Software Engineer Turned Youtuber – Jarvis Johnson
Jarvis Johnson was previously a software engineer at Patreon, Yelp, and Google. He’s now a YouTuber.
00:00 – Jarvis’ intro
00:30 – Where his videos first got traction
1:10 – Being part of the software industry while critiquing it
3:45 – How he got into programming
6:10 – Moving to California
7:30 – Interning at Google then Yelp
9:00 – Interviewing multiple times at the same company
10:00 – Moving from Yelp to Patreon
14:10 – Switching from individual contributor to manager
18:15 – Learnings from managing that he applies to himself
21:25 – What made Jarvis want to do YouTube full time?
30:00 – Investing in yourself
31:05 – Making what you want vs talking to viewers
35:35 – When did things really start to click for his channel?
38:00 – Choosing to make multiple genres of video
43:40 – Nathan Allebach asks – Are content creators responsible in any capacity for their audiences?
50:45 – Taylor asks – In what ways do you think content creation can benefit one’s career in the tech industry?
54:20 – Jarvis made a podcast when he was a teenager
56:10 – Octopus Blues asks – What lessons did improv teach you/who would you recommend it to, if anyone?
58:25 – Predictions for YouTubers and content creators
Craig Cannon [00:00:00] – Hey, how’s it going? This is Craig Cannon, and you’re listening to Y Combinator’s podcast. Today’s episode is with Jarvis Johnson. Jarvis was previously a software engineer at Patreon, Yelp, and Google. He’s now a YouTuber. You can find him on YouTube at Jarvis Johnson, and on Twitter @jarvis. All right, here we go. All right, welcome to the podcast.
Jarvis Johnson [00:00:21] – Thanks for having me.
Craig Cannon [00:00:22] – Today, Jarvis Johnson, who is a software engineer and YouTube creator. Recently independent.
Jarvis Johnson [00:00:28] – It’s almost like the reverse now. Now, I’m a YouTube creator and a software engineer.
Craig Cannon [00:00:32] – I’ve been wondering that. I was first drawn to you because you were posting these software videos.
Jarvis Johnson [00:00:39] – Right.
Craig Cannon [00:00:40] – Matt Hackett, who is Casey Neistat’s co-founder.
Jarvis Johnson [00:00:42] – Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Craig Cannon [00:00:43] – He posted one of your videos.
Jarvis Johnson [00:00:44] – I know he followed me on Twitter. I didn’t know he posted one of my videos, but yeah. Yeah, that was, I think when I started out I was trying a bunch of things. The first video that I had that got any traction was actually on Facebook, where I posted a video that was making fun of the technical interview in the software industry. I posted it in a Facebook group called Hackathon Hackers, or something like that. They kicked me out for self-promotion, but before they did, it had started going viral. It got like 300,000 views, or something.
Craig Cannon [00:01:17] – Okay.
Jarvis Johnson [00:01:18] – I was like all right, guys.
Craig Cannon [00:01:20] – There’s so many things I want to cover, but this is an interesting angle because you’re both the beneficiary of the software industry, right?
Jarvis Johnson [00:01:27] – Sure, yeah, yeah–
Craig Cannon [00:01:28] – But then criticizing it, too. I’m wondering how you tow that line.
Jarvis Johnson [00:01:31] – The way I think about it is that the software industry is extremely popular and has gotten off kind of scot-free and extremely glorified for a really long time. Being in it, and being someone who had this dream of entering the industry, and being a productive, contributing member of it, and then coming and doing that, I both was really gratified with the work that I’ve been able to do, but also realized there’s a lot of stuff that people weren’t talking about for whatever reason. In just liking to make fun of things, or liking to try and be funny and criticize things, it seemed like a good sort of opportunity to do that.
Craig Cannon [00:02:12] – Yeah, it’s kind of like a softball.
Jarvis Johnson [00:02:14] – Because I was like, wow. Everyone complains about this stuff, and a lot of comedy is just connecting with what people are already feeling and thinking, so.
Craig Cannon [00:02:25] – When we did Comedy Hack Day, we put out this video called Well Deserved, which was a place to sell your privilege. I don’t know if you ever saw that video.
Jarvis Johnson [00:02:33] – I didn’t.
Craig Cannon [00:02:34] – It was really good, but basically, this was of the time when Sandwich Video just happened and every company was putting out the same kind of soft music video with the big, sweeping shots of San Francisco. It was like, put it out, immediately works.
Jarvis Johnson [00:02:47] – That’s what things like Silicon Valley, the show, do really well. I benefited from the fact that I was coming from the inside, and so I had a lot of information that I could then condense down, hopefully, to something that was palatable to people who were both in and outside of the industry.
Craig Cannon [00:03:08] – Yeah, but I mean, in spite of the criticism, I think you’re actually doing a lot of good for the world, like getting people into programming.
Jarvis Johnson [00:03:13] – Thank you. I think that I don’t think about that as much when I’m making the stuff, but I do still to this day, get a lot of messages from people who tell me that, and I’m super grateful, and I feel a little guilty because nowadays I’m not talking as much about tech stuff, but I think it’s because I needed a bit of a break from it because I was spending all my time working my tech job, and then if I was going home, I’m working on tech videos. It felt like my whole life was consumed by this industry, when really, there’s more dimensions to me as a person, and also, what I wanted to do creatively.
Craig Cannon [00:03:53] – Of course, which I want to talk about, but I also want to cover the software stuff, too.
Jarvis Johnson [00:03:57] – Oh, absolutely.
Craig Cannon [00:03:58] – I watched one of your videos where you’re talking about programming the TI-84. But how did you get into it, and then how did you even end up moving to California?
Jarvis Johnson [00:04:08] – There’s a longer story. I’ve definitely tried to draw out this narrative into a bunch of videos, but the basic story is that a friend of mine, who’s still a really great friend of mine who lives in New York turned me on to, he’s an Android developer, or mobile developer at large now. He’s just doing everything. He turned me on to the TI-84, like TI basic language. I started playing around with that in my chemistry class, and we would just make silly games. I just remember making a thing where I could just move a theta around. That was like, the coolest thing in the world to me, just being able to make something that didn’t exist, even though it was the most basic thing in the world. That was after we had already tried to learn C++, so I went , I tried to learn C++ when I was a sophomore in high school because I listened to a podcast called Geek Nights, which is these two New York tech professionals who are talking about, I think they were just two 22 year old guys who made this podcast after they graduated, and I found it when I was 14. I was like, “Oh, interesting, and I tried to learn to program, and I failed.” C++ is not a great first language to learn, especially if it’s just from a book.
Craig Cannon [00:05:29] – That’s terrible.
Jarvis Johnson [00:05:30] – Then I came back to it with the TI Basic, and that was a little bit easier to get on. I wasn’t passionate about any of the subjects that I was taking in high school, so when it came time to pick a college major, computer science was a thing that felt more palatable to me. I went to Georgia Tech for my undergrad in Computer Science, and I just found such a supportive community there that it was able to help support my natural interest, but also help me through the hard times. Because computer science is not an easy degree, by any means.
