COPPA will redefine YouTube

As YouTuber Derral Eves explains in the video below, The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) is bringing some big changes to YouTube:

The upshot: Any YouTube content that features children, or appeals to children, will become an extreme liability for both creators and for the video-hosting platform itself. Continue reading “COPPA will redefine YouTube”

YouTube’s new terms of service

YouTubers are generally freaking out over YouTube’s new terms of service, which will go into effect on December 10th.

Basically, YouTube is explicitly stating that it has no obligation to host anyone’s content, and that it may terminate at will content and channels that aren’t “commercially viable”.

This is technically no change from what the terms of service have always been. But the explicit restatement suggests a new wave of channel closures and video removals. 

The changes won’t affect everyone using the platform. If you’re a hobbyist YouTuber uploading the occasional vacation video, you can skip the rest of this piece. 

If you’re doing children’s content, on the other hand, or anything political that falls to the right of Joe Biden, you might be in trouble–especially if you rely on monetization. 

The Verge declared some time ago that the golden age of YouTube is over. The Verge gets a lot wrong, but they’ve been mostly right about YouTube. 

It is tempting to segue here into a rant about leftwing censorship (which exists on every social media platform). But the situation is more complex than that. 

Political biases aside, YouTube’s basic business model has always been precarious.

Think about it: a video platform where anyone can upload almost anything, with no vetting whatsoever. From the beginning, the platform was open to anyone with an Internet connection. The barriers to entry were therefore always close to zero.

Then monetization came along, in the form of the YouTube Partner Program. Now there was money involved, too. So we saw an arms race to produce edgy clickbait content, as quickly and voluminously as possible. 

Oh, and the youth factor: The site always had a juvenile tone and orientation. Most YouTubers are under the ripe old age of 24. 

What could possibly go wrong, with a setup like that?

YouTube isn’t evil. But nor do I think it would be a good idea to make YouTube your primary platform if you’re a creator. The future of YouTube is too unpredictable.

Regular readers of this site will know my feelings about social media.

Social media isn’t evil, per se; but social media is not nearly as essential as most people think it is. Long before Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube, people expressed themselves online with individual blogs and websites. 

The Internet existed long before social media, in other words.  There will be a post-social media age on the Internet, too. Maybe sooner than you think.

Linux and leftwing ideology

The programmer Charles Max Wood has been officially disinvited from all future Linux Foundation events. 

The reason? There is a public photo of him in front of the Trump Tower in NYC, wearing  a MAGA hat.

The chief instigator behind Wood’s banning was programmer/ professional race-baiter Kim Crayton. Crayton’s tweets indicate that she is a militant hater:

The leadership of the Linux Foundation is aware of Kim Crayton’s hateful rhetoric, of course. How could they not be?

But just as leftwing media outlets rushed to the defense of the emotionally unstable Sarah Jeong last year, Kim Crayton is now getting a pass, too. The Linux Foundation is not judging her by anything close to the yardstick they have applied to Charles Max Wood. 

The Linux Foundation has now established two irreconcilable and contradictory precedents: On one hand, you can be banned from their group for being a Republican, but on the other hand, you can refer to entire demographic as “shit” with their blessing.

The obvious difference here, of course, is that Kim Crayton (like Sarah Jeong) is a woman of color. Charles Max Wood is a white guy. 

Linux Foundation president Linus Torvalds is, of course, a white guy himself. While politics is not his primary concern, Torvalds is also a self-styled progressive.

There is a certain kind of progressive who simply won’t challenge a woman of color (especially an African American woman) under any circumstances. Agreeing with all African American women–no matter what–is among their primary methods of virtue–signaling. 

We see that dynamic at work here. The Linux Foundation is giving Crayton a pass for her hate speech because she’s black and female. Is there another reason? You’re going to have to get pretty creative to make that case. 

Double standards of this kind obviously harm white males like Charles Max Wood. But this also does African American women no favor. Just as contemporary white men are now taking the rap for racism that occurred decades before they were born, Kim Crayton’s conduct will, in the minds of some, reflect poorly on African American women as a whole.

