really ask yourself, “what kept me watching even though those videos were so long?” If you need to, pick one and go back and watch it again, trying to figure out how the presenter kept your attention.

Now, let’s run through a few of my subscriptions and talk about what I love about them.

When I link to a channel, I recommend you familiarize yourself with their top video (or a few of their top videos). To do this, click on the channel link I provide, then look for the “Videos” tab (next to the little house icon, below the channel name). When the Videos tab first loads their uploads are shown in reverse chronological order (newest videos first). Click on the drop down button that says “Date added (newest – oldest)” and select “Most popular” to view their videos from most to least popular. Then watch at least a few of their top few videos to see what they are like.

The great thing about viewing the most popular video on a channel is that you can see the video that resonated the most with their intended audience. It’s usually the video that initially earned them a strong following of subscribers (but not always).

Alright. I’m not going through these in any particular order (well, except alphabetical order because that’s how I’m viewing the list of my subscriptions).

The first channel I’ll introduce you to feels more like a television show, and perhaps that’s why I’m subscribed. As far as I know, these videos do not air on cable. They are just a YouTube thing, but they have exceptional production value and a pretty nice budget behind them, which leads me to believe that they are professionally produced by a crew that also does television shows.

They do a variety of things on the channel, but the videos I like most are part of a series called “Man at Arms” where a professional blacksmith creates video game character weapons. That particular feature got my subscription, but since then I have enjoyed a few of their other videos as well, videos that I wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t subscribed. That’s the power of gaining subscribers.

  • Check out this channel: AWE me

This next channel isn’t something that I would have initially thought I’d ever subscribe to (DON’T JUDGE ME). I initially happened upon the channel when I was watching a lot of videos of different accents (I like accents, OK?). The video that got me interested was part of a larger playlist that someone else had put together to showcase accents from around the world. To this day, the video of hers that I saw is still her most popular video (and it’s over two years old).

When watching her video I found that I didn’t just like her accent, I thought she had a lot of fun things to say. So I checked out her more recent videos and found that she was video blogging (vlogging) about a lot of topics in an interesting way (and by interesting I mean that she’s being her own silly self without worrying too much about her audience, though she does ask for suggestions from time to time).

To me, her channel is a great example of what one normal person (and sometimes she has her friends on with her) can do to hold an audience, even without great equipment or professional training. With just over 8,000 subscribers she’s not the biggest channel that I’m covering, but she’s got her audience and she does a good job keeping their attention (though I don’t watch her videos all the way through when they stray too far from my interests — for example sometimes she goes to parties and films it).

Here’s an odd one for you. I subscribed to this guy on a whim when I found a video he posted of a nickel ball that he heated with a blow torch until it was red hot before dropping it in some water. I think Randall Munroe linked to it on his What If blog when referring to the cavitation effect (that’s probably not what it’s called) that occurs when super hot things contact water. Anyhow, the video owner got a sudden surge in traffic for the red hot nickel ball in water video and began doing more videos like it (using the RHNB acronym rather than writing out red hot nickel ball all the time). Now he’s got 45 thousand subscribers that just want to see what he’ll drop his red hot nickel ball onto next. It’s a simple premise, but one that has obviously gained him quite a strong following.

Sometimes the best channels are focused on just one interest. In this next channel’s case, it’s slingshots. In fact, he calls himself “the slingshot channel.” While some of his “slingshot” videos kind of stretch the concept of slingshot (see what I did there?), his razor focus on a single subject secures him a steady viewership that shares his passion. All in all he’s just shy of 300,000 subscribers at the moment, and he really loves making his videos.

I recommend you check out a few of his videos for sure. He is a fun, lovable guy and after watching a couple of his videos you’ll never forget the way he says, “That’s all for today. I hope you liked it. Thanks, and bye bye.” Super great guy.

A while back Google released a product that didn’t make a lot of sense. The Internet was complaining about its price, its unusual technical specifications, and all sorts of other things about it. Then I stumbled upon this guy explaining the features of this product and it totally made sense. This kid is sharp, great at explaining things in a way that is relevant to the average technology user, and really gets into the tech industry to relay the best news to his viewers. And it pays off. He’s got over 500,000 subscribers and through his YouTube income is able to pay for all the neat toys and gadgets he could possibly want. Plus, it seems that some product manufacturers send him their latest gadgets to try out and review on his channel.

