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YouTube Face is clickbait, attaining human form (sfmoma.org)
382 points by dwighttk 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 148 comments



This post made me want to re-read "You Are Not a Gadget." One of Lanier's points in that book is that technology can both augment expression and bound it. The Like Button is a classic example of bounding because it reduces your thoughts and feelings about a piece of content to a thumbs up, whereas a simple textbox would let you note whatever you want about the content (text is also harder to monetize and analyze and control).

I personally have been noticing more and more how technology and algorithms seem to bounding expression online and off, particularly around content creation, but also with influencers and personal branding and so on. It feels like 90% of the shit being pumped out is super amplified to draw notice or for signaling, and while this is not a new phenomenon of course, it still feels weird to see ordinary people at restaurants taking pictures of their food, or sucking up to some corporation online for the chance to win a prize

I feel this pressure too. The pressure to get noticed. To tailor content to what will rack of the most views. To post that tweet that will make me look like a smart, funny guy who has something valuable to say and oh by the way you should totally follow me. And I hate it. And I try not to care about numbers. But it still feels really shitty when something you spent a month working on and genuinely find really cool gets a total of ten views while a picture of a goat in a sweater just when viral. And what if the audience is right?

There has to be something better. I hope that we can grow beyond changing ourselves to fit the algorithm, and re-focus on using technology to create new ways of sharing and expressing and relating to each other. One fun example of this that Lanier gave: creating technology that would let people communicate like cuttlefish (specifically the shifting skin colors and textures). That optimistic vision still feels as radical and fresh today as it did when I first read the book in 2010. I just hope it's not too late


>I hope that we can grow beyond changing ourselves to fit the algorithm

I personally think you are in for a very rude awakening. This is exactly what people are trying not to do with Machine Learning. It is always, almost, about profiling you, about finding out who you are in order to offer you what you already know, to limit your horizon, to "tailor" your "experience" and the span of possibilities.

As a very technical fellow told me: "when you read three political news in a row we set a badge, you are now politically minded."

This, sadly, doesn't fit your yearning for us growing "beyond changing ourselves to fit the algorithm."

My prediction is that it will get worst before it gets any better at all.


Yes I think you are right. Just today for example, many people seemed encouraged when Zuckerberg said facebook would have AI to effectively and automatically block hate speech in 5-10 years. And while it's hard to be, "oh no think of the poor hate speech!" that tech is actually very scary when you start thinking about how much it can be abused.

The first thing we'd probably do with cuttlefish suits anyways is stick ads all over them. Then the company that makes them would get acquired


>And while it's hard to be, "oh no think of the poor hate speech!" that tech is actually very scary when you start thinking about how much it can be abused.

Of course it will be abused, and it will be abused from the outset. The powers that be already define hate speech vs dissent, propaganda vs news, terrorists vs. freedom fighters, scientism vs science, et cetera.

Big Tech and Western governments together control of the flow of information. Previously, the blue-flavored regime held that control and abused it terribly. Now, the red-flavored regime has it, and people are finally noticing. God help us if people far, far worse gain that control in the future and start defining what is unacceptable speech.


>oh no think of the poor hate speech

This is an easy target. Whenever you get that argument you go all: "it's a bit unsettling that you find censor-happy human-out-of-the-loop algorimhms good, but I thank you for you honesty."

Then you recall that you are a programmer: "you know what, I should definitely program an algorithm that censors all positive talk about censor-happy human-out-of-the-loop algorithms. Thanks for the idea."


Blind spots are bad news for situational awareness though.

The corollary is 30 ton tractor trailer changing lanes on the highway, and concluding that there's no traffic because it would prefer not to see it.

Censoring the rear view mirrors is a bad idea no matter how much you hate what you see in them.


Since the hot mess that was 2016 on Facebook went down, I've been pondering this a lot.

Facebook was an effective rear view mirror, for a whole lot of us. The more savvy among us could see the storm clouds gathering on the horizon literally almost since the beginning , but certainly by late 2014/early 2015 it was plainly obvious that psyops were afoot, though even to a lot of plugged in hackernews type people the full-blown industrial scale of it all wasn't immediately obvious.

That's whats so insidious. It's the model. It's the first person perspective that facebook locks you into. It looks like reality, and it contains people you know, but it is not real.

You don't really know who wrote what, who liked what, etc. There's no global view of facebook for a user. I think that's the problem.

