Every new version of media has their ups and downs. From newspapers to television, you can’t expect a new media empire to start up without some bumps along the way. However, one might also expect a fair amount of progress on the real issues that plague that new media as well so that it can make a better and brighter future for itself. But, if you were to ask several YouTubers about the current state of YouTube at the moment, you’d probably get a very, very negative response. Because in short: YouTube is on fire. It’s not just some slow burn either, as some would compare it to some of the recent Fort McMurray fires within Canada. Despite what they may say in press releases or in overly produced videos regarding their creators, YouTube is not doing enough to help out those who make their site one of the most popular on the entire Internet. As a small YouTuber myself who’s tried to make it for two years, I feel like Youtube is playing the role of Rorschach. They’ve got no problem watching many of their viewers and creators struggle, despite putting on a completely different face in the public light.
You may think I’m over-exaggerating about the state of YouTube, and it’s possible that I may be looking at it through an anti-version of rose tinted glasses. I’ll be completely upfront here: I’m frustrated with the state of my own YouTube channel, so it’s possible that there are some sour grapes mixed in with the actual facts behind the whole situation with YouTube. But when I look at what has happened over the last 18 months within the YouTube community, I see creators who are struggling to understand if YouTube is even paying attention to them. Basic bugs go unsolved, while new features that no one has asked for get released. For example, there’s been a common bug that has been around for a while now regarding the saving of a thumbnail on a video. Once in a while, this doesn’t work, and the video uses the gray default image with three white dots. Despite attempting to re-upload a new thumbnail that seems to be saved properly, you’ll come back within the hour to see that it’s reverted back to the gray blob of frustration. The only workaround right now that SOMETIMES works is to choose a default thumbnail, save it, and then upload the thumbnail in question. So, OK, typical technical issues with the site. I wish this is where the issues with YouTube stop, but no, it’s only the beginning.
Where’s the Fair Use? No, seriously Google, where is your Fair Use?
The easiest thing to start with would be the ongoing situation regarding Fair Use on YouTube. I wish I could sit here and tell you that campaigns such as #WTFU has gotten massive results to change the platform. I’d be lying if I told you that. Despite campaigns like “Where’s the Fair Use?”attempting to shine a light on the subject, nothing has significantly changed about the system. Now, it’s not like YouTube has ignored the topic completely. They’ve been busy indicating how much revenue that Content ID has paid out. Because that’s exactly what creators want to see in the current YouTube client: stats about a system that has been screwing them over despite Fair Use applying. But, I have to be fair, content ID does have its place within the YouTube environment. Without it, there’s absolutely no way that channels like Channel Awesome, The Film Theorists, or Wisecrack could even exist. That’s because corporate Hollywood would have shut down YouTube faster than Ghostbusters fans ran from the newest installment in the franchise.
But getting back to the actual condition of Fair Use, it’s become worse as time has gone on. More and more people have become aware of the ability to shut down content via DMCA claims on YouTube. However, it’s not always used in the way that it’s supposed to be. In a good amount of cases, the claimant is using the claim to censor or shutdown content they deem to be harmful to their brand and/or image. Heck, it’s not just the big corporations involved in this either. It’s YouTubers going after other YouTubers, as slights against one another turn into a war of words and system abuse. A prime example was the use of DMCA by Jenny McDermott against the Amazing Atheist, by filing claims repeatedly against the channel.
I am now DMCAing all of your videos that have footage of me. Have fun with that @DrunkenPeasants . You done messed with the wrong bitch.
— Jenny McDermott (@JennyKMcDermott) July 9, 2016
While she indicates that the videos have slandered her character and have caused harassment against her, her original action against the channel was the correct one given what she has claimed. While I’ll later on get to the problems regarding the Community Guidelines, reporting a violation of the Community Guidelines is far more appropriate than the use of DMCA, especially within the realm of Fair Use. Now many of you may wonder: aren’t there consequences legally for filing a false DMCA claim? There are, but note that the “DMCA” claims that you see within YouTube aren’t proper DMCA claims, at least at first. It’s only when the claim and counterclaims occur within the system do things get “serious.”
Nevertheless, the justification to allow a DMCA claim seems to be what’s mainly a problem at the core of YouTube. To be clear, Fair Use is a legal defense that’s defined under the U.S. legal doctrine. The thing is Fair Use has to be proven as a defense; you have to indicate why your case applies to the doctrine. But YouTube allows for pretty much anyone to claim the content via “DMCA” without a real justification behind it, or in some cases proof that the claimant owned the clip in question. You’d think that YouTube, given the amount of abuse that the system has had on creators, would want to improve this area of requirements, forcing proof or needing more information to prove that your DMCA claim is legitimate. Sadly, that’s not the case right now.