Craig Cannon [00:06:17] – Was there kind of an inkling early on that you’re like, “Oh, okay. I could do this.”
Jarvis Johnson [00:06:22] – Doing–
Craig Cannon [00:06:23] – CS, following that whole path, that career path. All of it.
Jarvis Johnson [00:06:27] – The other part of the question was like, moving out to California, and stuff. The first moment of even thinking about, I hadn’t at any point thought about career, like anything beyond college. I was just like, “Oh, go to college, and then you get a job, I guess.” At Georgia Tech, there were a lot of career fairs, and there were a lot of companies visiting. Excuse me, there were a lot of companies visiting for recruiting purposes, and I was like, “Oh, Facebook is here, Microsoft is here.” These were just things that I know of from my computer screen, but there are actual people that work there. There was kind of a culture of glorifying that a little bit, where everybody’s wearing company swag, and then it becomes a thing that everybody wants. It kind of felt a bit like a game to me, where that was what people cared about you’re supposed to do. It’s kind of like how when your parents are like, get good grades, and you’re not sure why you should get good grades. That’s kind of how I felt. I was like, I guess I should go do this thing, but I was lucky enough to get some internships, and I interned at Google when I was a sophomore, and that was my first big moment of whoa, this industry has got a whole thing happening. From then on, I was like, okay, I’ll probably come out here after–
Jarvis Johnson [00:07:43] – After I graduate.
Craig Cannon [00:07:43] – Okay, and so then my understanding is then you interned at Yelp. Right? You decided to work there?
Jarvis Johnson [00:07:50] – Yeah. I decided not to go back to Google, not for any reason other than wanting to try something else. I don’t know. I don’t know, I had a lot of peers who were doing an internship their sophomore year, their freshman year, and then coming back over, and over, and over, and over, and then going to work at that company full-time. That never quite made sense to me because the company can never value the intern that, that much, and you miss out on getting a lot of experience with a bunch of very different companies because companies at different stages, or even at exactly the same stage can operate completely differently, and you’re never really going to know what you like unless you try a couple of different things. I went to Yelp just to try something new, and it was in San Francisco, and I didn’t like living in the South Bay when I was interning at Google. I didn’t want to do a big commute, so– Yelp was a good fit there, and I just had such good mentorship that I wanted to come back full-time.
Craig Cannon [00:08:47] – A lot of these jobs can create a scarcity mindset in people, and they think, “Oh, man. I don’t know if I could ever get the Google job again.” The reality is, most likely, you can.
Jarvis Johnson [00:08:57] – Over a long enough time period, especially, because there’s definitely false negative rates and false positive rates in the interviewing process, but there’s also so many opportunities that it’s bound to, even if you don’t do well in the interview this year, you can try every six months, you can try every year, and there’s so many of those opportunities that something’s going to land. It really only takes one.
Craig Cannon [00:09:18] – I thought that was actually a really nice piece of advice that you gave because you interviewed at Yelp twice. Most people think, “Oh, man. Once I’ve failed at Facebook I’ll never reapply.”
Jarvis Johnson [00:09:27] – Yeah, because you grow so much, and so much changes. I also interviewed at Google, or interviewed for the Google internship and failed it, and then got a call back for a different program, and they used my failed interview. Well, I didn’t have to interview again, so it was a weird situation of like, that’s actually maybe theme in my life. This seemed like a failure at the time, but it was actually not. I just framed it that way in my head.
Craig Cannon [00:09:58] – Interesting.
Jarvis Johnson [00:10:00] – I want us to be mindful of how we frame our failures, and the narratives of our lives. Because they may not actually be that. Objectively speaking.
Craig Cannon [00:10:12] – Over a long enough timeframe, too. When you keep doing things you keep getting up.
Jarvis Johnson [00:10:17] – Yeah, absolutely, yeah. Just keep getting up.
Craig Cannon [00:10:21] – That’s really the story of it all, especially with creators. At what point do you decide, “Okay, Yelp, this has been cool, I want to move the a smaller startup?”
Jarvis Johnson [00:10:32] – I definitely could’ve stayed at Yelp for a long time because I had a lot of good people around me. They were supporting me, and stuff like that. My rate of growth, at least as I was perceiving it personally, was slowing down. But it was more that this opportunity came up that was not something that was in my purview, which was working at Patreon. I was in India at a wedding, and a friend of mine had just started working there, and was like, “Hey, you should interview.” I was like, “Oh, wow. Should I? I don’t know.” Because it had always been I had been a fan of, like my YouTube and tech career are very intertwined because I knew about Patreon because I’ve been following Hank and John Green, who are YouTubers who had been around since the beginning, and I’d been following them since, or very early on in their YouTube careers. They had started something called Subbable that Patreon then acquired, and that’s how I was aware of Patreon. I was like, “Oh, I could be working on stuff that they care about and that they use.” That value proposition was enough for me to at least interview.
Jarvis Johnson [00:11:50] – It was really my proximity to YouTube that inspired me to make the change. And then that, and I felt more confident in my technical skills because when I initially started out I think I wanted to work at Google because I was afraid that I couldn’t hack it at like a smaller startup.
Craig Cannon [00:12:14] – Meaning that you would have the mentors?
Jarvis Johnson [00:12:16] – Yeah, or that I didn’t know enough.
Craig Cannon [00:12:19] – Oh.
Jarvis Johnson [00:12:20] – I did a lot of Hackathons and stuff, in college, and I had all these friends who were just self-starters who could really just build something all their own. The full stack, or whatever. I didn’t feel super confident in my skillset. I wanted to work at a bigger company because I felt that I would learn patterns. I would develop a skill like something that I could then work downward from and know how things scale up for larger companies, and then apply them to smaller companies. But I had enough confidence in myself at that point–
Craig Cannon [00:12:55] – It’s not necessarily a bad idea either. I heard you mention you had student debt when you graduated, and I was in the same boat–
Jarvis Johnson [00:13:02] – That’s the other thing.
Craig Cannon [00:13:04] – I didn’t work at the big company, and that’s a different kind of pain.
Jarvis Johnson [00:13:06] – Yeah, no. Actually, that’s another good example. There’s a safety there. There’s a lot of advice that’s going to say, “Oh, you might learn so much more at the startup,” and it’s like, maybe that’s true, but I think you should be asking, am I going to learn the right stuff? Am I going to learn good habits and good patterns, or am I going to be trying to build something with the worry that the company’s going to collapse, on my shoulders? I’m going to be doing that for far less money, and if you’ve got your own personal finances to take care of or you’ve got dependents, or you’re helping out your family and stuff, I think that the smart decision in a lot of, I know that the smart decision for me was to work at a bigger company out of college and take care of all that. It was just like if I had student loans now, I wouldn’t have been able to do half the stuff that I was able to do.
