Saturday, February 7, 2015

A successful failure - The YouTube paradox

I'm usually quite an upbeat guy. I stay happy because I have a positive outlook. It takes a lot to make me feel sad. During the past 8 years I have been making English video lessons on the YouTube platform and without sound too big headed, I became quite popular. In fact to this date I have over 57 million views and 316,000 subscribers. Apparently this makes me a success. However this apparent upturn has its big downside.

From my first months on YouTube till now, I have noticed many changes occurring on the site. One of the biggest changes must be the way in which the site has changed its aim. For example -  who remembers the slogan of YouTube? Don't look for it now on the site because it has long since been removed. The slogan of YouTube was ' Broadcast Yourself '. This strap-line suggested that everyone had the change to make an impact on the site and that it was there for all people. This of course is a lovely sentiment. So why did the slogan disappear?

The reason is simple. YouTube is no longer about people sharing their views and outlooks, or for that matter helping others. It is about pandering to the four or five largest media corporations that exist in the world. These companies own most of the music, movies, and believe it or not, other things such as TV channels, soft drinks and even the food we eat. Since 2012 the YouTube paradigm has shifted from the average guy having a voice to the greedy money-grabbing corporations being pandered to.

To emphasise my point, if you try to find anything critical of YouTube or its policies on the site itself - you won't. Which takes me nicely to the next point. This is a word that has become synonymous with web based sites and computer programmes. I'm talking about - algorithms.

These are the things that determine what gets seen and what doesn't. YouTube functions almost solely on algorithms now. Needless to say, the things favoured just happen to also be the things that the big companies wish to push onto us. Namely -  the latest pop sensation that no one has heard of, or the new unimaginative movie that needs that extra bit of hype. Or the computer game that, with repeated promotion and hype, will make the masses believe they need it, so as to keep up with their peers.

So where do I fit into this? Well to put it bluntly, I don't. I'm not on the algorithmic radar because I deal with education. I do not come up on the 'marketable' radar. Yet I still seem to be amassing many new views and followers. Despite the huge tidal wave pushing me off the map, I'm still here. This is why I see myself as a successful failure.

Of course the longer you hold on, the stronger the force pushing against you becomes. And so we come to 2015. This will be my ninth year producing English teaching videos. The reason why I seem doomed now is because of the recent changes that YouTube has made regrading promotion on their site. Each user channel has a list of related channels next to it. These channels are normally in the same category as the channel being viewed. Quite often my channel would appear on this list, due to its popularity. However since late 2014, a new algorithm has been put in place on the YouTube site. Those appearing in the lists now have a different pattern. My curiosity was stirred up by the apparent absence of my channel on other channels related to my subject. In fact the more I tested it, the more often the same channels appeared. It was as if the algorithm in this case was forcing me to look at these particular channels.

Even when looking randomly at other English teaching channels, the same channels would appear in the list. It is as if I'm being snubbed or blocked from being viewed. But why? My only answer is that YouTube now only promotes those who pay for it. To add insult to injury, I decided to check the auto-generated playlists that YouTube now has. I looked at the languages playlist and was horrified to see the same channels being heavily featured, with none of my videos appearing at all.

Before anyone accuses me of being paranoid, I did not sign into YouTube at all...and still this was happening. So what other conclusion could I reach?

This is of course not a new occurrence. Since 2010, YouTube has become an impersonal company. Have you tried writing to YouTube recently? Do not bother trying, as there are no actual ways of interacting with any of the staff there.

I have in the past actually conversed on the telephone with a YouTube member of staff. Sadly this no longer happens. As I said at the start of this post, I'm not a negative sort of person. I'm optimistic and confident and believe in perseverance. (I would never have done this for 8 years otherwise)

In the past I have been able to make a living from YouTube via their 'adsense' revenue. This allows me to make (some) money from advertising revenue. But even this system is unfair as it favours those who have large followings in The United States. My followers on YouTube are all over the world, in countries where ad revenue is still absent. I have a huge presence in Vietnam and the Middle East. To make matters worse, YouTube has over the years been blocked in many countries. China has been blocking YouTube since early 2009. Now Pakistan and Turkey also block their citizens from viewing YouTube.