In addition to having fantastically well planned content and presentation, he excels at production. His videos are clear and vibrant, and they have outstanding audio quality. When my father moved from newspaper publishing to running a couple dozen news websites for a corporation he had to learn to do web video. In his research he found that the main difference between obviously amateur videos and apparently professional videos was the sound quality. Good sound quality can put your channel in an entirely different category when it comes to perceived quality, and if anyone knows that Marques Brownlee does.

Here’s one of those video game channels. This guy is just plain silly. I found his channel when a coworker showed me a video from a different channel and one of this guy’s videos was a related video. I thought his video was way funnier than the one my coworker shared with me. So I subscribed. His videos are almost all short (2 to 5 minutes) and well edited to contain all of the funniest bits and enough back story to know why they’re funny. Do not show these videos to young children.

This next guy came out of nowhere. As someone who once frequented but now occasionally peruses reddit, I have learned to appreciate the power of certain social media platforms (especially reddit). One day this guy’s first video got posted to reddit when he only had about five videos up (to date he still only has 14 videos posted). The video was an explanation of the book Crime and Punishment and the reddit post title indicated that watching this video would grant me some insight into the book that I previously lacked.

The video delivered on that promise and then some. The production quality leads me to wonder if there isn’t a professional studio behind these videos, but I don’t care if they’re just going to try to sell me something in the end. I subscribed because I want to know as much about literature as this character is going to teach me. These are fantastic videos because they provide a service and do it in a way that is more than just entertaining, it is original. Original ideas (or just ideas that seem original) go a long way so long as they are presented well and given the right exposure.

Back when Lindsey Stirling was on America’s Got Talent and her YouTube channel teamed up with some big shot videographer, I discovered another violin-playing girl with a YouTube channel and I decided that I like her style better. And I’m glad I did, because soon Lindsey’s work began to feel heartless. I think more recently she may be rediscovering her old self, but for a while she lost her way when she lost sight of her “why.”

Anyhow, this other violin player has remained humble, innovative, and relevant to my interests for a couple of years now, and she just released her first original song. She may not have as many fans as Lindsey (only 220,000 subscribers vs. Lindsey’s 3 million), but she is just as talented (if not more) at playing the violin. Just looking at the comments on their videos and channels you can get an idea of how her 220,000 subscribers are just as valuable as Lindsey’s 3 million to someone who is not doing what they do for their audience, but for their self.

OK, just one more. This girl is a member of a game-playing, video-making team called The Yogscast. They actually have a Wikipedia page (yes, they’re that big of a deal and you had no idea they existed). They got their start playing World of Warcraft in a guild called “Ye Olde Goone Squad” (from whence they derive their current name, YOGScast) and eventually gained popularity with their Let’s Play video series about Minecraft.

I don’t really care for most of the Yogscast stuff (though some of it can be pretty fun), but I found Hannah’s channel when I was looking up videos of the recent game The Last of Us. I had heard that the story was good, so I wanted to watch someone play through it. Hannah’s first game play video of the game caught my attention when she cried at the end of the opening sequence. I enjoy her accent, her commentary, and what she adds to the game experience just by being herself. Her videos are pretty long (about 20 minutes on average) but I highly recommend you watch one or two of them. She’s great at holding her audience. She does all of her own video editing, and manages to edit out “boring” parts without making you miss any of the important content of the game.

Alright. That is a good general sampling of channels I subscribe to and why I subscribe. There are quite a few more, of course, but I think these ones are each unique enough that you should be able to figure out what you want to do by watching them do what they love.

I apologize for how freakishly long this is and how clumsy my writing is. I wrote it all out and lost the steam to go back and do a thorough editing.

Charlotte and Jonathan

Charlotte and Jonathan

Charlotte and Jonathan

I generally avoid writing about things here that are trendy or popular. If I find out about something on a social network, I avoid writing about it.

