Share good ideas and conversation.   Login, Join Us, or Take a Tour!
comment by FirebrandRoaring
FirebrandRoaring  ·  683 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Something is Wrong on the Internet

Is it, though? I feel like calling Alphabet the main or the sole perpetrator would be like calling Al Qaeda the only terrorist group or the US -- the only democracy.

I'm not denying Alphabet using the rules already established, but I think the problem is not with people using the system, but with the system itself being what it is. YouTube -- for this particular example -- uses its vast analytical capacity to rabbit-hole people into a journey they didn't "know" they wanted to go on. It's its usage of the primal instincts ("I want more of what I already like") to drive its business model that makes the whole idea malignant. Can you blame them for wanting to do what they believe to be good service. Unlikely. Can you blame them for mangling the definition of what a good service is? I'd say you must.

Abusing others' instincts for your profit is so animalistic, in itself. It is as if a predator has discovered the idea of traps and is now using it to get rid of its social hierarchy competition by luring them into a place of no return. Capitalist business model is driven by greed, another primal instinct ("I want power"), on a scale one could never even begin to grasp -- such is our human limits to empathy. If you could only imagine, for a moment, the grief and the misfortune you're causing to others through your services, I'm sure you'd think really hard about any possible reason for staying in the loop any longer.

But the animal part of us is not going away any time soon. The delvings into the horrible parts of the human condition makes one sure of that -- a feeling we insulate ourselves from in the daily life, because the misery would drive us crazy. It's not bad: it's just how things are with us, animals as we are. But we -- the collective humanity -- have built a civilization not doing the same thing: we've built it on doing better. That insulation we provide ourselves in also serves as a guide: it tells us that the primal is not normal, and that there are advanced ways to do things -- ways coming from centuries of research, experience and fighting for what one thinks is right.

My feeling is: the goal here is not to stand up to the bully and to the abuser. The goal may be to stand above them, by keeping one's conduct a level better. What that might mean in practical terms is yet beyond me, but doing better by example seems to me like a good way to do things. It's like Marianne Williamson said: "[A]s we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same". Doing better breeds doing better.

kleinbl00  ·  683 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Is it, though? I feel like calling Alphabet the main or the sole perpetrator would be like calling Al Qaeda the only terrorist group or the US -- the only democracy.

It is. We're talking about video platforms that shape content through algorithm, rather than human taste. This is only necessary when the amount of content is so vast that there is no moderation. This describes one platform and one platform only: Youtube.

What's described in this article is basically the malignancy of the algorithm. This is not a problem Facebook has because their videos are not only targeted and siloed, they aren't aimed at children. This is not a problem Vimeo has because their content is barely browseable. This is not a problem Netflix or Amazon have because their content is licensed and curated. It's only Youtube.

Google, for its part, revises its search algorithms regularly. They kill entire industries in the process. That something such as a "private blog network" can be profitable and lucrative (as opposed to paying for Google Adsense) says something about the primitive nature of their algorithms to begin with... but it also shows how keenly interested Google is in refining things when it affects their profits.

Youtube is not profitable. It probably never will be. Alphabet's approach with Youtube is to make sure it's the only channel anyone ever thinks about uploading content to, and when they start paying you back they're cosa nostra secretive about the terms. You basically need a million hits before they'll give you a dime... which means all the videos shown aren't, really. What we're observing is an algorithmic shotgun blast in an attempt to wrest profit from an algorithm that says "if you see six seconds of it, even by accident, it counts as a view."

Alphabet could fix this by not being so awful. Nobody else is as awful as they are. It's an Alphabet problem.

FirebrandRoaring  ·  683 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I can see your point.

I was arguing from a much higher perspective. If you put it the way you did, though, it isn't as applicable as the case-specific details.

    Alphabet could fix this by not being so awful.

How would they wrestle such a change, were they interested? More importantly, what would be the reasons that could nudge them to become interested in it?

kleinbl00  ·  683 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Not allow any upload to be viewable by children until it's been reviewed by a human for basic content guidelines. It would be as simple as not allowing any upload that uses licensed characters not directly owned by the uploader, and not allowing any video with disturbing or age-inappropriate content. This would cut the uploads down by a factor of a hundred or a thousand. Okay, fine. Reimburse them for views at 10x or 100x the rate of general Youtube content.

Congratulations. You're now incentivizing professional studios to create children's content and disincentivizing the off-shore CGI farms.

This shit gets so easy once you ditch the libertarian "we're dissolving the boundaries between creators and consumers" mantra Silicon Valley clings to like a goddamn bible. Guess what, choads - I want a fuckin' filter. I want some curation. Know why I let my kid pick whatever she wants off PBS Kids? It's f'n curated. The fact of the matter is, when you refine your platform to make it reward abso-goddamn-lutely anything that gets uploaded, you'll get shit like Elsa burying spiderman alive.

FirebrandRoaring  ·  683 days ago  ·  link  ·  

That would be a massive undertaking in terms of human resources, though, wouldn't it? How many videos can one watch in an hour?

kleinbl00  ·  683 days ago  ·  link  ·  

It totally would be. Check this out:

The first three lines make money. the rest never do. Youtube sells ad content on it but you get zero remuneration for a video with less than a million views. For a million views, you get a thousand bucks. Now watch this:

Let's hire an intern. Let's pay her a decent wage - call it $20 an hour. Let's throw some overhead on her ass - Let's call it 100%. Now let's assume that she can spend half her hour watching videos, and half her hour reporting on and categorizing the videos she's watched. My girl costs me $80 an hour to curate Youtube videos. Know what, though? I'm gonna shoot the moon. I'm going to give her a boss who manages nine of her friends, and I'm going to pay her boss $50 an hour. She's going to spot-check and silo the stuff her interns watch. She's got 100% overhead, too, and adds nothing to the process, but she's only 1/10th of the cost. My intern and her boss together can crank through 30 minutes of content an hour at a cost of about $90.

