That’s a thought you might have, until it happens to you. Last night, it happened to me. Half my subscriptions feed on @youtube vanished into thin air.
At some point, Youtube switched over to the same system that a lot of social media portals on the internet are adopting: a “curated” feed of content, where a computer algorithm tries to show you things it thinks you’ll like, as opposed to a full, uncensored, uncorked feed of everything. The idea is that you’re much too busy to sit and look at every single individual item that comes through your device, so it picks the “important stuff” and only shows you that.
There are a lot of reasons that’s bad. Notably, you’re letting someone else decide what you like. Not even a person, actually, but a computer, who is merely using mathematics to connect dots to things that people similar to you also like. Bob, Jerry, and Diana all like cat videos, Markiplier, and ironic movie reviews. But Jerry? Jerry also likes mean prank videos. I mean the really nasty ones, where the person pulling the prank should probably be arrested for being such a jerk. Jerry will laugh until he wets himself at these videos. So the algorithm can do one of two things:
Start showing Bob and Diana mean prank videos, which makes them unhappy.
Stop showing Jerry
videos, which makes Jerry unhappy.
Neither option is great. But the algorithm has spoken! All hail the algorithm!
Tonight, what the algorithm told me is that some of my most-watched channels (Two Best Friends Play, GiantBomb, GameHut, etc.) weren’t what I should be watching, so they hid a lot of their recent videos. Here’s a list of the videos published in the last 24 hours that they hid from me:
If it’s grayed out, it’s a video I could not see until I unsubscribed from that channel and resubscribed. At first, I thought maybe it was just a problem with the new Youtube layout. If you stick “?disable_polymer=true” or “&disable_polymer=true” to the end of most Youtube URLs, you can get back to the old site design, and once I did that, it started showing me some of the videos I was missing, though definitely not all of them.
And as I started going through my entire subscriptions list, I realized Youtube has been hiding a LOT of videos from me, and for an uncomfortably long time. For example: Konjak is getting ready to release his new game, The Iconoclasts. He’s been posting gameplay footage, among other things, but his last three Youtube videos? They never appeared in my feed. The newest episode of AVGN, about wrestling games? I never saw it. What happened to Retsupurae? Turns out, Youtube thought I was better off without them. Several videos from Drew Scanlon’s “Cloth Map” series? Invisible to my eyes. Almost one quarter of DigitalFoundry’s Youtube output? Not important to me, thinks Youtube.
What about “Primitive Technology,” a channel dedicated
to videos of a guy building houses and tools out of mud and sticks? I subscribed to sometime in March or April, had two videos show up in my feed, and then it was never seen again. The Gaming Historian? I had no idea he did an episode on Steve Jobs. I always MAKE time for Gaming Historian videos, watching them before I’ll watch anything else. Can’t do that if his channel doesn’t show up in my subscriptions feed. Which it didn’t.
And the list goes on, and on, and on. Youtube very likely has hidden dozens, if not hundreds of videos from me in the last few months, some of which I would have liked to watch.
Sure, you can combat this: unsubscribe from the channel and resubscribe. That works, right? Only to a point:
They cap the number of channels you can subscribe to. They won’t tell you how many, they won’t tell you in what length of time, but I made it about a fifth of the way through my subscriptions list before it started throwing this error at me. Currently, I cannot resubscribe to Lucky Hit.
Ah, but the other solution is the “bell.” Ring the bell next to a Youtube subscription button, and that tells Youtube that it’s an important channel to you.
But that changes how Youtube works: do this, and Youtube will begin sending you notifications about new videos instead of just presenting you with the subscriptions feed. As somebody who has their own channel, and cares a great deal about that channel and the community that leaves comments on my videos, this means that my notifications go from telling me about new comments to being a mishmash of comments and videos. Who thought that was okay? Who thought that was something somebody wanted? This is the definition of reinventing the wheel. There was nothing wrong with the subscriptions feed. It did not need to be “fixed.” It was working as intended. But, according to Youtube, now we need a second, separate subscriptions feed, one that takes up the same space as comment responses. That’s smart, right?
And, unlike Twitter, unlike Tumblr, there’s no option to turn this off. Youtube doesn’t even tell you that it’s doing this at all. The only hint is when you mouse over the bell – “Get notified about every new video.” As opposed to only getting notified of SOME of their videos.
I am seething with anger, over here. I made a choice, I subscribed to these channels because I wanted to watch their content. If it’s too much for me to handle, I’ll unsubscribe from some of them. What I don’t need is Youtube or any other site holding my hand and only showing me what they think I want to see. I’m a big boy who can handle seeing everything I want to see.
And then, at the end of all this, comes my ultimate worry: how many people are subscribed to MY Youtube channel and have missed videos I’ve published because the algorithm thought I wasn’t being interesting enough? How much money is this system costing people on Youtube who depend on viewership as their jobs? What kind of financial damage does a disaster like last night do, when Youtube started hiding almost ALL of my favorite channels from me?
We’re rats in a maze and Youtube’s the one who decides if we get the cheese. That’s an unsettling thought, isn’t it?
Stupid is an insult based upon intelligence. Using a lack of intelligence as an insult is ableist towards those with intellectual disabilities. Using stupid as an insult says that to have an intellectual disability is something terrible and that being compared to a person with an intellectual disability is insulting.