Sure, I’ve discussed current events from time to time, but I generally avoid it (mostly because the media annoys me so).

But a day or two ago I added a video to my YouTube “Watch Later” list from a post on Google+ and I just watched it.

I just now watched it.

There are still a few tears lingering in my eye, and that doesn’t happen often. Not from YouTube videos.

I’m just not the sentimental type. So for me, it’s always embarrassing when something tears me up, especially a YouTube video.

Anyhow, if you haven’t already heard of this Britain’s Got Talent performance by Charlotte and Jonathan, you should go watch the video.

Two mice; the mouse on the left has more fat s...

Two mice; the mouse on the left has more fat stores than the mouse on the right. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s the thing. I’m generally pretty critical of the large number of overweight people in the world (especially America). I try to avoid judging the individuals, but the fact that our society is producing so many people that are morbidly obese bothers me. I feel that most of it is due to poor choices in lifestyle and health, and thus it is preventable.

But people complain about it.

If it’s preventable, and you don’t prevent it, then you don’t complain when people talk about it.

Right?

But I do understand that some people, no matter how much exercise and healthy-eating they do, just can’t avoid putting on weight. And the severity of this condition varies. So when I see people like Jonathan lumbering about, I try to assume they have some sort of genetic problem.

Here’s the kicker. I am by no means a saint, but I also am not the most harsh when it comes to judging these overweight people. There are some very cruel people out there who completely dismiss heavy people as being irresponsible, unhealthy, lazy, or otherwise unworthy due to their physical appearance. These meanie-heads would never stop to wonder what kinds of talents the big people might have, or what they might be able to contribute to the world around them. Even I have sometimes found myself inappropriately labeling obese people as being more of a burden on society than a contributing member.

So when fat, obese, ridiculed Jonathan opened his mouth and let a powerful, rich, clear, steady stream of vocal energy loose on the microphone, I nearly let tears fall.

I’m sick of these talent shows with all of the singers. Music is wonderful, and singing is a beautiful talent, but for more reasons than I care to mention here, I wish those talent shows would quit showcasing the singers so much. But in this case, I make an exception. Jonathan, at only 17 years old, has reminded me that each and every soul on the planet can contribute something to the world to make it a better place.

No amount of disfigurement, handicap, obesity, or even poor choices can remove a person’s intrinsic value. Their kinetic (actual) value may vary based on their current choices and actions, but every human being has an intrinsic worth that should not be overlooked based on their outward appearance or circumstances.

Oh yeah, and Charlotte was OK too, though I’m pretty certain she missed at least a few notes on a couple of occasions in there. But I still like her.

And Now for Something Lighter

After the last two completely serious posts on here, I thought I’d share something that made me smile today.

I subscribe to an RSS feed for a website with a less than nice title, but the animated GIF images they share are generally fun.

The post I saw in my reader today was awesome. You can click the link to see it at the website, or behold it here:

I love it!

It’s like that little monkey was determined to murder that guy, but the dumb glass wall stood in his way. I’d pay real money to see a version of this where the glass was not there.

The whole thing is so perfect. At first I thought it might be a CGI hoax. But after doing a little research, I found the YouTube video from which the GIF was ripped.

A little further research uncovered that this awesome guy (the monkey, not the human) lives at the Memphis Zoo (in the China exhibit area). He’s actually a gibbon, which is somewhere between monkey and great ape (but closer to monkey, so I’ll call him a monkey).

According to this post that I found, the gibbon is close friends with a cook who works at the zoo, and he might be getting a little defensive about the spot where his friend usually interacts with him.

The YouTube video comments I read seem to indicate something else (having to do with an employee at the zoo who taunts and teases the monkey), but I find YouTube comments to be less than reliable most of the time.

I looked on the zoo’s website to see if they had anything official to say about this particular gibbon, but I couldn’t find anything.

There are several other videos of this happening on YouTube, but most of them are from a distance and outside. Most of the time the monkey dances around angrily after slamming into the glass, which (to me) indicates that at least some people are taunting him.