The first person view that you're locked into with facebook, makes it trivial to manufacture the appearance of group consensus when no such thing exists in the real world (if you have access to the backend).

The problem really is facebook, not the concept of social media all together. The problem is also that Facebook knew what it was doing. They were building a political doomsday machine from the get-go, they knew that's what they were doing, and they designed specifically to that goal for a decade with practically limitless funding.


There's a science fiction novel inside of your comment that I would like to read.


Is this a suggestion or light sarcasm?

Perhaps was my comment too hypothetical? :]


100% serious suggestion! :)


>cuttlefish suits

Thankfully, this sort of thing is exactly what the Internet was designed for ..


Also, China is moving in the exact opposite direction with the Perfect Citizen system by trying to change people's behavior with the help of algorithms.

Senator Grassley also said yesterday at the very end of the Zuckerberg hearing that he hopes someone with Zuck's influence and other such platforms would do something to "reduce the cynicism people have towards Congress."

That sounded pretty scary. I get that the mainstream media (and more recently Facebook propaganda, but this is definitely a much older issue) is partly to blame for polarizing America, but asking companies to actively try to influence how people think about their governments sounds like the wrong direction to take to me. I also don't think it's any better than say Fox News trying to polarize people.

https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/meetings/facebook-social-me...


>but asking companies to actively try to influence how people think about their governments

This is what many don't understand, or don't want to understand, this is why some big players are pissed at Facebook, very very pissed.

She was supposed to win, they had to help her win.

https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/56638#efmAAGAA2...

https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/19070

https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/15092

---

From:sheryl@fb.com To: john.podesta@gmail.com Date: 2016-01-02 22:07 Subject: RE: Happy New Year

I am thrilled at the progress Hillary is making.

[...]

2015 was challenging, but we ended in a good place thanks to your help and support.

Look forward to working with you to elect the first woman President of the United States.

Have a great New Year.

-John


Is that the proof? How weak.


For me the realization that politicians just accept and use facebook for their own means instead of being opposed to it was a really bitter realization.

I was hoping that when they started realizing the potential, they'd feel threatened and require it to cease working that way. Instead they all run PR campaigns on social media, and they probably collect data on their voters too if they can. It's just too disgusting to bear. Not just the US either, this is happening all across Europe.


Which makes me think... ...would someone be willing to develop a content recommendation engine that filters out all the bullshit on the web? Especially valuable would be one that is also immune to "filter bubble" effects.


I think you have to be exposed to the bullshit. I explicitly follow people on Twitter I strongly disagree with; that sometimes outright outrage and disgust me. I don’t interact with them, but I read what they’re saying and what people in their filter bubble say back to them. That’s my best solution to trying to escape too small a filter bubble of my own.


I do the same, and it started accidentally. I followed someone on twitter who I thought was someone else, and they are hard alt right. After getting some updates from them in my email, I realized my mistake, and went on twitter to unfollow them, and got to reading their feed was was atrocious from my viewpoint, but I saw that it was good to know how the "enemy" was thinking, what their thought process and logic trains are. So I kept following them.

At first I stopped in from time to time to get my outrage on (I never interact with them, just read) and to feel smug that I am intellectually superior to them and their followers.

But then I realized that if way back, at the very beginning of your thought process you start from a false premise, everything else can follow reasonable and logical methods. It's almost like chaos theory, small differences in the starting position can have vastly outsized differences at the end.

I've used this experience to go back and look at my "starting" positions. And I've horrified myself too. So on the whole it's been an enlightening experience.

So now I can say that I am firmly on my way to understanding them now (and myself too) even though I diagram with them vehemently.

I don't use Facebook much, but if I did, I would want to be able to tell the algorithm "take 50% of what you want to show me based on my preferences and show me the exact opposite"


>> that filters out all the bullshit on the web?

The problem is that your definition of bullshit might be different than mine, so any filter you come up with will have issues.


>"your definition of bullshit might be different than mine" Yes of course, but maybe for such a tool we could agree first on a definition of bullshit and try to stick to it?


It is impossible to be immune to filter bubble effects. The only way to be immune is to not filter at all (can't be in a filter bubble if you don't have a filter), but you can't do that. Even keeping up entirely with lil' ol' HN would tax you, and I don't know how many zeros to put in the 0.0000001% but HN is not very much of "the internet".

