/ Elliot C Smith / blog

Twitch

May 25, 2020

I had a surreal experience over the weekend. I’d never paid much attention to twitch.tv in the past but after watching some Youtube videos that were stream recordings I thought I would give it a go. I was mostly interested to watch live development streams rather than games being played.

I created an account and started watching a stream. I was one of about 150 viewers in the middle of the day in Australia. That meant it was late evening in the US where things were being recorded. I watched for a while, glancing a little at the chat and thought it was fairly interesting. I hit ‘follow’ to keep up with future streams and that’s when things got interesting.

A few seconds later, my username was on the screen and the streamer said “Hey Elliot, thanks for the follow.” Nothing profound but with that, a wall broke down for me. Until then there was an impassible barrier between someone’s content and me as a viewer. With that, I was pretty much hooked.

I am on video chat a lot during the day. Being a recently turned remote-first company we are still quick to go to video. Those calls I know there is a link, I join them expecting the person on the other side to know I am there. Until the weekend, online video was in it’s own box. Not any more.

Now, it could be that it was a smaller channel with a small number of concurrent viewers but I think I finally get why these platforms have become so popular. There is an almost instant feel of community. The polar opposite of places like Youtube comments.

There has been a lot of discussion on Hacker News about missing the old days of blogs. The days when people wrote because they wanted to and didn’t care if they got 1 read or 1 million. To date, watching this small stream was the closest I have come in recent times to recreating the feeling of the ‘Google Reader’ days.

I will say that discovery on twitch is tough. 95% of my suggestions are games, some of which I have no doubt pay their way into being ‘Things we think you’ll like’. There seem to be however, a smaller part of the platform that caters to people creating things. I am working on finding more of that.

It makes me thing about which other platforms I have dismissed too soon. Are there other places online where doing a little work in excluding the default settings would reveal an interesting community? I’ve also tried hard to not watch gaming streams. They are no doubt entertaining and probably something I would sink a lot of time into. But in a way I think when you start, that’s the end. It will become another Infinity Pool of distraction and watching the things the platform suggests will be easier than digging through streams for the more esoteric content. It’s certainly interesting, I’ll give it that.

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