If anyone knows more about the background of this particular incident, I’d love to hear it in the comments! Also, if you live close to Memphis, go say hi to this monkey for me!

And until I know the monkey’s gender and name, I shall call him Epic Ninja Monkey of Doom.

On Electronic Chain-Letters

I’ve been sick, and I’ve felt like writing, but I didn’t know what to write. Funny thing about inspiration though, it can hit you at any time, and in any text box. I just happened to get the urge to write while responding to an email, and the result was something I wanted to share with everyone.

Blah

I'm not fat - I'm puffing my cheeks.

Hey there. I’m sick today, and I lack the will to do anything except sleep, sit at the computer or at the couch, and do almost nothing. I’ve been thinking for quite some time that I’d like to write an unnecessarily lengthy letter to someone in my immediate or extended family, and since you’re my father-in-law and we haven’t exchanged words in a while, you win the prize.

So, when you forwarded that “touching true story” I thought I’d take a look at it rather than AUA it (Archive Upon Arrival).

The fact of the matter is, that I don’t care for forwards. I’ve got one friend (that’s one person, in the whole of my 200+ email contacts) that has ever forwarded me anything I thought was interesting. Most of the forwards I receive are silly “touching stories” that really don’t mean much to me. I’ve had too much experience with fabricated and embellished stories on the Internet, I suppose.

Anyhow, a really good friend of mine introduced me to snopes.com last year, and ever since then I have used it when faced with something on the Internet that seems outlandish. A quick query on snopes.com revealed a most interesting article written specifically about the email you passed along today. Interestingly, this particular story actually has quite a few true elements in it (most of the stories I have seen circulated in email forwards are so exaggerated and embellished that they are rarely representative of any truth that may have served as their premise). However, several key facts were changed and exaggerated.

The story took place in the early eighties, the boy’s name was Frank, and the Make-a-Wish foundation actually granted this as a wish (along with a ride in a hot-air balloon, and a trip to Disneyland). The most touching part of the real story doesn’t even appear in the email, and to make it worse, the email is copied nearly word for word from one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. The night that the boy died, it was five firemen that climbed into his room, not sixteen.

Here’s the link to the true account (along with the version of the email that the author saw, which is slightly different still from the one you sent me):

http://www.snopes.com/glurge/fireman.asp

So, yes. The story is touching, but I hate reading these stories in email forwards because they are almost all full of embellishment and twisted truths. I find it much more satisfying to scour the news for heartwarming articles that are presented as a collection of facts with the purpose of informing the reader. That way I’m getting completely true stories, which are better than the big, bold, colorful words (usually in the Comic Sans font) that have been changed or invented to elicit an “oh, how darling” response and usually wrap up with a self-righteous plea from the author to get me to say a prayer for some cause (usually, something I don’t care about).

In my view, the Internet is only good for six things, and half of them I don’t want any part of (pornography, gambling and robbery). The only three things I use it for are (presented in order of the value I place on them):

  1. Humor/Entertainment
  2. Communication (keeping in touch with close friends and family)
  3. Access to accounts and services (banking, on-demand-self-publishing services, etc.)

Even getting factual news on the Internet can be a challenge. My father runs the Internet arm of a newspaper corporation in Arizona, and this is a problem they deal with on a regular basis. Sure, there are news sources on the Internet that can be trusted, but they are drowned out by all the chatter and clutter from sources like the mysterious writer of that email you sent me (who, again, did little more than poorly copy another “touching” email, which was nearly a direct copy of a segment of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book).

So, I just use the Internet to look at fun stuff, like this article and clip from Robert Downey Jr.’s acceptance speech. Occasionally there is some interesting news at those trusted sites, like this article about a group of apes that had never had human contact before. Mostly, the Internet loves things that are silly and irreverent, like this historical look at a group of entertainers known throughout history as fartistes, among other names.
The main reason I love the Internet, though, is because of people like David Thorne. I really can’t explain all that well what it is that I love about his work, but I would encourage you to read this email exchange he had with his renters, and this exchange he had with a Blockbuster employee. He is extremely irreverent and at times a tad inappropriate. However, he is a comedic genius. After one of his earliest email exchanges went viral a coworker told David that he would never be able to do it again. David bet him his Christmas bonus that he could, and two weeks later he had another email exchange that went viral.