Craig Cannon [00:14:03] – It’s also a complete mindset shift. As soon as you’re in the black, you’re way more optimistic about things you could try out.
Jarvis Johnson [00:14:10] – And you’re able to invest all that money that you’re investing in student loans you can now invest in your own financial safety net, because that was not something that I had, and so I needed to build that for myself before I could think about, kind of like put on your oxygen mask before helping children, or whatever.
Craig Cannon [00:14:25] – I want to talk about this and relate it to creative confidence and risk aversion, but before we get there–
Jarvis Johnson [00:14:31] – For sure, for sure.
Craig Cannon [00:14:32] – I want to talk about you switching from an individual contributor as an engineer to a manager.
Jarvis Johnson [00:14:37] – Right.
Craig Cannon [00:14:38] – Why did you want to do that?
Jarvis Johnson [00:14:41] – I always enjoyed, and I enjoy the act of engineering. I like making things, I like creative problem solving, but I have in the back of my head that there were other ways for me to contribute to use more of my full skillset, because I also had this background in college. I was a teaching assistant. I like breaking down the problems, and I like the people aspect of the technical roles. It wasn’t that I felt better suited to that than anyone else, but it was more that I noticed that it was rare that I cared about that stuff, that that stuff excited me as much as the technical problems. In my career and in my life, I think about the rare combinations of skills that I have, rather than the absolute value of those abilities. If I can take this technical ability and I can also spend a lot of time talking to people and thinking about larger picture stuff, and also career development and stuff like that, that’s something that I’m curious about. All that combined with the fact that I had a really good manager at Yelp who was like, an inspiration for what, and an example of what a good management could do for a team, and that was super cool to see. I was like, “Wow, it would be neat to walk in that person’s footsteps, or to try to model myself after that.”
Craig Cannon [00:16:20] – Right, well, I think it’s one of these things where you’re studying it in school, or on the side, CS, and you think, man, this is fun, but I don’t want to completely live in the console.
Jarvis Johnson [00:16:30] – Right.
Craig Cannon [00:16:32] – I very much felt like that doing hackathons and stuff on the side, you know? I was an English major. I have interacted with people, right?
Jarvis Johnson [00:16:39] – Right, right, right.
Craig Cannon [00:16:40] – But it’s a little scary to think about.
Jarvis Johnson [00:16:42] – That’s definitely a thing. In college, I lived that lifestyle. That sort of archetypal… What’s the kind word to use? I had my hood up. I was in my terminal. I used the cool Linux distributions, or whatever.
Craig Cannon [00:17:01] – Sweet keyboard?
Jarvis Johnson [00:17:02] – I didn’t quite switch to Dvorak as my keyboard, but I judged people who were using Macs, which was like the loopiest one. I lived that life a little bit, and I felt that I could combine more. Well, all of that’s to say that I knew that I eventually wanted to try it out. But then the opportunity presented itself, and it was at Patreon where I had already been there for almost two years and I have a lot of trust and a lot of support from the people around me in a peer circle of other people in management. I wasn’t flying completely solo, so it felt like the right environment to try it. And then I did it for almost a year, and leaving the tech industry was not a function of not enjoying that role. I think that if I were to rejoin the tech industry now, I don’t know whether or not I would go for a leadership role or an IT role.
Jarvis Johnson [00:18:20] – But I know that I definitely had more fuel in me for keeping going with management.
Craig Cannon [00:18:26] – Interesting. Do you think the management experience has made you a better individual contributor? Now, my understanding is it’s just you, right?
Jarvis Johnson [00:18:35] – You’re a one man shop. Has it improved, I don’t know, your goal setting, your efficiency, any of that kind of stuff? I think a lot about process, and I think that thinking about process and operating efficiency is a super valuable skillset to learn. That was another attractive thing about management is it would be cool to learn the types of things that would make me a good manager, whether or not I used them as a manager in my career, or I used them wherever I go next, or with whatever I do next. Yes, I do think about that. I think I value my time a lot more than I would have. I think I’m just more aware of time. I’m more likely to spend money to solve a problem as a business expense than I am to do it myself, even if the part of me that grew up poor and doesn’t like spending money is thinking, “Oh no, this is going to be a waste of money” I’m better at sort of arranging the pieces to go, no, no, no, this is the right way to–
Craig Cannon [00:19:37] – Well, that’s also a dangerous trap where you think, “I can do it better than anyone else, therefore I have to do this incredibly time-intensive process.”
Jarvis Johnson [00:19:47] – That’s another thing that’s super valuable about management is giving away, and not being the person to actually write the code in a lot of situations, is a super valuable exercise because you have to delegate and you have to trust, and you have to know the whole thing doesn’t rest on you. That’s a useful skill for anybody to have.
Craig Cannon [00:20:17] – I’m not much a fan for business books, but there’s one called The E-Myth. I don’t know if you’ve ever read that one.
Jarvis Johnson [00:20:23] – No.
Craig Cannon [00:20:23] – It’s one of, in my opinion, the few good ones. It could be summarized in a couple pages.
Jarvis Johnson [00:20:29] – Sure, sure, sure.
Craig Cannon [00:20:29] – Basically, it’s most people who are, say, like an engineer, want to go out and do their own thing because they’re like, “Oh, man, I won’t have to deal with the bullshit of the company life,” et cetera, et cetera. And in doing so, they don’t really realize that running your own business is mostly not writing code. It’s doing sales, and all that stuff. And the big takeaway is you need to spend more time working on your business, not in the business, and that’s what you learn when you start managing people, right? Then you can abstract it and you can get better at that.
Jarvis Johnson [00:20:56] – I think that’s honestly what I go through a lot now with YouTube is that a lot of the time I’m spending on anything is not necessarily on creating content. It’s on essentially, management tasks, and not the IT work. I do draw a lot of parallels between making videos and software engineering, because to me, it all scratches the same itch. Of just making something, like bringing something into existence. My Adobe Premiere setup feels a lot like my Vim setup where I’ve got JK, L, or whatever, to move things around. Yeah, I definitely agree with that.
Craig Cannon [00:21:38] – What was the moment? Was it just like, “Oh, okay, I can monetize my channel to a certain amount? I can make the jump.” Or was there a particular moment that made you want to fully break from Patreon?
Jarvis Johnson [00:21:52] – I mentioned before that I’m a very risk-averse person, so it took me a while to think of doing YouTube stuff full-time as a clean break. I think I had a bunch of contingency plans in my head of well maybe I’ll work part-time, or maybe I’ll do this, or maybe I’ll do that, and it took a while to say, no, I need to do this clean break thing because otherwise, I’m never going to grow, and I’m going, it’s possible that I don’t even invest as much as I can in this creative endeavor because I’m trying to hold onto two things. There wasn’t necessarily a threshold that I necessarily hit.
Craig Cannon [00:22:40] – Monetarily?