If you think you've got yourself into a situation where you're immune to the filter bubble, that just means you've created one so comfortable that you never get prodded by anything.


Stumble upon was kinda great for that.


>it still feels weird to see ordinary people

For me this is where these YT tropes get interesting. When you get past the thumbnails of the mega channels with multiple full time employees who are obviously doing something very baity and strategic, you’re left with the ordinary channels who mimic these tropes likely without deep consideration or even consciousness.

It’s just more of a will to survive kind of thing, and thus an entire ecosystem shapes its own desires by way of unknowingly optimizing for an algorithm which itself is based on honing in on community trends.


that sounds a lot like a feedback loop.


Capitalism provides the feedback loop. The Internet enables it.

Can we not design a better fitness function?


> The Like Button is a classic example of bounding because it reduces your thoughts and feelings about a piece of content to a thumbs up

People do write replies, but I feel the conversation is much terse these days. I enjoy HN because in general the crowd here is more mature and willing to invest in an informative thoughtout reply instead of just witty one-liners for karma (which I'm glad people here downvote).

But yeah, I wonder what if we took away the "likes". We had an internet and community without them before.

PS Thanks for the book recommendation.


> People do write replies, but I feel the conversation is much terse these days.

I'm not sure how recent that phenomenon actually is. I think it's more that the social tools where people congregate made it easier and even incentivize responses.

A larger number of people with less to say will respond because these systems are designed to cultivate response.


Quality over quantity. Seek ten views that let you engage with another human being rather than however many views which will never let you really make contact


Yeah but how many views do you need to put food on the table?


To complete the parent's advice: "...and have a job that doesn't depend on whoring for views".


Apparently now every job that is not directly manufacturing optimizes for "engagement" of the customer base... or "marketability".

You can ignore prime top level directives only for so long.


It's not like manufacturing companies don't need marketing. Any commercial entity needs to do those same things.


Zero?


> The Like Button is a classic example of bounding because it reduces your thoughts and feelings about a piece of content to a thumbs up

This is an interesting thought. It does simplify expression, but in sum I don't think it's that much different than life before the like button.

We press the like button all the time in real life. Giving thumbs up, a quick nod of the head, or clapping.

From that standpoint, the like button is just the digital manifestation of how we showed engagement with "content".

Where I see we run into problems is that a "like" has different meanings depending on the person and context. Unfortunately algorithms aren't able to fully understand these nuances yet, so we end up with the same stream of youtube videos in our feed or the same 5 songs in our pandora playlist. Which means on the backend we're stuck with a certain set of "almost-but-not-quite-right" labels in a system which will then make "almost-but-not-quite-right" decisions.

Folks at the edges may get incorrectly lumped into the wrong group and, in milder cases, receive content they aren't interested in, in extreme cases, be flagged as a "potential terrorist".

It's tough. I do think my life is generally better off with intelligent algos removing friction, aiding in discovery, and anticipating my needs. But to do so, those same algos need an almost infinite amount of info about me to be able to infer context and nuance.


> > The Like Button is a classic example of bounding because it reduces your thoughts and feelings about a piece of content to a thumbs up

> We press the like button all the time in real life. Giving thumbs up, a quick nod of the head, or clapping.

Oh no, I don't think real life expressions can be summed or approximated into a binary thumbs up vs no thumbs up (there's no thumbs down). For example, we express a lot more by how eagerly we raise our hands while giving a thumbs up, or how our eyes approve (or disapprove) while giving the quick nod, or how hard (or sarcastically mild) we clap.

I think there is always an amount of uncertainty in real life expression that gets lost the moment we transform them into certain form.


Agree! A lot of nuance can be lost in when converting to digital.

My point is more about the way people use the like button has corresponding actions in "real life".

A thumbs up can be used to convey a variety of emotions. Happiness, irony, and other meanings depending on culture.

However on FB, the like button has an implied set of narrow usage. You use it to acknowledge, approve, like things. It's not as useful as in real-life because you can't as easily interpret context or add accompanying signals like a furrowed brow or a smile.

The usage set is more narrow/different and I think most people recognize that when they give a thumbs up on FB vs. when they do so in real life.


Nice comment, I have upvoted it.


Alight, listen you! Quit horsing around, this is a very serious discussion.


Reminds me of the 'Dreamworks Face' that you see on so many animated movie posters. (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DreamWorksFace)


I guess then in a way it speaks to how commercially "successful" youtubers have become for it to adopt "best practices" that are efficient and save money -> although it can be called clickbait, most artisan things tend to become more standardized and costs fall, etc. if they are commercially successful and expansive.


