Observations of the VTuber scene

Moin. This thing is mostly observations of the VTuber scene a few weeks in. I end up making some content recommendations in it, so it might be useful to long-time VTubers as well, though it shouldn’t be understood as “this is how you should do something”, but rather a “this is how I see it being done currently”.

The obvious

Starting with the obvious: As a VTuber, your body can look like however you want, but your movements and expressions typically are fairly restricted. Even if you are 3D and have roomscale tracking, you still can’t really interact with objects or other people in a convincing way. At least not now, and not in real time.

That said, even with these limitations, being a VTuber just gives you a lot of benefits that you wouldn’t get as a regular person:

  • Full privacy. Which you’d also get doing Podcasts, radio or voiceover-stuff in general, but all of which would lack…
  • Facial expressions. Just having head bops and wiggles and a mouth that can change between an eternal smile and a 😀 when talking is enough of a fixpoint for me that I can actually watch a just-talking-stream of a VTuber without feeling the need to do something else. (For comparison, I cannot listen to podcasts on a couch, as my eyes start to wander off fairly quickly. Which then leads me to doing something else and abandonning the podcast altogether, more often than not.) Now, you also get that just talking to a camera, but then you’d be giving up your privacy.
  • A more-interesting-than-average brand, without doing anything. Even as the most generic anime girl, you’re still way, way more recognizable than a generic gaming channel that has some 3D-dubstep intro as its only “branding” element.

Branding

Umbrella brands are surprisingly powerful. You can see this most clearly with Hololive and Nijisanji IMHO:

The Hololive brand is super strong. Every new member gets to start out with thousands or tens of thousands of subs, simply because it says “hololive” next to it. And that already sets expectations: It’s going to be a woman, the woman is going to be an idol, and there in general won’t be any unbearable technical issues.

Nijisanji in contrast doesn’t have these expectations as strongly, although their members also start with at least a few thousand subscribers. That is partially because there’s just so many more members, partially because new members could be anything, man or woman, quality ranging from good to “average new YouTuber”, technical ability ranging from good to permanently clipping audio. That said, Nijisanji is offering quite a valuable service (VTuber avatars and support) to quite a lot more people. And this non-exclusivity gives the company quite a bonus in my book.

Update: It has been pointed out to me by various people that I completely misunderstand Nijisanji and the impact they’ve had, and that Nijisanji ID’s technical troubles are more a problem of Indonesia not having that good of an infrastructure. The problem is, these technical issues, though not their fault, are translating into what image I’m seeing of them, and all the awesome stuff they did in the past is invisible to me, unless I really start digging. To be clear, this is an issue of the brand, not an issue of the individual creators among them. And even though the different regional branches are more or less independent from each other, the overall brand still is Nijisanji Region (apart from China), not some wildly different naming like you get with Mars, Twix and Snickers (which all belong to Mars).

These umbrella brands are fairly rare on YouTube these days. For me, only Machinima comes to mind. Like, even the EDUtube empires of the Green brothers or Brady Haran don’t have an umbrella brand. Instead, they have SciShow and CrashCourse with direct sister channels, but keep those brands fairly separate.

Formats

Formats really matter. Most VTubers are doing game streams and talk streams. Those who do game streams tend to get discovered better, while people who do talk streams tend to get loads more super chats. For example, Flare manages to out-rank Aqua in super chat revenue, despite having less than half her subscriber count.

Doing unique formats which are more than just the generic talk/game streams also seems to be an advantage:

  • Coco grew insanely fast with her Asacoco news show,
  • 3D shows (especially 3D debuts) perform super well,
  • non-standard game streams like speedruns/races work quite well, and
  • non-standard talk streams (interviews, fairy counselling, etc) work as well.

This is true across all of YouTube, btw: Having a unique format at least gives you a chance at standing out, and even though you run the risk of having a format which just doesn’t resonate with viewers, you at least are looking for doors with each format you try instead of bashing your head against the wall with generic gameplay in the hopes of breaking through eventually

Highlights and clips are super important, especially for the Japanese scene. I don’t think Fubuki would be where she is now without her viral meme videos, I don’t think any of them would have anywhere near that large of an international audience if it wasn’t for the translators and the translators only translating highlights, rather than whole streams.

I do think that VTubers (and streamers in general) should try hiring fans to make highlight videos and upload them to their own channel, so that their channels become more accessible for those living outside of the normal streaming timezones. Nijisanji in particular has been getting better at that recently, on their company channels at least.

Misc.

Ultra-low-latency with DVR disabled is everywhere. I don’t think this is benefiting any channel that gets more than 100 concurrent viewers or so, because at those sizes, the chat starts being more delayed than the stream itself. This is because YouTube polls chat at set intervals for new messages instead of sending out each message on its own, and those poll intervals get rarer with more messages being sent.

Also, it makes it rather difficult to watch the stream on slightly subpar connections, or just if you’re half a planet away. This is because any rebuffer that sets back the latency to >5s will cause another rebuffer and skip ahead, resulting in large parts of the stream just being constantly buffering. Really as soon as you’ve got a few viewers, Low Latency is the way to go, with normal latency being great for anything which doesn’t have any meaningful chat interaction built in (eg singing streams).


Sexuality is quite a thing. It probably is easier to be that sexual in public if your real face isn’t attached to it, and it’s quite surprising how far you can get with that on YouTube without even being demonetized. On top of that, it tends to generate quite entertaining content by default. That said, I think the process of sexualising others is more problematic among the VTuber scene than other communities on YouTube, whether that is fans commenting on it on every occasion, bosses putting their talent into swimsuits, or character designs having tits so large that you’re running out of alphabet to describe them. I hope for the women involved that the disconnect between their character and the real person can helps with this.