Now, producer-of-children's-videos. I'm going to charge you $3 a minute for every video you upload to my service. Remember, I'm paying out better - rather than $1000 for a million views, I'm paying out $1000 for 100,000 views. Hey, just to not be a dick how 'bout I reimburse you your review fees when you cross 10,000 views? That's a third of the way into the tail on my graph, deep in the nobody-cares-about-it corner of Youtube but you're break-even, even on your shittiest product. So. Is your 3 minute video worth $9? Is your 20 minute video worth $60?

If you're a human, fuck yeah it is. You spent all goddamn day on it. I've worked on professional channels (Smosh etc) where the burn rate is closer to $3k a minute. You wanna charge me $12 to upload that thing? take my money. But if you're a machine?

Poof. There goes the tail. There goes your algorithmic weirdness. And fuckin'A you just created jobs. You're not claiming one video is better than any other, you're just vouchsafing them against weirdness and copywright infringement.

You know, that shit you used to get from basic goddamn public access television before the Aynrandians took over entertainment.

FirebrandRoaring  ·  683 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Those $20/hour is exactly why it's not going to happen. This website says: there were 400 hours' worth of videos uploaded on YouTube every minute back in July '15. That's 24k hours an hour. That's almost a million USD an hour spent on interns alone.

At least if you flush that money, they might end up popping up in someone's pocket.

kleinbl00  ·  683 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Ahh, but grasshopper - we're not screening every Youtube video. We're screening every youtube video that wants to show up on Youtube Kids. We're going for that razor-thin crust that actually makes money, and we're saying "we'll make you more money, but you have to pay an entry fee." Google is already great at this - modifying the AdSense platform a little (and then giving it human oversight) would do the trick.

zero point three three percent of youtube videos ever make a million views. We'll ignore the colossal barrier to entry charging any fee raises and presume we're shooting for that 2.69% that actually matter. We'll also go really wide and assume 20% of Youtube content is going to end up on Youtube kids. So now we're looking at 0.53% of your 400 hours per minute. We're at about 2 hours per minute of children's content for policing.

My humans can do half a minute per minute. I need a team of 120 interns and 12 supervisors (technically I need three times that because I need three shifts but I'm not paying them all at once). My interns cost me $80/hr and my supervisors cost me $100. My whole team is burning $10k a day - add all the infrastructure you want, my total Youtube team is under a half million dollars a year.

Alphabet pulled in 90 billion dollars last year.

And remember - we're not doing this for free. we're charging the uploaders. Actual cost to Alphabet is zero.

FirebrandRoaring  ·  682 days ago  ·  link  ·  

How soon are you getting your part of the revenue from the idea?

kleinbl00  ·  682 days ago  ·  link  ·  

They'll never do it. Alphabet/Google is all about the democratization of data and becoming taste-makers is anathema to them. Nobody else can do it because they don't have the network.

Friend of mine is a DMCA mercenary. He works for a company that media organizations pay to scour Youtube for copyright-infringing content. If you pay them to find your content, they look for your content and serve up takedown notices. They're one of many companies that do this.

Note that Youtube could do this and make the companies much happier - this is an industry that exists solely to make Youtube comply with the law. But Youtube won't because then they have to be responsible for their content.

Thus we come full circle: the problem on the Internet is Alphabet because they fundamentally believe they should not be responsible for the content they display.

FirebrandRoaring  ·  681 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I see your point. Devil's advocate says that they did start as a search engine, ultimately irresponsible for the things they display: they merely process your query and put out what they've found.

The question here is: to what degree are they actually responsible? If you create a platform for people to share things, how much filtering do you do as the owner of that platform?

I think the trade here is user engagement: if you actively fight those who post copyright-infringing material on their services (say, YouTube, though Google the search engine is a big contestant here as well), you're alienating views, and losing views means you lose a part of your audience. They don't want to be seen as infringement-happy platform, so they'd take it down because they have to; otherwise, keep those views coming, and maybe, you'll stay for that another appealing piece of video material we have for you...

Alphabet is the face of what many cyberpunk writers feared back in the day. You can't just sue them for copyright infringement, even if you can make a solid case of them allowing it on their services. You can't fight them at their game, and you can't make your own game, either. They'll play carefully to take whatever they want, and they're too big to fail at this stage. It's exciting a real-world piece of worldbuilding -- but also terrifying.

kleinbl00  ·  681 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Google started out as the un-Yahoo - Jerry Yang & Co hand-curated links and made their curation available to browsers everywhere. Google measured in-bound links and weighted results that way, assuming that the sites that more humans linked to were the sites that more humans wanted to view and used an algorithm to find that connection. It worked really goddamn well.

But as the internet has grown more sophisticated, Google has presumed that the sophistication can be best tracked with a more sophisticated algorithm. There is no aspect of Google's culture that presumes a conscious choice will give better results than a well-refined algorithm.

The dumb thing is all they have to be is compliant with broadcast standards and practices. They refuse to do this because then they become responsible. As such, third parties have to police Youtube for violations of standards and practices. At the same time, they profit no matter what happens.

There are no third parties policing Youtube for creepiness.

And here we are.