How To Discover Quality Content In YouTube!
~a step-by-step SwamyView guide
You most certainly know what YouTube is, don’t ya! If not, which planet are you from, eh?
Anyway, whenever you watch a(ny) video on YouTube, it’ll keep pumping new video recommendations your way. And you may be thinking how kind of it to help you view more content. But, if you’ve not turned ‘auto play‘ off (which you should, btw), then soon you’ll discover that time actually flies and you’ve ended up watching more crap than you actually intended to, on any given day. And you’ll also realise, eventually, that a sizeable chunk of the data pie too has been bitten away, since video consumes more data than audio or text. To your horror, you’ll also end up finding out (late, usually) that playing better quality video (determined by YouTube itself, based on the device, screen resolution, bandwidth, etc. – this can be changed by the viewer though) turns YouTube into a ravenous beast, whose appetite for data is practically unlimited.
YST #1: Turn the ‘auto play’ feature off. It’s not there to help you, but to just gobble up your data. You pay for data and you should decide how to use it, not an App!
The automatic recommendation by content platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc. all seem to work based on pushing more ‘popular‘ content that use well known tricks of the trade such as click-bait (e.g.: “Don’t buy xyz phone before watching this video!”, “My last review!”) than ‘quality‘ content. In fact, no social media platform is really concerned about quality of content at all. All of them want more clicks from users, so they can overlay more advertisements and make more money through that. ‘Quality be damned,’ is their தாரக மந்திரம் apparently!
Swamy’s use of YouTube is for a specific purpose – to watch reviews of all kinds of products and listen to spiritual discourses. Other than that, there’ll be an occasional movie trailer or a funny (only sometimes) talk show (only in English, of course). And some hi-res audio, which is kind of odd for a visual platform such as YouTube. That’s about it. And Swamy always keeps the ‘auto play’ off and never pays attention to click-baits.
So, as you may’ve already experienced, the YouTube algorithm keeps pushing tonnes of content, much of it just crap (goes without saying, since even you and I can start a channel and publish crap, err.. content, any day), loosely related to (but not necessarily ‘relevant’) whatever you are watching. Here’s a hilarious (also exasperating) example, which is useful to learn how to avoid the auto-recommendation trap and discover quality content that you can actually enjoy.
YST #2: Never press the ‘bell icon’ for any channel, unless you are obsessed with hearing the notification tone or seeing the notification light all day.
Every channel will remind / beg you to press the bell icon, in every video posted, but don’t do that, ever – even if you are afflicted by OCD!
Upon launching YouTube on Chrome or Brave on your laptop or the App on your phone (Swamy’s not a big fan of the fruit company’s uber-expensive products anymore, though he does admire their build quality while simultaneously seething about their ‘I won’t play ball with anyone but my kind’ walled-garden approach, simply because he can’t afford most of it – including the atrociously expensive accessories. So his laptop is a reliable Dell – at least it doesn’t look ‘industrial’ anymore, heh.. heh.. – running Windows 10 and phone is a capable midrange Huawei Mate 20), you will land in the ‘recommended‘ page, loaded with a ton of content. While some may be relevant to what you watch regularly, there will be a lot that won’t be. And much of that won’t even be from the channels you have subscribed to, which may already be a handful.
So what does Swamy do to find quality content he prefers to watch? Here’s Swamy’s step-by-step guide on “How To Discover Quality Content On YouTube!”
Step 1: When launching YouTube – either the app on your phone or in your laptop browser – it’ll show the ‘home‘ screen with ‘recommended‘ videos, i.e., whatever it thinks would be of interest to you. Just ignore it entirely. YouTube doesn’t know you personally. But you do (hopefully!). So, respect yourself and go to Step 2 instead.
Step 2: If you like to stick to content from known sources, then simply click on ‘subscriptions.‘ That’ll reload the page with fresh (and not so) content from only the channels that you’ve already subscribed to. Now you can pick and choose which ones you would like to watch (Swamy usually uses the ‘right click’ or ‘ctrl + click’ to play a video in a new tab, so the subscribed channel videos remain available in the first tab, for browsing).
Oh, if you’ve not turned the ‘auto play‘ option off, then YouTube will shamelessly resort to its shenanigans and keep automatically playing related content (according to it), which you may find to be not relevant. So, turn the ‘auto play’ off right away, if you haven’t done so already.
Step 3: If you want to really explore the ocean of content in YouTube, you can actually search for something specific. But before you do so, remember that YouTube is owned by the same company that’s the default search engine to find anything, for possibly 80% of web users, at least, worldwide. So instead of searching for something generic like ‘audio review‘ (which Swamy did just to see what kind of content it sources), be specific (e.g.: ‘hi-res audio headphone review‘) and use the known Google search tips & tricks to refine your search (e.g.: “wireless IEM” + “hi-res” – both terms within quotes).