VTubers in general seem to do disproportionately much live content, with the notable exceptions being Kizuna AI and Ami Yamato. I think there’s a lot of potential for non-live content which strictly works with motion capturing (as opposed to hand-animation). It doesn’t need to be the current livestreaming VTubers doing that either; in fact, most of the VOD content I see from the current live-VTubers is somewhat similar to the early 2006-level YouTube nonsense. There really is a lot of different directions to explore here. Putting it out there right now: I want to see a VTuber with a degree in Astronomy teach me about Supernovae.


VTubers being mostly Japan-based obviously results in a lot of Japanese content. The search interest in the USA in VTubers is growing quickly though, so any VTuber who can do English content is at an advantage here. Also, assuming that VTubers become popular in the US, you can bet that they’ll spread to the rest of the world as well, so it might be worth to start doing VTuber content in your local language, so that by the time it gets big, you’ll already be ready and at the forefront.


A lot of VTubers have been doing daily streams. And while that definitely isn’t bad, please, do yourself a favor and take days off, where you don’t spend a single thought on your channel. Daily content tends to be unsustainable, with even the largest YouTubers burning out with that after just a few years. More well-being advice can be found in the Creator Academy.

Overall, …

… I’ve been very impressed by how compelling the content various VTubers make have been to me. I’ve never watched more than 5 episodes of Anime I think (including Pokemon or the Simpsons), but the charme of a dog girl doing cute things while playing Doom, or a chubby devil trying to convince an art student that eyes don’t grow back just gets me. More recently, I’ve been hanging out with the Indonesian crowd, as their content is 75% English anyway, so I actually have a chance of getting the jokes.

In that sense, otsuu, I’m strapped in and ready for a wild ride.

11. A Reflection of Beyond the Edge of the World

Moin.

I hope you had fun reading this short story. However, I’m interested in improving, so I’ve collected some criticism both from me and from others.

Alice says:

1. The protagonist is rather forgettable

I think I agree with this. I originally wanted to make them genderless (you know, “I” can be anyone! even you!), but by doing so also made them somewhat characterless. And with the plot going on to let the protagonist find a girlfriend, it’s very probable we’re dealing with a male protagonist anyways, so I completely undermined the first idea anyway

2. My world building is rather weak

I think this is partially because English still is a foreign language to me, so I don’t know the best words. Maybe I should ask Trump if I can buy some of his.
Further, I spend too little time on it. For example:

I had forged my fair share of custom tools in the factory, from the smallest springs to the biggest wrench, but I always had access to the never-ending power of steam. Ralph had his right arm. Well, he also had his left arm, a hammer and an anvil, but all in all, if he wanted a piece of metal to be flat, he couldn’t just plop it into a steam hammer and wait for a couple seconds or minutes, he had to work it flat, by hand, and re-heat it often. (Chapter 5)

This part is meant to convey to the reader that in Valand, industrialization is going on while in Greenland, it’s still all muscle power. (I do think the joke in it worked. I’ve written it so long ago, it completely caught me off guard this morning while I was reading through it again)

To make things worse, I did say in the beginning that industrialization is restricted in Valand , so we don’t even know if blacksmiths up there are using hand power usually. Overall, I think my approach this time (write first, think later) hindered me worldbuilding properly. On the other hand, it did allow me to write the story remarkably quickly. I could’ve fixed this in post, writing beautiful and consistent descriptions after the story was done, but I kinda just wanted to get it out.

3) The logo looks like smash bros, and way too clean.

Firstly, it looks like my brand identity, thank you very much, and secondly, I think both me and Smash bros ultimate try the same thing here, showing sunrise from the ISS. In my case, it symbolizes the edge of the world, in SSBU, it symbolizes the world as a whole.

Sunrise as seen from the ISS. Image: NASA/ESA

That said, my Logo thingy was thrown together in 15 minutes. Had I wanted to execute my other idea, a view from Valand over the lower lands, I’d have to spend quite some time in Blender making it work. Time which I didn’t have this time around, because there was a deadline. So, have the logo thingy one last time:

Logo: Beyond the Edge of the World

4. I’m jumping around somewhat and not bringing ideas to their end.

In particular, in chapter 5 there’s a bit where the protagonist is fixing the machine, and the smith is pleased with the progress. Alice says it’s confusing the smith would say that when they just had started.

In that particular case, I’d agree, I did have a note there this morning saying [[MORE]], but left it as that, so that part was plain laziness. I don’t know if this a problem on a larger scale. Because, I do intentionally jump to skip boring bits, especially between chapters. I kinda write them like L-cuts, with a brief summary of what we as readers missed in the beginning

The question is whether this is as annoying as a jump cut, or not too noticeable like an L-cut.

Algorithms say:

I’m using too few transition words.

Yoast in particular likes to yell at me for this.

I think it flows pretty well and is easy to read, but again, I don’t necessarily have the right feeling for the language. It also yelled at me for not using subheadlines everywhere, and for using the same sentence beginnings when I used repetition as stylistic device.

I say:

I did not follow Vogler’s Hero’s Journey.