And that would be a shame. Most black women aren’t racist assholes like Kim Crayton. She speaks for herself, and no one else. 

The Internet, Jonathan Franzen, and distractions

About a year ago, literary novelist Jonathan Franzen shared his “10 rules for novelists”. Number 8 was:

“It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.”

Jonathan Franzen

I’m not sure I would be this absolutist about the matter. But as someone old enough to have reached adulthood before the Internet was “a thing”, I can appreciate just how distracting cyberspace can be.

It was bad enough in the beginning. But then came social media (I’ll spare you my usual rant), and those damned smartphones. 

As for Jonathan Franzen: The guy gets a bad rap, and I’m not sure why. Yes, he is quirky and eccentric. Yes, he is fashionably progressive and eye-rollingly politically correct in his politics. But no more so than many other people in the arts.

I’ve read two of his novels: The Corrections (2001) and Freedom (2010). I thought both books were pretty good. 

Why social media sucks for authors

Every now and again I rail against social media in this space. 

I have my reasons: Social media has poisoned our political discourse. What happens on social media has become a source of chronic anxiety for teenagers and twentysomethings. 

Social media sites aren’t about “creating community” or “fostering dialogue”. They’re about capturing the lion’s share of expression on the Internet, so that Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey can monetize your attention. 

Social media is a corporate money-grab. That’s all it is. 

But how is social media especially disadvantageous for authors? Let’s focus in on those points below (in no particular order):

1.) No one goes on social media to buy a book. 

Most people are on Twitter to kvetch about politics. Facebook users are there to find out if that mean girl from Central High School, class of 1996, is still hot, or if she’s gained weight like her mother did at forty.

Instagram is where guys go to look at hot women, and where hot women go to show off.

Oh, and celebrities. Jennifer Aniston recently joined Instagram, and she almost broke the site.

Speaking of Jennifer Aniston, here’s an example of what’s big on Instagram:

Jennifer Aniston Shares a Sexy Photo of Her Open-Back Dress on Instagram: ‘Jen in Black

Now, does that sound like a great venue for selling your historical novel set during World War II?

2.) Organic discovery is declining across all social media platforms. 

This is by design. The reason is simple. If you’re a business of any kind (and an author is a business, for our purposes here), social media sites want you to purchase ads.

Why? Social media sites have virtually no other source of income (other than selling user information to advertisers, as we’ve recently learned). 

If your announcement of your new book organically reaches your 3,500 Facebook followers, Mark Zuckerberg makes no money from that. If you buy a Facebook ad and give Zuckerberg $0.30 for every person who clicks on the post, however..

Well…you do the math. 

3.) It’s easy to get in political trouble on social media.

Social media is filled with snark and political vitriol. 

I don’t shy away from politics and current events. About 25% of the content on Edward Trimnell Books can be classified as political and social commentary. I genuinely enjoy exploring issues in the news. 

When I post on my own site, though, I usually think before I post. When commenting on a particularly sensitive topic, I take the time to clarify my position. I reread. I edit. I say to myself, “Naw…someone is going to twist my words, if I post that.”

I’ve made it a rule never to write a blog post when I’m actively angry about something in the news—that is always a recipe for looking like a jackass (at least, for me it is).

Such caution is far more difficult to maintain on social media, which is by nature reactive and real-time. The formats of social media posts (especially Twitter) are biased toward brief, bumper-slogan statements (280 characters).

If you’re an author, you won’t be on Twitter anonymously, but you’ll be arguing with lots of people who are on Twitter anonymously, and who will therefore say anything. They don’t care about the consequences. 

In frays like this, with that Tweet button right there, it is easy to post something that you will later regret. 

Social media sites like Twitter have recently caught flak for censoring conservatives. Basically, if your political views fall anywhere right of Joe Biden, then most of what you say is probably “hate speech” by Twitter’s yardstick. 

But perhaps you have the “correct” (i.e., fashionably leftwing and progressive) political views. You have a COEXIST bumper sticker on your Prius. You wear a rainbow bracelet everywhere during LGBTQ Pride Month, even though you’re straight. You honestly believe that banning plastic straws in American fast-food restaurants is going to offset all the raw pollution that they’re spewing out by the second in New Delhi. You would describe Greta Thunberg as “wise beyond her years”.