Essentially, what I love about David Thorne is that he embodies the idea that the Internet is not to be taken seriously. He is quoted as saying, “the Internet is a playground.” I agree, and that is why I don’t like coming across stories that are supposed to be “touching” on the Internet, unless they come directly from trusted news sources. If they don’t come from a trusted news site, then I’m a sucker for believing them until I’ve researched the facts myself.

As you can see, between David Thorne, funny/interesting stuff that comes to me in my feed reader, and finding funny videos like these ones, the Internet provides me with far more entertainment than I even have time for. It barely even leaves me time to read email, especially forwards. However, next time I get a forward from you that claims to tell a “true” story, I’ll check the facts on fark.com and tell you what they say. Sometimes the truth is better than the lies that circulate in chain-emails.

I hope you enjoy the links I’ve provided you with, and we all here love and appreciate the effort you make to maintain a presence in our life. Your daughter and grandchildren send their love, as do I.

Love,

-Brian

Fun YouTube and Others

From Cell Phone Photos

So, this is for my friends. Specifically, I was talking to someone tonight about some fun stuff on YouTube and I decided to make a list of some of my recent favorite songs, videos and artists to share.

I’ve spent the last few minutes reviewing most of these videos because I tend to forget the presence of little offensive words here or there. For the most part, these songs or videos will be marked to warn you if you might want to watch before showing your children. However, my kids have seen most of these, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

All links open in a new window, so click away!

Robots

This song is by Flight of the Conchords, and as such has a curse word in it (wrong word for donkey/butt) so you may not want to show it to your kids. However, if you don’t mind them hearing that one word a few times in the chorus, this is a really funny song/performance. Check it out on YouTube.

Star Wars Rap

This song has a few mature elements that are reference but not explicitly talked about, and they use one word that you may not want your child repeating (a less than kind word for urine). To check it out, click through to Atom.com and watch this hilarious Star Wars themed rap. Even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, you should enjoy this.

Tighty Whities

Next I’ll share a song that may not be your style if you generally only listen to country music or classical, but the theme is too funny not to share the song. Plus, it’s completely clean as far as language and themes are concerned. It’s part of the “Pull ’em Up Campaign” aimed at getting people to pull their pants up and quit showing us their underwear. Even if you generally can’t stand rap, you’ve GOT to listen to this song. I didn’t let my son hear this one, but not because of the content.

OK, the rest should be fine for your children. Well, this first one might not be if you don’t want your children watching animals answer nature’s call. It’s completely natural though! This is Rhett and Link doing an “inappropriate” commercial for a small zoo.

Inappropriate Zoo Commercial

For a direct link, click here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kszzbkfJ-5Q

Jonathan Coulton

Jonathan Coulton is a musical comedic genius in my book, and here are two completely kid friendly songs (unless you strictly don’t expose them to violent themes, then the second one about zombies killing people probably won’t be good). These are both live performances (where you get to see his funny interactions with the audience) but he does studio recordings as well that are better sounding.

Skullcrusher Mountain

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IBewKuV9BQ

Re: Your Brains

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9e3gngvFdxg

For more about Jonathan Coulton, please visit his website.

This one may only appeal to your children (or the child in you), but it’s a cute stop motion animation that I recently got a chuckle out of.

8-Bit Water Slide

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkYVazguJCY

Also for the children, a few near-Pixar quality animations that are funny, entertaining and good for adults also!

Pigeon: Impossible

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEjUAnPc2VA

The Passenger

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGW0aQSgyxQ

The Magic Box

(Ultra sensitive parents be warned: This video contains partial nudity – butt cheeks.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sC7rIZ5dOPY

A Little More Fun and Then We’re Done

OK. I’ve embedded way too many videos, so the final four videos will just be links. They are all funny, so make sure you watch them, but the last two you might want to watch without your kids the first time you watch them. I’ll mark them with an asterisk (*) to remind you that you need to review them before showing them to your children.