If we take the city episode as approach to the inmost cave and the ordeal as per Vogler, it’s a bit weird that the protagonist gets no reward immediately, and instead Lily is both reward and road back much later on. If (as I originally intended) take the path to the volcano as approach to the inmost cave, it’s lacking a fight between good and evil (ie the ordeal) altogether.

Either way, I break with this scheme further by having the resurrection before the road back.

I did not follow Swain’s Scene and Sequel method

… in which characters have a goal, followed by a conflict, followed by disaster, all of which is the scene, ie the part where the plot develops, followed by reaction, dilemma and decision, ie the part where the character and story develops. I think my character could’ve been deeper if I had used it more.

I dislike my dialogues.

I just default to one character asking all the time and the other answering the questions. I tried to get away from this as often as possible, but the dialogues still feel kinda meh.

I keep shifting into indirect speech and speech summaries.

This probably is because I dislike my dialogues, so rather than improving them, I try to avoid writing them. This of course abstracts the dialogue to the point where you’re not really in the story, and instead reading the summary of the story.

The end comes by too quickly.

This of course is due to limited time and my long training with the flash fiction, which I have to bring to an end super fast when I run out of time (usually <90 mins). I had an entire segment planned with the volcano, with the protagonist meeting people there which help him sail to great heights using the volcano updrafts, followed by an air battle followed by him meeting the captain and the crew again — but all that kinda got binned because I really had to finish this. As with some of my other recent texts, because it’s part of the Creative Writing course of the IDW.

All in all, I think this story went surprisingly well, given the limited time and it being the first time I attempt something in this length. I may do more things like this in the future.

But for now, I’ll probably go back to Blender and video effects for a bit. And I need to redesign my website, too. See you in a few weeks, or a few months!

Oh, before I forget: Comments are open on this post. I typically keep them closed because I’ve gotten nothing but bots so far here, but, you know, maybe some of you would like to share their praise and criticism here. Go ahead, but note that I will keep your data with me if you do comment.

Die Scheinheiligkeit der Verwerter

Eine Gruppe von Verwertern, Zeitungs- und Zeitschriftenverlagen hat eine PR-Kampagne namens “Gerechtes Netz” gegen Google, Amazon und Facebook (kurz GAF) gestartet. In dieser Kampagne werben sie fĂŒr mehr Datenschutz, fĂŒr weniger Steuerschlupflöcher, gegen Monopole und fĂŒr Jugendschutz. Das Ziel dieser Kampagne ist laut einem internen Schreiben, Politiker, Beamte und Richter GAF-feindlicher zu stimmen, wohl damit sie Artikel 15 und 17 der Urheberrechtsreform (die bis Juni 2021 in nationales Recht umgesetzt werden muss) eher im Sinne der Verwerter als im Sinne von GAF umsetzen. Vielleicht auch nicht.

So weit, so uninteressant. Es ist wenig ĂŒberraschend, dass die Lobbyarbeit der Verwerter da weitermacht, wo sie mit der Urheberrechtsreform aufgehört hat. Was mich aber dann doch stört ist die Scheinheiligkeit des ganzen, denn fast alles, was an GAF bemĂ€ngelt wird, passiert stĂ€ndig bei den Kampagneinitiatoren selbst.

Datenschutz und das Grundrecht auf informationelle Selbstbestimmung

Es ist durchaus richtig, dass die Menge der Daten, die bei GAF anfallen, problematisch ist. Nur leisten die Verlage ihr eigenes, damit noch mehr Daten anfallen: Spiegel.de sammelt Daten mit ĂŒber 60 verschiedenen Dienstleistern, inklusive Google. Manche davon sind unglaublich intransparent: Sourcepoint platziert ein Trackingpixel unter dem Namen “www.summerhamster.com”. Wie der Name schon sagt, handelt es sich hier um einen Adblock-blocker. Criteo, ein anderer Datensammler, verbindet Online-Tracking mit Offline-Tracking, wodurch einem Werbung anhand der Verweildauer in einem GeschĂ€ft personalisiert werden kann.

Sehr witzig ist auch die Strategie von derStandard.at: Wer nicht getrackt werden will, kann ein “PUR”-Abo fĂŒr 6€/Monat abschließen. DafĂŒr wird dann nur Email, Passwort, (optional) Telefonnummer, Zahlungsinformationen und eine “Eindeutige Kennung des GerĂ€tes” (also ein Browser-Fingerprint?) fĂŒr mindestens 10 Jahre gespeichert.

Wenn man den Datenschutz zur PrivatsphĂ€re erweitert, kommt noch ein weiterer Aspekt dazu: Wie oft sieht man im BILDblog den Hinweis “Unkenntlichmachung von uns”, weil irgendwelche Medienschaffenden entschieden haben, dass eine zufĂ€llige Person in einer meist eher ungĂŒnstigen Lage ab sofort in die Öffentlichkeit und von Millionen erkannt gehört? Wie oft mĂŒssen einstweilige VerfĂŒgungen ausgestellt werden, weil Medienschaffende in das Privatleben von Personen eingedrungen sind?

Geld machen mit den Inhalten anderer

Der Grund hinter dem Leistungsschutzrecht fĂŒr Presseverleger: GAF machen Geld mit Inhalten von Zeitungen. Ich werde hier jetzt nicht die Argumente gegen das LSR wiederholen, das hatten wir dieses Jahrzehnt schon oft genug, aber auch hier kommt die Scheinheiligkeit zum Ausdruck: Online-Zeitungen und Fernsehsender machen oft genug selbst Geld mit sog. “Freebooting”. Dabei wird ein “virales” oder “irres” Video von irgendwo genommen und manchmal mit Text oder Voiceover versehen, und dann in den eigenen Videoplayer hochgeladen, der natĂŒrlich vor dem Clip noch Werbung spielt.

