About a year ago, YouTube introduced a system that they thought would increase the level of discourse on the site and make it a better place for everyone. Instead of just showing you the most recent comments on a video, you would (by default) see algorithmically selected comments that would take into account who your friends were, how highly ranked commenters social media profiles were, how many people “like” the comment, and whether the comment inspiring discussion.
I never liked that system because, basically, it ensured that the average comment would never be seen because it would be buried by previous comments or comments from famous people. But I didn’t think it would be this bad.
Whether by design or by chance, Top Comments seems to weight whether comments inspire discussion extremely heavily. It also does not seem to take into account the number of downvotes a comment gets. As a result, the most controversial (and often disgusting) comments sit on the top of a video for everyone to see. Top Comments is a system that literally (and seemingly intentionally) promotes the worst sort of trolls.
Thus, every SciShow video has a promoted comment from the same guy arguing about creationism or global warming. Racist comments sit on top of the comments in Vlogbrothers videos. VLOGBROTHERS! The comments of Vlogbrothers used to be (and still largely are) the nicest place on the internet.
But because people acting terribly get promoted, the comments appear to be a terrifying and disturbing place.
I thought Top Comments was meant to prevent that…and it would be a very easy fix (simply weight downvotes heavily). And yet it hasn’t happened…which makes me wonder if YouTube actually likes the trolls. Maybe trolls in the comments increase time-on-site…a statistic that YouTube is praising very highly at the moment. That /really/ can’t be the case. I’m not allowing myself to walk down that line of reasoning because it indicates a lack of interest in the community that I cannot believe possible by my friends at YouTube.
So, for now, I believe that the YouTube comments team is bound up by some internal bureaucracy or logistical problem and wants very badly to fix this problem (that they MUST know about). That’s bad, but it’s not as bad as the alternative.
But whatever the cause, fix it, because it’s making the platform hostile and unpleasant to my viewers and me, and there are other platforms out there…
In the meantime, I would like to call on Nerdfighters for a bit of a hack. Trolls will be trolls…when you reply to their trolling you are literally promoting them. So, instead, click on “newest first” every time you go to a video and leave reply comments to good comments. Funny comments. Insightful comments…or leave one yourself. This shit sucks, maybe we can make it a little better.
Great post, Hank! Top Comments blows chunks, and we can’t wait for it to get fixed. When you’re on YouTube, bury trolls by not replying to them, and instead reply to nerdfightastic comments. Thanks, and DFTBA.
the surprise is already out so I’ll just announce it: this week I’ll be releasing a series of videos reading/reacting to Hanson fan fiction I wrote in 1997. I’m starting with my compelling first story: The Touch!
I saw him and stopped walking, and said the first thing in my mind which was: ‘You’re Hank Green.’ The words literally just spilled out of my mouth, there was no amount of thought happening. And I’m sure he hears it all the time but I immediately felt stupid. He looked up and smiled, and said, ‘yes I am.’ I shook his hand and introduced myself (but I’m pretty sure he called me Jenny; in retrospect I should’ve used my awesome intro of ‘Ginny, like Harry Potter,’ but you know, next time) and I babbled about how I loved his videos and asked for a picture, which he very kindly granted. He asked where I was from, and was overall very nice. I think I told him to have a nice day, or thank you or something like that. Then I walked away, and by walked I mean I stumbled through the gap in the displays to the rest of the terminal because I’m graceful. I probably could have talked to him a bit more, but honestly I couldn’t think straight, and I didn’t want to bother him. And I wanted to leave before I looked like too much of an idiot.
After I texted many people and tweeted and instagram-ed (because I am a millennial//had just MET HANK GREEN) and my heart rate had calmed down, I realized he probably didn’t care if I was babbling and nervous, that he has people recognize him and ask for pictures all the time, but I still wish I had been a little bit more cool. But who is ever really cool when meeting a celebrity? Or at least someone who is a celebrity to them.
The Internet makes it so that we feel we know these people. Know the YouTubers we watch devotedly, and that makes them into celebrities, even if most people don’t know who Hank Green is. But they’re a different kind of celebrity, ones who care and inspire change, ones who are funny and smart and silly and make communities around the world. And its not really that unlikely to meet Hank Green in the city (a very small city) where he lives, but it was still amazing and weird all at once. To shake hands with and side hug a man I’ve been watching online for years, a man who I think is brilliant and important… and then to get on the plane and listen to a podcast where the man I just met is interviewed, that’s a weird feeling. He is simultaneously very real to and very separate from me; I had just spoken to him, but now I am back to watching him on screens.
To circle back, maybe I did sound like an idiot, but in retrospect I think that’s okay. Nerdfighteria is about being excited and dumb and enthusiastic, all because you love something and think it’s awesome. So it probably doesn’t matter that I don’t think I looked him in the eye for most of our interaction.
So thank you Hank, for allowing me to be an idiot around you for a few minutes, thank you for teaching me and millions of others about unbridled enthusiasm and doing what you love, for being a new kind of celebrity. And of course thank you for vlogbrothers and crashcourse and everything else you do, DFTBA—
(also lets notice how the background of this photo is shaky, clearly i am freaking out)
I was so nervous when I met Hank I literally don’t even remember what I said but I’m sure it was really stupid, I laughed uncomfortably, and I feel like I forgot to blink so I probably looked super creepy.