Wow, it has a name. I have noticed that stupid expression is basically the cover of every kid's animated movie for the last decade.


I love it when people articulate/identify a pattern and coin it with something. "Dreamworks face", works for me.


Original face artwork that may have started this trend could be that orange backdrop, 40 year old virgin poster


Has anyone else noticed how much this min-maxing is effecting all different areas of the world? I played the last World of Warcraft expansion and got to the stage where I could start raiding (Blizzard is trying to make this easier to break into for casual players) and 95% of raiders only wanted to raid with those who had already done the raid before and had an item level higher than anything the raid drops!

I find this really frustrating in the arts and entertainment space - the bar for entry seems to be getting higher and higher because of these ultra competitive optimisations. I guess the difference now is that people view making video content on the internet as a career (or at least a way to make money) rather than just as a hobby.


I was talking with a colleague at the coffee machine, telling him how this weekend I went to the supermarket to do the groceries, and how it was a pain to carry bags around.

He replied 'I haven't stepped in a supermarket in months, I do all my groceries online. It is much more efficient'.

I have to admit I felt dumb for not optimising my time like he does. But reflecting on it, I feel sad that our private time is becoming a soulless corporate enterprise where everything has to be optimised.


To provide an opposite opinion, I know I can do all of my groceries online, but I enjoy the experience of going grocery shopping. I like picking out my own produce and meat and seeing what's there. Sometimes I see something, buy it, and look up later how to make something with it. I don't get the same experience online. But I also like making food and try to make things from scratch. Is it efficient? Not in the least? It's an experience I enjoy though.

Your private time is just that, yours. I tried doing the over optimizing and in the end, it stressed me out way too much.


Why soulless? Your life is what you make it. Build meaning yourself.


I've always found it a bit odd when people are singing elegies to the joys of human contact in... a supermarket checkout line. There's no point in my life in which that was a serious source of "human contact" and I think anyone who can't say that has a problem that needs immediate addressing. One that can't be fixed by complaining about how impersonal shopping is now.

I do see human contact in the grocery store... it's between the employees of the store, who know each other, and actually have some sort of relationship, not with the faceless masses that transiently stream through. Of course they don't get to just chat the whole time, but humans being humans, they manage to find some time.


I don't find joy in a supermarket checkout line, but I have witnessed joy in some people (customers, mostly older, who found a way to stand out from the masses and have a face). Perhaps those who take the time to sing elegies actually do find personal joy and fulfillment even a checkout line even if you and I do not.


It's like the difference between working in your bedroom and working in a coffee shop. Sometimes you just want to be around other people.


The real question is what you do with the extra time this affords you.


The real real question is why he was complaining about the difficulty to carry bags around.... carts were invented fulfill that purpose.


But even the modern grocery store is soulless, compared to what preceded it. In my typical trip, I talk with no one.


I go to the same cashier every Tuesday. Yesterday was Yolanda's "Friday," and she was very excited for the "weekend." She asked me how my camping trip went. She was going to have tacos for dinner.

If you choose to value relationships with the people around you then the world doesn't have to have changed very much at all.


Yeah, but there are many ways to achieve this without the grocery store. There's nothing special about it as an irreplaceable social hub.

My point is, compared to going to the butcher and baker, who are artisans running businesses that are to some extent expressions of theirselves and maybe even their heritage, a supermarket is relatively soulless.

Save the time and do something like dance, art, or sports.


Completely agree. Like real world personal KPIs drain the fun and dynamic nature of a team trying to solve problems together.

I recently started playing Sea of thieves and it is a breath of fresh air. There are no gameplay changing items, and no real purpose to grinding, meaning the journey and execution of your goals are the focus. Sure you are getting sweet loot, but when it boils down to it there is actually no real purpose for getting more gold in the game.

It really shifts the focus and also means there is no "perfect play" or wholy correct way to play the game.


Your WoW observation reminds me a lot of my current job search experience.


We're looking for someone with 5 years experience in driving a 2016 Toyota Corolla.


...or equivalent degree!


And what you'll find is that the most rewarding raids, and jobs for that matter, are the ones that people take a chance on you and you perform better than expected.


I thought people would make that conclusion!


