It doesn’t get better, blogging vs. YouTube and Twitter

Many of you know I use Twitter. It’s replaced a lot of the “link posts” I might have done in the early 2000s or so. Some have argued that Twitter cannibalized a lot of blogging, and that seems true. And that hasn’t always been for the good…there are some arguments and discussions which don’t work well on Twitter. There have been many Twitter misunderstandings which simply wouldn’t have happened in the blogging format, because of the artificiality of Twitter strips context.

Until recently I didn’t much pay attention to YouTube except for movie trailers and Games of Thrones stuff. Oh, and How it Should Have Ended. Any other YouTube I probably just found via a share on Facebook and Twitter.

But of late I have been watching some YouTube channels. I was prompted partly by the fact that after the hit piece came out on me about my incredible influence on the alt-right someone emailed me to explain that in fact the most influential people on the alt-right were on YouTube, where they spread interpretations of genetics congenial to their racialist worldview. Honestly I didn’t watch these channels for very long because:

Fathering the next generation of white non-whites

1) I don’t need genetics lectures.

2) I don’t need primers on Western history.

3) I am not concerned about white genocide, I am white genocide.

Rather, I found a channel called The Rubin Report, which had come recommended to me by my friend Sarah Haider. I agreed with the host, Dave Rubin, on most issues, and often disagreed with his guests. It made for reasonably compelling listening (I rarely watch really, but treat this stuff like a podcast). He also introduced me to a lot of different vloggers. Among the people he interviewed was someone called Roaming Millennial, an early 20s Eurasian Canadian woman with broadly center-right/classical liberal views.

I don’t mean to spotlight her, but her channel illustrates three facts:

1) Relatively short, pithy, commentaries.

2) A huge number of views.

3) Many of these vloggers are “TV-friendly” in their appearance.

Comparing traffic can be hard across years and platforms, so I’ll focus on the first and last issue. When it comes to the early generation of bloggers there are plenty who became famous on pithy quick links. But there were also long-form essayists and commenters. To give one example, Cosma Shalizi’s posts on IQ were extensively linked for many years because of their thoroughness and depth (obviously few people read everything or understood much, but the posts were there, and many at least skimmed a fair amount).

These sorts of discursive commentaries are not really possible on YouTube. From what I can tell when vloggers allow themselves to go more than 20 minutes on a single topic they start to ramble, repeat themselves, and get boring. You can’t engage in extemporaneous speaking for too long and sound like you have your shit together. The data density of blogging is potentially much higher than vlogging.

The third issue…. Many bloggers had a face for radio, and a voice for silent film. The extremely popular liberal blogger Steve Gilliard was morbidly obese, and died of illnesses related to his weight issues. But his appearance was not a big deal when he began blogging. Many of the early bloggers concealed many details of their private life, let alone their image. Similarly, a lion of the warblogging cohort, Steve Den Beste, looked to be out of central casting for “middle aged software/anime nerd.” But Den Beste became hugely influential before his retirement from blogging, which was partly triggered by health issues.

Obviously things aren’t that different. There was television in the 2000s. And many webforums existed which had a Twitter-like feel. But they are different nevertheless. Someone like Roaming Millennial could have made it on TV, but there are only so many spots for non-blondes at Fox, and in any case she speaks at a higher level of analysis than what you see in talking heads. There are many more of these vloggers than there would ever have been slots on television. This is a whole new information universe, and it’s different.

A the end of the day it makes me appreciate text, and blogging. There are newer technologies, but they aren’t better.

5 thoughts on “It doesn’t get better, blogging vs. YouTube and Twitter

  1. I’m glad you wrote about this topic on your blog, so I can sound off about it here.

    I, frankly, loathe twitter. Hate, abhor, despise, contemn, etc. I eagerly await the day when the whole sorry edifice collapses under its own weight. It is bad enough that twitter’s format encourages tantrums, screaming matches, abuse, misunderstanding, lack of context, and so on. But the worst thing is that people worth reading, such as yourself, use twitter, to the detriment of other mediums. Tumblr is an even more awful medium with nastier people, but since none of them matter, it need not exist for me.

    Many people who have been reading you have missed out on some great insights and conversations you’ve had over the years, because they were on twitter and not GNXP.

    It’d be nice if e.g. pseudoerasmus were simply banned from twitter, so they would be forced to blog more again.

  2. I realized upon rereading this that I sound angry at you for using twitter–I’m not, since you’re one of the better ones in terms of continuing to blog despite being on it.

  3. Speaking of Youtube, I’d strongly recommend Jordan Peterson’s lectures on the science of personality. Not short and punchy though. The accompanying readings are available on his personal website, if you want to follow along.

    Personality 2014
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZnqLvLbLV0&list=PL22J3VaeABQAhrMCQUa6sde_Y9DVbLYRv&index=13

    Personality 2015
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Om0YPe8c66Y&list=PLYNhvBtnVUK4mh5DYkwoekMunoVPRwXmP&index=12

    Personality 2016
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f511uRzsHhQ&list=PL22J3VaeABQAOhH1CLMNnMl2R-O1abW1T&index=10

    (Missing lectures when he didn’t lecture that week.)

  4. There’s a place for everyone.

    Some people are scientists, some are researchers, some present and disseminate the information, others critique from the comments section, and yet others share links on their Facebook walls.

    There’s not one perfect way to communicate. The vast majority of people are too lazy to read the science, but will watch a YouTube video. That’s how the info gets popularized.

    Being good at sharing complex ideas in a simple way that everyone can understand and doing it within their attention span is a skill in itself, and not necessarily a skill that most PhDs have (or need).

    Do what you’re good at, and are motivated to do, and use the tools that fit your communication style best.

    [i was speaking to the readership of this blog, which isn’t typical, obv. my five year old daughter readers books on astronomy suitable for an elementary school child. that’s what’s best for her. but the “medium” has definitely diversified, which took me by some surprise -razib]

  5. There’s a few long-form videos I can watch on youtube, but none of them are true vlogs – they’re usually scripted content. Even then, I’m more of a reader than a watcher, and absorb information much faster doing the former.

    I laughed at your remark about “fathering the next generation of white non-whites”. Oh, the US Census and its de facto one-drop rule when it comes to ethnic identifiers . . .

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