Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Why I'm Not Quitting YouTube

Earlier this year YouTube lost one of the nicest, most mature, genuine, & original LEGO-related channels as a result of, as I understand it, uncalled-for drama & betrayal by members of "the community."  A couple weeks ago, quite by chance, I learned of yet another YouTuber in my previous hobby calling it quits due to the never-ending tide of random anonymous commenter ugliness and an atrocious work-to-reward ratio.  Then came the whole sudden announcement of that 12 million subscriber channel owner calling it quits because, as it turned out, he had been hating what he was doing for a long, long time.

It's Rough Out There...

This kind of stuff sucks.  Especially the first example above.  There's a lot of it going on, too.  YouTube/Google itself, like nearly every company that profits off user-generated content, has done a horrendous job of fostering even the most basic semblance of humanity on its platform.  It has, however, done a fantastic job of funneling viewership away from hard-working independent producers who make quality content and towards a mix of heavily corporate-sponsored media groups and channels based on what most fully-functioning adults would consider senseless lunacy.

Staying relevant as a video-maker on YouTube today requires, on the whole, either more work or more luck than ever (or both).  It's still possible to put out low-effort and/or non-unique content and get tons of viewership if the secret algorithms magically decide they want to recommend you all over the site or to notify more than 1/40th of your subscribers when you upload a new clip.  However, there's simply no reliable way to earn that sort of privilege.

...But I'm Okay

In the face of all of the bad stuff that's so easy to dwell upon, I find myself more thankful than ever for my YouTube situation.  Viewership numbers are well off the highs of The Good Old Days (TM), but still fantastic. Bored, bratty trolls & perpetually, senselessly angry haters still exist, but my skin is thicker than ever and the overwhelming majority of commenters on my videos are cool people.  Let me just drag that last point out a little farther.  The LEGO & brick-built construction crowd is, on the whole, one of the coolest groups I've seen in my 25+ years online.  There's just a tremendous amount of what I consider normalcy, which is particularly unusual on the Internet today.  I see people who can give constructive criticism, disagree with each other with civility, and recognize that toys are just toys & not sacred religious artifacts to war over.  I see young kids, teens, and adults alike sharing their enjoyment of a hobby equally, letting their imaginations wander, being silly, and getting into character in the fanciful worlds of their favorite themes.

Balancing Multiple Balancing Acts

One of the big risks for YouTube stress comes from over-eagerness to please fans or to focus on whatever type of content will generate the most views.  Thankfully I do not suffer from either of these.  If I did, I would have a huge permanent Star Wars layout, 1/4th to 1/3rd of my city would be discarded to put in a giant airport runway, half of my videos would have titles beginning with "TOP 5," and I would shove my face in the camera incessantly while making exaggerated expressions of awe and narrating in kind.  "Awesommmmme!"  Of course I pay plenty of attention to viewer feedback as it'd be crazy to not do so, but I don't stop doing things I enjoy to start doing things I hate just because one person suggests it and a handful of others hit thumbs up.  If I find myself doing something I don't like, I just stop.

Another thing that leads to content creator burnout is acting.  Specifically, I mean acting out a manufactured, usually over-the-top persona for the sake of entertainment.  Some YouTubers enjoy acting, and I see nothing really wrong with it.  Others hate it, hate themselves for it, and hate the trapped feeling of building up a fanbase that expects you to constantly be something that you're not.  I, myself, don't have a YouTube persona.  I'm just me.  Because I know JANGBRiCKS in particular is watched by an extraordinarily wide range of ages, I do take extra care to avoid language that kids & parents alike have said they find inappropriate.  However, that's a simple matter of showing basic respect to my audience. Staying away from a word for poo that starts with a 'c' doesn't change who I am.  I don't fundamentally try to act how I think anyone wants me to.  I don't try to act "cool."  If I say something in a video that makes you cringe because it's not in line with this instant's fleeting guidelines for what people of my exact age and position are supposed to say, according to a specific online clique you associate with, well, so be it.  I guarantee I didn't say it just for that video, and I guarantee I would and do say it in real life among actual, real-life, friends and family.

Personal Demons

Speaking of friends & family, over the years (JANGBRiCKS isn't my first solo gig) they helped empower me to combat the single biggest risk to my online ventures, which is my own work ethic.  I'm what many would call a workaholic.  When I'm not doing something productive, I start to feel guilty.  I'm readily willing to sacrifice sleep and general physical & mental well-being to get a job done.  It's not noble.  It's unhealthy and unsustainable.  Thanks to my support network, though, these days I'm able to simply take a break  when I need to, without beating myself up about it.  It's a novel concept, but important.

The biggest struggle that I've not been able to overcome is a lack of enough hours in a given day.  There's a lot that I want to do that I'm not reasonably able to, and that always bothers me.  It's one problem I don't think I'll ever be able to fix, but at least it's manageable.  I might not be able to create time out of thin air, but of course I can always shift priorities around and get creative with my schedule.  When really needed, pulling an all-nighter isn't such a terrible thing, just as long as long as I don't make a habit out of it.

A Good Place

Ultimately, I'm happy with who I am and what I do, I have a lot to be grateful for, and the biggest threats to the YouTube channel you all know me for are presently well managed.  For now at least, it's full steam ahead with no major obstacles on the horizon.  Of course, I'd really appreciate it if someone could invent an affordable time dilation device, but if nobody does, I'm still not quitting YouTube.