Wenn Viralhog et al. das Video zur Lizenzierung anbieten, wird vielleicht lizenziert, wenn nicht, werden die Urheber meist einfach nicht von der Verwendung in Kenntnis gesetzt. Sollten die Urheber doch Wind davon bekommen, wird das Video auf Anfrage entfernt, aber zu diesem Zeitpunkt hat der “Freebooter” schon den Großteil des Umsatzes mit dem Video eingefahren.

Monopole und Meinungsvielfalt

Die VerlegerverbĂ€nde meinen, dass die Monopolstellung von Google die Wirtschaftsgrundrechte der Verlage verletzt, was die Meinungsvielfalt gefĂ€hrdet und vom LSR gerettet werden kann. FĂŒr mich ein bisschen abstrakt, aber meinetwegen.

Sehr problematisch fĂŒr die Meinungsvielfalt ist hingegen die zunehmende Konzentration der Zeitungen.

Egal ob man Kieler Nachrichten, Hamburger Morgenpost oder Berliner Kurier liest: Der ĂŒberregionale Teil kommt vom RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland.
In Nordwestmecklenburg konkurrieren die LĂŒbecker Nachrichten und die Ostseezeitung – aber der Lokalteil fĂŒr beide wird von einer gemeinsamen Redaktion geschrieben.
Ich bin mit dem Flensburger Tageblatt aufgewachsen, meine Großeltern hatten den Schleiboten. Beide kommen aus dem sh:z, sehen gleich aus und hatten – abgesehen vom Lokalteil – genau die gleichen Texte. Andere Zeitungen gibt es nicht fĂŒr diese Regionen. Es hat lange gebraucht, bis ich realisiert habe, dass verschiedene Zeitungen normalerwiese verschiedene Texte abdrucken sollten, und dass Meinungsvielfalt in Regionalmedien eigentlich auch vorhanden sein sollte.
Siehe auch: Der bunte Kiosk der Presselandschaft – Die Anstalt vom 22. Mai 2018.

Nun kann man sagen, dass es Googles Schuld ist, dass Redaktionen so zusammengestrichen werden mĂŒssen. Man könnte aber auch fast glauben, dass man im Angesicht der Digitalisierung neue GeschĂ€ftsideen braucht.

Jugendschutz

Der Jugendschutz ist wahrscheinlich eher ein “Innocence in Danger”-Punkt und fĂŒr die Verwerter nur als Emotionsmanipulationswerkzeug zu gebrauchen, und natĂŒrlich ist auch hier die Scheinheiligkeit am Werk: einfach mal auf bild.de gehen, dann auf “news”, dann auf “BILD-Girl”, und sofort sieht man Titten ohne jegliche Altersabfrage. Oder auf “Unterhaltung”, dann “Erotik” und ein bisschen runterscrollen, dann ist man bei “Visit-X Girls”, eine Seite, dessen Beschreibung “Amateure in der Sex-Cam, unzensierte HD-Pornofilme & Live-TV fĂŒr Erwachsene” ist. Oder auf “Video” und dann noch mal “BILD-Girl” oder wahlweise “sexy clips”.

Hier ist eindeutig die Unschuld in Gefahr.

Aber auch bei Nachrichten kommt es oft vor, dass verstörende Bilder und Videos in der Berichterstattung gezeigt werden. Manchmal steht was mit “enthĂ€lt verstörende Bilder” dabei, manchmal nicht, und ich habe noch nie bei Online-Zeitungen irgendeine Art von Altersverifikation gesehen, sei es “gib dein Alter ein” oder “du brauchst einen Account [in dem dein Alter 18+ ist, aber das sagen wir dir hier nicht] um dieses Video ansehen zu können”.

Fazit

Diese PR-Kampagne macht (absichtlich) den Fehler, nur ĂŒber GAF zu reden, obwohl das gesamte Internet inklusive den Initiatoren mit drinsteckt. Wenn GAF auf einmal Datenschutz ernst nehmen wĂŒrde, wĂŒrde sich wenig Ă€ndern, denn die gesamte Branche ist mittlerweile ein Wimmelbild, in dem es schwierig ist, die großen Player ĂŒberhaupt zu finden. Und wenn Google die Mindgeek-Pornseiten komplett de-indexieren wĂŒrde, wĂŒrden Kinder bei der Suche nach “sexy clips” immernoch bild.de finden.

Aber vielleicht ist jetzt ein guter Zeitpunkt, selbst die Kampagne zu erweitern, und Politiker von den VorzĂŒgen einer starken ePrivacy-Verordnung zu ĂŒberzeugen. Vielleicht fĂŒhlt die VG Media dann ihren “Wunsch nach einer breiteren Diskussion fĂŒr alle BĂŒrger” besser erfĂŒllt.

Warum einfach, wenn’s auch kompliziert geht? Das Schleswig-Holsteinische Semesterticket

Moin.

In Schleswig-Holstein gibt es jetzt ein landesweites Semesterticket, und das ist im Prinzip was gutes. Nur in der AusfĂŒhrung macht es unnötig viel falsch.