But the fight for Fair Use isn’t just for the right for a video to exist, but for creators to earn money off their creations. There are still questions in the legal system present regarding content like Let’s Plays and where they stand in the overall definition of transformative work. However, there are ones that are much more clear in terms of case law with parodies and reviews. Let’s be clear: the monetization status in most cases doesn’t play a significant part in the determination of Fair Use. It’s one of the most common myths regarding Fair Use, and one that I have to explain to people over and over again.
Nintendo is a fine example of where the rigid system of content ID has run directly into a brick wall, as there’s no difference in the eyes of the automated system between a Let’s Play with no commentary to a highly edited review. That’s because the trigger is the same: an audio or video segment of the video that’s pre-registered within YouTube’s system. I myself had to fight Nintendo regarding a Star Fox Zero video review that I created for my channel, despite it definitely falling into the criticism category of Fair Use. It took over two months for the claim to be awarded in my favor: hitting the full limit on the 30 days for both stages of the process. First, Nintendo took the full time to counter-claim my original claim that it was Fair Use, and then did it again when I took it to the next level, providing my own address/personal information like YouTube wanted. Despite YouTube’s own advice resources indicating that what I did was well within the definition of Fair Use, it didn’t matter. For two months, the hard work that I created couldn’t be monetized in any sort of way. What’s also annoying was that despite the fact that I did win the battle in the end, the video ended up defaulting to no monetization anyway. I only found that out when going through and checking the number of full reviews I’ve done on the channel. Thanks for not telling me that, YouTube.
But let’s think back for a second about what’s been going on the last few months regarding Fair Use. We’ve seen fights all over the place, as YouTubers are trying to make actual progress regarding the abuse of it by bigger companies. Channel Awesome actually got spots to the U.S. Government Round Tables about the abuse of DMCA. It’s had an impact too: the #WTFU movement apparently ruffled some feathers in the copyright industry, with Copyright Alliance boss Keith Kupferschmid comparing it to a “Zombie apocalypse.” Which is hilarious. Almost every case that I’ve seen under the #WTFU tag had to do with a clear-cut case of Fair Use, or a case that made absolutely no sense on how a copyright claim was placed on it. For example, ChibiReviews was hit with a copyright claim with him talking on his porch. With Content ID not taking a look at the context behind certain clips and copyright claims being handed out left and right via Content ID, I’d argue that the current copyright system on YouTube is the closest thing to a zombie apocalypse. Aka, most of it is brain dead.
But hold on, what about YouTube’s part in all of this? Surely they would want to be part of the proceedings in question? Well they were, as Google representatives were at those aforementioned meetings. But note how you didn’t hear anything about it from them. At all in fact. No public campaign, no public support for groups like Channel Awesome and Fight for the Future. They’ve been eerily quiet about the situation. More silent than ProSyndicate has been during the CSGOLotto scandal. Now, YouTube is part of a huge corporation at this point, and with the possible legal battles that could arise due to Fair Use and DMCA, it’s possible they can’t say too much in the public light. I could believe that … if they haven’t advertised programs specifically for the situations that YouTubers have found themselves in.
Remember when Jim Sterling unveiled that Youtube was actually going to financially back YouTubers who were in the right regarding fair use? How YouTube was going to take a stand with its creators regarding fair use? It’s a noble statement: a good PR move and one that really showed that they cared about Fair Use … right?
Except in my eyes, it was all talk. How did that go down when H3H3 productions was sued by a fellow YouTuber Bold Guy? What about when Channel Criswell who was being sued by the copyright owners for his breakdown of the cinematic experience with Stanley Kubrick? Surely this new program contacted the parties in question and came to their defense right? As the original guidelines of the program said, it was only certain cases they could take on, but they had to be the best examples for the protection of Fair Use. This would seem to be the perfect case in terms of H3H3 productions, one of the fastest rising personalities on YouTube, and coming within YouTube’s own environment in terms of conflict. Two YouTubers going after each other, as opposed to Hollywood getting involved. So, thankfully this program got some use … right?