Jarvis Johnson [00:22:40] – Monetarily, yeah. It was more that I had spent about a year at that point juggling both where in some ways, I’m amazed that I was able to do my regular job and also YouTube, because I would wake up at 6 a.m. and write, or work on a video. And then the benefit of the tech industry is that you could go into work at 10, or even 11, and it’s not weird. I would try to use that to my advantage, so I would wake up hyper-early, and then work half–
Craig Cannon [00:23:14] – Work two jobs.
Jarvis Johnson [00:23:15] – Yeah, work two jobs, essentially. I can’t do that now, which is maybe a good thing. In my head even–
Craig Cannon [00:23:23] – Even do it now?
Jarvis Johnson [00:23:24] – Even though it’s my only job now doing YouTube stuff, I can’t harness that energy.
Craig Cannon [00:23:33] – You mean, you got soft?
Jarvis Johnson [00:23:35] – Maybe.
Craig Cannon [00:23:36] – It’s different. You’re probably just much healthier.
Jarvis Johnson [00:23:38] – Yeah, I think it’s just healthier because the point that I was getting at with that, is I hit a breaking point where I was like, this is no longer sustainable, because I don’t see my friends, or anything like that. I’m just this working machine. The other part of that was I was also working weekends. A lot of my YouTube stuff is trying to figure things out like with what I want to even make, rather than making stuff sometimes. So, I would just spend a lot of time researching stuff, or in empty Word documents just never feeling satisfied with your output is a really dangerous–
Craig Cannon [00:24:17] – Interesting. Was there one particular moment where you’re just underwater and everything, and it just broke, or how did it go?
Jarvis Johnson [00:24:24] – Hmm, yeah. I think there was this time towards the end of last year where when I started managing, I kind of made an agreement with myself not to do any IC work, because I thought that was going to help me transition better, and I was just doing a lot more coaching and stuff. Because the benefit of switching into management at a company that I’d already been in IT at is that I had a lot of context on stuff. I was able to use that to not actually have to write the code myself. Then there was a period towards the end of the year where we had switched into doing work that required a lot of backend expertise, and our team load out didn’t have people who had that background at the company. Like a lot of people who were willing to learn, which was amazing, but what we needed was a backend tech lead, and that was a role that I’ve held before, but we couldn’t just grab that person. It all takes time, so I also started doing IC work again. And when I was doing IC work, and management work, and making videos, I was like, I can’t keep doing this. This is the worst. So, what also happened sort of at the same time was YouTube started blowing up.
Jarvis Johnson [00:25:39] – My YouTube had gone from a thing that I could just take a month off if I really needed to, to something where I had 300 or 400,000 subscribers not overnight, but over a month, basically.
Craig Cannon [00:25:57] – Which is insane growth.
Jarvis Johnson [00:25:58] – Well, we can talk about that, and I was like, well, there’s an opportunity here. What happens if I’m actually able to put more into this? Because at a certain point, I was only making a video every two weeks or a month, if that. It was like things were still happening, so I really wanted to– I didn’t want the ship to sail without me capitalizing on it a little bit. I’m not really a regrets person, but I’m like, oh yeah, I definitely felt like I left a lot on the table in that time, because I couldn’t capitalize on the moment, because I think that the moment has passed, and now I’m waiting for the next moment in terms of growth. Becuse I think growth happens in waves.
Craig Cannon [00:26:47] – Well, I mean, based on my limited experience, it’s like you get caught in the algorithm for whatever particular reason, and it just goes. But then other times it’s really slow and just plodding along.
Jarvis Johnson [00:27:01] – No, that’s a thing, for sure. It’s something that I’ve observed happening to a bunch of other channels where it almost feels like a storm, in terms of if you look at the analytics. It’s like, oh, you’re suddenly gaining thousands of subscribers a day. That’s not happening for… Whereas normally, maybe you’re getting 500 or 1,000 subscribers a day, or 200, or something like that. Yeah, that storm passes eventually, and while it’s there, I do think there’s ways to capitalize on it. I was like, “Oh okay, I don’t know how long this moment’s going to last,” but maybe this is something I could do for more of my time, so I started thinking about it, having conversations. One conversation I had was with Jack Conte, the CEO of Patreon. He has always been super supportive of me, and so I have an immense gratitude to him because I just remember having 2,000 YouTube subscribers, and having a one-on-one with him just about YouTube. Where I was just like, I don’t know–
Craig Cannon [00:28:16] – Were they all clued in, everyone at your work?
Jarvis Johnson [00:28:18] – Well, I think people were aware. Me and another coworker had started our channels at the same time, and hers blew up kind of immediately. I think everyone was kind of aware that a couple of us were doing YouTube stuff. And I remember, yeah, going to Jack and being like, I don’t know what’s going on. I feel like I’m making these bangers, and like, it’s just not happening. We made this. He went through this exercise of it’s the beginning of the next year. What is the press release? Last year was your perfect year. What is the press release for what happened? And it’s like, well, I made these videos, whatever. It’s like, how many subscribers do you have? What is your relationship with your fans? And going through that exercise just put me at ease about whether or not I was on the right track.
Craig Cannon [00:29:11] – Interesting.
Jarvis Johnson [00:29:15] – That was just I was continuing to trod along, and I called Jack and told him that I was thinking about potentially doing YouTube more full-time, and he was kind of like, “As a creator, you’ve got to do this.” It was more like, “As a CEO, I don’t want you to leave, but as a creator, you need to do this. You’re going to kick yourself if you don’t seize this opportunity, but maybe there’s something we could work out in the middle,” and so we worked on that for a bit. It was several, several months before I… I was initially planning to do something more part-time, but I eventually decided to make the clean break, but I tried to have the most seamless transition out where I stayed on. Essentially, I put in my three months notice, rather than my two weeks, or whatever, to wrap up projects and finish things up. And then after having those conversations, it just became more and more real. I knew that I had saved enough money to give it a period of time. Like if I wanted to spend a year without having to worry about making money from YouTube I would be able to do that, because I saved pretty aggressively after I paid off my student loans for something. I don’t know what for.
Jarvis Johnson [00:30:39] – Right, but it’s like for personal capital, like investing in yourself. Yeah, from that it just became, “Oh, okay. This is more and more feasible to take the leap, and who knows how long it’ll last.”
Craig Cannon [00:30:53] – Right. It’s tricky because obviously, YouTube’s fickle. I think the relationship between creators and entrepreneurs is very similar. Right? You just feel like, “Oh, shit. Now is the time to build this channel. I’m having the early drips of users come in. I have to jump on this right now.”
Jarvis Johnson [00:31:11] – Or there’s a clear market opportunity here. Unfortunately, my brain does think about things in those terms often, so I have to pull myself back into just making stuff that I want to.
Craig Cannon [00:31:26] – This is the next thing I wanted to talk about. You mentioned it already, like the relationship with fans, and it’s something that I’m always curious about with our channel that I need to do a better job of. Talking to the users, basically.