Das fĂ€ngt schon beim Bestellprozess an. Das Ticket basiert auf dem SolidaritĂ€tsprinzip, es zahlt also jeder, egal ob es genutzt wird oder nicht. Doch nur weil man es bezahlt hat, heißt es nicht, dass man das Ticket auch bekommt, nein. Man muss es erst ĂŒber nah.sh bestellen. Jedes Semester neu.

Weiter geht es mit der Lieferung: Man bekommt das Ticket entweder als App, oder als Papierticket. Das Papierticket kommt per Post, und man kann es sich im Falle eines Verlusts einmal pro Semester fĂŒr 35€ neu zusenden lassen. Sobald man sich fĂŒr eine Ticketvariante entschieden hat, kann man im Semester nicht mehr wechseln.

Vielleicht klingt all das im Vakuum wie eine halbwegs vernĂŒnftige Lösung, ĂŒber die man sich nicht weiter aufregen muss. Aber verglichen zu den Lösungen, die bisher verwendet wurden, ist sie arg stelzig und bĂŒrokratisiert.

Ich prÀsentiere: Den Studentenausweis.

Der Studentenausweis ist ein regelrechtes Schweizer Taschenmesser. Er hat natĂŒrlich Hochschule, Namen und Bild drauf, aber auch Matrikelnummer (fĂŒr PrĂŒfungen), einen RFID-Chip (fĂŒr ChiptĂŒren und Mensa), einen Strichcode (fĂŒr die Bibliothek) und ein wiederbeschreibbares Thermodruckfeld fĂŒr das Semesterticket.

Ja, richtig gelesen. Auf dem Studentenausweis ist schon ein Semesterticket drauf, und das galt bisher (und gilt weiterhin in Flensburg und Kiel, aber nicht in LĂŒbeck) fĂŒr den ÖPNV innerhalb des stĂ€dischen Verkehrsverbundes, jeweils fĂŒr ein Semester. Am Anfang eines jeden Semesters kann man mit dem Ausweis zu einem Validierungsautomaten gehen, der die Karte nimmt, ein bisschen brummt, und dann das Datum vom “GĂŒltig bis” ein halbes Jahr weiterschiebt.

Da stellt sich bei mir nur eine Frage: Warum?

Warum wird nicht einfach der Studentenausweis weiterverwendet?
Warum die strikte Trennung zwischen Papierticket und Handyticket?
Warum gibt es keine Möglichkeit fĂŒr einen PDF-Download mit QR-Code, wie es bei nah.sh Online-Tickets möglich ist?
Warum kompliziert, wenn es auch einfach geht?

In Defense of Redesigns

Moin.

Every time a site updates it’s design, it seems like the internet comes together to unanimously complain about it. And mostly, these complaints are justified, after all, redesigns completely disrupt normal usage. But are the users right and should we stick to the old designs?

And to get the conclusion out first: Complaining constructively during the redesign phase is the best way to get heard. However, some of the more common complaints will be ignored, and here I’ll go through the why.

“It looks like a mobile app!”

This is intentional. The goal with most redesigns these days is to make it so that you can seamlessly switch between devices and still know how everything works from one device to another. This is hugely beneficial to new users learning the ins and outs of the site. After all, learning it once and applying it everywhere is easier than having to learn how the desktop site, tablet, mobile and TV apps work if they all have a very different UI.

That said, it absolutely is possible to fuck this up. I sometimes see sites with a hamburger menu that overlay the entire site once you click on it. This never is necessary on desktop. Using a dropdown, or, if the menu needs to be more persistent, a topbar/sidebar is better in these cases.

“There’s too much whitespace!”
and
“The buttons are too large!”

Whitespace, colors and images are a deliberate measure to make an information flood more manageable. As an example for this, compare these two scans of newspapers, from 1973 and 2011

1973: 10 headlines, tiny news index in the bottom center, columns separated with lines (except bottom right), relatively small images
2011: 6 headlines, news index takes up the lower 15% or so, columns separated with whitespace, sometimes lines and whitespace, top image primary eye catcher

Whether you use a line or whitespace between columns doesn’t matter if you really want to read an article. But it does really matter if you don’t want to feel completely overwhelmed by everything presented at once on a page. And this holds true not only for newspapers, but also for websites: A newspaper only allows you one function: You can read it. But god knows how many things you can do with a website.

So again: The point of the added whitespace and larger buttons is to make it easier to use the site for new people.

“They removed customization!”

Customization options always have two issues: For one, every option doubles the number of ways a thing can break, and at some point, it’s a bug bonanza. For another, deep customization makes it difficult for new users to find their way around the site.

For example, imagine a “follow” button that can be customized in appearance and position. If it sometimes is a green button in a corner, a red button sticking at the top of the screen, and sometimes an image saying “subscribe”, the simple task of clicking the follow button devolves into an extensive hide-and-seek game with a digital chameleon.

aside: about HTML customization

Regrettably, customization via HTML and CSS these days isn’t as easy as it used to be. Back in the day, you’d put <tags> around things to do something for you. Back in the day, everyone was on 1024×768. Back in the day, there were no smartphones. This meant that you could easily learn a “streetHTML” that did the things you wanted, tested them on your computer, and had a thing that would be roughly consistent with how everyone else saw it.

That isn’t the case anymore. streetHTML gets more and more broken by the actual standards, which have you put <tags> around things that do nothing, only to then specify somewhere else in CSS what those tags do. As for screens, not only is there a wider range of monitors around these days, but some of these monitors are an entirely different orientation usually – phones. And hobby coders tend to do things with a “works for me” attitude: Willing to make things look good for them, but not even considering the option to test on a phone, because, who uses a phone to browse that website anyways?