Of course not. YouTube/Google turned out to be completely silent despite a huge amount of content on their site being reliant on the Fair Use law. They’ve made a big deal about how they were going to protect Fair Use financially in situations like what Ethan and Hila were being hit with. Instead, they have said nothing. Now granted, the Philip DeFranco fundraiser that happened to raise money for the defense (despite Ethan and Hila not asking for it) happened the day of the original reveal of the lawsuit. The Internet, like always, was on top of things faster than a set of fans on a newly placed lure in Pokemon Go. Which is great to see, that the viewers and other creators understand what’s at stake and are willing to do major things in order to make sure that creators like H3H3 productions can keep creating the content they love.
However, it’s really sad that YouTube didn’t say a word. In fact, to my knowledge, they haven’t said anything to this day. Thankfully, H3H3 and the Video Game Attorney were the one who actually took action, found FUPA, the Fair Use Protection Account. Finally, someone who was actually fighting for the right of creators. The creators that YouTube hasn’t even been bothering with. In all of this, it’s shown that there are some creators that take their art seriously and are willing to fight for the rights of those they share a common platform with.
But to be fair to YouTube, they have commented on certain cases regarding DMCA and Fair Use. However, there’s still a lack of communication and a lack of overall progress by Google as a whole. Thanks to a great movement that was started by GradeAUnderA, YouTube at one point did say something regarding the hashtag campaign #MakeYoutubeGreatAgain. It was a reasonable response too, as the response came from the CEO of YouTube herself, Susan Wojcicki. It even brought a solution to one of the most common issues that the community was facing: a new mechanism for the money earned on a video under a copyright claim. This was a big issue in the YouTube community, as the original implementation gave incentive for copyright trolls or scamming companies to claim things they didn’t even own. That’s mostly because when a copyright claim was in “dispute,” the money would go to the person claiming it until the dispute was resolved, meaning the more videos you claimed for no good reason, the more money you could potentially earn. Now, YouTube has claimed that they’ve punished those who have abused the system in the past. But when you’ve got creators like ACG indicating the amount of fake claims that they receive on a weekly basis, it’s not that hard to believe that creators may think otherwise.
But here’s the question: where is that implementation? My degree is in Computer Science, and I know that when you’ve got financials involved, the amount of testing and test cases that you have to make sure pass is huge. It’s no small feat, as writing a “few lines of code” isn’t going to get the job done. But, it’s been a couple of months since the original request, and YouTube hasn’t said a word about when creators should expect it. It’s even possible that it’s implemented and no one has said anything. But we return to a similar problem that we’ve seen with other issues on YouTube: their lack of communication.
Now I understand that YouTube is in a shitty situation regarding DMCA. Hollywood and big corporations are not only overly sensitive to their product being put onto YouTube, they are downright paranoid. YouTube is in between a rock and a hard place, as while they are Google, having hundreds of lawyers from Hollywood breathing down your neck as a corporation doesn’t sound like the greatest of times.
To a certain extent, Hollywood should be concerned about their material being stolen, because let’s be honest, there’s a lot of people who are doing everything they can to get around the limits of the system. Do you want an example? Go and search for full episodes of Kitchen Nightmares. You’ll find them all over the place. And I’m not talking clip segments, or reviews, or anything of the sort. I’m talking the entire episode in its entirety (OK, without the commercials, but you know what I mean). Or go and search for full WWE matches, with sped up audio or part of the picture being shrunk. I’m not talking about Botchamania by the way (because that’s fantastic), I’m talking about people uploading entire matches for nothing other than their original purpose. Again, part of the big idea of Fair Use has to do with intent and the product’s goal. If it’s in the exact same market as the original, there’s less likelihood that it’ll pass the test of Fair Use.
But here’s the thing: If you put a bunch of guidelines up about Fair Use, and even indicate a program dedicated to the protection to be able to parade around to news outlets and creators indicating you’re doing something … you should probably actually DO something with those guidelines and defenses that you have made. However, that’s a common theme regarding YouTube within this article and in general lately. They say one thing to look nice in the eyes of everyone, but in terms of actions that people can actually see or any communication following up with it afterward, it’s a completely different story.
Alright, there’s a bit of issues with DMCA and Fair Use. But it stops there right? Surely there isn’t another whole set of other problems that are lying under the surface of the friendly YouTube right?
Oh, how I wish that were the case.