Jarvis Johnson [00:31:36] – Right.
Craig Cannon [00:31:37] – Right? But then on the other hand, you’re like, I kind of want to make the stuff I want to make. So, how do you balance that?
Jarvis Johnson [00:31:43] – Yeah. Well, it’s definitely not easy. I take a lot from the fact that I just witnessed a lot of user interviews and creator interviews when I was at Patreon, and thinking about how random users relate to a product. A lot of people, just humans in general, don’t know what they want.
Craig Cannon [00:32:12] – Sure.
Jarvis Johnson [00:32:13] – That’s dismissive, but I want to bring that back with we don’t know what we want, but at the same time what we are saying we want does mean something. It does indicate some, maybe it’s a problem. In the user experience world, you’re trying to get at the underlying problem that someone’s having so you can address that. That’s kind of how I try to take the criticism when I’m thinking about it. YouTube comments hurt my feelings sometimes, but–
Craig Cannon [00:32:44] – Same.
Jarvis Johnson [00:32:45] – I’m not going to lie about that, so I’m not perfect at this, but in terms of how I let it inform the content, I do a lot of reach outs and asking people what they want to see, but I don’t take it as requests.
Craig Cannon [00:33:01] – Fans, or who do you reach out to?
Jarvis Johnson [00:33:04] – I’ll do a poll on the YouTube community tab, or I’ll tweet something, or I’ll post something on the Instagram question and answer thing. I wish it was easier to export the answers from that. And I use that as a sense of taking the pulse on things, but you also have to qualify that, or couch it in this is the 5% of my audience that actually follows me on social media, or this is the percentage of people who will actually say something. And so, you’ve got to use that as one data point, but then you’re also looking at your actual metrics, and then where you want to take things. No one would… It’s kind of like in the tech world, or I guess in product world, there’s this thought that you can’t iterate yourself to a product vision.
Craig Cannon [00:34:02] – I’ve heard this before. It’s like all these people are just AB testing, and reaching some local maximum.
Jarvis Johnson [00:34:07] – Exactly. This is the one place I think where– That’s exactly how I think about it, where I’m like, you can find those local extremities, but not know that there’s this–
Craig Cannon [00:34:22] – Right, that’s not a home run.
Jarvis Johnson [00:34:23] – Absolute maximum. You still got to have your vision. Yeah, and so that’s a real thing. There’s no amount of listening. Listening to people is extremely important, but I also don’t know if… There’s no amount of listening to people that ultimately makes you successful. It’s just a piece. It’s like an important piece of the puzzle because you don’t want to be out of touch. You have to know how your stuff is being received if you are making stuff for people to enjoy. As much as I like the concept of I made this thing, I don’t care how you feel about it, usually, people are making something to be enjoyed by people or for their message to be received, and you do have to some idea of whether or not that’s happening.
Jarvis Johnson [00:35:15] – And so, you turn into Kanye if you’re like, you turn into 2019 Kanye if you don’t really care what people think and you’re just going off your own ego. It’s a delicate balance, but I try to look at everything in like a beautiful soup.
Craig Cannon [00:35:32] – Was there any point where you realized that your, because you haven’t put out that many videos.
Jarvis Johnson [00:35:38] – I’ve put out 70 videos, so it’s not that many, yeah.
Craig Cannon [00:35:41] – Which for people who don’t pay attention to YouTubers, that’s nothing. It’s like, yeah, people put out a video a day, for example.
Jarvis Johnson [00:35:51] – Yeah, yeah, exactly. Well, go ahead with your question.
Craig Cannon [00:35:54] – Well, my question was, was there any particular learning where things really started to click for you? When it really started to grow. Was it adopting the mentality of going all in? Was it a certain stylistic change? Obviously, the tech videos did well for you.
Jarvis Johnson [00:36:09] – I think the first thing that I figured out worked were tech videos. My channel became me doing stuff that I wanted to do, and then when the numbers would start to die down I would make a tech video. What annoys me, what bothered me is that’s maybe the most confident I have I ever felt in video ideas, and how things will do because I could make a video, I made a video called Why You Shouldn’t be a Software Engineer, and I made it in preparation to make a video about me getting braces and talking about the journey of that, because I knew that, that would pop up the impressions, or whatever. And then that video did so well, and it’s something that I spent so little time on. It taught me a lot about how the effort that you put in, it doesn’t mean anything for the quality. It doesn’t mean anything for how it will be received. And also, yeah, you just can’t judge. I think me as a person, and I think a lot of people, I’ll just talk about myself. I have a completely whacked out idea of how I value my own work and my own output. It’s lessons like that. There’s tons of lessons on my channel of how I’m completely out of touch with that. I was saying something about the tech video, or was there a moment that I felt like I figured it out?
Jarvis Johnson [00:37:44] – I think no, except for that fact that I knew that tech videos did better than non-tech videos. I would throw tech videos in there to sort of tent pole the other content while I was continuing to experience.
Craig Cannon [00:37:56] – Weird strategy. Because now, if you look at your videos, there are some tech videos still, but the lion’s share of them are not. Not that many channels do that, and not that many companies think like, okay, we’re going to have this product for this audience, and then this product for this audience, and the overlap might not be the same.
Jarvis Johnson [00:38:15] – Yeah, in my mind, there was a thread that connected all of that stuff. I still think there is a thread that connects all that stuff. A lot of what dictates what does well and what doesn’t is the click through rate on the thing. If you see a through line between… I made a video called The Worst Software Engineering Advice I’ve Ever Seen, and it was my first foray into the commentary genre because I was really enjoying watching those videos on YouTube. The reason I made that video was because I was like, “Okay, I know that people like tech videos from this channel, and I really like commentary videos, so let me make a tech commentary video that I can then pivot hopefully, into just commentary videos,” because I wanted to get people used to that format from me so that then I could remove the tech. What I misjudged at the time, this I don’t think ended up mattering a great deal, but what I misjudged at the time was that the click through on even though at the end of that software engineering advice video, I talked about this channel called 5-Minute Crafts. When I actually made a video about five minute crafts, no one clicked on it.
Jarvis Johnson [00:39:40] – That’s fine, but it’s an indication of audience affectation, and the story that you’re telling to the audience, and the value that that audience gets from your channel. I found out that there are just a lot of people, the value that they got from my channel was strongly correlated with me talking about tech because they wanted to get this information from tech. If that value prop wasn’t immediately obvious, then they wouldn’t click on it, and so that was the takeaway from that moment. It’s tricky, man. There are so many weird things that you can do. Just depending on title, and at the end of the day you need to just keep pushing it out, it seems. The point of all of that, and of learning all of that was to develop a, I did have a content strategy of how am I… I realized that you’re not really, what’s the phrase? You can’t choose what you’re famous for, or whatever.
