Here's a simple way to improve YouTube. Turn off comments.
I have never once, as far as I can remember, read a YouTube comment that was in any way, insightful or provided meaningful information that wasn't better obtained elsewhere. It is a cesspool, and the people who are complaining about needing to login to G+ to leave a comment frankly largely intersect with the set of people who are the problem.
Honestly, if logging into G+ bothers you, you probably are the kind of person who "shoots from the hip" and doesn't put a lot of thought into your comments anyway.
I don't believe the G+ comments on YouTube are about the idea of real identity being a check against racists, assholes, douchebags, and other comment archetypes. That has failed for Facebook comments and so has up/downvoting on YT. Instead, I think it's about filtering based on social network sharing.
Simply put, if someone shares a link to your video somewhere with their circle of followers, the external thread that develops outside of YT, within that community is likely to be more coherent and cogent, and that will be surfaced in the YT comments especially if you have social affinity with that person.
Think about it as a kind of comment federation. What if every YT video that has been linked from HackerNews stories surfaced the HN comments directly under the video on YT if you were in fact, a HackerNews user (had a login). Don't you think the HN comment thread would be higher quality than the general YT audience comments? That kind of federation is technically not possible today, because we don't have a standard spec for comment upstreaming, but because Google owns G+ and YT, they can do this kind of integration.
The reality is, comments from video reshares from people you know, who have small circles of followers, will be higher quality. Someone with 10,000 or 100,000 followers however probably will exhibit the same problems because the probability of bad actors rises with quantity. However, at least you can control this by filtering who you follow.
There's a general purpose derangement going on with respect to G+ that I just don't get. I don't like Facebook, never have, I barely ever log into it. I don't like social networks in general, I like _interest networks_. But I don't throw a hissy fit when most of the sites on the web force me to either create an account, or login with Facebook. I just login with Facebook and go about my business, denying most of the permissions it wants from me. It's really not that big of a deal. I don't use FB, but it is not a burden on me personally to use it as a single sign on service.
The reason why I use G+ is similar to the reason why I use HN or Reddit -- the communities. Simply put, there are more interesting, tightly knit, communities with less annoying, disruptive people on G+ than there is on FB. Maybe that's elitist, but that's the way it is. Perhaps it's the advantage of having less users, less adoption than Facebook. There's merit in being a so-called "Ghost Town", in that anyone willing to live there is more dedicated to the town, and less willing to take a shit on it.
Here's an even simpler way to improve youtube comments: ignore comments on videos that are likely to have low quality comments.
But there are plenty of videos where that's not the case. There are many excellent scientific and educational videos on youtube, and the comments sections for many of them are excellent. Or were anyway. Periodic videos. Minute physics. Veritasium. EEVblog. Vihart. And so many others. In such places the comments can be civil, interesting, enlightening, sometimes just as good as an average comment on HN. But now those comments are a bit less valuable in general because so many of them are of the form "X just shared this on google+".
Instead of being a response to the creator, some comments are now a shout out into the crowd. And all of this is just jumbled together. It's an incredibly stupid and broken way to handle commenting that is only just slightly stupider than the old incredibly stupid and broken way they were doing commenting.
The idea of freighting around my one and only social circle as some sort of background peanut gallery everywhere I go is, frankly, not interesting to me. The reason I go seek out different channels and different sites is to have different experiences, often with different people. HN isn't my friend-group, and I wouldn't want HN to be replaced by my friend group either, and I value my friends greatly.
I watch Vihart's videos, and the comments are full of low signal. All of the high quality comments are from G+ from anecdotal evidence. Let's look at the top ones on her Dragon Doodle video:
"Ever wonder why fractals are called "fractals"? It's because they have "fractional dimension". This idea comes from noticing that when you scale a 2-dimensional object up by a factor of 2, its area increases by a factor of 4, but when you scale a 2-dimensional Sierpinski triangle up by 2, its area increases by a factor of 3. With a normal 2D object, if you scale it up by a factor of 3, you'd increase the area by a factor of 9, but when you scale a 2-dimensional Koch snowflake up by 3, its area increases by a factor of 4. So fractals don't behave like normal objects. They behave as if they have fractional dimension"
First non-G+ comment? "Can I marry your mind, please?"
Or this one: "hey, no knock on community colleges, studied at a couple myself I just feel like everyone's giving this girl way more credit than is due, but like I said, that's just me, and it has been made clear by everyone and their mother watching this vid that it is ONLY me. lol"
Or this one: "Yeah, you're totally a dick."
General consensus is, YouTube comments are, by and large, shit. I don't think you're going to convince many people that they're worth it because you can find a few videos that might have slightly higher signal.
Frankly, I would like to see "unification" of comments so when I'm looking at a video, I can see what people are saying about it from around the Web, rather than the same video linked to from 15 different blogs. For example, if some new tech video comes out, and is covered by HN, TheVerge, Engadget, Reddit, etc, I end up having to visit 4 or more sites to see what people's reaction to the video is, rather than having them collated in one place.
As an employee of Google, you should realize you're in a groupthink environment. I absolutely despise the new Google+ change. The top comment on the most recent video I watched was a Google+ comment consisting of the title of the video plus ten hashtags. That was it. The other Google+ comments were similarly horrible and content-free.
At least with the previous implementation, you'd get a top comment that made you laugh once in awhile.
It's not really Google groupthink that YouTube comments suck, that's an external observation. Obligatory xkcd: http://xkcd.com/202/
It may be groupthink that G+ comments are better, but for my social stream, the people I follow, G+ is not a ghost town, it is a highly interesting place full of lots of thoughtful commentators. If I can filter comments by those whom I respect, and transitively, maybe one degree extended, it would be a vast improvement.
I say let people turn off the filters and leave the old comments as an option. Personally, first think I'd do is turn them off.
For the past 5 years I've been appalled by the amount of SPAM being generated on YT. Like this cute baby, then you'll love Ivans P800X Weightloss System 4.0. 56 thumbs up. Top comment. Every video.
I'm sure Google knew this was going to cause a stir. Every major interfact change that FB does causes mass outrage and even groups like "get 100,000 likes to petition for mark zuckerberg to switch back to the old FB" and such.
a lot of the pissed off ppl (not all) are the anonymous cowards that liked to hide behind throwaway identities, spammers, and people that generally like to read meaningless comments.
I am also an active G+ user and really enjoy several communities and groups that are of interest to me. What's really missing is the mainstream market: pics from last night, pet photos, moms, teens, etc. right now it is mainly super interweb savvy people who are active because they know how serious google is about G+
as a channel owner I am stoked about the change. i dont like getting used to new interfaces any more than the next person but I can definitely see how this will add a ton of value to my channel and YT in general.