The Community Guidelines: The Used and Abused
Let’s move on to the Community Guidelines. The Community Guidelines are supposed to set the standards that Google expects of the videos on its platform. The typical things that you’d expect are in this Community Guideline list: no spam, no personal attacks or call to action for those attacks, no overly sexual content. I mean, there’s a whole other selection of websites that take care of some of those needs, in particular with the last one. These guidelines are the usual you’d expect to see from a now multi-billion dollar corporation. The moral standard to set and what not. And yet, despite those guidelines, you can easily see the Community Guidelines being abused left and right. Not only in the blatant disregard of the guidelines in question but using the guidelines as a tool to take down other opinions of YouTubers that a select group do not agree with.
Note that I’m specifically not talking about copyright here, I’m talking situations like what happened to I Hate Everything, where his channel was marked with spam and removed for a period of time. That happened despite none of the guidelines seemingly being broken. Welcome to the world of Community Guidelines: where the guidelines don’t actually get enforced or checked in the right way and automatically remove a channel. Even if the channel has been around for several years, and had no complaints about it up to that point. Nothing that I Hate Everything did on a regular basis even came close to the definition of spam, and yet, he had to fight for his channel back: and he only got it back when the community made so much noise, YouTube couldn’t ignore it.
Want another example of the Community Guidelines going horribly wrong? Look at the recent case of WeeGee plays, who recently seemed to draw the ire of LeafyIsHere fans and had a Community Guideline strike put on his account. What’s disturbing about this is simple: YouTube’s automated email warning system doesn’t make it clear at all on what guideline he broke. It offers some information, referring to the “hateful content guideline” within the email he received. But, it fails to specifically call out what the video was struck for in particular, along with the email being VERY unclear about the specifics behind the situation. What’s also to note is that there’s no history regarding the channel, as this is the first time there has been a complaint. Don’t mind the fact that he’s had a history of making videos since 2014 without any guideline infractions, YouTube knows what’s best here. He must be a hateful person, no question.
When I asked Weegee about whether or not he believes that YouTube assumes guilt rather than innocence, he was clear with his response. “Absolutely. YouTube’s flagging system completely reverse innocent until proven guilty; you’re guilty until proven innocent.” He went on to point out a specific issue regarding the system: “The problem is that literally anyone can flag a video for any reason whatsoever, and regardless as to whether or not the accusations are actually true, YouTube will still go after you if enough people flag you. Also, the fact that people can just freely spam flags without any sort of repercussion is absurd, because that just makes the system way easier to abuse, and increases the amount of false-flagging that actually occurs.”
Now thankfully, the Community Guideline strike on the video has been removed thanks to an assortment of members from the YouTube community who helped him out, but the amount of chaos that a single strike can inflict on a channel is mind-blogging. You can’t upload any video over 15 minutes for example. I’m assuming this was some attempt against people uploading full movies to YouTube, but given the recent changes in YouTube’s ecosystem that reward channels for longer videos (oh, we’ll get to that), it seems like a relic of a past system. It also doesn’t help that it hamstrings the creator in several other ways, including the ability to live stream on YouTube.
He’s not the only one who’s found themselves on the end of the Community Guidelines being used as a tool to silence or even mess with a creator’s livelihood. Undoomed, a YouTuber with 100,000+ subscribers, recently had a video removed about the Ghostbusters movie for “inappropriate content.” This was done within 24 hours of the original video post. There was no mention of what exactly was inappropriate about the video either. As you see below, it left Undoomed pondering if there was only one safe way to make content on the site. Even though he fully well knows that the cat video fad has come and gone.
And so it begins… Guess I'd better start making cat videos. pic.twitter.com/dR3ARxJd5k
— Undoomed (@Undoomed) July 9, 2016
Once again, it’s the YouTube community that’s having to answer the call, with prominent names such as PyroCynical, I Hate Everything, and TotalBiscuit attempting to help out the smaller channel with advice and contact information to help rectify the situation. If you’re seeing a trend here, you’re correct: the only time ANYTHING is ever done regarding the shutdown of a video is when enough people make a stink on social media about it. It’s a really sad state of affairs; you have to have the social media presence (or know someone who does) to get any sort of reaction out of YouTube.
What’s truly disturbing throughout this entire process is that creators who get hit with the Community Guideline strikes don’t seem to be doing anything wrong … and yet there are those who are most definitely breaking the guidelines. They are allowed to run free and cause chaos within the YouTube environment.