Usually, the answer to that question is: Half of the viewers. So, as a website owner that offers HTML/CSS customization, you now facing the choice between having a thing that may turn simple things into hide’n’seek games, potentially look awful for half the viewers, and has gotten a lot more difficult to use since you first implemented it in 2004 — or simply axing it.

There is only one sane option here, even though it unfortunately means that you are losing what makes the internet interesting, as well as a tool that teaches kids how to code (Neopets was more effective in getting girls to code than any government-sponsored thing, I dare say).

“Make the new design optional!”

This means that the developers have to work twice as much to keep everything not-broken, while also having either version used half as much as the userbase splits into people who use the new vs old design.

Maintaining this is possible. For example, Wikipedia still lets you choose it’s old “Monobook” design, or some more exotic ones. But even Wikipedia removed all designs except one from its core, kept a few bundled as long they were maintained by external volunteers, and completely killed off some designs.

Overall, the more different designs the site has to maintain, the harder it becomes to quickly develop new things that actually would be beneficial to everyone, so typically, after a transition phase, the old design gets axed.


You may have noticed that a lot of these explanations boil down to “it’s good for new users”. But what about old users? Users that have been on the site for long, have created the content that brought the site to where it is today? Shouldn’t the site cater to these people first and foremost?

The answer is no. If you have a site consisting of a bunch of long-term users, but which doesn’t attract new users because of its design, the site will stagnate. Which in itself wouldn’t be much of a problem; being level means you can continue operations as-is. But these long-term users will move on eventually. Either because their interests shift, because their new job no longer grants them the time to contribute to the site, or because they die. At which point, the site will slowly shrink and die as well, especially if it has large enough server cost due to hosting a decade worth of image and video content.

This is why redesigns are necessary. This is why some complaints never are heard (or at least never acted upon). And this is why long-term users don’t get the attention they’d deserve. Website owners must attract new users, else the site dies.


All that said, there’s one thing which I’d like to say to any site owner redesigning their stuff:

COMMUNICATE!

If you don’t want to piss off your existing userbase, you have to communicate your vision with the redesign. And I’m not talking PR-bullshit here, you won’t win people over with a sugary landing page on how this new design gives endless possibilities when you are taking customization features away. No, a redesign requires a level conversation with your userbase that makes it clear what you’ve been working on (changelogs), what you will be working on next (roadmap), what the overall goal is and most importantly, being human about it.

And Users:

CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM!

The following:

“please bring back x”
“make it look y”
“I hate this”

aren’t helping anyone. They don’t help you because there’s no chance that the redesign won’t be happening, and they don’t help the site developers because they’re missing crutial information:

  • What are you trying to do on the site?
  • Why? and
  • How are you currently doing this?

(from Never Ask What They Want — 3 Better Questions to Ask in User Interviews)

If you can answer these questions in your feedback, it becomes so much more actionable than “please bring back this feature”.

For example, imagine a site that used to have a pop-up which you closed by clicking on a triangle to the left and dragging the pop-up-slider down.

from Tantacrul’s Music Software & Interface Design: MuseScore – A good video. You should watch it.

Imagine now that the redesign no longer has the little triangle. If you say “please bring back the triangle”, you may or may not get it back, but the devs won’t be any wiser as to why you need the triangle.

But if you instead say:

“I’m trying to close that popup as quickly as possible, because I want to look at the content and the popup isn’t relevant to me. Before, this was done using the triangle and pop-up slider”

the devs now know what you want to do and why you want to do it, so they can build a new feature for it (maybe that x shouldn’t be just decorative?), but also know how you did it before, so they can check whether or not the old solution is sufficient.

Of course, this popup example is trivial. But most things are more complicated than this and really benefit from constructive criticism. So:

Users: if you want a redesign to improve, do keep your criticism constructive.

Website owners: if you prefer constructive criticism over endless shitstorms, listen to the criticism and be transparent about your actions.

Writing a fanfic – an experience report

Moin.

I recently stumbled about a weekly flash fiction contest thingy on Deviantart, this time, the contest was based around writing something that has to do with your favourite video game. Fanfic it is.

Initially, I thought this would be easy because every time I consume media, it spooks around in my mind, essentially being free inspiration, but so far, I didn’t think the stories that came out of it were worth it.

Because, what my brain does with the prompts coming out of other media isn’t necessarily a premise for a good story. Instead, it’s trying to insert me into the action and have me act in a way that “saves” the protagonists. In other words, it destroys an interesting narrative in favor of a Mary Sue. Fantastic, exactly the sort of thing I want to post as a 20-something year old studying media. I tried it anyways. And failed.

I took a game without a real story – Dota – and tried squeezing out a fanfic about one of my favourite characters in it, Phantom Assassin.

Now, what I should’ve done here is: Take the concept of the character, not the character itself, put it into a nice premise and write a story based on it.
But what I did instead was: Dive head-first into your favourite aspect of the character, which is explained in this Loregasm video.

<in-lore> Basically: She’s an assassin, getting her orders from some veiled oracle and executes these orders without question. But secretly she wonders why she has to kill all those people, then meets The Oracle, who promises her insight to all her questions if she only kills anyone who wants to kill him. According to the video, the two oracles are identical to each other, she’s being sent across an endless goose chase across the multiverse and due to the inter-dimensional travels loses the one thing she actually values, her name, and becomes the Spectre, another Dota character. </in-lore>

And this is where I went full fanfic and combined a sort-of Mary Sue with an all-knowing explainorama charcacter, resulting in this mess: https://www.deviantart.com/leowattenberg/art/A-False-Promise-805787925

I did my best to pull out of it and have somewhat interesting character interactions and developments (at least as interesting as you can make those in flash fiction), but overall, I just couldn’t get away from the template that is the original Loregasm video.

