Monday, 27 July 2015

YouTube comments revamped

It’s fair to say that of the many things YouTube has done over the past two years or so, the most controversial have been Google+ integration and the new commenting system. Well, YouTube has just announced that the latter is being changed and simplified; the former will eventually go.

In point of fact, these are really both the same thing, since YouTube’s commenting system is, as it were, powered by Google+. Google+ integration has proven extremely unpopular among many people generally (especially since you are required to have a Google+ identity in order to have a YouTube channel, whether you want one or not), and commenting has often been confusing.

What YouTube is doing now is to disentangle YouTube and Google+, so that you can use YouTube pretty much as a standalone service; however, rather than reverting back to the old status quo, YouTube is keen to keep at least some of the more useful features, such as the ability to appoint managers for YouTube channels.

The new commenting system — which is really just the current system but simplified and tweaked — is the first stage in this. More than anything else, it has been simplified considerably. Most importantly for many people, everyone will be able to reply to every comment: this should mean an end to missing “Reply” buttons. A common cause of this was that when under-18-year-olds signed up for Google+, it was automatically set so that only people in their circles could reply to their posts, and this setting was also respected by YouTube.

Another big change is that comments made on YouTube won’t be cross-posted to Google+ and vice-versa. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it turned out to be confusing and, for some people, actually creepy.

A few features will be dropped, partly because YouTube has come to see them as overcomplicated but mostly because they were barely used. These include the ability to restrict comments to only certain people (all comments will now be public) and +mentions (Google+’s answer to Twitter’s @mentions).

Basically, then, comments will be simple: you watch a video, type a comment, submit it, and it will show up under that video and not on Google+, and everyone will be able to read it and reply to it.

However, unlike the previous system, you’ll still be able to type really long comments, and you’ll still be able to apply some formatting and include links.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Disappearing text?

An issue has come to light with text on YouTube appearing blurry or not at all, especially video titles. This is related to the introduction of a new font, which seems to have triggered a range of bizarre bugs in the Chrome browser.

Some users have reported that manually installing the Roboto font solves the problem of disappearing text. You can download it here:

Text that appears aliased (with jagged edges) may be fixed by turning off Chrome’s experimental DirectWrite rendering system, which can be done at the following link: chrome://flags/#disable-direct-write

The issue with blurred text is expected to be fixed soon.

There is also a bug in Chrome 42 which might cause some characters with diacritics to fail to display properly: this is fixed in Chrome 43 which is due to be released soon.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

New terms for partners

If you’re a YouTube partner, you may already have received an e-mail or found a notification in your channel settings urging you to agree to revised terms regarding revenue sharing. What it basically boils down to is this: YouTube appears to be planning an alternative for viewers who are prepared to part with cash in return for getting rid of ads.

It’s important to note at this stage that there are no actual details: the change is coming this year (at least if everything goes to whatever plan YouTube has). There is currently no word on any launch date, how high the fee will be, what countries this will be available in, and so on.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

New channel transfer tool

YouTube has just launched a new tool that will enable you to move a YouTube channel to a different Google+ page, as long as that page is owned by the same account. This is to help people who, when Google+ integration came around, accidentally associated their channel with the wrong Google+ page.

There are a few things you have to watch, so if you want to use it, be sure you read all the instructions and notifications every step of the way. It’s not irreversible, but there’s a lot of complicated stuff going on behind the scenes, and you need to sure of what you’re doing.

YouTube’s official Help Center article briefly explains the process, while Peggy K’s blog post gives a more thorough step-by-step explanation complete with a tutorial video by The Lady from Uncle.

Friday, 13 March 2015

You spin me right round, baby...

YouTube has just announced its new thing: 360° videos.

The blog post contains most of the details. At the moment, if you want to enjoy the fun (there’s a playlist in the blog post) you’ll need to use either the YouTube app on Android, or a Chrome browser. On anything else (for now) you just get the whole 360° squeezed into the standard player, which is trippy at least. It appears to be an HTML5 thing, so it should eventually be available to everyone.

Basically, you can pan around the whole scene as it plays, by moving your mobile device or, on a browser, dragging it around with the mouse.

Is it useful, though? YouTube isn’t going to be making a huge deal out of this because you need specialized equipment to shoot 360°. For anything involving any kind of action it would be a challenge, as viewers have to know where to pan in order not to miss something important. I could imagine setting a 360° camera up to capture a landscape or a cityscape, but that sort of makes it just a slightly more glorified version of the old panoramic photos that could be displayed in the awful Quicktime player and panned around in much the same way.

Still, it’s fun, if slightly frustrating sometimes, to play with.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Videos taken down as spam

It’s surprisingly common: videos being taken down as violating YouTube’s policy against “spam, scams and commercially deceptive content”.

There are quite a few practices that fall into this category. But one we see on the forums quite a lot is putting tags or keywords in the video description. In fact, that’s nearly always the reason for cases that get reported to the forums.

YouTube really doesn’t like tags in descriptions, although as a new member you have to look quite hard to find YouTube’s dislike. When you signed up, you are encouraged to read the Terms of Service (almost nobody does). These state, among other things, that the Community Guidelines form part of the Terms. The Community Guidelines in turn link to this article in the Help Center, which have this to say:
Please also only add tags to the tag section of your metadata. Adding additional tags to the description of your video may constitute spam and can result in the removal of your video.
That’s the bit we have to point people to when they lose their videos. Any list of disconnected words, even if they are technically related to the video, is suspect. As a rule of thumb, I would offer this: Everything in the description must be intended for a human to read. If it’s intended to be read by a computer program, it’s spam.

Tags are written to try to trick search engines into ranking a video higher than they should. This doesn’t work, though: tags are not the magic bullet people think they are, and aren’t considered that important by search engines.

When preparing metadata for your video, always remember one thing: You do not get prizes for tricking people into clicking on your video when in reality they’re looking for something completely different. Those people will just leave your video the moment they realise they’ve been duped, mere seconds in, and resume their search. They will never subscribe. And because YouTube takes into account how well you hold your audience’s attention, just getting lots of views will not get your video ranked any higher.

So, for the sake of completeness, here’s what your metadata should look like:

Title: This should be as a brief as possible, and it should be honest and accurate (clever puns are okay). Because sometimes the title may be cut off to save space, put the most important part as close to the beginning as you can.

Description: This should be complete (or as complete as possible without giving away any spoilers) and honest, and have no tags. Again, put the most important part of the description at the beginning.

Tags: These go in their own special section. You only need a few, and they should all be relevant to the video. Repeating a tag won’t make any difference.

Thumbnail: Obviously, this has to be eye-catching and look good at very small sizes. It also has to accurately represent the content of the video.

Closed captions: Do not underestimate closed captions. Spend time writing a transcript or captions for your video, or use the captions editor to edit the auto-generated captions. Closed captions not only increase your potential audience by making your videos accessible to the hearing-impaired; they are also indexed by the YouTube search engine.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Bug: External annotations

There appears to be a glitch of some kind with external annotations on YouTube videos (that is, annotations set to “associated website”). They show up fine in the annotations editor, but not on the video itself. Other types of annotation are unaffected. It has been reported, so all we can do now is hope it’s not too broken.