To see through their eyes as ye see it
July 29, 2020 11:46 AM   Subscribe

This is a cool idea! I wish it existed for all social media feeds.
posted by little onion at 11:53 AM on July 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

I legitimately wish youtube had blocklists like Twitter so I didn't risk polluting my recommendation algorithm with subtle racists. Like, could I just nope right on out of PragerU unless if I'm following a link, please?
posted by Kyol at 12:01 PM on July 29, 2020 [17 favorites]

It'd be cool if the people who hacked the election this time were just Fruitarians
posted by Beardman at 12:02 PM on July 29, 2020 [9 favorites]

Seeing a Heartland Institute video titled: Giving Thanks #2: Petroleum under the Climate Change Denier profile is disturbing. Seeing that it only has 810 views is gratifying.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:12 PM on July 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

They're missing something - the control case, i.e. what YouTube looks like to someone who has never logged into it and on whom YouTube holds no data whatsoever.

Over a year ago I had a look. It was extremely ugly.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 12:12 PM on July 29, 2020 [9 favorites]

Currently YouTube is recommending 12 videos to me, eleven from Binging With Babish, and one from Tom Scott. So, uh, yeah.
posted by jscalzi at 12:21 PM on July 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

Allow me to once again stan Unrecommender, a browser plugin for Chrome and Firefox that hides all out-of-channel YouTube recommendations.
posted by suetanvil at 12:29 PM on July 29, 2020 [14 favorites]

I wish they would do something like this for less fraught categories of people. What does YouTube look like for parrot owners? Bassoon players? Shrubbery art enthusiasts? Spelunkers?
posted by straight at 12:44 PM on July 29, 2020 [15 favorites]

"They laughed when I picked up the bassoon"
posted by thelonius at 12:56 PM on July 29, 2020

Shrubbery art enthusiasts?

posted by Greg_Ace at 12:57 PM on July 29, 2020 [17 favorites]

I just looked (logged out, but with all the cookies) and apparently what I want from YouTube is ... relaxing hip hop. Which is accurate, considering some of my recent searches. My logged in page just shows my subscriptions: Eons (so good! amazing stuff!*), John Oliver, and my local city council.

*I get kickbacks from PBS for promoting it - they give me a % of their profits
posted by jb at 1:04 PM on July 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure what category I am but my YouTube front page is mostly Nina Simone performances, various celebrities doing Slang lessons for Vanity Fair, "Drunk History" clips, old clips of fashion shows from the 50s and 60s, and the trailer for that new "Go-Gos" documentary.
posted by thivaia at 1:27 PM on July 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Algorithm can’t decide if I’m a teenage girl or a teenage boy as my main youtube interests fall 50/50 between drag queens and skateboarding vids so I get a bit of insight into what it pushes to them. The common denominator seems to be TikTok compilations and mukbang.

The conspiracy-adjacent person in my life sent me ONE video about something nutty that I watched 0.5mins of and since then I am getting more insight than I’d like about what his youtube must look like.
posted by Balthamos at 1:46 PM on July 29, 2020 [6 favorites]

My YouTube recommendations have gotten a lot less terrible after a few rounds of "don't recommend this" and subscribing to a few channels that I do like.

Granted, it's still about 75% recommending videos I have already watched and am unlikely to watch again, but at least they're on topics I'm interested in and aren't trying to convince me to buy gold or snort hydroxychloroquine or whatever.

I wish Instagram would get the hint that I don't want my feed filled with basketball, architecture, men's hairstyles, and young Korean women with breast implants. No amount of marking "not interested" seems to affect that.
posted by Foosnark at 1:48 PM on July 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

I keep a browser around for just this type of, I never use Edge for anything else, so I'm OK with visiting youtube random videos with it. Tor is for the same thing. I try to keep my main browser (Firefox) away from anything hideous just so I don't ever have to see recomendations for the nazi bullshit which seems to be 85% of youtube, otherwise.
posted by maxwelton at 2:14 PM on July 29, 2020

It seems to take only a few Comedy Central videos for the very specifically anti-feminist recommendations to start, but they fade away again over a few days.
I don’t even get Joe Rogan recs any more unless I watch something about someone who guested on his show.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:36 PM on July 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

My youtube recommendations are pretty much all MBMBAM bits and Polygon videos.

[edit] oh, and Last Week Tonight
posted by Navelgazer at 2:40 PM on July 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

This project is a great idea.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:16 PM on July 29, 2020

ohmygosh i have been waiting for this article to be written, finally. I have witnessed this phenomenon up close, radicalization via youtube, and it frightens me deeply > <
posted by elgee at 3:33 PM on July 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

I am a leaf on the, wait, that got cancelled.
posted by mule98J at 5:44 PM on July 29, 2020

YouTube seems to recommend a lot less extremist videos to me than in years past, I'm not sure what has changed.
posted by Yowser at 7:09 PM on July 29, 2020

Despite only watching videos of people pruning bonsai, cooking beautiful fishes, and getting stung by different kinds of ants, YouTube still wants to feed me Crowder and Jordan Peterson. But boy it could be so much worse, apparently.
posted by tmcw at 11:04 PM on July 29, 2020

Everytime I spot a YouTube employee I want to ask them if they've heard of Jordan Peterson, he's got some really great ideas, click to subscribe!
posted by benzenedream at 1:32 AM on July 30, 2020

@Cardinal Fang, I looked at that video linked by @The River Ivel (from the old post you linked) in an incognito tab (should be basically like a virgin machine, right?) and the sidebar was all ContraPoints, takedowns of Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson, episodes of Philosphy Tube and Innuendo Studios. I tried again with a virgin copy of Edge and got the same thing.