Despite all of these huge forces pushing against me, I'm still swimming onwards against the current. But this cannot continue for much longer. I now find myself trapped in doing something that is successful while being unsuccessful. It would be fair to say that YouTube has written me off as a failure, or at least its computer systems have. I'm not a teeny-bopper pop singer, I'm not a multi-million dollar movie, I'm not an over-paid chat show host, I'm not a must-have computer game...

I'm a 50 year old man in England teaching English to the world.

How boring is that?


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hello 2015, how are you today?

The word 'new' has been used a lot recently in the public domain. There is the new year with its new challenges and the new goal that we have all set for ourselves, with that new vibrant outlook of ours.

Well that is until around mid-January, when it all begins to wear off. I wonder how many of us have seen a new year's resolution right through to the end? I will put my hand up and admit that I have fell flat a few times with my plans for the new year. Things don't always pan out the way you want them to.

So for 2015 I want to work harder than last year. I'm not saying that I slacked off last year, but I think it is possible to push yourself a little more as you gain experience and (hopefully) some wisdom.

The new year also brings with it the realisation that time is still moving forward at an alarming rate, despite the constant wishes that it would slow down a little. This will be my ninth year teaching on YouTube and 12 years since I went to China (The place that truly opened my eyes to teaching).

During my four years in China I found myself in the position of being highly regarded by those around me. I really enjoyed teaching the classes and during my time there I built a reputation for myself that stood me in a positive light. My school used to take me to other districts to talk about teaching English to other teachers and of course I had lots of fun in the classrooms of each school I visited. For many of the pupils, I was the first overseas teacher they had met. Such was the excitement of my arrival, many of the students would be waving from the windows of their classrooms as I walked towards the school building. I would go from classroom to classroom giving impromptu lessons, which would last for about 45 to 50 minutes. In one visit I would do this about five or six times.

It is amazing how much experience you can gain in 4 years. I eventually became assistant to the president of the school I worked for and I became vice-dean of the local training centre, at which I also taught. I even appeared on television in China as the judge in an English speech contest. A job I did for three years. I also provided the voice for the listening exams organised by the local government, which got me invited to many meetings and dinners with the local leaders. They were keen to use me wherever possible and it was great publicity for my school too.

During my time in China I came across a few foreigners who were not suitable for teaching. These were transient travellers who used the job of teaching as a means of making some money to fund their expenses. They used forged documents to obtain work. I did on occasion have the duty of removing one or two of these characters from my school.

One in particular from Canada turned out to be an alcoholic, who kept disrupting the school with his drunken exploits. So just because a person says that they come from a certain country, does not mean that they will be a suitable person for the job in question. We would get people from the USA who would lie and trick their way into my school with fake business cards to secretly teach religion and in the process, upset/confuse my students by telling them that they would go to Hell if they did not follow Jesus. After discovering this I made sure that all visits were supervised. I am very protective of my students, whether they are the ones in my classroom or those learning on the internet.

Nobody...and I mean nobody makes my students cry!

My point here is that just because a person says that they are American or British or Canadian, it does not mean that they will be a good teacher...or for that matter a good person.

Ta-ta for now!


January 21st 2015

Monday, December 22, 2014

DECEMBER 2014 - The silence is broken

It has been just over two years since I last posted on this blog. I suppose I could make up some story about being very busy and overwhelmed by my move to Much Wenlock and blame the other trials and tribulations that life has thrown at me, but you would soon see through all that, as I enjoy being busy. So that would all be lies.

I have decided to dust down the old keyboard and put my fingers to work on typing this, my first and last post of 2014. It is tempting at this time to use the well-worn cliché about time going by fast and the years flying by, but there is an element of truth in both of these statements.