I feel like the unfortunate part is that the most visibility-optimised content isn't often the same thing as the best content. So if you just set out to make a Good Thing it gets lost, unless you also do other things that are seemingly unnecessary (like adding a silly face to your YouTube preview).


I feel like the unfortunate part is that my kids are far more certain that "YouTuber" is a viable career than "physicist".


They are probably right. After a PhD, and 2-3 postdocs you end up being 40, out of the domain, and the most probable job available will be data analytics for a bank, when your real dream was the Nobel prize...


"Mechanical Engineer" is going to remain a viable career for any kid interested in physics for the foreseeable future.


>So if you just set out to make a Good Thing it gets lost, unless you also do other things that are seemingly unnecessary (like adding a silly face to your YouTube preview).

Right, so you can boost the signal (curators, youtube face, clickbait title) or reduce the noise (lesser crappy content). Reducing the noise seems to be harder when so many people have this false confidence that their half-baked ideas are worth sharing.


this is my point exactly - I find the same thing with the arts (people optimising for grants or to get on a label rather than their best work)


> I played the last World of Warcraft expansion and got to the stage where I could start raiding (Blizzard is trying to make this easier to break into for casual players) and 95% of raiders only wanted to raid with those who had already done the raid before and had an item level higher than anything the raid drops!

I was Raid Leader and Guild leader (my guild was second on the server) in WoW and it was always like that. It's about time optimization, raids are really hard for newbies, they stand in shit and some of the raids on early stages are for example DPS oriented (kill the boss before he enrages etc) so you need to have good gear and know your rotation. When raid wipe because of you after 10 minutes of boss fighting and then again same thing on same boss happens, people get angry because you are holding them down, the whole team. If someone has 60 minutes that day to clear whole raid then he wants to play with experienced people and not to wipe very often.

You should do LFR first couple of times, all dungeons and special daily quests to get around your BiS gear from non-normal+ raid sources. You should watch on youtube guides to know how to fight particular boss too, you should come prepared for raid.


Yeah I was talking about LFR I think


The uncontrolled/unchecked monetary incentive is starting to cause things to get out of controll.

I recently spotted a channel that features what seems to be animal traps (for mice, snakes, fish etc). All of their videos have hundreds of thousands of views, and all are 100% fake. It's hard to know if you're not outdoortsy, but they're all fake. Essentially they're not just producing garbage content, they're also intentionally damaging the perception and world model of the people watching their videos. Why is this "allowed" to run? Why aren't the knowledgable people calling them out? Because Youtube completely destroyed the comment feedback system. Negative comments and critisism is burried, new comments and unpopular/harsh comment are deranked, so all you get is dumb catchy comments that increase view time.

Of course this is only the top of the iceburg in a sea of garbage content, but it shows where we're heading, and it'll only get worse with the proliferation of machine learning tools, especially lifelike text-to-speech technologies.


Alternatively, it serves as a pretty good filter for content I will actively try to avoid. Playing a video and immediately hearing that "HEY GUYS" voice makes me click the back button instantly, and block the channel.


I do this for written articles that begin with https://www.google.com.au/search?q=%22technology+has+become+...


Idunno, Cody from Cody's Lab does "Hey guys" sometimes (probably most of the time) and it's one of the most fascinating channels on youtube (where else would you learn how to extract gold from scrap metal, fire bullets made of mercury or refine uranium ore?)


He does pretty much the same thing though; a lot of serial youtube series have a "hook", Cody does the hey guys, thumbs up, welcome to cody's lab thing. AvE does "welcome back to the shop today a treat especial", DeFranco does something something beautiful bastards, etc. I think it's a way to tune into videos, or... something. Also for the video creator themselves.


Cody is delightfully quirky and down-to-earth, though.

The "hey guys" think is more about a certain overly-enthusiastic and grating tone and approach, see Unbox Therapy for example.


Can we perhaps combine all of the clickbait memes into a single form?

"One weird trick to find the 13 most extreme reaction faces to mundane topics (you won't believe how number 5 lets you make money from home!)"


Doctors would hate that.


Plus

    COPS CALLED!! (NOT CLICKBAIT)


[ALMOST DIED] GONE SEXUAL


( @o@)


Or the more common

    WHAT'S up guys, today we're ...
I guess there's a market for all sorts of content, but the majority of the YouTube's audience (which are kids) dictate these annoying common formats.