  1. I'm amazed at the quantity and quality of your output. And somehow you find the time to buy and build the models too!

    I think your good-natured approach sets the tone for the site and others responses. I certainly consider this a 'must watch' site before I buy any Lego. Thank you.

  2. As someone who has built and run a handful of websites for roughly 25 years, your argument applies to that as much as it does YouTube.

    Catering to the almighty Google, writing content for traffic versus interest; it all hits home.

    I've "toyed" with the idea of launching a Lego news site for close to two years now as my interests gravitate there, but have yet to pull the trigger. The reason? Not necessarily the work involved as I've put in more all-nighters than I care to remember. I want to be 100 percent sure I'm happy operating within a "good place" and not worrying about the other stuff. Close but no cigar won't cut it.

    Carry on :)

  3. Hi Jang,
    I'm a 45 year old AFOL and have followed you for numerous years. I've watched almost every video you ever made and never leave comments. It's not my thing. I love the art of Lego and everyone's perspectives on it. With that being said, I've got to tell you, I respect your passion and dedication to share your Love for Lego with all the fans out there. You're a class act and so are your posts. Keep them coming, and here's to many more years of great posts, thanks!

  4. We still aspire to be like you. In terms of time management look up "The seven habits of highly effective people" specially the part about P vs PC, and the goose that lays golden eggs.

  5. Thank you for your videos! I enjoy watching them.

  6. I never comment on youtube but I greatly appreciate what you do and regularly look for your reviews when a set I'm interested is released. I'm sure there are at least 100 people like me for every person making inappropriate comments.
    I can't wait to see some of your reviews of the new Ninjago sets.

  7. Hi Jang,
    I am sure, there is another audience out there, who appreciates your excellent work very much. I myself am not a Youtube subscriber, simply because I don't feel the need to have an account. But I am visiting very often your website. I guess there are many others, who do so and are not dependent on youtube's advertisement of videos. Well, keep up your good work - and your good natured attitude.


  8. Hi Jang,

    As someone who's recently started their own Youtube channel (mine is predominantly reviewing old board games) I can completely understand where you're coming from and the points you address. I don't output nearly enough as what you do content wise, I put a single episode up a week and already feel compelled to write new scripts and have that new content up in a punctual manner. It's hard going when you have work and social commitments too, it's a battle to find time to balance it. My viewership is small but climbing, and honestly before starting I took your approach to a family friendly but honest and unbiased review platform. I applaud your honesty with each review you do and your seemingly endless well of ideas for your mocs. It's an attitude I adapted with my own series.

    It'd be easy to cave to what's popular for the sake of chasing extra viewership and likes at the sake of integrity and quality, I get that completely. I'm glad that you've decided to stay the course, quality output will always gain viewership from the right sort of people.

    Keep doing what you're doing Jang, and know that people appreciate the effort and honesty with what you do :)


  9. Your videos have brought me and my son closer together through all things lego.for that I will always be gratefully.respect....

  10. I had no idea there were people being negative about the channel. I love it. I much prefer your style of video production over the 'in your face' types that are out there.

    I've spent many a lunch at work watching your videos and I've made purchasing decisions based on some things I've seen you review.

    I'm glad you're not going anywhere. If it ever stops being fun though then don't keep doing it out of obligation. Part of what makes your videos so enjoyable is your obvious passion.

  11. Hey Jang!
    We are watching your channel for about a year now and your videos quickly became part of our youtube-ritual at dinner time. Nicely calm, positive and not shy of criticism of sets where criticism is necessary. A highlight of proper Youtube content.
    Please keep on your fantastic work, don't get irritated by trolls and keep a good work-life-balance.

  12. Hi I just discovered your channel and I love it! Your imaginative commentaries really put life into the legos! I'm happy to hear you are not quitting :) I think as long as you are having fun it will be ok, that's what legos are for in the firsy place!

  13. I have been following you for some time now and I love the work you are doing. Many people dos not have the mindset that you have and I'm greatfull for your reviews and the quality work of your videos. I hope you will continue for many years and don't get bothered from people who does not appriciate the work you do.
    I have been collecting Star Wars Lego for some time now and I always go to your channel for reviews and to see what is next on my shopping list.
    For some time now I have played with the thought to start my own youtube channal in Danish from your inspiration :)
    Keep up the good work.

    From a (LEGO)fan in Denmark.
    Ole Kristensen

    1. Is your name actually Ole Kristensen? That's awesome!

  14. You do a better job than most of keeping the comments civil, and I'm glad to hear that you don't have to flush away foaming torrents of hate and trolling. I'm also a fan of not putting on a persona. The last band I was in started worrying too much about playing to the crowd like that. It got wierd, exhausting, and shortly after that we split up.

  15. Hi JANG!

    I wanted to write this to you because I very much enjoy your work. I wanted to let you know that that your reviews are awesome and I especially like to view and hear your opinions on LEGO and Mega Blocks/Construx sets (as I too am a fan of those companies and thier products). I think the content you put online is very high quality and what you do is very cool, at least in my opinion.
    I also have to tell you man, one thing I consider to be particularly tremendous and brillint about you is your voice! You a have such a pleasant and relaxing voice! Also, the tone of it is great!
    I appreciate what you do, look forward to see your work as it becomes available and always enjoy listening to you! I hope you will continue to review sets and show your custom work!

    Best wishes and greetings from Romania!