Laughing Kids (very cute)

Kid Singing Britney Spears Scared to Death by his Mom (watch all the way through to the end)

No. No! NO!!!” – The Greatest Scare Prank *

Gun Scare Prank *

I know there is a lot here, but I don’t see how you couldn’t love most of these. 😀 Of course, if you don’t love them, I won’t be offended, but I do ask that you at least check them all out when you find the time.

Enjoy!

Internet Security (in my view)

This is a lengthy response to a friend who wrote me with the following inquiry (to protect her privacy, her name does not appear):

Hey Brian,

You guys have a channel on YouTube, right? I was just curious about what you think about it. I would like to do one (all kid videos) for the convenience, but I’m worried about weirdos watching videos of my kid. I’ve tried to do a private video before, but it’s such a pain. What’s your advice?

Thanks!

Here is my long answer:

Warning: You asked. Don’t blame me for the long response. 😀

Disclaimer: I didn’t take the time to edit this that I should have. I didn’t edit for sensitivity, so please don’t be offended if I come off as insensitive. I didn’t edit for perfection. Perfection is not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. This letter is long because I lack the time to make it shorter. It is, however, full of good, important, and heartfelt information related to sharing YouTube videos publicly, and Internet security (keeping things private versus making them public).

In a nutshell, I love having a public YouTube channel. 😛 You should totally go for it.

I used to go to great lengths to keep all of my Internet presence private and secret. A Google search once upon a time would have revealed nothing about me, I never received any spam, and there was no possible way for anyone to stalk me by online information alone. Then I got into website design and began to learn more about online security.

The truth is that nothing is truly private on the Internet unless you have either done the research and designed the security protocol yourself, or you are paying money to have a security firm protect your data for you. Sure, services like Blogger, YouTube, and Picasa offer settings to keep things “private” (meaning unlisted, non-public), but if someone had a reason to get information about you and they were going to dig around in the Internet to do so, having a private blog or private videos wouldn’t stop them.

Blogs, social networking sites and content sharing sites have “private” settings that lull us into a false sense of security, but they offer little more protection than a sticker in your window claiming your home is protected by a high tech, expensive security system; and a deadbolt. Small time and unmotivated criminals will often turn around and go home (in fact, this is a proven method that I heard can prevent something like 60 to 90 percent of all break-ins), but anyone with an objective or strong motive will likely be undeterred.

Most passwords you use to protect your data can be revealed to any tech-savvy twelve year old with a Play Station 2. That’s right, Play Station 2 machines are being employed by amateur and professional hackers all over the world to crack passwords online due to their ability to do thousands of floating point calculations every second. Your WEP password protected WiFi signal? I can hack that in ten to twenty minutes using a laptop running software that reconstructs your password just based on your wireless traffic. (By the way, NEVER use WEP for a wireless Internet connection – always use WPA or WPA II – WPA takes a little longer to crack, unless the FBI is hacking in, they can do it in three minutes.) Oh, and passwords are the strongest when they are at least 12 to 20+ characters long. It doesn’t matter if it’s all special characters, length alone can protect you from these hackers.

The point being, I realized several years ago that if anyone were truly interested in getting in on my private life, my setting things up as “private” wasn’t going to stop them. So I gave up and made everything public.

The easiest way to keep things secure is to monitor what you share. On our family blog I have our phone number posted. It’s a Google Voice number. It’s not associated with my address, it’s not associated with my social security number or any of my financial information. If people dial it, it goes through a simple, mostly convenient screening process before my phone rings. When I pick up, I hear “You have a call from [it plays a recording of them stating their name here]. To pick up press one, to send to voice mail, press two,” … etc. I can share my phone number anywhere because it’s secure. If someone who calls is already in my address book, they aren’t screened. I can define certain behaviors for when they call. When my family calls, they hear a specialized greeting while my phone rings, then when I pick up it tells me who they are. I can still send them straight to voice mail if I want, but why would I do that? 😉

The basic idea is to only publish things that aren’t a vulnerability (like my secure telephone number, which doesn’t create a vulnerability).