While looking at the screenshots in the article I wondered why all video titles default to ALL CAPS. Browsing YouTube feels like walking through a shopping arcade with all store owners shouting at you what they offer.

Maybe I should look into a browser extension that de-caps such texts...


That and any video thumbnail with a red circle.


Austin Evans is the only YouTuber who I enjoy who also starts his videos with "Hey guys! This is Austin."


I cannot stand his delivery. He seems awkward beyond belief, has the same exact inflection of voice at the end of every sentence, and speaks so quickly that he is almost tripping over his words and slurring his enunciation.


Even great channels like computerphile and numebrphile do it.


Yeh same here, I can't stand the youtube faces, it is ridiculous.


I find it funny that the AVGN is featured; he's been making that face since before YouTube's been monetizing. He may be the originator of the phenomenon.

It used to be that in order to drive clicks you needed to have female cleavage in your thumbnail. One YouTuber (RadicalSoda) still includes an image of a cartoon woman showing generous cleavage in each of his videos, despite himself being the only person actually appearing in most of them.

And then there's YouTube voice. I don't even think I can imitate it but there's a distinctive cadence and inflection that YouTubers seem to have embraced. I once saw a ten-year-old use it in a toy-company-sponsored video. Yes, ten-year-old kid paid to hawk toys on YouTube instead of just playing with them or whatever. Then again, we have stories of some Hackernews hearing their 3-year-old use "don't forget to like and subscribe!" as a farewell.


YouTube voice

There's a link in the OP to an article analyzing this: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/12/the-l...


> YouTube voice

Eh, it's basically newscaster voice with added emotion. Not any weirder than any other profession where clear understandable diction is important.


I’ve been uploading more content to YouTube recently and I noticed that their AI automatically picks the video frame that has the most exaggerated facial expression and uses this as the default thumbnail. This is probably why YouTube face appears to be everywhere!

You can see it on this video: https://youtu.be/qhV4xCmPy4g

I didn’t upload this thumbnail, YouTube picked it. If you looked through the video manually you might not even notice that such an expressive YouTube face was in there, but YouTube found it when I uploaded it and picked it as the thumbnail.


Since you can't actually see the thumbnail on the video page (at least not on the desktop version): https://imgur.com/a/ohmLc


Thanks, I forgot that it just starts playing without the thumbnail.


The really interesting question to my mind is what comes next. This is a wildfire sweeping across previously unspoiled plains, and yes, it's very impressive and a bit destructive (fortunately these metaphorical plains aren't built up with too many valuable bits of infrastructure) and worth a story... but what comes after the fire sweeps through? What happens when the bulk of people have already clicked on their thousand videos advertised like this and realize there's no great need to click on 1,001? Obviously it doesn't mean a nirvana will arise in which people will suddenly seek out "real" content, but something will have to shift.

These YouTube thumbnails are basically pushing all the buttons in the human brain as hard as they can without getting whacked from the site. The only harder button I can think of is nudity but that won't be permitted. (In fact, if you've never thought of it this way before, consider that it won't be permitted precisely because it hits the buttons too hard. There are reasons beyond stereotypical moralistic "prudery" to resist slathering public spaces in nudity and sexual content.) So once they burn out this button... which they will, eventually, though much like the market, people can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent, so to speak... what comes next? People will eventually develop a sort of mental callous around this and on one level or another resist being yanked around so casually. What will replace it?


The article points out the evolution and how we got from each prior step to this point; it gets worse and worse and worse (and worse and worse)


It can't get worse forever, because the badness is bounded by the psychology of the human brain on one side, and the YouTube-enforced standards on the other. Something will eventually have to give.


Right. It only "got worse" while people tried to figure out the new medium. Once we have a set of options that work well, I'd expect this to become a basic meta game. People will recognize the current pattern and begin to associate it with "old". Just like fashion. Probably a bit circular, aka old trends will at some point re-emerge. This assumes YT will be around for long enough, of cause.


I'm increasingly seeing comments on videos loudly complaining about click bait headlines and saying they down thumb them because of it. Seems like YouTube at least allows some kind of reaction against this from the users.


Youtube "recommended" videos, if you open it in incognito mode are very revolting to me. This is why. The quality is so atrocious. The video recommendation in my google profile are not as bad, but every now and then it will recommend me a picture of The Donald making an ugly face.


One of my favorite youtube channels does this: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCO8DQrSp5yEP937qNqTooOw/vid...

