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Joseph Scarbrough launched what he called "The Scarblog" as a way of cataloging his work over the years, as well as going into greater detail of things on his mind (known as "Unfinished Thoughts").

Sunday, November 24, 2019

My Unfinished Thoughts on the Possible Death of YouTube

This is one of those Unfinished Thoughts entries that actually lives up to its name, because these thoughts of mine really are unfinished . . . I am completely unsure of what I should do in regards to the big news concerning YouTube that I'm sure most of you have probably already heard about by now.

The brief rundown of all of this is as follows: YouTube has been found to be in violation of COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act), and as such, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has not only fined them $170,000,000 for their infraction, they're ordering sweeping changes made to the entire site, and said changes are going to have a tremendous effect on everybody who uses the site - especially the creators and producers: namely, each and every single video on YouTube must now be labeled as "made for kids" or "not made for kids."

That doesn't sound like it would be too big of a deal, except that it is: for one thing, if you label your videos as "made for kids," then you, as a YouTuber, will lose a number of basic features and functions that help you build your channel and connect with your audience, such as comments, your subscribers receiving notifications about new videos, your videos being shared and showing up in recommended columns, the ability to add your videos to play lists, and for many YouTubers - monetization. It seems like the simple thing to do would be to just label your videos "not made for kids" to avoid losing such features, right? Not exactly: YouTube will also be implementing an internal, computerized system that will detect if your videos is, indeed, "made for kids" (as in utilizing any kind of kid-friendly audio/visual footage, or basically any content the system perceives to be kid-friendly), and if they detect your videos are made for kids, but not labeled as such, you will face a fine of over $42,000 per video for "abusing the system."

Naturally, a lot of the big-time YouTubers are panicking over this, because if their content is deemed kid-friendly, then they are going to lose a lot of revenue, as one of the conditions of these new changes is they can no longer customize the ads on their content. This part, obviously, means nothing to me since I've never monetized my YouTube content (I can't anyway - you have to have a minimum of 1,000 subscribers, and your content having a minimum of 4,000 hours of watch time in the previous twelve months, neither of which I ever have) . . . but, my channel will still be affected by this in less than savory ways, and it has me concerned about what the best route to take possible is.

One of the main reasons why this is so concerning is that I've never made any of my content specifically to appeal to kids, nor specifically to not appeal to kids; my content is made for any and every body who wants to take a look and enjoy . . . under these changes though, I'm going to have to decide whether or not my content is "made for kids" or "not made for kids." Taking everything into consideration, there are a number of options that I could go with, but the problem is every option has its share of drawbacks as well . . . basically, the idea is seeing which option has the least unappealing drawbacks. Here's what I am looking at and considering as far as these options are concerned:

If I Choose To Stay On YouTube

Option 1
  • Since I never make content specifically for kids, I can mark my channel, or even my individual videos are "not made for kids," this way, I don't lose any of the above-mentioned basic functions a small channel needs to try to survive.
  • Drawback: My content obviously looks as if it would appeal to kids, with most of it being puppetry (and the stigma that puppets are for kids); many videos include kid-friendly songs; and MORON LEAGUE would be directly affected, as they feature toys from kids movies and other properties (which specifically falls under "made for kids" according to the new system) . . . this could result in me being fined, and I certainly don't have that kind of money.
Option 2
  • As noted, it's obvious that my content looks like it would appeal to kids, so I could play it safe, go ahead and label my channel and content as "made for kids," so that way, there's far less risk of being fined for possible mislabeling.
  • Drawback: Again, in doing so, I'd basically lose a number of basic YouTube functions that would actually bring in any kind of traffic to my channel and videos.

If I Choose To Go An Alternate Route

Option 1
  • There are alternatives to YouTube out there, many of which are reputable and reliable, such as Dailymotion, Veoh, Vimeo, and others; some are even start-up websites that try to emulate classic YouTube, such as ZippCast, UploadSociety, and others. I could very easily migrate my content to any of these outlets, and start building up an audience again from there.
  • Drawback 1: The reputable sources like Dailymotion, Veoh, and Vimeo have their share of limitations that YouTube has long done away with, such as time limits, and file size limits - both of which would affect certain videos of mine.
  • Drawback 2: I actually have tried other sources like ZippCast and UploadSociety before, but unfortunately, because it's clear they're trying to emulate classic YouTube, they're often shut down repeatedly by Google's spies. Not only that, but because they try to emulate classic YouTube, the video playback on many of them only go up to 480p.
Option 2
  • I could go the route James Rolfe did with Cinemassacre, or Doug Walker with ThatGuyWithTheGlasses, and launch my own website to showcase my content, though I still would need a source to host my videos on so they can be embedded on the site.
  • Drawback: Having to register a domain, and not only paying for that, but also paying for web space, bandwidth.