Well, that doesn’t get you completely off the hook. You can get in trouble, too, on social media. 

Chuck Wendig, a far-left science fiction writer, was fired from his Marvel Studios gig (as a story developer for the brand’s Star Wars comics) because of what he said on Twitter in October 2018.

This happened in the aftermath of the contentious Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Wendig went off on Republicans in profane and borderline violent language. Since Twitter is generally a leftwing environment, Wendig assumed this would be okay. But someone from Marvel Studios saw the tweets, and they weren’t okay with what Wendig said. So they canned Wendig. 

Chuck Wendig, because of his politics and his contrived edginess, is a polarizing figure. People either love him or hate him. My guess is that Wendig was egged on by his supporters, and goaded by his detractors. In the heat of the moment, he simply went too far. 

That’s easy to do on social media. Especially Twitter.

4.) Social media is declining, anyway.

The time people spend on Facebook has been declining for several years now. Twitter is losing traffic so rapidly that it has become unattractive to the advertisers it so desperately needs to stay afloat. 

Social media really took off around 2005, with YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter all launching within a period of just a few years. 

But the Internet thrived long before any of these sites existed. There’s no reason to believe that it can’t thrive without them. Social media isn’t important or necessary. Social media has convinced us that it’s important and necessary.

Perhaps social media is a trend that—like so many trends throughout history—is characterized by a natural rise, peak, and decline. Predicting the future is a fool’s game, but there is evidence to support the notion that social media is on the way out. As anyone who was online before 2005 can tell you, online expression does not require social media. 

So this raises the question for you as an author: Do you want to invest (either time or money) in shrinking platforms?

What should you do, then?

Believe it or not, people actually marketed books online before social media, too. Here’s how you can market your books without Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites:

1.) Your author website/blog

There is a current groupthink in the (indie) author community that “websites don’t sell books”. 

Au contraire. Bestselling science fiction author John Scalzi got his start when an editor saw the serialization of his first published novel, Old Man’s War, on his blog, The Whatever

Trad-pubbed science fiction authors Cory Doctorow, the aforementioned Chuck Wendig, and Charles Stross all maintain regular blogs/websites. 

Look up their Alexa rankings sometime. With all that traffic, it’s hard to believe that they aren’t leveraging at least some of it to sell books. 

Rather than “blogs and websites don’t work”, maybe it’s more accurate to say that indie authors have never learned how to leverage author websites and blogs. 

2.) Mailing list:

I hate mailing lists as a consumer. You aren’t going to get my personal email address unless you can promise me a weekend with the Swedish National Women’s Volleyball Team in return. 

But lots of authors still swear by them. A mailing list, like an author website, is something that you own, that is yours forever. You can’t be deplatformed from your own mailing list.

3.) Ads on the retail sites:

For most authors, this is mostly Amazon, i.e., AMS ads. The bidding market for AMS ads has become overheated in recent years. But at least the traffic on Amazon is there to buy books—not to look at Jennifer Aniston’s black dress.

Technology and the voluntary loss of privacy

This is bigger than Katie Hill…

A certain politician from California has been in the hot seat of late because of embarrassing revelations of a highly personal nature. 

Katie Hill, a freshman representative from California, has recently seen her private life aired on the Internet, from The Daily Mail to Twitter… 

And what a colorful private life it is, apparently. Say what you will about Representative Hill and her politics, but she isn’t boring and she isn’t a prude. 

This naturally raises a lot of questions: Should a politician’s sex life be an issue, so long as they aren’t breaking any laws or violating anyone’s rights? Can a politician who leads an unconventional sex life govern effectively?

Politics tends to attract horndogs of both sexes, irrespective of ideology: Consider the examples of Bill Clinton, JFK, and Donald Trump.

Further back in history, consider Catherine the Great and King David. 

That isn’t the angle I want to consider, though. 