There was a great video done with the Prank Reviewer, GradeAUnderA, and Yoel Silver regarding creators that were breaking the YouTube Community Guidelines. The video focused on one particular item: misleading metadata, which is called out within the guidelines as something that can get you a community strike. Now with a lot of the items within the Community Guidelines, there is a level of subjectivity for the guideline in question. For example, the definition of hateful content will vary from person to person, and some of the descriptions for the categories given by YouTube don’t really help to add any clarity to those looking for it. But in the case of misleading metadata, the guideline is a lot more clear: don’t tag your video with metadata that has nothing to do with the video. If I do a Let’s Play of Sonic Boom, for example, I shouldn’t be tagging it with Mario, unless I have content in the video specifically related to the Mario franchise.
The Prank Reviewer, Yoel Silver, and GradeAUnderA brought up a lot of good points within the accusation video, along with a good amount of evidence to show how creators like CJ SO COOL and RichKidsTV end up breaking the guidelines on a daily basis. They make good points about how the advertisers on the service pay for the appropriate content to find the right audiences, and that the videos that mislead with false metadata would most likely not be showing those ads associated with those tags to the right audience. It would seem that the videos in question should be getting a community strike for each occurrence. And with three community strikes, you’re supposed to be out of the YouTube system for good. Which is funny, because the amount of evidence that the three creators here found on channels such as CJ SO COOL was mind boggling. In fact, if you use a tool like TubeBuddy to check several of CJ SO COOL’s videos right now, you can still see that he hasn’t changed anything regarding them.
This video was presented to the YouTube community on May 27th, 2016 and has over 200,000 views. You’d think with the amount of attention and the blatant disregard of the guidelines that have been set up, YouTube would have taken action on the channel, right? That the number of reports that came out of this video would have meant something? Of course they didn’t. Nothing happened to CJ SO Cool. His channel is still up. He is STILL doing the practice in question, with his latest videos having the same tags. He not only hasn’t been punished for his abuse of the system, he’s been rewarded by it, as he now has over one million subs. Even with the numerous reports of his channel, he’s allowed to run scot-free in the system. What’s even more disturbing is that he’s verified within the system (seen by the checkmark next to his name). Good job YouTube, you’ve verified someone who breaks the rules on a constant basis.
There’s also the fact that many of the guidelines, as mentioned before, are very vague about what is acceptable and what is not. Given the current state of YouTube, you’d think that there’s no problem with sexuality being shown within thumbnails. Heck, there’s plenty of videos out there that use the female body to attract the attention of viewers out there. And yet, if you look at the guidelines, it’s not exactly clear on what’s acceptable and what’s not in some cases. Full up nudity isn’t allowed; however, a video with sexual content may be allowed if isn’t “gratuitously graphic.” What is the definition of gratuitously? Only YouTube themselves may know, and I’m not even sure of that. These kind of unclear guidelines allow for people to push the guidelines to the limit of what’s acceptable, and considering they don’t take action on people who break guidelines anyway … well, yeah.
Looking to help with big issues outside their platform, yet ignoring ones being exploited in it.
What’s even more concerning is that while Google is busy speaking out regarding the tragic deaths in the recent shootings of America, they don’t seem to take part in the controversies of their own site. Recently, the CS:GO betting scandal and the lack of disclosure by prominent YouTubers Tmartn and ProSyndicate has shaken up the world of YouTube gaming. It’s brought up questions about disclosure from prominent YouTubers who have done videos on Counter Strike: Global Offensive betting, but makes all gaming YouTubers look bad in general. Such industry veterans as TotalBiscuit have come out strongly against the practices, and if you read into the Community Guidelines and the terms of service, YouTube has every tool at their disposal to take action against the videos and the creators in question legally. In particular with one of their biggest creators: ProSyndicate. This isn’t the first time he has broken the FTC guidelines regarding disclosure on videos that he has created for his 10 million subscriber channel, as noted by Gamasutra earlier in 2015. He was also involved in the original Xbox One scandal involving Machinima, although he was under their network at the time.
— Mr.Syndicate (@ProSyndicate) July 27, 2016
He’s mostly gone silent on social media about the incident, even though he’s promised answers to his viewers beyond the generic statement that he made at the time the incident was discovered. And despite his claims indicating that he’s going to be more transparent from here on out, you may notice that the videos in question still indicate that he’s “sponsored” by CSGOLotto. Not that he has a financial stake in the company, just that he’s sponsored. For someone who’s indicated that he was going to be a lot more transparent, he hasn’t done anything to update the videos that were the problems. He could have added annotations at the start of the videos, as well as update the description appropriately. But of course not, he’s got more Call of Duty zombies videos to make. It’s almost like he isn’t actually going to do what he’s saying.