Anyways, the takeaway for me is that fanfic isn’t my domain. Good thing I tried that myself though.

Learning Blender: A crash course experience

Moin.

At my uni (FH Kiel), every semester there’s 2 weeks of “do whatever that isn’t in your usual curriculum”. So if you’re studying electrical engineering, you can get ECTS identifying mushroom or something. For me, it wasn’t as far fetched, but there is no “how to blender” course in my curriculum. And what a course it was: 5 days, 6 hours per day intense blenderization. And this is a result:

Now, I could write a rather boring “We did all these awesome things and it was great” blog post, but I think it’s more interesting to focus on the mistakes I made and the lessons learned.

  • When making an array of things and the elements don’t quite line up, check why this is instead of just reducing the distance between objects. Getting rid of overlapping objects flickering once you’ve applied that array is annoying and tedious at best.
  • Modeling is the most boring part of it IMHO. Which is probably why I never could get over the first steps of the various online tutorials there are; the issue never was as much that I couldn’t make that goddamn donut, but rather that I didn’t see why I should be making one.
  • Once you understand the node editor, texturing and shading is awesome. It turns the most boring white/grey wasteland into at least Half Life 1 territory.
  • When setting keyframes, using LocRotScale may be the easiest thing to muscle memory (just do i > c), but it does make things messier to find later on
  • Eevee is awesome. When they introduced it, I was wondering why everyone was so excited about having a thing that approximates lighting instead of actually calculating the real rays, especially now that raytracing whatever is actually a feature in some GPUs. But I didn’t factor in just how much faster eevee is than cycles: Instead of 6 hours to render, it takes 6 minutes. Instead of waiting 15s for the viewport peview to render, it takes <1s.
  • Working cleanly pays off. Even my little project has close to 100 objects. Naming and ordering your stuff as it gets created makes finding it later on when you edit it so much faster.
  • Arrays don’t have collisions and such. I’ve watched a ball phase through the ground way too many times before I figured that out.
  • Hotkeys, oh my. Even though I edited my fair share of videos, I never was quite the shortcut user. I only used the obvious ctrl+s/x/c/v/z/y, with a handful of editing specific ones (eg. cut/trim) added to the mix, but I never could be bothered learning all of them. In blender meanwhile, using hotkeys isn’t only faster, but also more convenient: There’s just so much stuff to remember the position in menus of, you might as well just remember the hotkeys.
  • Actually remembering the hotkeys by using blender is either going to become a hobby of mine, or I’ll forget how everything works again. Because there’s no way I’ll remember Tab > 3 > Click on a face > Ctrl+L > move mouse to different viewport > a > g > x > click on another face > … without constantly using it.
  • Smoke and I don’t understand each other well. In an empty project, it’ll work just fine, but as soon as I use it in my actual project, something fucks up somehow: Maybe the flames are too strong. Or too weak. Or disappear completely once the object changes position. Or emits smoke the entire time despite the domain only actually doing smoke stuff a hundred frames later on. And so on, and so on, and so on. This actually is one of the main differences between the YouTube version and the loop version on gfycat: I found the fire too weak in the initial render, however, upon changing it, everything went awry so I decided using a crappy particle effect instead of the fire just so I could create any sort of illusion that the bucket was a trash bin.
  • You can import any file you like, but no .blend files. For that, you have to click “Link”, or “Append”. Or simply copypaste.
  • Probably more, but it’s 2am, and I really should go to bed now.
  • But not before I give huge shoutouts to:
    • Silas Fuchs, for being my mentor for this week
    • Ian Hubert, for introducing me to blender way back in the day with Tears of Steel and Dynamo Ep1, as well as providing a worthy asset to finish off this little animation.
    • Anyone who’s criticised or complimented me when showing off this little animation
    • All those people who made the textures and sounds effects I carelessly downloaded with total disregard for ownership. I’ll try getting around to crediting all of you in the video’s description tomorrow!
The video: With sound, Ians Readerboard and 200% more particle effects.

Pornhub is not the savior of online video, and vimeo is not an alternative to YouTube

The discussion often goes as thus: YouTube sucks and is getting worse. Making a competitor is difficult, you need a big infrastructure for it, and Pornhub apparently has it and just would need to quickly make a copy of its website, rename it and open it for uploading of normal, SFW content.

But Pornhub neither has the right business model, nor the right infrastructure for this.

Pornhub’s parent company, Mindgeek, is not only a platform operator. It also owns lots of the studios that upload to Pornhub: Brazzers, RealityKings, DigitalPlayground, and others. Pornhub acts as a trailer site for these studios, with the “uncut” videos only being available via a 10 USD/month Pornhub Premium, or a 30 USD/month studio subscription. Further, the ads seen on Pornhub are served through the trafficjunky network – which is also owned by Mindgeek.

With this model, Mindgeek managed to put itself into a position where they are to porn what YouTube and Netflix combined would be for normal video. Competitors do exist, especially for their studio business, but the studios have to go through Pornhub if they want to get recognition by non-paying users, or money through Pornhub premium. For their platforms, a lot of what seems like competition actually isn’t: RedTube, YouPorn and others are owned by Mindgeek, too.