I grew up in the 1980s. Back then, unless you were a famous person, most of what you said and did simply wasn’t documented.

Photographs existed, obviously. But individual photos had to be developed, usually at a Fotomat. And since they also had to be printed out on paper, there was a cost associated with them. 

“Instant cameras”, with self-developing film, enjoyed a period of popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. But the film was expensive, and the photo quality wasn’t very good. 

Because of such negative cost and convenience factors, people tended to take photos only when it was an “event”: a birthday celebration, a school play, a family portrait, etc. I won’t go so far as to say that having your photo taken was a big deal in the 1980s, but yes…it was kind of a big deal. It didn’t happen every day, for the average person. 

As a result, most of what you said and did died in the moment. There wasn’t this minute-by-minute record of your life that we have now. 

Those technologically primitive times had their benefits. Suppose that you said something dumb, or you did something that pushed a few boundaries. Unless it was really over the top, it was quickly forgotten. 

Which is, I would suggest, the way it should be.

Katie Hill certainly didn’t want her private photos published on the Internet. Her reasonable expectations of privacy were violated. Let’s be unequivocal about that. 

But the vast majority of the photos which came to light were clearly posed. This strongly implies that she consented to them being taken. 

This, in itself, represents a major lapse in judgment. Why, pray tell, would anyone consent to a naked photo of oneself, smoking from a bong, with an iron cross tattoo plainly visible near one’s pubic region?

We’ve bought into the notion that every moment of our lives needs to be Instagrammed, Facebooked, and selfied. Perhaps this is mass vanity, or perhaps this has just become a habit. Either way, it’s what we’re all doing. 

And this isn’t just the Millennials and the GenZers. I have friends in their forties and fifties who seemingly can’t go out to dinner without taking a half-dozen photos of themselves and uploading them to Facebook. 

Look at us, and what a happy couple we are, having a fancy meal out on the town!

More of our lives needs to remain private. But our private lives especially need to remain private. 

How do you define “private”? Here’s a rule of thumb: Don’t consent to any photo of yourself that you wouldn’t want posted on the homepage of The Daily Mail. Because as Katie Hill now knows, that may very well happen. 

I’ve discovered Gary Vaynerchuk

Aka Gary Vee. Vaynerchuk, like Neil Patel and Pat Flynn, is one of those Internet marketing gurus. 

Gary Vee is profane, blunt, and extremely insightful. 

Unlike many marketing gurus, Gary Vee actually succeeded in a “normal” business before becoming Internet-famous.

In other words, he’s sold more than just his own advice. While still a teenager, Vaynerchuk leveraged the Internet to expand his parents’ wine business to a national level. 

Vaynerchuk was born in the USSR. He was only three when he and his parents emigrated to the United States in the late 1970s.

(Vaynerchuk is Jewish, so I assume this was at least partly a result of Jimmy Carter’s laudable efforts to convince the Kremlin to grant exit visas to long-persecuted Soviet Jews.)

I won’t attempt to encapsulate all his advice in a single blog post. Nor–I should note–do I have an affiliate relationship with him, or any relationship at all.

If you have a business and you’re interested in better leveraging the Internet and social media, he is work checking out, IMO. 

Warren’s war on Big Tech

Elizabeth Warren has declared her intention to break up Google, Amazon, and Facebook.

But what exactly does that mean?

Google

You already have plenty of other choices. There’s Bing, Yahoo! and many others.

Here’s a list of at least 14 search engines that you can use instead of Google, right now….no action from Elizabeth Warren or the federal government required.

Amazon

You already have plenty of other choices here, too .

Did you know that you can order stuff from Walmart online? You can!

Nor is Walmart your only non-Amazon choice. Take just about any product that you would ordinarily purchase on Amazon and Google it. Excuse me!– Bing it!–and you’ll find alternative sources.

No action from Elizabeth Warren or the federal government required!

Why do you purchase so much stuff from Amazon? Admit it: It’s because Amazon provides excellent customer service and competitive prices. Shopping on Amazon is a pretty seamless, and overall pleasant, experience.

What’s to stop other retailers from doing the same?