Maybe things are getting less bad.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 6:05 AM on July 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

This has been a fascinating thread for me to read, because I've never "browsed" through YouTube's offered suggestions; I've barely ever even noticed them. My only interactions with the site are searching for videos on specific (non-sociopolitical) topics or music. (Not to claim "my way is superior", I'm just having a reaction like with the "sit vs stand" thing - oh, here's a completely different way of doing something that I hadn't thought of!)
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:59 AM on July 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Everytime I spot a YouTube employee I want to ask them if they've heard of Jordan Peterson, he's got some really great ideas, click to subscribe!

Its been years since I quit, but I still feel uncomfortable talking about my time there. As if they were always listening and could invoke some strange clause in any of the contracts I signed to take everything I have and send me to jail or something.

This I feel comfortable saying: Most employees there had heard of Jordan Peterson, luckily (and worryingly!) only a minority would agree with him.

Before you go out there blaming low level YT employees (and if they are engineers, they are low level, YT starts getting interesting at director and above) keep this in mind: The majority (as in slightly more than half) of the people I met working on the recommendation engine and the "algorithm" were immigrants to the US. TN and HB holders working their way to a green card, green card holders, naturalized citizens. And when you are in that situation, if you ever want to make it to permanent resident or citizen, you keep your mouth shut about anything having to do with US politics, no matter how much it makes you gag.

There was a time when a lot of the development was happening outside the US, my personal feeling was that the people in the Tokyo, Zurich, London and Paris offices felt safer discussing these type of issues and brought a healthy international perspective. But for reasons above my pay grade, development was consolidated in the USA and the change in attitude was palpable.
posted by Dr. Curare at 11:56 AM on July 30, 2020 [11 favorites]

I never seem to fall into the trap of toxic or overbearing recommendations, and I'm not sure why. Most I ever do is occasionally sic the "Not Interested" button on problem videos and pick a reason. But most of the recs make sense and I can trace them back to my own habits and interests. Like right now my top eight are:

17-second Family Guy clip (guilty pleasure)
A videogamedunkey piece on video game structure evolution (subscribed to his channel)
A classic Whose Line? clip (searched for another one recently)
An hour of walking in the rain in NYC (maybe from that "view from other windows" post?)
A half-hour documentary on Italo Calvino (searched him recently for this Ask post)
A Polygon piece on reading the Halo novelizations (love Polygon, love Halo)
A guitar tutorial for a Radiohead song (favorite band, often search for covers)
Another Family Guy compilation (they really like recommending this)

I also see a lot of Futurama, Simpsons, Spongebob, Seinfeld, MBMBAM, Key and Peele, IASIP, etc.

Tried it in incognito and got:

Beautiful piano music compilation
Goofing around in VR
Gordon Ramsay cooking tutorial
YouTuber gives away Christmas presents
A fox makes cute noises
A 6-year-old girl sings an Elvis cover
"Major injuries I had as a kid" cartoon
10 hours of a rainy city at night

I don't doubt one can fall into a rabbit hole of misogyny and radicalism, but it would seem to require searching it to begin with and then repeatedly clicking on (or at least not actively rejecting) those recommendations. Something to keep in mind if you've got kids.
posted by Rhaomi at 5:06 PM on July 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

but it would seem to require searching it to begin with and then repeatedly clicking on (or at le

Based on your N=1 sample? If you watch any video game walkthroughs, my guess is it bins you as "15-25 yo white male" and starts in with the alt-right recruitment. God forbid someone click on a Joe Rogan interview because they actually like the interviewee. The system is set up to create the longest watching cycle possible with the most ads served. If a few users watch video game walkthroughs and then watch 12 hrs of Jordan Peterson OWNING AOC, the system will suggest that to a lot of other people.
posted by benzenedream at 10:52 PM on July 30, 2020

This is really cool. I tried watching one of the "prepper" videos about toe-nail fungus and it was actually all good advice (I don't suffer from toe-nail fungus..... currently), I think I'm going to become a prepper! I seem to be immune to the YouTube recommendation algorithm too but I think it's because my children watch videos using my login so I am always recommended Roblox and Minecraft videos. I've often wondered if YouTube can detect the shared computer scenario.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 1:13 AM on July 31, 2020

My youtube recommendations are all actually pretty good, but I think some of the recommendations are 'stickier' (probably by pricing, but who knows?) than others, as I looked up some vaguely army clothier that someone had mentioned here as workout wear, and I saw those ads for 2 weeks even though I looked up tons of other things that could have triggered ads as well and purchased from Amazon and online retailers during that period.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:02 AM on July 31, 2020

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