YouTube, thanks to their terms of service, actually have the tools to ban ProSyndicate and TmarTn based on the evidence that was presented. Like most major companies, they worded their terms of service to be very compliant to all possible cases, allowing them a lot of flexibility to get rid of creators who are breaking the law (for example). And if you don’t think that he’s broken several laws … well, I’d take a listen to what some experts have to say about the topic. But you may be saying to yourself: is there any other streaming/video service that curates or bans users based on breaking their guidelines? Maybe this is just an industry trend.
Nope, because on the opposite side of the gaming content world, Twitch is actually stepping in. Let’s take an example of another service that has creators and their reaction to accusations against the creator that have some substance behind it. Let’s take PhantomLord of Twitch, who also has had significant evidence presented that he misled his viewers for his own financial gain thanks to a Counter Strike: Global Offensive gambling website. But you see, unlike the incidents with ProSyndicate and Tmartn on YouTube, Twitch has actually taken action against the creator. PhantomLord is banned from the service. It is unclear what the specific reason that got him banned, but he broke the terms of service with Twitch … just like ProSyndicate and Tmaartn have done.
So, how about you, YouTube? What are you doing about the people who abuse your service?
What Do Creators Want? Well, it doesn’t matter, cause YouTube is too busy anyway.
Even the biggest name in YouTube, PewDiePie, is pointing out the lack of action regarding the site and the needed features that creators have been asking for for ages. What’s peculiar is that these are features that you’d think would be reasonably easy to implement compared to some of the tools and features that they have released in the meantime. Your entire business model is based on creators making content for your service, and you’d think that you’d do everything in your power to make things a lot easier for them, so that they can focus on making more content, thus making you more money. But of course, that’s a silly idea, because that makes sense.
PewDiePie, the biggest YouTube creator on the planet, recently questioned YouTube on some simple basics regarding its comment system. For example, why people were allowed to have the same name within the YouTube atmosphere. It’s created a huge problem for larger YouTubers having to moderate their own comment sections so that their fans aren’t tricked into click on some shady content, as seen in his video about the subject. He isn’t the only one whose talked about the major problems that the comments section is, as other big YouTubers like Jackspecticeye have also gone on recording wondering why the issue of the comments section hasn’t been taken care of. And they’re not even talking about hatefeul comments or things that relate to the Community Guidelines. They’re talking about things that would actually make their lives a hell of a lot easier.
PewdiePie didn’t stop there. He talked about the current state of the YouTube guide, as well as the trend of what the emphasis of watch time has done to the quality of content on YouTube. I’ve talked about how certain types of creators are already punished under this system (like animators). And here’s the thing: there’s always two sides to the story, as there could be good reasons to keep the watch time as the primary determinant in pay. But when you’ve got creators making hour long let’s plays of Undertale, and having them take a piss in the middle of it and not edit it (as it would be less revenue in that case) … you’ve got a bit of a problem.
There’s a lot of little things that are really bothering creators all over the place. A good amount of the problems that YouTube is experiencing with its creators I attribute to one thing: YouTube not keeping up with the speed of their own service. Everything on the Internet seems to run at the speed of Sonic, so you’ve got to always be ready for the next trend to show up.
Take for example: the gaming trending tab on mobile. A good amount of creators have called into question why certain content is showing up within the gaming tab. One of the biggest issues that happens on a daily basis has to do with creator LeafyIsHere. Most of the content that LeafyIsHere creates has nothing to do with gaming, as he usually roasts another creator on the Internet. While several of his videos have Counter Strike: Global Offensive jump map gameplay in the background, the question on whether he belongs in the category has to do with the main content of his videos. Does a creator who doesn’t focus on gaming as a whole, but only uses it to fill a void of footage, deserve to be one of the promoted Gaming YouTubers present within that category? Or should there be another category altogether for the type of content he creates? It’s something that YouTube hasn’t really answered yet.