So 2014 is almost at an end. It was not the greatest year for the world in general and it will certainly go down in history as being a dark one for humanity. We once again saw the depraved depths that the human being is able to drop to. In this day and age, with all that the human race is able to accomplish, we still find ourselves embroiled in age-old arguments and absurd disagreements.

Clarity is still such an elusive thing and understanding always seems to be just out of reach of those with influence. There is still in existence the misnomer that the loudest voice is the right one. The more extreme/violent the action - the more justified it becomes. These are misguided ideas, yet many continue to cling to them fervently.

Religion has become the focal point of so many conflicts, with idealism and fundamentalism being stirred into one hot boiling pot of aggression and hatred. The rights and wrongs of these battles have become blurred to the point where the victims have become the aggressors and the aggressors have become the victims. While all this is going on, politicians stand back and mutter the usual condemnations and spout the same old rhetoric that we have heard many times before.

Most of the problems occurring now hark back over the decades. Many of them can be traced to interference by other nations. European interference and the manipulation of power and politics in other countries by America have caused many grudges to be formed, many of which are still bubbling away right now.

Imagine what the world would be like it we all held grudges and continued with the arguments that began many years ago. There would be no human being left alive. Tolerance and understanding are both two-way streets. One party cannot expect the other to be tolerant, if they themselves refuse to be that way too.

The middle is always the best place to be. There are many things I do not agree with, but I would not take my grievances to such an extreme that they cause misery and distress for others. I have been on the receiving end of intolerance and hatred. I have had to take abuse and even violence from others in the past, but there is a point where the here and now becomes more important than dragging all that pain behind me. People will always hate something, but it does not mean that you have to add to that hate. 

Sometimes aggression and hate is used as a trap to get an even worse reaction, thus escalating the problem and ensuring that it continues without any visible solution in sight. It would be fair to say that 2014 has seen a lot of these 'stalemate' situations and no doubt they will continue to be around well into 2015.

For what it is worth - I wish you a happy new year.

More posts coming soon... (Misterduncan)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Never a dull moment

They say that life is what you make it, so I guess I had better try and make it a good one. Well this year has certainly been one of change and dare I say...progress? Sadly with one new project, another must be pushed aside. I have been trying to stay on top of my video making, with new editions of 'Ask Misterduncan' and my new series 'The Word Stop', as well as my normal full-length lessons too. So the blog was pushed aside (again) and it began to get all neglected, dusty and forgotten.

So as we are now heading towards the end of 2012, I have decided to make a new entry, completely off my own bat. Well that is not exactly true, as I have received many e-mails asking why I have been neglecting my writing for such a long-long time. You all know who you are! Well I suppose we could make some sort of deal. If I promise to carry on writing, you must promise to read the results of my keyboard bashing.

So 2012 has indeed been a busy year, but the most exciting part has come at the very end, as I'm off to new climes. Well in truth, it is just up the road, in Shropshire. What I'm trying to say is that I'm moving house. Are you still reading this? I will be asking questions later!

So where am I going to?

I will be moving to a place, which was the subject of one of my full-length lessons in 2012. The small town of Much Wenlock. In fact the move would never have happened, had I not gone there to film a lesson. It was during that time, when I fell in love with the surroundings there. I have always loved Shropshire and used to visit there as a child, during school trips. My school would take me to Ironbridge and we would go on walks to the Wrekin, which is a large hill and a famous landmark in Shropshire. So the image of that area is imprinted in my memory quite vividly.

So after filming the lesson I kept on going back to Much Wenlock on a regular basis. Well of course after a while, I started looking at the property there. To cut a long story short, I will be moving there in January 2013. There is still a slim chance that I will be moving in December, but realistically speaking, this seems highly unlikely now.

So what will this move men for my work? Well it means that I will have more freedom to film outdoors and I will have a purpose-made studio in the house too, which I will have to build. So there is no chance of stopping my video making. In fact that is one of the main reasons for moving. So I can carry on doing it.