YST #3: Sharpen your ‘text’ search capabilities to find near-accurate results, even for finding visual content like video. It’s the most effective way, since both YouTube (the app / video content service provider) and Google (the default Search engine for pretty much all Homo Sapiens) are owned by the same company – Alphabet Inc.
Here’s what the aforementioned 3 searches (and one more) actually found on YouTube…
1) search for audio review ~ several product reviews from a specific channel (Z Reviews ~ subscribed), quite a few videos from a variety of audio product review channels (unsubscribed, unsurprisingly), audio review of movie soundtracks (unsubscribed, obviously), audio reviews from popular tech reviewers (many, subscribed), home page link of a popular audio review channel (Jim’s Review Room ~ subscribed), Telugu movie audio reviews (this is bonkers, considering Swamy hasn’t even watched a single Telugu movie trailer till date, and hasn’t ever searched for any Telugu content – no offence to any Telugu lover from Andhra or Telangana, but seriously “எனக்கு ஒரு உண்மை தெரிஞ்சாகணும் ~ உங்க ரெண்டு பேருக்கும் அப்படி என்னண்ணே வித்தியாசம்!”), it’s just that Swamy isn’t conversant in that language, just as he isn’t in Swahili or Tulu), and so on and so forth…
2) search for hi res audio review ~ a mix of hi-res audio product reviews and information videos (e.g.: ‘what is hi-res audio?’), from a mix of subscribed and unsubscribed sources. While certainly a tad more refined than the previous search, this still was a hit-and-miss, from preferred content perspective.
YST #4: Whenever your search results point to a new channel that you haven’t explored before, instead of blindly subscribing to it like an automaton, go to the home page of that channel and click on ‘videos.’ This will show the entire list of videos published in that channel. Pick and choose a few randomly and watch them first. That’ll give you an idea about the quality and variety of content, presenter’s communication style and clarity, etc., which will help you decide about subscription. Remember, though the YouTube platform is free of cost, the content provider, i.e. channel owner should still earn your subscription. So, the choice is always yours. Use that power carefully and intelligently.
3) search for “wireless IEM” + “hi res” (both search terms within double quotes) ~ surprisingly, despite being very specific, this search wasn’t getting the results Swamy expected. What was listed included at least 50% crap (haven’t checked all of them though, so that’s an avoidable harsh judgement), including some ‘over the ear headphone’ reviews, which is entirely different from IEM (in-ear monitor) earphones. Also, this didn’t bring up even a single review from any of the popular audio review channels like Jim’s Review Room (highly recommended) or Z Reviews (recommended of course, but his style – both visual and aural – may not be to everyone’s taste) – which Swamy has already subscribed to. Also, the search results was a finite list. What the..! Perplexed, the search was further refined thus…
4) search for “wireless IEM headphones” + hi res + review ~ at last, this search yielded results that are in line with Swamy’s expectations, though, surprisingly – again, apart from a few videos from Jim’s Review Room, some of the already subscribed channels were completely missing in action (despite them having a bunch of IEM reviews). And, to confound matters further, this search yielded a finite set of results, i.e. fixed number of videos, not thousands, which is quite strange for a search engine. Hmmm, that was unexpected, considering how much content on IEMs alone is there on YouTube and the search engine was none other than the Bi’G’ itself!
YST #5: Keep your mouse cursor as far away from the ‘Trending’ section as possible. That’s the path strewn with piles of ‘popular’ content crap, which has absolutely no relevance whatsoever to the viewer’s interest or taste. It’s also YouTube’s way of showing your place entrenched in the herd, most certainly based on your ‘location’.
Anyway, with the approach detailed above, you would’ve got an idea of how to look for content that may actually be of interest to you, instead of watching content that’s pushed your way by YouTube. The reward for resorting to this slightly laborious – and seemingly antiquated (you can search using voice too) – process of discovering quality content is the addition of two new subscriptions in Swamy’s list – both European (which is preferred over those from the other side of the atlantic, any day).
Note: YouTube promo algorithm hasn’t popped up any of these channels so far, ever, amply demonstrating its willful ignorance of the interests of the user.
The first discovery is John Darko, a no-nonsense review channel of audio products with fantastic visual and audio presentation ( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQIcXQ2n0sa-7CD0NtqnrrA/videos). Though he identifies himself repeatedly as an Audiophile, he’s quite unpretentious and astoundingly humble, which instantly endeared Mr. Darko to Swamy, who is known to enjoy high quality audio and the gadgets (relatively affordable ones only, needless to say) that help one really enjoy such enchanting sounds of exquisite quality.