More to the point…What the heck is Elizabeth Warren going to do about any of it? Is she going to make Barnes & Noble more competitive?

Oh, give me a break. I’m in the book business, folks. And I can tell you that Barnes & Noble has screwed the pooch with every opportunity they’ve gotten since the dawn of the e-commerce era. B&N is still stuck in 1995. And they were great in 1995. Today–not so much.

Facebook

My general loathing for social media is documented throughout this site. I don’t only despise Facebook. I also detest Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, and Snapchat.

But here’s the thing: Facebook is a freakin’ website. How is Elizabeth Warren going to break up a website?

No one forces anyone to go to Facebook, or any other social media site. Nor is what social media provides in any way essential to daily life.

But as long as you’ve got millions of people who will go bonkers over the prospect of following a Clinton-era actress on Instagram, social media has a market. Never underestimate the stupidity of the masses.

***

In summary: 

1.) There are already at least 14 alternatives to Google.

2.) People use Amazon because Amazon makes buying stuff online cheap and convenient.

3.) Social media is idiotic, but so are lots of the people who are obsessed with it.

I don’t love Big Tech. The very sight of Mark Zuckerberg makes me cringe. But the government can’t change the consumer preferences that led to the dominance of Google, Amazon, or Facebook.

Our preferences created these monopolies, to the extent that they exist.

Do you want Elizabeth Warren telling you where you can buy lawn furniture?….Or where you get to see photos of Jennifer Aniston?

That’s what the Warren War on Big Tech is all about, at the end of the day: the government (i.e., a future President Warren) picking winners and losers.

Suzanne Somers naked

(Totally not clickbait!)

Suzanne Somers was born in 1946–the same year my parents were born. (And I’m in my 50s.) 

Suzanne Somers in the 1970s

I’m therefore old enough to remember the 1970s, when Suzanne Somers– along with Farah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, and Bo Derek–was one of the top sex symbols. Her image was everywhere in 1979, and oh, what an image it was.

That was 40 years ago. Somers recently drew raised eyebrows from fans and journalists alike when the 73 year-old posted a nude photo of herself on her Instagram account

I’ve long read that Somers has an obsession with holding on to her youth. (Don’t we all?) She takes an enormous amount of supplements each day, and goes to extraordinary lengths to offset the ravages of time. 

View this post on Instagram

Here I am at 73 in my Birthday Suit!!!

A post shared by Suzanne Somers (@suzannesomers) on

And Suzanne Somers in 2019

The post met with a mixed response from Somers’s Instagram following…What else would you expect?

As mentioned, I’m in my 50s…not quite as old as Somers, but no longer young.  

What Somers chooses to post on her Instagram account is her business. But it’s worth remembering that verse in Ecclesiastes about “a time for everything”.

Those of us who are no longer young still have much to contribute. I certainly don’t intend to go quietly into the night just because I’ve passed the half-century mark.

That all said, there are limits. And perhaps this is one of them. As  a rule of thumb, posing in the buff might be accurately described as a young person’s game.

Very fake Facebook: Did Facebook lie about video stats?

Facebook (just like Reddit, Twitter, etc.)  exists for a single purpose: to sell ads

I maintain an author page on Facebook, in addition to my personal profile. Every time I log on to Facebook, the platform encourages me to buy ads.

Facebook has been pushing video ads in particular over the past few years. I mean, really pushing them.

It now appears that Facebook sold these ads based on inflated video stats. As a result, Zuckerberg’s brainchild has now settled a class action lawsuit for $40 million.

If you own a business, you have to rely on social media, the saying goes. 

And indeed, it would probably be unwise to completely ignore Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, etc. Social media is a sewer, but it is still a force on the Internet–for now. 

Never forget, though, that these companies are ultimately flight-by-night operations that are clinging to the dying business model of social media.  The aim of companies like Facebook is to squeeze as much money from advertisers as they can, for as long as the party lasts. Because they know that the party won’t last forever.

And never, ever–no matter what–make the mistake of building the entire public face of your business on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. This is a fatal mistake, whether you’re an author, a musician, or a plumber in Boise, Idaho.