Jarvis Johnson [00:40:54] – I made some tech videos because they were getting the most traction, but then it kind of got away from me. Even though my channel wasn’t a tech channel to me, it was a tech channel to other people.
Craig Cannon [00:41:04] – Totally.
Jarvis Johnson [00:41:06] – I’ve run the numbers. At no point did my channel have more than 50% tech videos. Because in my head, that was never the thing. And now to this day, of my 70 videos, 20 of them are tech videos, but the thing that resonated with the first bigger audience was that, and so that’s what it was to them. When I made stuff outside of that, I had to have stronger hypotheses about the other people that I was reaching, and how people were converting across the different styles of video.
Craig Cannon [00:41:38] – I think this is why in many ways, because humans are so good at rationalizing things, they just say, okay, fine. You see it happen with products all the time, and in many ways, it’s great, right? Provided it’s not harming the world in a massive way, but I think it’s hard when you view yourself maybe more in the artist’s category.
Jarvis Johnson [00:41:58] – Sure, yeah. I think yeah, I guess, a big moment where I was like, “Oh no, this is not what I’m going for.” For me on my channel was that on one of my videos they were saying, “Oh, great information, but I really wish it didn’t have all the comedy sketches in it, or whatever. Can you just get straight to the information?”
Craig Cannon [00:42:17] – It’s a little too funny.
Jarvis Johnson [00:42:19] – And it’s like, “Oh no, you’ve come to the wrong place. I’m actually only talking about that information so that someone will watch me try to be funny.”
Craig Cannon [00:42:27] – It’s my main critique of a lot of tech, whatever, sub-communities where it’s all upload-based. There’s not a lot of joy. I think it pushes people out. Which is bad.
Jarvis Johnson [00:42:37] – Tech is something that I still want to talk about, but I don’t have a lot of energy for it in this current moment, and I haven’t figured out what I want my voice to be there. I eventually made a second channel for tech stuff, and I just haven’t really posted on it. But my first video that I posted did well, so I could tell that the audiences still–
Craig Cannon [00:43:05] – I thought they were good. I watched those. And then you did the AMA, which was funny.
Jarvis Johnson [00:43:10] – Oh yeah, and I accidentally made that live video public, and I have an edited version of that for an actual post, but then I was just like, all right, maybe we’ll just leave them.
Craig Cannon [00:43:20] – Whatever. It’s fine.
Jarvis Johnson [00:43:21] – Yeah. But yeah, it’s like I want to get back to that, but I don’t have my shit together, is essentially–
Craig Cannon [00:43:30] – And it’s also fair when you’re like, “Hey, listen, I’ve expressed these certain ideas. I know that many people might want to hear the same thing over and over again, but that’s not really where I’m going right now.”
Jarvis Johnson [00:43:40] – I think that I’m sure I can do some sort of advice or Q and A type thing, but it’s just not where my attention is right now. And so, a lot of what I talk about is like a function of where my attention is.
Craig Cannon [00:43:52] – Which is great. You did get a bunch of questions, some tech-related from–
Jarvis Johnson [00:43:57] – Oh yeah, and that’s totally chill.
Craig Cannon [00:43:58] – So, one question I really liked was from Nathan Allebach.
Jarvis Johnson [00:44:01] – So, do you know who this is?
Craig Cannon [00:44:03] – No.
Jarvis Johnson [00:44:04] – He runs the Steak-umm’s Twitter account (@steak_umm).
Craig Cannon [00:44:06] – Oh! That’s hilarious. Is the Steak-umm’s Twitter account good?
Jarvis Johnson [00:44:11] – It’s a great example of the… What brand Twitter has turned into. It’s kind of like the anti-brand Twitter brand–
Craig Cannon [00:44:19] – Oh, okay, so it’s like the MoonPie Twitter?
Jarvis Johnson [00:44:21] – Exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s great. I made a couple of videos about brand Twitter, and I met Nathan through that on the internet, and we’ve kept in touch. Yeah, great guy. I like that guy.
Craig Cannon [00:44:32] – Yeah, I’m very much digging that genre. His question is, “Are content creators responsible in any capacity for their audiences?”
Jarvis Johnson [00:44:41] – I think that’s a really good question, and I think the answer is absolutely. Yes, in a big capacity, maybe not 100% responsible, because like you get this with Pewdiepie.
Craig Cannon [00:44:57] – Yeah, he’s so big.
Jarvis Johnson [00:44:58] – Yeah, and it’s like if anyone does anything bad in his name, it’s like what is his responsibility to that? I think that he does have a responsibility, because I think that there’s a power. He’s not solely responsible for these people because they’re free-thinking individuals, but when you have that power dynamic, and… Yeah, when you have that power dynamic there are going to be people who are doing things for you to get your attention or to benefit from your brand, or your name, or whatever. I think the best I can do in that situation is to try to call out when things don’t seem right to me. If someone says something mean in my name, or something, I feel a responsibility to call that out and to try to look within myself as to why a person who acted that way enjoys my content, you know what I mean? And then make whatever changes are necessary. I’ve been lucky enough that I haven’t run into this, but–
Craig Cannon [00:46:15] – You see it a lot with these big influencers. The one that comes to mind always is Rogan. He’s just like, at this point, or Pewdiepie, right? They’re making something and because of their actions, maybe their action in a certain interview was like, not preparing a lot, and so therefore, you’re somewhat responsible for misinforming millions of people.
Jarvis Johnson [00:46:35] – Right, right. Creators should be on the whole, we should all feel a great sense of responsibility. That’s really what I’m trying to get at. I don’t want to call out anyone in particular, but I just think that when you have a platform and you have influence over people, it’s not fair that you get all of the benefits of that without any of the consequences. With influencer marketing, I think a thing I have a problem with is when people are selling products that could be actively harmful to their audiences to make a quick buck. I get some brand offers now where I get stressed out over trying to look into whether or not the company is something that I could support. I think that that’s right. I think that we should feel a little more pain there and not just like, “Oh yeah, sign the check. Pay me a bunch of money.”
Craig Cannon [00:47:38] – Even more abstractly, you’re kind of in the business of consuming people’s attention. It’s a little complicated there.
Jarvis Johnson [00:47:48] – Absolutely, and I feel like there is a trust that is built between the audience and the creator. I want people to know that I am thinking about what I’m saying, how I’m saying it, what I’m promoting, the type of behavior, like in terms of product or behaviors that I’m promoting, what I’m calling out. I think that what I choose to talk about specifically is the result of a lot of thought, and how is this going to be perceived? Am I punching down? I think it’s a thing that, yeah, when we’re responsible for people’s attention, we should not take that lightly.
Craig Cannon [00:48:32] – Absolutely. And it can be deceptive because you see your thumbnails, and you’re like, “Ah, this is just some YouTubey stuff,” but it’s a little more.
Jarvis Johnson [00:48:38] – Totally. That’s like kind of the game that you play.