And it bothers me. Even Linus put up a video explaining that he's sorry for the annoying thumbnails but it drives views.


Here is Linus's video explaining why does "Youtube Face."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzRGBAUz5mA


I thought that was well explained, he makes a good point. As another content creator, you gotta play the game, and a 20% lift in views is nothing to scoff at.

It's like the 90s where ads became increasingly intrusive to attract the user's attention (flash animations, games, showing some skin, etc). But then you had Google come along and say "text ads only", and that seems to have curtailed how bad ads can get.

So whatever solution happens will have to happen from the top down.


The Strange Parts previews don't seem so bad compared to some of the more egregious examples.

He seems to have the same facial expression in all of them. I don't think putting a big picture of your face on the preview is a bad thing, it makes it easier to visually filter videos by creator.


It's the same with App Store icons as well — https://twitter.com/Doomlaser/status/708605183509528576


Channels that specialize in reviewing virtual reality content are especially fun. Since the head mounted display obscures the eyes, they must make up for the loss of expression with terrifyingly exaggerated gaping maws.


They really are effective, though. The conscious part of me is actually turned off by videos with these kinds of title images, but they still draw my attention and produce an impulse to click.


One day, I promise I will stop clicking on thumbnails that bait me with the promise of something vaguely sexual. One day. Maybe. I hope.


Would you be interested in a training program?


I've idly wondered sometimes about the effectiveness of a shock collar sort of setup for oneself that allowed the conscious mind to hit the body with something its more primal parts understand better than the mere disapproval of the conscious mind, which it doesn't seem to much care about.

(I'm actually a bit concerned it might be too effective. It may be the case that anyone wise enough to properly use one has already worked out other effective mechanisms to obtain the effect with less of the danger.)


Friends of mine have convinced me to donate ~$2,000 to a particularly odious political cause whenever I perform certain actions, like drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes outside of their allotted times. I have found this to be remarkably effective in speaking the unconscious brain's language.

Also, this thing exists: https://pavlok.com/


I remember seeing a tutorial on making stock pictures. Doing exaggerated expressions is their number one advise.

The idea is that these pictures will be in a library of thousands, and it has to stand out, regular faces don't. It is not a YouTube thing. It happens even in traditional newspapers as they battle against each other in the newsstand.


Newspapers did it before it was mainstream, with headlines that kept getting bigger and more screamy.


Tabloids are absolutely terrible for it. Gigantic fonts, garish colors, all caps all over the place.


I did journalism in high school and in learning the art of page layout & design was taught that putting faces on stuff is always a good idea. People like faces. Faces draw readers in. It's sort of a universal idea that was inevitably going to end up applying to mediums like YouTube.

Also, I wouldn't say all of these are clickbait. The Needle Drop's videos are basically all just him making hilarious faces.


We should probably expand on this notion of Clickbait that assumes readers are merely tricked into clicking. Catering to some 'lowely' urge is way we usually think about these, but there is more.

Traditionally, clickbait refers to a type of optimisation for more 'static' media outlets- those with more rigid publishing chain: writer <editor <owner.

Youtube's low barrier to publishing disrupts that, so we now have viewers assuming editor + owner role with their newfound power of directing attention. So now users demand to be catered to. Sense on entitlement is at the center of this thing.


A good solution will be to go back to have the thumbnail a pick of the actual video not an over-engineered art form.


People will just go back to inserting a carefully produced image as the very first frame of their video.


Just make the algorithm select a random frame, and it will be solved.


The random frame may be a poor choice of representing the content to the point of being worse than a photoshopped thumbnail.

It's definitely a problem. Clickbait thumbnails blatantly misleading people into clicking. It comes down to poor link integrity, which Google was apparently against at one time, now they basically encourage it.

There's great stuff on youtube, but the trash pile is bigger than ever and gets more clicks.

The classic example one of the oldest custom thumbnails on youtube that I recall, is that roller-coaster in mid air. Millions of views, as people clicked to see a coaster they didn't know existed. Of course, the video has no such coaster, and as a result thousands of dislikes. But who cares about dislikes when you have 40m views and counting on a rubbish generic video with misleading thumbnail.


It is a feature. Not a bug. Youtube wants people to do this..


I hate that face so much. I always assumed it appeals to a younger crowd but then I have friends my age who use similar profile pics on facebook.