My YouTube videos are all public. Sure, a few random people may have seen some of them (in fact, my first and only comment was left by a complete stranger earlier this week – I’ve been posting my family videos there for over a year now). But most of the views are from family and friends that I direct there myself (I just wish THEY would leave comments o_O). The fact that those videos are public just makes it easier for my friends and family to enjoy them without having to go through an annoying screening process.

Some people who choose the public route choose not to put full names online (like omitting their last name, or only posting their last name) while I’ve known some people who only use nicknames on their website. You can take that route if you like, but it’s just another silly sticker. I just throw it all out there.

To quote your reason for writing:

“I would like to do [a YouTube channel] (all kid videos) for the convenience, but I’m worried about weirdos watching videos of my kid. I’ve tried to do a private video before, but it’s such a pain. What’s your advice?”

In the security profession, there is a saying. I don’t know it word for word, but it comes down to the fact that you can’t have both convenience and security. They are polar opposites and arch enemies. Any security you add will take away from convenience and convenience is not secure. So you have to weigh whether you want more security or more convenience. In this case, which is of more value? The security that you are considering implementing (private videos) is weak and cannot deliver the level of security that you believe you will be getting. So you can chose to implement it, but for what? To make it a pain for your friends and family to share in your fun family moments?

You state that your primary concern is weirdos watching videos of your kid. So you don’t take your child out in public? Sure, it may seem that the ratio of weirdos to normals on the Internet is scary, but it’s no different from when you’re at the mall. Besides, most of those weirdos who you don’t want watching videos of your kid are using torrent file sharing networks to distribute and view illegal, disturbing images of children that are much more entertaining to them than watching your child burp and giggle. The odds of them locating you online or in a mall and tracking you to your home to do you evil are relatively low.

My advice specific to your inquiry? Go for the convenience and quit worrying about implementing useless security features. To take it just a small step further, drop the private settings from your blog too. I guarantee you have at least one family member somewhere who isn’t reading your blog because they don’t want to deal with the complicated security settings you’ve set up. Even Rochelle doesn’t keep up with your blog regularly because she can’t subscribe with her RSS feeder due to your security settings.

The question remains, well if that sticker in the window really does deter crime, why drop the security settings even if they are weak? Should I just publish my passwords everywhere too? Here are a few simple things you should do that provide a greater level of security than keeping your blog and videos “private” in public:

  1. Never ever ever ever post your full address anywhere where just anyone can read what you wrote. Keep in mind that a lot of things these days are being automatically tagged with geological meta data (translation: some kind of GPS coordinates or location information collected by the device that recorded the data). So if someone wanted to know your physical location it wouldn’t be hard to track you down, but if they aren’t planning on paying you a visit and they need your address for financial reasons, you’ll have thwarted them by not posting your city, state, zip or street anywhere online (unless you’re making a secure payment or transaction, in which case you NEED to see some kind of “secure” symbol on the page and in the browser interface AND the web address should start with “HTTPS” not “HTTP” alone).
  2. Going along with the first tip, the names of schools, work places, etc. give easy ways to track down where they can find you. Don’t share that stuff online. If your family needs to know where John is working, call them. Don’t put the name of the company online.
  3. Obviously, keep all financial information private. Even how much you make should be kept extremely vague if you must share (certain income brackets represent prime targets for some criminals, you don’t want to call their attention). Something like, “John got a raise and now we don’t have to buy gas with the change we collect under vending machines anymore,” is perfect.
  4. Be smart. If you wouldn’t walk up to a total stranger and share it, your family doesn’t care either. And I’m talking about when you’re in a giddy mood about something when you tend to share things with strangers anyhow. Like when your kid does something cool and you just want to tell the world. That’s the stuff your friends and family are interested in. Share that.

I’m fairly certain you knew most of that. Just keep in mind there are only two kinds of criminals on the Internet you need to worry about. Perverts and Identity Theives.

Let’s say you open everything up to the public today (your blog, your YouTube videos, your photos, EVERYTHING online except your Facebook profile which should retain the highest level of security you can live with). Here are the two worst case scenarios, one from each type of bad guy.