Enjoy reading the Swamusings blog
“Treading (with caution) into Audiophile Territory!” here.
The other discovery is The Hans Beekhuyzen Channel, a somewhat pedagogical, yet extremely informative channel about all things audio ( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCR4tuhqPppVp-PD0q17sPEA/videos ). You’ll need patience for this one, but such patience shall be rewarded with a treasure trove of information, and knowledge.
And if you’re into comprehensible and interesting pedagogy, then Gary Explains is an enchanting channel to gain knowledge.
Oh and there was the discovery of Super* Review too, which is kinda standard template american tech review channel, but focused on audio products ( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLt1ZCWX6QCDWVUElrY5_qA/videos). This one will be more of a try a few videos and then decide kind of subscription though, considering Swamy has already subscribed to
Jim’s Review Room ( https://www.youtube.com/user/JimsReviewRoom/videos),
Juan Bagnell ( https://www.youtube.com/user/JuanBagnell/videos),
Z Reviews https://www.youtube.com/user/ZeosReviews,
PS Audio https://www.youtube.com/user/sharanelani and
and the like, which offer high-quality audio review content already.
‘The more the merrier’ doesn’t really ‘sound good’ (pun obviously intended), when it comes to quality audio product reviews, but the search for quality will continue unabated, as far as Swamy is concerned.
YST #5: Avoid watching all videos (new or otherwise) in any subscribed channel,
or all new videos listed in the ‘subscription’ page, or all videos about a particular product or service. They are all – avoidable – time and data traps.
Btw, Swamy is yet to come across any Indian channel that’s focused on audio alone. A number of Indian reviewers still try hard to be copycats of the popular american review channels (right from props to lighting to chatty communication style to annoying bgm – every damn thing is replicated, as-is), and most of them limit themselves to phone and related accessories review alone. That is a pity, since some of them are quite good (e.g. Beebom, RevAtlas, Gogitech, Techwiser, தமிழ்Tech, iGyaan, Trakin Tech), endowed with the ability to position themselves in a unique way and are certainly capable of reviewing whatever they choose to, pretty well.
It’s not entirely hopeless though. There are a few channels that do occasional audio tech reviews. This is neither the definitive ranking of reviewers nor the only list of quality focused reviewers, who also cover audio products. These are YouTube content creators whose content Swamy found enjoyable and useful (and not annoying)! That’s all. The list actually gets much better when it comes to focused domains of review such as photography equipment and automobiles. But that list belongs to a different blog post.
Mr.Phone is an Indian channel that offers an occasional audio product review (the primary reviewer is a burly, affable தமிழன்), whose videos are of fantastic quality.
TechReflex is also another Indian channel with a bunch of audio product reviews, with some potential for a better future (the reviewer is quite young, resembles Swamy Jr. & is most probably still an academic student).
Gogitech too has plenty of audio product reviews, that are straightforward and brief (both very desirable and useful qualities for any discerning viewer), though most are limited to the mobile phone ecosystem. He stands out from the crowd of similar tech reviewers by the sheer volume of products he chooses to review, including a number of audio products from unknown brands, and by keeping the length of pretty much all his reviews under 5 minutes.
Geeky Ranjith mostly sticks to the standard tech reviewer template, but he’s pretty honest and straightforward with his views and reviews. And, he does actually step out of his soundproof content creation room (to his roof garden, of course), for the reviews!
Headphone Zone only does reviews occasionally, not regularly. They are an audio equipment seller and that knowledge shines through in some of the reviews.
Gizmo Gyan is primarily a tech reviewer focusing on mobiles, just like the rest. But he’s the only reviewer who has reviewed the #MakeInIndia Obage speakers, which Swamy ended up buying and still enjoying.
You can read the SwamyView of Obage DT 2425 stereo speakers here.
YST #6: There’s no dearth of content in YouTube. Quantity isn’t a problem at all and anyone can find content that’s of particular interest to her/im. But Quality is certainly a challenge, as the mix is tilted heavily towards crappy or mediocre content. Anyone with a basic cellphone with a functional camera can create content, and millions do. YouTube (or any content app / service, for that matter) is focused on quantity and not quality. They don’t care about what they want, because the exquisite nature of your interest isn’t going to generate more revenue for them. So it’s entirely up to you – the content consumer – to figure out how to separate the wheat from chaff. Learn how to!
Anyway, that in a nutshell is how you can enjoy the part of your precious lifetime spent on watching YouTube videos, by discovering quality content yourself, than by getting entrapped by the ‘auto recommendation’ algorithm monster and fall inside the crap-filled, nauseating septic tank of content. Guess, that approach holds good for any social media platform with wily content pushing algorithms that prioritise popularity over quality! Happy searching & viewing.
Be joyful & spread the cheer 🙂
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