In an era of rehashed and reheated content which plays to the lowest common denominator, I wanted to take a moment to salute some people who do the exact opposite. Don't get me wrong, I bloody love a good cat video and certainly don't have nearly enough time to trawl the likes of Reddit for the hidden gems, but there isn't much depth to that, and frankly there's only a finite amount of cat-shaming possible.
Outside of the tech writers whose work I love to read, there's some pretty cool stuff in the world of YouTube which can fill a commute. Except for the comments. Never read the comments. There is only despair, desperation and desolation to be found in the comments. Unlike with you lovely people commenting on this, natch...
The early days of YouTube were a bit of a mess, with pirated TV shows and films dominating. And while today YouTube is mainly used for watching music videos (partly because MTV doesn't consider that to be important anymore), there are people carving out their own part of the internet. As is the way with Giz, the best of them are geeky and nerdy, and not in that irritating "oh, I'm such a geek" way.
Smarter Every Day takes a fun look at everything from ballistics to fluid dynamics and beyond, while Vi Hart is a doodling mathematician who loves infinity elephants (who doesn't?), and of course there's Ze Frank, who was one of the inspirations for the people I want to talk about.
Even though I don't really have time to watch regularly any more, my favourite YouTubers will always be the Vlogbrothers, though. Hank and John Green are two brothers who decided that they relied on text-based communication far too much, so set themselves a challenge of taking it in turns to make videos for each other every weekday. What could have been a dry and functional series of updates quickly gained fans through unadulterated geekiness and humour.
I think that's what I enjoy the most -- that they really did start out making these videos just to make each other laugh, and it then spiralled into something much bigger. We're in an age of manufactured "stars" who don't even have the good decency to burn out properly, instead taking increasingly desperate stabs at the limelight again.
I guess part of the difference is that the Vlogbrothers really enjoy what they do. The sole aim at the outset wasn't to bring in a big audience and generate profit, so now there is a whole community around them, an Army of Nerdfighters, they actually have fun with it. They encourage people to create their own work, and also raise money for charity.
Through the Vlogbrothers and the community there, I rediscovered Neil Gaiman's work (I know, shame on me for forgetting in the first place. If you're not already a Gaiman fan, go and read American Gods and come back when you're done, we'll wait for you) as well as some of the finest bad jokes you've ever heard.
They even got the President of the United States to say their catchphrase, and how can you not enjoy the work of a man who names his dog 'Fireball Wilson Roberts'. Granted, it helps that John is a very successful author in his own right -- his most recent book made the New York Times Best Seller List, for example. And Hank also has, among other things, a string of journalism credentials under his belt including writing for the always-brilliant Mental Floss. But it's still great to see people take an idea and build it from nothing. Today they have over 1.2 million subscribers, and their videos regularly rack up over 200k views, peaking at almost 16 million.
A small victory for geeks everywhere, you could say.
Victorypigeon is neither a pigeon nor victorious. Ever. Well, he is sometimes a pigeon. His cultural points of reference include Monkey Island and the Tick, so it’s safe to say he’s out of touch with modern society.
Spiels From “Them Below” is our new series of columns written by “them below”; the thousands of readers who comment tirelessly, or tirelessly read, Gizmodo UK. Have you got something to lament? Extol? Ponder? Get in touch at kat.hannaford[at]futurenet.com, after reading the details here. Disclaimer: Spiels From “Them Below” doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of Gizmodo UK or its editors.