Who’s the Fool?

Lost Remote TV Blog “YouTube has been thriving with Comedy Central content — probably the most widespread TV […]

Lost Remote TV Blog

“YouTube has been thriving with Comedy Central content — probably the most widespread TV brand on the site– so this will be the most noticeable content removal to date. “

As far as I can tell from the stories, Comedy Central has wisely left the YouTube phenomenon alone. I suspect it was not them who asked for it to be taken down. The mysterious “third parties” who asked for the material to be removed… could that be Google’s legal department?

In any case, I was at a Baychi the other day watching a panel discuss emergent architecture (panel included the completely clueless, the out-of-date, the deeply misinformed and the single one who had a clue… I’ll leave it unnamed, so all four can pretend they are the fourth.) A discussion arose about why YouTube succeeded when its rivals, some with “better” designs did so well. Many panelists waved their hands and said, if we knew we’d be rich. But listening to the audience, which happily included YouTube designers, I think I got a small suspicious of what can help.


Conventional wisdom, conventional best practices lead to conventional solutions. When I worked on Shockwave/Atomfilms so long ago with Carbon IQ, choosing a media player was important (we believed). Having content live on the site in order to build traffic and increase impressions was important. But YouTube stripped away all those worries, made it not only easy to upload and view, but also increased their traffic by not worrying about traffic. Think about how many sites tell you to copy an image to your hard drive, and upload it (are you listening, Amazon?). YouTube brazenly gave away the benefit (traffic) and took the downside (bandwidth cost) to their very great success. Looking at it now, it seems so obvious. But at the time, it took a leap of perspective, a new framing of the problem to achieve.

Flickr enjoyed another such leap. Any user testing you do in the photos space will inform you that “private” should be the default. Yet they defied this point of view (while still allowing users to keep images private as they wished) and built up something no photosite has seen up to now: a community.

In art school we used to say “Understand the rules in order to break them.” We’ve taken the first part to heart; time to consider the second.

So now Comedy Central, who had been enjoying breaking the rules has suffered a loss of an easy promotional device. Who is the fool, the one who gives away content, or the one who doesn’t?