Craig Cannon [00:48:43] – Yeah, we haven’t gone down that path yet, but yeah, it’s tricky.
Jarvis Johnson [00:48:46] – For me, the most is that I’ve made videos that are called This is the Worst Channel on YouTube where that’s like a hyperbole for sure, but at the same time, if you come in for that, and then you stick around, and then you see the actual statement that I’m trying to make, then it’s like I don’t feel too bad about that.
Craig Cannon [00:49:01] – That’s fine. You’re not as negative as your titles would make you seem.
Jarvis Johnson [00:49:04] – That’s actually fascinating to me, as well. Are you familiar with MrBeast?
Craig Cannon [00:49:12] – No, I don’t know that one.
Jarvis Johnson [00:49:13] – He’s a huge YouTuber. One of the biggest YouTubers right now who’s new. A lot of what he does is gives away a bunch of money to a homeless person, or he puts 100 million orbeez in his friend’s backyard. These giant stunts that involve a lot of money. Casey Neistat just had him on doing an interview. It’s maybe a good intro to him. He’s got 18 million subscribers right now. He’s given away $2 million, or something.
Craig Cannon [00:49:39] – Dude.
Jarvis Johnson [00:49:40] – It’s fascinating because one of the things that he says is that a lot of people think you need negativity for clicks, but you can also do click bait with positivity. I’m still trying to figure out, because I think I’m a pretty optimistic, positive, and kind of cheesy person, and I’m trying to figure out how to translate that.
Craig Cannon [00:50:00] – Yup.
Jarvis Johnson [00:50:01] – But I haven’t quite gotten there yet.
Craig Cannon [00:50:04] – That angle can also be off-putting. Because you’re like, “Oh Jarvis is just virtu-signaling here. Look how good I am?”
Jarvis Johnson [00:50:11] – Right, right, right, and it’s like, no, no, no. It’s like, let’s just try to be real here. Negativity is just an attention-grabber, but a lot of people do, when you frame something like that, do walk away with a negative perception, or the wrong perception. And you know what? Going back to the responsibility point, there have been situations where people are like, “Oh, we have to do this to get back at this person.” And I was like, “No, that’s not how we operate here, you know?” I try to, whenever I’ve seen that happen, which hasn’t been much, I try to say no, we use our words, and we use sort of well thought out criticism as our ammunition, because I don’t want people to go harass anybody.
Craig Cannon [00:51:00] – Yeah, yeah, that’s a great point. All right, Taylor asks, “In what way do you think content creation can benefit one’s career in the tech industry?”
Jarvis Johnson [00:51:09] – I find a lot of similarities between creating content and making software.
Craig Cannon [00:51:16] – Yeah, totally.
Jarvis Johnson [00:51:17] – You’ve got point A and point B. You want to get to the this end via this means, and you just swap out the means of a video, or a piece of software. Exercising that in different mediums is ultimately, going to help think about ways to solve problems. You’ll apply something that you learned. I apply a lot of what I’ve learned in software in making videos, in terms of how… I don’t know. You navigate your timeline, or I don’t know, even other stuff. There’s another way that it helps, I think, where you are able to build a personal brand.
Craig Cannon [00:52:08] – But that’s tricky though, right?
Jarvis Johnson [00:52:09] – That’s tricky.
Craig Cannon [00:52:10] – I think the question is, I mean, you can cut it multiple ways– But that visibility is both great, until it isn’t, for certain people.
Jarvis Johnson [00:52:20] – And do you even want this content to be related at all to the tech? I think that’s another thing to be…
Craig Cannon [00:52:30] – Because I see people asking about it all the time, and you’re like, “Well, maybe I don’t want to talk about my work-related stuff all the time.” And so, if your videos were just people smashing pies in your face, like, that’s awesome. But that’s not necessarily beneficial or detrimental.
Jarvis Johnson [00:52:47] – Yeah, but another way that it could help if you want to make content that is around tech, then if you’re teaching something, obviously you’ll understand things better when you have to frame it towards an audience that doesn’t understand the thing. That was something that I learned from being a teaching assistant, where I was like, let’s talk about dither search, or whatever. Let’s talk about Dijkstra’s algorithm. And then working from completely no understanding to understanding, you get a much better understanding of it yourself of like the ins and outs.
Craig Cannon [00:53:23] – Well, that’s like what really drew me into your software videos, because I was like, “Oh, he’s trying to help people out.” I mean, obviously you are advancing your personal brand, or whatever, but for the most part, it’s about making something that’s fun and helping people out. I think to this question, content creation benefiting your career, I think most people would read that and think, “Oh, I should write medium posts like everyone else.” That’s actually not where the gains come from.
Jarvis Johnson [00:53:53] – I never even thought about my tech videos as benefiting my tech career because I wasn’t… It really was just coming from a point of like, I want to make some YouTube videos. I want to cut my teeth in this process, and also, here’s some information that I just have. Here’s stuff I know about. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Here it is to you. Also, I think that when I see people struggling with stuff that I’ve struggled with, or like I’ve gone through and realized it wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought. Then I’m like, oh my God, let me save you some anxiety.
Craig Cannon [00:54:31] – Yeah, yeah. I’m so pro-accessible role models. That’s why I very much dig these channels. That’s awesome. All right, so I want to talk about a couple more things. So, one thing I want to talk about is your podcast that you started when you were a teenager.
Jarvis Johnson [00:54:43] – Oh, yeah. That’s a thing.
Craig Cannon [00:54:45] – I haven’t listened to that. Is that still online somewhere?
Jarvis Johnson [00:54:48] – Kind of. I’ve put snippets in videos.
Craig Cannon [00:54:51] – I saw those.
Jarvis Johnson [00:54:52] – But yeah, other than that, not so much.
Craig Cannon [00:54:55] – Okay, ’cause that’s like OG podcasting.
Jarvis Johnson [00:54:57] – Yeah, that was like, 2006, 2007. My cohost of that podcast, we’re actually starting a new podcast.
Craig Cannon [00:55:04] – So good.
Jarvis Johnson [00:55:05] – Our first episode is a little bit talking about how… Has clips from that podcast in it. Yeah. I got into podcasts from the same thing that I got into software from. Whenever I get into something, I’m like, “Ooh, I want to do that.” That’s usually what it is. So, it’s like whenever I find something that’s super cool, I’m like, oh, I like that. I want to do that. Anything I’ve ever learned well has been because I want to make the thing.
Craig Cannon [00:55:36] – Anything I’ve learned poorly has been because you need to learn this.
Jarvis Johnson [00:55:41] – I’m finding that so much now where I’m wanting to learn about so many things that I should have learned in high school, or whatever, about history or something. Where I’m like, oh, it just wasn’t the right medium where I wasn’t super jazzed. I almost feel like my brain has changed in how I want to absorb information, but maybe it’s just the stakes of everything have changed and I’m less stressed out about getting the grade, and more interested in just learning things.
