I recently attempted to host a YouTube hangout. A friend of mine posted a music video he had been working on for a while; knowing that I had friends who wanted to partake, I decided to host a hangout so we could revel and compliment in one digital spot. The experience (slow and glitchy at first) got me thinking about whether or not the concept of digital meetups for the express purpose of hosting YouTube parties could work. My opinion is that it could change the way many big players in social media think about hosting their users social interaction, but not in a way you’d expect.
The world is not really ready for online hangouts…except maybe on YouTube.
First, lets just get this out of the way: YouTube is full of stupid junk. In fact, there is probably more stupid junk on YouTube than anywhere else on the Internet. Why?
1) The potential for fame. It yanks at the common denominator: “desire for recognition.” Nowhere on the Internet is this possibility more scintillating than on YouTube.
2) It’s incredibly easy to upload mobile video. For example, someone created this video of a kid prostrating in the crest of a wave (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REnKJg6Wcs0&feature=related). They had to create an account to do that, and when they created an account, they were then able to start commenting on other videos.
There are millions of proud parents posting these types of videos, and millions more teens who create videos of the AWESOME conversations and pranks they pull in middle school, post them to YouTube, and tell all their friends who go sign up so they can comment, “LOLOMGWTF.” Keep this in mind. People share these funny videos via Facebook or word of mouth, and their friends make a new account to participate in the experience of watching that video. No one wants to be left out of an inside joke. How embarrassing, especially in Junior High.
So, you have an infinite brain trust of savvy, motivated adolescents who signed into YouTube for an express purpose—to participate in their community. Unlettered commentary and barbarous response follow naturally because these analysts are fed an endless supply of ‘related content,’ which inevitably lands them astride a ‘high-brow’ video that attempts to provoke thought or reflection and stirs them into primal fury. YouTube is one of the few places on the internet (save Wikipedia) where you can start on the subject of social media strategy and end on a computer generated 3D rendering of oxidative phosphorylation in the mitochondria. But unlike the world of Wikipedia you don’t have to worry about community backlash when you posit your lack of sophistication.
Because of the way this content consumption works, and the opportunity this ceaseless flow of new content represents, I think “Hangouts” can ONLY be successful on YouTube.
Video chatting is gaining popularity. It’s free, it’s everywhere, most of the time you can get it in HD and it has made long distance relationships more bearable. But it is a rather intimate experience. Often, when people are at home, they’re there to be comfy, aren’t wearing pants, and have put in their retainer. People will take pause before joining a group chat to wonder if they really need to SEE their friends just now, especially if they’re just hanging out in front of their computers, discussing the contents of the YouTube ‘related videos’ carousel. Unless, of course, they’re meeting up with the friends who they already nag them to like and comment and syndicate their video content, who might be sharing something hilarious whose hilarity will convert into inside jokes at Monday’s lunch gathering.
“So what if they see how I live (terribly), I don’t want to be on the outside!”
The videos we discover can now enjoy instantaneous group critique and our skills as scavengers of the net can be vetted in real time as we gather in the glow of kittens batting spindles of thread. I know the technology behind online, ad hoc, group video chatting is impressive, and that it has the potential to infuse the viral video experience with the wisdom of the crowds, but it will be a while before we see widespread adoption. For now, the only way you’ll get me to join an online hangout is if my friends are trying to show me something unbelievably entertaining on YouTube. Which is most of the time. THUMBS UP IF YOU LAUGHED AT <insert timestamp here> roflcopterbbq.