Another bit of exciting news is that my YouTube Channel will soon have over 100,000 (one hundred thousand) subscribers. I know that these days that is not many, but I do value all of those people who have stuck with me during the past 6 years, and I feel honoured every time a new student joins me.

Over on Facebook, I have been posting some old photographs of myself at various stages of my life. This is also being done after receiving many requests from viewers who want to see more of my 'real' life. I'm not sure how much of a good idea it is to expose yourself too much on the internet, but anyway, I will be posting some old pictures of little me onto my Facebook page during the next few weeks. So look out for those.

Finally I was overwhelmed by the response to my latest full-length lesson about image. Lesson 75 was fun to make and is based on some writing I did recently, but it was not published anywhere. So Lesson 75 is a sort of blog post, in the form of a lesson.

There will be many more lessons to come...many more 'word stop' episodes, and maybe even a new 'Ask Misterduncan' too, if there is time before I move.

I must go now...time to feed the birds.

Ta-ta for now...  Misterduncan

Sunday, March 18, 2012

'' Will the real Misterduncan please stand up ''

They say that imitation is the highest form of praise. Well maybe in the past this was so, but nowadays this 'flattery' has taken on a more sinister form. As many of you may know - I have a Facebook page, on which I post the latest news about my upcoming video lessons and my life in general. However it has come to my attention that there are people out there in the internet-verse, who are pretending to be me. One particular imposter has actually set up a page and is encouraging people to not only follow them, but also go to a website that has nothing to do with me. Yet they post messages, as if it is me who is running it.

This is what we call 'identity theft'. Someone is literally pretending to be me. So I have decided that enough is enough. So let it be said right now that I am the REAL Misterduncan in England. It is also time to expose this page and the fake site that has been created in my name.

This Facebook page is not run by me. I have no connection to it. The person who created this page is a fraud and a cheat. Please tell as many people as possible.

This person also runs a website, pretending to be me. The site is not mine. The chat box is not mine. I do not run the site. 

This is a very damaging act because the person is making comments on their page, as me. In fact this is a criminal offence. Once again I say...These two pages do NOT belong to me.

Here are my real OFFICIAL sites...

These sites are mine and are run by me.

Of course you know my blog site address because you are on it now  8-))

I suppose I should be flattered that someone wants to be me...but I'm not.

See you all on my Facebook page soon...and of course there will be many new lessons coming soon. I have been very busy filming scenes for them.

As you may now know, I have moved my production studio back to my home. So some of my future videos will look slightly different to the ones from the last two years. But not much different...

I hope.

Take care and...  Ta-ta for now!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

'Better Late Than Never'

So this is my first blog posting of 2012. I'm all too aware that I was going to start posting regularly on here from January, but sadly other things got in the way. So as we say in English - 'it is better late than never'. So 2012 is well and truly with us and so far it has been a wild ride. With one thing and another occurring, I have found myself looking for new studio premises, which seems to be taking up more and more of my time. I also had a slight health scare in January, which caused a few worrying moments. However all is fine there now.

You do not need me to tell you that times are tough right now. here in the UK we are experiencing the early effects of the so-called austerity measures that our government is implementing. Needless to say, with rising costs and tighter budgets, I have been affected by this. This is also part of the reason for my move to new premises. There are so many things I wish to do with my English teaching videos, but sadly reality has stepped in and I have had to re-think everything.

During 2010 I set up a PayPal account, which I had intended to use for donations from any individuals or large companies that wished to help out. However I decided against it, as I did not wish to appear to be begging for money. Something I would never wish to do. That is of course, in normal circumstances. However I'm not in a normal situation right now. So I have taken the step of making the PayPal button clickable - here on my blog. (At the top right of the screen)

If you wish to help in some way, then that would be most appreciated. It is a pity that I have got this far and now it all seems to be suddenly coming to an end. That is all I will say on this subject as my pride has popped up and told me to stop writing at this point. All I really care about is continuing my online video teaching, helping those who cannot get access to formal training or expensive materials. The internet is a powerful educational tool, and through it I hope that I can continue to make a difference.