It seems to me the easiest and most logical option for me to take is to just label my content as "kid friendly," lose all of those basic features, and just let my channel die . . . YouTube has already been doing all it can to kill my and other small channels across the platform since about 2013, why continue to prolong the slow, agonizing death any further?

Supposedly, a number of YouTubers (many with their own lawyers) have been converging on D.C., and speaking to the FTC about how this will be affecting us, and supposedly, the FTC is listening and considering looking into other ways of handling the situation that would be far less severely harmful to YouTubers . . . maybe we'll see something happen in the final hour before all of this goes into affect, but I'm not going to hold my breath about it.

Monday, November 4, 2019

YouTube Puppets Celebrating Sesame Street's 50th Anniversary

It isn't just simply amazing that 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the most iconic children's educational series in television history, but the fact that Sesame Street themselves encouraged fans across the world to join in on the celebration made it all the more special.

It's no secret that SESAME STREET has had a huge influence on me, mainly because of Jim Henson's Muppets, but clearly, other puppeteers out there have been inspired and influenced by Sesame and the Muppets for decades, thanks to Henson practically reinventing the art of puppetry as we know it. Ever since I and so many others started using YouTube as a platform to share our own work in puppetry with virtual audiences, some of us have expressed interest in doing collaboration videos that would combine our various different acts and characters into a single, fun project . . . unfortunately that wasn't a logistical possibility for many of us - particularly way back in the earlier years of our YouTube channels, when the tools many of us had were not that great (I certainly wasn't capable of chromakey or any similar visual effects).

But, as the years have passed, and a lot of us have, indeed, gotten better tools, better equipment, and have developed better sensibilities, the possibility of us collaborating on such a project had a higher likelihood - and with this being SESAME STREET's 50th anniversary, what better project to collaborate on than having our various characters get together for a sing-along of one the street's most treasured songs?

What you see here is not just Steve D'Monster, but other notable YouTube puppets such as Peter A. Cancilla's Allegra Longfellow and Professor Monster Johnson, Clyde Monster from Tai Jackson's A COMPANY OF FOOLS, Kevin L. Williams's Muley the Mule, Tim Kelly's Zook & Max, Marcelo R. Bottaro's new character Raspberry, and Matt (a.k.a. SchfiftyThree)'s pal Mike, singing along to the Joe Raposo classic, "Sing."

Don't forget to take the time to check out everybody's YouTube channels for yourselves; we could all use some subscribers!

Marcelo R. Bottaro (Marcelo Bottaro Cartoons):

Peter A. Cancilla (Vaudeville Pictures):

Tai Jackson (A Company of Fools):

Tim Kelly:

Matt AKA SchfiftyThree:

Kevin L. Williams:

Happy 50th anniversary, SESAME STREET! Thank you for your decades of service and education to generations of children, the young-at-heart, and of course us puppeteers!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

My Unfinished Thoughts on No Nourishment in Entertainment

Almost everything in this day and age of being hurry-hurry-hurry, rush-rush-rush, faster-faster-faster, there's something crucial that's getting lost in that hustle and bustle of having everything in an instant. In listening to an interview that he did with SIDE BY SIDE, renowned filmmaker Martin Scorsese brings up a very interesting point that I believe really hits the nail on the head:

"The danger, especially in our culture, is that cheaper, faster is consumed, bang, goes away. There's no nourishment."

I may be a so-called "Millennial," but even I remember a time growing up in which when a new movie would be released, it would stay in the theaters for several weeks - sometimes a couple of months, or even longer - if it was a movie you really enjoyed, you could see it more than once . . . and, of course, there's also the communal aspect of seeing a movie with other people, it brings you together in an experience of enjoyment and entertainment. Afterwards, it could be a year or even longer before that movie would be released on home video, but it would always be worth the wait. Fast-forward to today, where a movie may last only a week or so in a theater (maybe up to a month if it's particularly a box-office smash), then released on DVD a couple of months later, then that's it. That's all, folks!

Aside from the fact that almost everything produced in the world of mainstream entertainment today is rotten content anyway (remember, this is just an opinion piece), after listening to Scorsese's point, I really believe he's got a grasp of why it's so hard to really get into any new movie, or even TV show or episodic series in this day and age: it comes and goes so quickly, it leaves behind something of a void where you find yourself still wanting more . . . and no, I don't mean wanting more in terms of an endless string of sequels and franchising (that's another problem we can discuss another day). I would dare say this is one of the major problems with streaming services like Netflix or Hulu, releasing all of the new episodes of a new series at once: it's like pigging out at an all-you-can-eat buffet, without even really savoring what you're consuming.