That’s on top of the constant bugs that the site seems to have. I mentioned the thumbnail problem at the start of this article, but rest assured, it doesn’t end there. Of course, every system will have its bugs, regardless of the amount of quality assurance poured into it. But when your basic features are breaking, that should be a cause for concern. Case in point, what Ricepirate experienced recently regarding the like percentage bar. The blue bar under the number of views is supposed to represent a percentage of likes. Despite the ratio of the likes to dislikes on the video not being anywhere close to 100%, for some reason, the YouTube bar seems to think otherwise.
youtube math is confusing me pic.twitter.com/Y6gouMwzQ1
— Ricepirate ??? (@RicepirateMick) July 21, 2016
The Loss of Hope
I could go on and on and on about all the issues that YouTube is currently going through. What you’ve seen here is just a COUPLE of examples of the major problems that YouTube is facing, as I didn’t want to make this article longer than War and Peace. But, what’s the point of this then? To make a plea to YouTube to actually do something about their issues. Their product doesn’t seem to be improving despite having a lot of potential to grow and become bigger and better. I do think that this is the age of how we will get a majority of information going forward, in particular within the video game environment. I do believe it has the power to replace TV as the primary way we ingest the news, and I think the creativity on YouTube can bring out the best (and worst) of society. In short: I think the sky could be the limit when it comes to YouTube’s potential.
But, I’m seeing one big trend among YouTubers lately: the feeling of doubt within the YouTube system. That they are fighting a beast that they can’t seem to overcome, and that YouTube isn’t lifting a finger to help them out. And theses aren’t guys like me, the low level YouTubers. I’m talking about creative and interesting YouTubers, like The Completionist. He recently posted the below on twitter, and it highlights the real struggles by creators in this current age of YouTube.
Here comes a big post that's been on my mind. Thank you / sorry in advance. Appreciate your time and more. pic.twitter.com/BaRNfutdSf
— The Completionist (@JKCompletesIt) July 28, 2016
As a creator myself, I look at that and wonder how I, this small creator who’s nowhere near the size of The Completionist, can make it if he’s having troubles. Of course, there’s going to be times that you have to adapt to the world around you, but as The Completionist says, it’s the ways that YouTube is evolving that don’t really make sense. Gone is the quality, gone is the focus on the creators, and it seems to be more about things that don’t make sense for the long run of the company. Now I’m no expert, and I have no idea what’s going on inside the bowels of YouTube, but neither do the biggest creators that are keeping the service going. And that’s a major problem.
There are a TON of issues present here. Enough to keep a whole department busy for an entire century. With all these issues, you can’t expect all the issues to be fixed overnight. So with all that I’ve indicated here, how does YouTube go about repairing the system that they’ve created? Well, there’s a few basics that they have to address first. These are things that would go a LONG way to fixing several of the problems that the site is plagued with, even if the problems continue to pop up and cause havoc for creators throughout its life. But if I were YouTube, I would start with these points.
Communicate. No, seriously, communicate. This isn’t that hard.
This seems like a “no duh” one, doesn’t it? Actually talking to your community and getting feedback of what’s going on within your own ecosystem? And yet, one of the biggest problems that YouTube faces is the fact that many of the creators on their site are left in the dark 99% of the time. When changes come across the site or something bad has happened, creators have to pull teeth in order to get an answer about what’s going on. Recently, a lot of YouTubers lost a significant amount of subs, making people wonder if it was a new purge of inactive subs or if they had done something to piss off their community. It took 24 hours for YouTube to respond to the issue, and many people never found about what the issue actually was (a bug regarding the displaying of subs). The only people who found out what it truly was were those who have followed the YouTuber Creators twitter account, and those who read it spread the information to the others around.
But why is this so hard? Why is a service that has your email information and a message system built within it not able to send out that information to every creator who wants it? Heck, why can’t you indicate that there was a problem WITHIN THE YOUTUBE INTERFACE ITSELF? I get that you don’t want to advertise your own mistakes on the platform, things that make you look bad. But guess what: this is the Internet. The information has already spread across the Internet, especially those in your YouTube audience. I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again: being up front and informing people right away of what’s going on goes a long way in building up some trust within your user base. Things like what your Team YouTube account is doing right now:
Thanks to everyone for the reports about the "Video Not Available" message, we're aware of them and are currently working on a fix.
— Team YouTube (@TeamYouTube) July 22, 2016
Now, do this for a LOT more of the issues that people are reporting and integrate it within your service. I know companies are afraid of putting out information that could be used against them later, but that fear is mostly a fallacy. Yes, there’s always going to be a collection of people that are going to be angry and vocal about anything wrong that happens. That’s a small percentage compared to the people who are understanding and willing to hear you out.
But it’s more than this. Circling back to The Completionist: inform your creators of the changes you are making and why you are making them. A creator can just all of a sudden login one day and see that the video feed has completely changed. When a person’s video doing well is reliant on being seen on this page, and all of a sudden you’ve made massive changes to it, they are going to be upset. Why not COMMUNICATE that a few weeks beforehand so that creators can adjust and figure out what the best way to plan their content is? Instead, you just let it loose on the world, and now your community is literally on fire. Why set fire to yourself?