However: This model translates poorly to non-porn. The production cost of premium movies is astronomical compared to premium porn: Just think of the number of settings and actors typically involved. And the willingness of customers to pay 30 USD/month to access the works of a single studio is rather low.

On top of that, while Pornhub has lots of viewers, Pornhub only has 8 million videos uploaded. For comparison, people who

  • Were playing Call of Duty: Black Ops
  • On the PS3
  • Between 2010 and 2015 and
  • Wanted to share a funny clip with their friends
  • Without creating their own YouTube account

uploaded 1 067 410 videos to the default CODblackopsPS channel on YouTube. In other words: A decade ago, one game could get a video volume on YouTube in 5 years that’s in the same order of magnitude as all of Pornhub is over its life.

So, overall: Pornhub is nowhere near having an infrastructure that could compete with YouTube, and even if it had: Why would they? Free video hosting still is expensive. And it still comes with a huge portion of legal and moral issues attached: Copyright, now with Article 17. Spam. Terrorist propaganda. Hate. Gore. Livestreams of shootings. Pedophiles.

Who would risk a dominant position in an industry that probably won’t go away anytime soon to get into this space voluntarily?

Speaking of which:

vimeo is not a YouTube competitor.

YouTube is a free platform where you can upload videos in a decent quality, livestream and make money.

Vimeo is a platform where you need to pay to upload any meaningful amount of data, and 70 EUR/month if you want to livestream. The only way to make money on it is to sell access to your videos just like you’d sell DVDs.

Vimeo is not a YouTube competitor.

Their video quality is great though.

Zeitumstellung, Powernapping und der Bungsberg: Ein Kommentar

Alle halbe Jahre wieder findet eine leidige Diskussion ĂŒber die Zeitumstellung statt. Eine Zeitumstellung, die sowohl im Krieg als auch in den 80ern eingefĂŒhrt wurde, um Energie zu sparen. Eine Zeitumstellung, die dieses Ziel komplett verfehlt.

Stattdessen werden nun irgendwelche vage gesundheitliche Argumente hervorgekramt, die alle nach genauerer Betrachtung zerbröseln: Zwar gibt es am Montag nach der Zeitumstellung mehr TodesfĂ€lle, in der gesamten Woche aber nicht. In anderen Worten: Wer aufgrund der Zeitumstellung verreckt, hĂ€tte die Woche auch sonst nicht ĂŒberlebt.

Und egal, welche theoretischen Vorteile die Sommer- bzw. Winterzeit mit sich bringt: Etwa die HÀlfte der Bevölkerung wacht nicht ausgeschlafen auf. Das Problem ist nicht die Zeitumstellung, das Problem ist, dass die Gesellschaft gesundheitsschÀdliche Arbeitsstrukturen erzwingt: Starre Arbeitszeiten, die ohne jeglichen Grund von einem verlangen, vor der MorgendÀmmerung aufzustehen. Ohne diese Strukturen hÀtte die Zeitumstellung keine Auswirkungen auf irgendwas.

Der selbstgeschaffene Schlafmangel ist, anders als die Zeitumstellung, kein halbjĂ€hriges Trivialproblem. Er ist ein permanentes Problem, das einen signifikanten volkswirtschaftlichen Schaden verursacht: Durch gesenkte ProduktivitĂ€t gehen in Deutschland 200 000 Arbeitstage pro Jahr verloren, was einem BIP-Verlust von 52 Mrd. € entspricht. Nur durch Schlafmangel.

Doch die ProduktivitÀt ist nicht die einzige, die leidet. Viel schlimmer erwischt es die KreativitÀt. Das wird besonders beim Jetlag deutlich: In diesem mental eher vegetativen Zustand kann man zwar noch durchaus funktionieren und Befehlen von Sicherheitspersonal und Wegweisern folgen, aber ansonsten ist die Birne eher Notleuchte als Ideenflutlicht.

Der kollektive Schlafmangel wĂ€re ĂŒber viele Wege bekĂ€mpfbar: Flexiblere und kĂŒrzere Arbeitszeiten, eine Kultur, die den Mittagsschlaf auf der Arbeit nicht nur zulĂ€sst sondern fördert, vielleicht sogar eine Verbesserung der Luft-, Licht- und LĂ€rmsituation.

Das Konzept von Powernapping und Mittagsschlaf fĂŒhrt dann auch wieder das Zeitumstellungsargument „mehr Tageslicht haben“ ad absurdum. Es ist gesĂŒnder und produktiver, ein paar der hellsten Sonnenstunden auszulassen, um mitten am Tag zu schlafen. Warum dann auf Teufel komm raus versuchen, den Tag so zu drehen, dass man mehr Sonnenstunden hat? Damit abends beim Fernsehgucken die Sonne noch blenden kann?

Die Lösungen, die die Zeitumstellung zu bringen scheint, sind höchstens symbolisch. Was auch sonst, schließlich wird die Uhr ja nur ein wenig vor- bzw. zurĂŒckgedreht. Es ist so, als wollte man den höchsten Berg der Welt suchen und nur den Bungsberg finden. Es gibt einfach bessere Lösungen als die Zeitumstellung, und das Verfolgen dieser LösungsansĂ€tze macht die Zeitumstellung ĂŒberflĂŒssig. Genauwie der Bungsberg ĂŒberflĂŒssig wird, sobald man eine ernstzunehmende Skipiste in Schweden oder der Schweiz findet.