Craig Cannon [00:56:09] – Yes, learning for fun. Also, not having to learn seven things at once, seven different topics, which just seems broken, as well.
Jarvis Johnson [00:56:15] – Yeah, that’s a good point.
Craig Cannon [00:56:17] – How old are you now?
Jarvis Johnson [00:56:18] – I’m 26.
Craig Cannon [00:56:19] – 26.
Jarvis Johnson [00:56:20] – About to turn 27, yeah.
Craig Cannon [00:56:21] – A 27 year old could crush high school.
Jarvis Johnson [00:56:24] – Put me back in, coach.
Craig Cannon [00:56:26] – Also, you do comedy stuff, too. Octopus Blues asks, “What lessons did improv teach you, and what would you recommend? Would you recommend other people do it?
Jarvis Johnson [00:56:37] – I recommend taking in one improv class to everybody. Improv taught me a lot about team dynamics. I performed with a team in San Francisco for about a year doing a weekly show, or biweekly, or whatever. Just the relationships that you build, and improv is all about not being the star of the show, and about setting up your teammates for slam dunks. That is a lot. I took a lot from that with management. Where it’s how do I make sure that my team, how do I set them up so that they look really awesome? There’s a lot of satisfaction in that. Getting somebody a promotion, or whatever. It feels a lot like calling back to somebody’s joke from the first beat, or whatever, and allowing them to knock it down. Improv helps you a lot with getting out of your comfort zone and feeling accepted knowing that what you’re afraid of, typically, is not rational. Even though you feel it, so it’s very real, but when you put it out there, you realize that people are accepting. Improv’s a very accepting place where you could just be like, I don’t know if this is going to land, but I’m just going to say it. People, they don’t ridicule you for it, so it’s a very safe environment. Just feel more comfortable. Yeah, there’s a lot, I think, that can be learned from improv.
Craig Cannon [00:58:15] – I think it gets thrown under the bus in many ways that it’s kind of cheese ball.
Jarvis Johnson [00:58:19] – It’s a great punchline, yeah.
Craig Cannon [00:58:20] – Yeah, yeah, yeah. But no, your point’s great. Just take one. There’s no downside to taking one class.
Jarvis Johnson [00:58:25] – There’s even places where you can do a drop in class for a Saturday afternoon. Endgames in San Francisco does that. It’s 15 bucks, three-hour class. Get in, get out, meet a bunch of new people. It’s cool. Yeah.
Craig Cannon [00:58:41] – Cool, all right, so my last question is predictions.
Jarvis Johnson [00:58:45] – Oh, okay.
Craig Cannon [00:58:45] – What is the predictions of both YouTube creators, and then content creation in general in the next handful of years?
Jarvis Johnson [00:58:51] – Ooh, interesting. So, wait. Prediction of where–
Craig Cannon [00:58:58] – Where is the industry going? What things are going to get traction? Obviously, you can’t know–
Jarvis Johnson [00:59:05] – I think that TikTok is going to produce some people. Some more, “traditional creators.” There are people who are doing really interesting stuff on that platform, but there’s a lot of noise. I feel mean even calling it noise, but there’s a lot of what people make fun of TikTok for also there. That would be the next thing where people are like, YouTuber is a word that is used to describe Logan Pauls of the world. Where it kind of has a negative connotation. And I hope that that will change in the future. I hope that YouTube becomes a more supportive place for creators of all kinds where they’re not constantly fighting against monetization and stability. As it stands today, it can be a very unstable thing for a lot of people, and oftentimes, not even related to the algorithmic changes, but more like how the loop between advertisers, and YouTube, and stuff, work. I hope that there’s just a… Traditional media in a lot of ways, to me,
Jarvis Johnson [01:00:30] – feels like it is the way it is because of gatekeepers. It’s kind of whenever there is like an incumbent, and then somebody new coming in, there’s all this energy towards keeping the incumbent in power, and that’s what I feel with, that’s kind of how I feel about YouTube and traditional media. It’s interesting to me that Liza Koshy is doing DoubleDare on Nickelodeon. Because it’s like, Liza Koshy has the biggest audience and could be reaching the most people. But no, here’s the thing, though. From a personal standpoint, I totally get wanting to be challenged and wanting to try new things. I’m actually happy for her in whatever she wants to do in her career, but when people value, when people have a hierarchy of, “Oh, this is just better than this,” that’s like TV was in that situation with movies, or like TV movies were in that exact same situation.
Craig Cannon [01:01:30] – And then it flipped.
Jarvis Johnson [01:01:31] – Yeah, and then it flipped. This always seems to be happening, like repeating itself. So, I hope that there is less of that, and more people jumping. You see a lot of traditional media people going on YouTube. I hope to see more of that. I know that in a respectful way, to the platform, because I know that people are like, ugh, Will Smith, or whatever. But I think that Will Smith is an interesting YouTube entity.
Craig Cannon [01:02:03] – I think it’s hilarious.
Jarvis Johnson [01:02:03] – I want more people who are investing in their own sort of thing, rather than just straight up television.
Craig Cannon [01:02:12] – Totally.
Jarvis Johnson [01:02:15] – Being dominating on YouTube. Investing in the platform itself, I think is a valuable thing for all creators. I could be wrong about that. But blurring those lines. Making sure that there’re still avenues for up and coming people is something that I want to see. I want to see something done about people who have an unlimited amount of resources to pump into YouTube. It seems like you could just buy success on YouTube, but if you’re a company that wants to just copy something that has some sort of popularity, and then you just take all the soul out of it–
Craig Cannon [01:03:01] – Yes and no. Because then you get the problem with finding the right host, and there’s something about, like you talk about your tech videos too, right? The through line is you, and the same thing with Marques. The through line is him. He can go review paperclips and people are into it.
Jarvis Johnson [01:03:16] – Right, right. No, that’s totally true. And I think that that is a great YouTube. Well, I think that’s a thing across the internet, but that’s a great thing that YouTube does have. But when I look at content farms, is more where I feel less good about it, like these videos where CGP Grey, or somebody, will make a video that’s an interesting essay on a topic, and then some channel will remake that video, but worse, but just to capitalize on all of it. But they can do that daily, or three times a day, and make a bunch of money off of it because it’s a business where they just pump in. It’s an investment, almost. That’s a bummer. It just adds a bunch of noise to YouTube that it’s not something you can actually prevent, but yeah, I don’t know. I would just like to see less of that, is more, yeah. I would like to see less things that are obviously content farms, like, wildly successful, and dominating YouTube, but we’ll see.
Craig Cannon [01:04:19] – Yeah, I agree. All right, man. Thanks for coming in.
Jarvis Johnson [01:04:22] – Yeah, thanks for having me.
Craig Cannon [01:04:23] – All right, thanks for listening. As always, you can find the transcript and video at blog.ycombinator.com. If you have a second, it would be awesome to give us a rating and review wherever you find your podcasts. See you next time.