User uploads to YouTube hit one hour per second

User uploads to YouTube have hit one hour per second -- that is, sixty hours per minute. It's a testament to how much latent expression there is in the world, waiting for a distribution platform to make it possible to share it. Before you dismiss this with the shibboleth about YouTube being nothing but illegal footage of copyrighted works and trivial footage of kittens, consider this, an excerpt from a book I'm working on at the moment:

A common tactic in discussions about the Internet as a free speech medium is to discount Internet discourse as inherently trivial. Who cares about cute pictures of kittens, inarticulate YouTube trolling, and blog posts about what you had for lunch or what your toddler said on the way to day-care? Do we really want to trade all the pleasure and economic activity generated by the entertainment industry for *that*? The usual rebuttal is to point out all the "worthy" ways that we communicate online: the scholarly discussions, the terminally ill comforting one another, the distance education that lifts poor and excluded people out of their limited straits, the dissidents who post videos of secret police murdering street protesters.

All that stuff is important, but when it comes to interpersonal communications, trivial should be enough.

The reason nearly everything we put on the Internet seems "trivial" is because, seen in isolation, nearly everything we say and do is also trivial. There is nothing of particular moment in the conversations I have with my wife over the breakfast table. There is nothing earthshaking in the stories I tell my daughter when we walk to daycare in the morning. This doesn't mean that it's sane, right, or even possible to regulate them

And yet, taken together, the collection of all these "meaningless" interactions comprise nearly the whole of our lives together. They are the invisible threads that bind us together as a family. When I am away from my family, it's this that I miss. Our social intercourse is built on subtext as much as it is on text. When you ask your wife how she slept last night, you aren't really interested in her sleep. You're interested in her knowing that you care about her. When you ask after a friend's kids, you don't care about their potty-training progress -- you and your friend are reinforcing your bond of mutual care.

If that's not enough reason to defend the trivial, consider this: the momentous only arises from the trivial. When we rally around a friend with cancer, or celebrate the extraordinary achievements of a friend who does well, or commiserate over the death of a loved one, we do so only because we have an underlying layer of trivial interaction that makes it meaningful. Weddings are a big deal, but every wedding is preceded by a long period of small, individually unimportant interactions, and is also followed by them. But without these "unimportant" moments, there would be no marriages.

As to piracy, there just aren't enough broadcast TV and studio movies to fill a pipe that is roaring along at 60 hours a minute. Even if every minute of broadcast TV and feature film were uploaded to YouTube, it would still only comprise a fraction of the material they host -- and YouTube is only one of many services that allow users to post their own video.

One Hour Per Second


  1. I realize this is simply a smaller rephrasing your larger point (and therefore adds to the “trivial”), but anyone who dismisses Youtube as “nothing but illegal footage of copyrighted works and trivial footage of kittens” is so clearly unfamiliar not only with Youtube but the ability of the internet to share much of the “latent expression there is in the world” that their viewpoint shouldn’t even be acknowledged.

    Dismissing Youtube or the internet as a whole as a tool for sharing information, no matter how trivial, is like dismissing libraries because most of the books in them go unread, or are only read by a small number of people.

    Hopefully there will eventually come a time when we can discuss the value and meanings of sites like Youtube or the internet as a whole without first having to address whether pirated material and cat videos are valuable.

    1.  I’ve found YouTube to be an invaluable source of information.  There are videos up there on how to do pretty much anything from building a 3D printer to changing the tie rods on a Jeep.  It’s a DIYer’s best friend, and a million other things as well.

  2. Yes, claims that YouTube is nothing but pirated content are clearly false, but equally risible is your claim that pirated content could not possibly fill all of YouTube’s servers because there isn’t enough content to pirate: I find it hard to believe that someone who gives speeches with titles such as “We copy like we breathe” is genuinely unaware that it is possible for more than one copy of something to appear on YouTube.

    1. Rarey in “pure” form tho, at least if left alone by the copyright holders. Thanks to DMCA there is a drive upload multiple copies so as to make takedowns as much a game of whack-a-mole as possible.

  3. A lot of things that get dismissed as trivial really aren’t if you think about it. A case in point is the trend of employers demanding access to employees’ Facebook accounts. This leads to people fearing to post any criticism about their employer, which includes ‘trivial’ griping but also includes important criticism about, for example, dangerous working conditions, or bullying. With all kinds of campaigning originating from social media nowadays this could have a genuinely chilling effect on the ability of employees to share bad experiences and perhaps collectively confront management about it.

  4. Thing is that the most trivial of videos may well set something big in motion, if it for some reason stirs emotions in enough people…

  5. One hour per second…

    … or every commercial film and tv series ever made in 28 days!

    Disclaimer: rough estimate based on no. titles on IMDB and wild guess at average duration of a film of 90mins (a bit low for recent titles mabe).

  6. There went my dream of watching every You Tube video ever.*

    *note- not really my dream. Kind of the opposite.

  7. That’s a nicely made point about what comprises meaning in our lives.

    I think all the noise is something else as well.  It represents capability.   Networks like Twitter and Youtube are mostly filled with flotsam, but when something big happens, the capabilities of those networks are ready. 

    I don’t think we’ve even seen the big challenges of the century, but I am pretty sure that whatever happens is going to be mirrored and communicated through the groundwork that is laid today.  All these interconnections are just forming, are just idling.  Give humanity a major prod, something unifying to worry about, and you’ll see this stuff jump into life and start doing things that have never been witnessed in this solar system before.

  8. More to the point in relation to “trivial”, that while the fiction of the entertainment industry, with all it’s “quality information” and excitement, stands in stark contrast to the reality of true history upon the earth, that reality, it’s self, is normally mind-numbingly boring and cyclic, that while mankind networks on the level of the so-called trivial, it does so while going about the mundane and unexciting commonplace things of modern daily life, which bear no resemblance to “important” things like Entertainment Industry gloss and fiction.

    Each day one in a city can look out the viewport and see transport devices streaming to and fro as usual, and in each, networked people going about their mundane commonplace lives, and while each is equally unspectacular, each is in fact also, a true story, and therefore, as important as hell, for that is reality, which is where IT is at.

    There may be a great leader, and when he speaks with his wife in the evening, he is just the young charmer she fell in love with, and he is her prince, and it is unspectacular, and mundane, and commonplace, and there are no thunderclaps nor swelling of orchestra, for in the truth, nothing is trivial, and no expression of love is worth any less than another, no matter how others may judge it.

    Fine observations indeed!

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