Other filmmakers, on the other hand, disagree with Scorsese's sentiment, and even feel that the age of having everything in an instant is actually a great advantage. George Lucas, one of the biggest and most influential filmmakers of all time, responsible for the STAR WARS franchise, among other ground-breaking films since the 1970s, also shared his thoughts with SIDE BY SIDE in regards the age of film-making we live in now:

"We have gone from a presentation in a presentation venue, where it's presented to you, and/or it's hyped in your home at a particular place, at a particular time [ . . . ] It's kind of a presentation way of looking at things. We're not in that world anymore. Now we're in the world of you can have anything you want whenever you want, and it's like a supermarket [ . . . ] How do you get the shelf space? Because there's another thousand movies every week that look exactly like your movie, how do you stand out from all those other things?"

All of this taken into consideration could also be something that's applied to the current state of YouTube. Yes, yes, I know, I know -- I keep ranting about YouTube like a broken record, but hear me out on this one, because this is one aspect of YouTube that I haven't necessarily discussed in greater detail on Scarblog before. . . . Much like what's become of mainstream entertainment, YouTube is no longer the place for the little guys who want to create and produce their own, original, quality content for the world to see as it was when it started out; YouTube is no longer in the world of small-time filmmakers and content creators like James Rolfe or Terence Krey - YouTube is in the world of trends and the zeitgeist. Whenever you look on YouTube, almost all of the videos you see being promoted and postured on the homepage are vlogs or some sort: gaming, make-up tutorials, drive-thru escapades, equipment reviews, and the like. On top of that, the so-called "experts" of YouTube seem to think they have it all figured out: the best way to thrive on YouTube is the make as many videos as you can, and not only in a short amount of time, but the shorter the actual videos are, the better . . . and, to a certain extent, this is sadly true. As Lucas pointed out, it's a lot like supermarket shelf space: YouTube has become a sea vlogs that you can hardly tell apart at a glance, and in order to get noticed, you have to crank out as many short videos as you can to keep up with the Joneses. This is where Scorsese's point also comes into play: because of this, there's really no nourishment . . . and because of this, certain YouTubers like myself have been hurt by this shift in mindset.

Getting back to the point I made about the so-called YouTube "experts," there really is some truth to what they say - to the point that YouTube, in recent years, has further hindered the growth of smaller channels in many internal ways: for instance, if they perceive a channel isn't "active" (as in they don't upload at least one new video a week), they perceive said channel to be "dead," and will do one or both of two things: 1. Automatically disable/de-activate the subscribers' notifications, or 2. Automatically un-subscribe them altogether. This makes it hard for smaller channels that actually take the time to create quality content to maintain an audience, because again, it doesn't fall in line with this world of needing supermarket shelf space, and to churn out as much content as you can to get and keep that shelf space in a sea of other similar content creators. This puts people like me at a disadvantage; being an artist who maintains an artistic channel, people don't take into consideration the old saying: "you can't rush art." And you can't. Although it may not seem like it, even some of my shortest videos (four minutes or less) can take a surprisingly long time to put together: sometimes even weeks . . . and as such, it's nearly impossible to create and upload this kind of content on such a regular basis . . . so what ends up happening? We don't get the shelf space, we fall by the wayside, and we get swept up. Try explaining this to the so-called "experts" who keep telling you, "you need to make more videos more frequently." As Will Smith once put it in regards to parents, back in his Fresh Prince days: they just don't understand.

It fascinates me to see how sometimes the world of mainstream entertainment can also apply to something like YouTube, and how you can see the parallels between the two. That being said, however, while I can see the angle that Lucas is coming from from a business aspect (and even Scorsese agrees with that sentiment), I feel inclined to side more with Scorsese in terms of the art of film-making suffering from a lack of nourishment, which the consumer world doesn't even seem to miss anymore in this day and age of having what you want, when you want it, then it goes away.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Steve Drug PSA

Ah, yes . . . drug P.S.A.s. With their heavy-handed messages, as well as their vivid, memory-etching images, sometimes it makes you wonder if the people behind those P.S.A.s weren't ingesting a little something as well. Well, as Steve is about to demonstrate . . . that could very well be the case:

Monday, August 12, 2019

Steve's Second Live Stream Much Better

Steve's 15th anniversary live stream went really, really well - so well, in fact, that it ended up lasting nearly two hours! I honestly wasn't prepared or expecting it to go on so long - by the time it was over and I removed Steve, my entire arm was red and sore! I'm sure part of the reason for the better turn out this time around was more advance notice than the previous live stream this past December, which only had a week's notice.

That's not to say, however, that things didn't go completely smooth: once again, there were issues with the Facebook feed randomly cutting off halfway through for no reason . . . but this was a benefit of having it simulcast on YouTube at the same time, as people were able to hop over there to continue the stream.

Those who participated in the live stream requested that it remain available for playback and rewatching afterwards, so here is the entire, uninterrupted YouTube feed of Steve's 15th anniversary live stream. And be advised: some of the comments and discussions brought up almost got a tad naughty (a lot of which goes right over Steve's head):