Pervert. He sees a video of your kid and decides he needs to steal him from you. He is able to pay a twelve year old to hack into YouTube and provide him with some location meta data attached to the video by your computer when you uploaded it from your home Internet connection. The guy flies out to your city from San Francisco (there are a ton of nuts there, he’s likely from the city of nuts and fruit) and spends the next month trying to track you down from the vague location data the kid sold him for fifty dollars. Eventually, he finds your home and begins the process of trying to abduct the boy the same way any pervert would without the use of the Internet. Hopefully you guys would be prepared to handle that. The Internet pervert won’t be armed with any additional information that a street stalker couldn’t get without the Internet. Think about all the information you’ve opened up to the public. Is the key to your front door online? No. Public videos don’t give the online pervert any extra ammo.

Identity Thief. He finds your videos, watches your child, and doesn’t care. In the video though he sees that you have a new forty inch flat screen tv (a group of kids walking around in your neighborhood is just as likely to notice your tv and either do the heist themselves or sell your address as a target to some other thief). You must have some money. Not a lot, but who cares? He is able to link you YouTube channel to your blog by reverse following the links. He reads up on you, gets your physical location, etc. So what? In the end he doesn’t have anything more than a person digging through your garbage would have (unless you’re someone who throws credit card numbers away in tact by accident, in which case your trash can is a much bigger security problem to you than having a public blog would be!).

Obviously this is pretty watered down. There are a lot more threats out there on the Internet, but most of them you are already safe from (you stay out of the shady parts of the Internet, right?). In truth though, worrying about the threats won’t do any good. Keep your home secure like you always should, teach your children about the dangers on the outside, and you will have completely thwarted all perverts, online and off line. Monitor your credit, keep your financial information private, and just be smart, and you’ll be safe from all the other ones. Finally, I recommend passwords that are as long as you can make them (don’t go for complicated, just long – a password doesn’t have to be just one word, do a sentence), and DON’T use Internet Explorer. Use Firefox or Google Chrome (Rochelle and I love Chrome – it’s fast, super secure and gets information about how safe a website is from Google, and they know everything).

Those are my thoughts on Internet security. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, but once you get the basic, truly secure ideas in practice, you can relax and quit worrying about everything. OK?

I just have to say it one more time though (since I only mentioned it in passing before). Your Facebook page is the one place you do need to worry about security. Keep that as secure as possible. Don’t let Facebook share things about you that you don’t want shared. You are in control of what you share on your blog, but you have things on Facebook that you might think Facebook is only sharing with your friends, and if you don’t correctly adjust your security settings Facebook might share that information with other sites or people. Look online for help keeping your social networking sites secure, but look to your heart and your brain about what to put on your blog and YouTube channel.

Thanks for reading!

Your friend,

Brian


Boom De Yada

I’m writing a post mostly out of guilt today. My site has been untouched for far too long, and lately it’s been pulling in a lot of views. That makes me feel like a horrible person.

So, I’ve been thinking about sharing this little something for a few days anyhow, and today I decided to just do it.

A while ago I happened upon and fell in love with the wonderful world of xkcd. If you’ve found your way to my blog and have yet to check out his webcomic, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Anyhow, xkcd’s creator has done many fabulous comics that I love, but I recently discovered a fun video based on one of his comics that I wanted to share with you.

First, here’s the comic (titled “xkcd Loves the Discovery Channel”):

xkcd Loves the Discovery Channel

xkcd Loves the Discovery Channel

(Click the image to view it full size on the xkcd site.)

Next, here’s a video to explain the cartoon’s connection to the Discovery Channel:

Also, check out this other Discovery Channel video.

Finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… the new video I found!

(Note: The Vimeo player is great, and it’s one of my favorites, but on many browsers it plays a lot smoother if you let the whole video load before you play. To do this, press play, then pause as soon as you see it begin to load the video. Once the seek bar is full of solid grey, it is safe to play!)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “I Love xkcd on Vimeo“, posted with vodpod

I hope you thought it was as cute as I did.


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