Create/Hire More Community Managers to actually interact with creators
This goes along the line of the first point I made, but it’s a little bit more specialized. When Fair Use and DMCA problems hit a creator, attempting to get some assistance in solving the issue is like pulling teeth while riding in the back of a pickup truck on a rocky road. You always hear about creators having to find other creators who have connections within the industry in order to get their issue looked at. And I ask YouTube: Why are creators like Channel Awesome and I Hate Everything having to go through backdoor connections to get your attention?
So, you’d think that dedicating more people to a MAJOR problem in your system would be the best solution. And sometimes the obvious solution is the best solution. Now to be fair, there are a couple of YouTube community managers within the industry that I know of, with Fwiz being the prime example. So here’s the question YouTube: why aren’t there more people like that? You can’t seem to go two feet within the Twitter space without stumbling across a Twitch partner/manager that can help people out, so why is it so hard with your service? I get it, you don’t want people sitting around and doing nothing within your company, having a bunch of people waiting around for things that may not happen. But you can’t go one day without a bigger YouTuber indicating problems with the system, so let’s be clear: YouTube needs a lot more of these community manager to help their creators, because I can assure you every creator will benefit from them.
Bring down the hammer on big violators to send a message and clarify policies
I know that this one may be controversial, saying that you can’t punish those who are playing “the game” in order to make it on YouTube. That there are probably hundreds of channels that are violating the guidelines, and to only send a message to a selection of those bigger channels would be unfair and unjust to those specific channels. Now, I wouldn’t suggest messing with some of the more abstract portions of your policies, as your “hateful content” guideline for example would probably do more harm then good considering how subjective it can be. I would take the chance to actually define SPECIFICALLY what you’re talking about there, as you’ll probably run into a situation like Twitter did recently with Milo Yiannopoulos. Before you take any action on channels like that, you need to be clear on what’s allowed and what’s not on your service.
But in situations like ProSyndicate’s lack of disclosure on your service, as well as the blatent abuse of metadata tags on channels such as RichKidsTV and CJ SO Cool, you should take immediate action. The reason why the Community Guidelines are a joke at the moment is your lack of enforcement. No one is directly afraid of them because people are breaking them left and right and are doing it without consequences. If some of the biggest channels out there get hit with substantial punishments because they broke your rules, then people will start to worry about what they are wrong. Sadly, several of these channels are acting like children, and the only way to handle children is to set strict guidelines and punishments at times.
That’s also for the false claimers in your service. If people are reclaiming videos that they’ve lost a claim on in the past, something’s wrong. If they are claiming hundreds of videos that they keep on losing on big channels like ACG, something’s wrong. Do something about them. Now.
Show your smaller creators that you actually care about them
Ok, I fully admit that this one is a personal request, but I don’t think I”m the only one who feels this way about how hard it is for smaller creators to get noticed on YouTube. However, what I wouldn’t do is create an impersonal survey and send it out to a selection of creators, because a bunch of creators will think it is nothing but a PR move, considering the type of questions and a lack of detailed follow up questions.
Oh god, that survey. I get that big corporations love their surveys to try to gather a lot of information from a variety of people. Several months ago, YouTube sent out a survey for a random selection of YouTube creators. But when you do that, you have to realize what kind of questions you are asking. In particular, you need to make sure that you aren’t “twisting the dagger” in the way you word things. Well, that’s exactly what the survey did for a bunch of creators. Questions like “Do you think YouTube does enough to help smaller creators?” If you’re asking that question, you probably know exactly what the answer is already.
You know what would be a great idea? How about making a curated selection of videos picked by your staff or fellow larger YouTubers to try to bring attention to great projects or videos that other creators are making? How about updating your YouTube guide so that it’s actually representative of the current YouTube landscape?
How about getting them in a room and actually having a discussion with them? How about you get direct feedback of what they see wrong and why they don’t feel like they’ve got a chance to make it on the service. Maybe you can clear up problems or inconsistencies while doing that. Give them hope that what they are doing is worth it.
No matter what YouTube, you need to do something. You may be the biggest video service out there, but you’ve got competition on the horizon. Amazon’s indicated that they are integrating video elements within their store, and they have the infrastructure to actually fight Google reasonably. YouTube took the mantle of the rising star of the media world a couple of years ago.
If they want to keep it, they’ve got to change.