That was my assumption, too - cartoon, exaggeration, caricature, baby talk.


Someone should make a Terminator style film, actually a book would probably work better, where the robot apocalypse is hastened by a whole bunch of different people, some kind of skeezy and up to no good but most just trying to make an honest buck and not realising the impact of the out of control AI they are working for until it's too late.

I mean, I know we are living through basically the same thing with climate change and large corporations in reality but a novel would be cool too.


Daemon by Daniel Suarez is kind of like that, except it turns out the AI is arguably good and not exactly an AI. It's an excellent book, with an excellent sequel.


Not exactly what you are looking for, but in the movie Cube (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0123755/) a giant machine is built to kill people. IIRC, there was no real purpose behind the machine, it was kind of just built by bureaucratic accident.


Seeing that always made me think that everything would be exaggerated, and the video was likely not worth my time; I also spend very little time on YouTube, so the two are probably related (namely that I don't like video-based content)


Andrew Huang immediately sprang to mind https://www.youtube.com/user/songstowearpantsto

He's a musician and synthesizer enthusiast, granted electronic music and synths have taken on a pretty youthful market in recent years (thanks to cheaper products and a larger acceptance of the genre) but Andrew becoming a YouTube personality in this space was definitely met with backlash from the community.

It wasn't for the content itself, I really respect the guy as both a musician and video editor, but it's the gimmicky persona, the little "signature" things he does in his videos, the all too-perfect sheen put on top of his content, the silly faces on the video thumbnails that draw people's attention, the inauthenticity of it all. It rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, at least in the electronic music/synthesizer communities I visit (full of people who have been working with synths and modular instruments since the 70s/80s).

Now I realize it's not just his gimmick, it's everyone who hopes to ranks' gimmick!


Minor correction at:

> YouTube, a subsidiary of the holding company Alphabet, Inc. — formerly Google, Inc.

YouTube isn't an Alphabet company, but still part of Google itself.


Funny how I recently started realizing how obnoxious this was. And now to see someone explicitly talking about it is really making it click into place.

Here's the exact channel that caused me to realize: https://www.youtube.com/user/Davie504


"""Taken cumulatively, there’s a surreal, Lynchian quality to the images. Few things could ever be exciting enough to elicit these kinds of reactions, and no one could possibly be this expressive. So what’s wrong with these people? Were their brains tenderized?"""

This is a message I'm always teaching my kids "these are actors, they don't act like normal people, they exaggerate and pretend, are fictional, etc". They've seemed to pick up on the fact that these strange creatures before them are truly out of our everyday experience and are treated accordingly rather than taken as an actual subpopulation of folks they just haven't met yet.


I've always that human form clickbait could really only be attributed to walking through Amsterdam's red light district but this guy has a point! Interesting read.

Side note is he coining the term "YouTube Face"? I've never heard that before...


Amsterdam's Red Light district has got nothin on Youtube. If you merged it with Shibuya or Times Square, maybe. But what I saw there a few years ago was downright demure in comparison to the clickbaity crap people try on YouTube.


Me neither but definitely has potential.


Ah yes, the soyboy grimace.


Maybe librarys would have been more popular if they had more cat books.


Ironically, theres a call for please like and share at the bottom.


On a side note, do those CTAs actually work? I have a hard time believing anyone reading one and thinking "I wasn't going to like/share/comment, but I am now because of this reminder!"


Only a personal anecdote; I have about 10 videos on Youtube. Most of them have under 10k views each and not many comments. Those videos do not have any form of CTA. The one video that does get comments even now 3+ years after being posted is the one where I simply asked people to leave a comment on what their experiences with the same hardware were.


Trump reminded people to follow him on Twitter all the time during his campaign rallies.


hah, i'm pretty sure that's just an arch joke


It is, none of his other articles in the site includes anything similar.


And the YouTube Title. “You won’t believe what happens next”


AND EVERYTHING IN CAPS ALWAYS


Interesting that it's only men shown. A quick look at popular female channels show no YouTube Face, just pretty faces.


Most captcha can be fooled with dedicated efforts.


The second last paragraph is a thing of beauty.


4chan calls this the 'soyface'.


It's called acting. When people express things they have no real reason to feel, it's called acting.

AVGN makes those faces all the way throughout his videos, because he is an actor, and he is acting out an exaggeration of his frustrations with video games. If it weren't acting, then you'd see the same level of crazy in common video game review articles.




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