September 2014: The Great Recession and Minor Depression

September was the worst month of this project, emotionally speaking. Since Mid-June I had been consoling myself with the thought that the drop in views was due to the summer months. September, I was sure, would lead to a return to the exponential growth of March, April and May, and the possibility of actually making some money. Instead, the six videos I released in September remain, as of December, some of the least viewed on the channel. One in particular took a full three months to cross 100 views, which usually happens within a week. In addition, I got back to Istanbul and found myself homeless due to an exploding bathroom. The month spent on couches kept me from moving forward with a series on US criminal justice that I had been planning for months.

But all of that was useful, because it helped me learn some valuable lessons. Turns out, YouTube isn’t all that into 5 minute plus confusingly “animated” videos on obscure topics like finance and legislative corruption from faceless droning voices. Since September I’ve only broken the 4 minute mark twice, and I stepped up my ability to produce on-camera videos. A depressing month, but I learned a lot about video-making and marketing, so it was worthwhile. The videos produced weren’t very successful, but I think they were pretty interesting.

I started off with a five minute video comparing the performance and power of the UK and US financial industries. I think the role of federalism in the differences between Big Finance’s effects on the two countries during the Great Recession is worth further study, but it might not be the best subject for YouTube videos. Next up was the dismally performing comparison of the careers of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Congressman Eric Cantor. Disturbed by that video’s failure to go anywhere, I produced “5 Facts You Must Accept to Write About Foreign Policy in 2014“, a response to an article by the ridiculous Robert Kagan. I intend to do a lot more in this style, and on this topic in the coming year. Next I used Game of Thrones to attack another one of my great pet peeves, endless comparisons of 2014 to 1914. The next week I broke out the Elvis suit to point out the malign direction of US policy towards Iran and China. We rounded out the month with September’s only edition of Notes From the Golden Age, pointing out why “I Still Love the Arab Spring“.

In terms of views, the bloodbath did finally halt in September. They were slightly up to 5,005 from 4,734 in August. This month also demonstrated the growing power of the back-list. Despite the dismal performance of the new videos, views were higher than August. A website in the Czech Republic picked up the big FATCA video, and some right wing blogs picked up the Hillary Clinton video. Only one of the top five performing videos in September were produced in September. The video count keeps mounting. At the end of September we had 46 videos. All but one got at least one view that month, and 35 got more than ten. It provides a nice lower-bound for viewership as we go forward.

September was a bit of a grim month, but I learned a lot.

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August 2014: Islam, Iraq, and an Ice Bucket

August featured video production in four countries, with differing degrees of success. The channel-wide slowdown due to falling interest in FATCA continued, but it was a fun month, and we got to experiment with some new topics and approaches.

We kicked off the month by looking at Islam and the way it is portrayed in the US media. We looked beyond the idiocies of the Bill Mahers and the well meaning distortions of the Reza Aslans of this world to do a little comparative history. It turns out the evils of Islam are nothing compared to those of Christianity. I hope to do a longer video in this vein in the new year. Next we delivered another installment of Ask a Libertarian, which took a trip through Libertarian party candidates past and present.

Next we produced the month’s break-out hit which asked “Who are We Really Fighting in Iraq?” As my country’s involvement in Iraq accelerated, folks seemed to enjoy a video that pointed out that conflict’s fundamental ridiculousness. After that, I headed to a wedding in the Socialist wonderland of Sweden. The video recording my thoughts was one of the most ridiculously produced in the channel’s history. Filmed in small northern Swedish cities and airports, edited in an all-night haze in a jumbo jet hostel in Stockholm, and uploaded from London’s Heathrow airport, I’m amazed it got done.

The next week’s video didn’t get done. I was in Mexico for another wedding, and my laptop died. Luckily I had a cellphone camera, the Ice Bucket challenge, and a faux-Mariachi. The resulting video is fairly amusing.

As I mentioned above, the post-FATCA viewership bloodbath continued. Monthly viewership almost halved from 8,617 in July, to 4,734 in August. At the time I consoled myself with the idea that it was a summer drop-off. The month’s videos performed well considering the lack of a big video pointing views towards the channel.

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July 2014: Vietnam, Pompey the Great, and Other Disasters

I closed last month’s entry with a question. What happens when your most successful video peters out? In July I got to find out. That month saw an initial FATCA deadline pass without the disaster predicted in some of the internet’s more ridiculous quarters. My predictions of FATCA disaster were never immediate, but my video suffered as general interest in the topic slowed down. The effects were pretty dramatic.

That aside, it was a great month. I posted videos from Istanbul, Tuscany, Northern Michigan and the New York City suburbs. The constraints of travel and (very voluntary) homelessness helped hone my craft rather than slow things down. Whether people were watching or not, I was very pleased with the month’s production.

July is named after Julius Caesar, right? That’s fitting, because this month’s production was all about Empire, and American empire specifically. We started the month by looking at our two great wars of Imperial over-reach, Iraq and Vietnam, and the embarrassing parallels. Next we moved on to the Imperial Presidency and why we really don’t want Hillary Clinton to occupy it. After that, we made a brief departure from the theme for an installment of Notes From The Golden Age, debunking the overreaction to the recent European elections. After that, back to Empire, with a brief history of Rome, and what every American Founding Father knew about it. Then another break for a second installment of Ask A Libertarian. We closed the month with a return to the Imperial presidency, specifically its birth, with the ¨Worst President Ever¨.

The viewing statistics were depressing, but they were also very interesting. In June we got 18,123 views, and in July we got 8,617. Most of this drop can be traced to the drop in views for our FATCA video which fell from 13,903 views and 77% of the total to 5,611 views and 65% of the total. The effect on viewership of all the other videos could be clearly discerned as well. Despite there being another month’s worth of videos, viewing of all of these videos fell by more than a quarter. The fact that viral videos are important for traffic is not news, but it is interesting to see it laid out this clearly. My confidence in FATCA’s return to the headlines leads me to believe that the video will grow in strength again, but it hasn’t happened as of October. Since its decline I have not had a single new video approach the 1,000 hit mark. Interesting stuff.

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June 2014: Elections, Interventions, and Cat Videos.

Much like my physical location, the channel was everywhere in June. Due to a travel filled summer, and a lack of an income, I gave up my apartment halfway through the month. It certainly preserves the bank account, but we will see how it affects the videos.

In June we started off with a video critiquing the enthusiasm for the ¨Hip, New¨ Washington, DC. Next came our first cat video, in which Perspective Cat drops some historical knowledge. Hope to do more with that guy sometime soon. Trade policy, and the way that the Trans Atlantic Partnership betrays the spirit of the WTO were analyzed in our next one, with perhaps a little too much disco.

Our video on Eric Cantor’s primary loss was a bit of an experiment. I woke up, saw the news, wrote a reaction, and had produced a video five hours later. Does it show? The process is usually much more labored than that. All of this experimentation led to what remains one of my favorite videos ever. Little seen historical analysis, snark, and a mix of visual techniques combined to make a video of a quality I wish I could produce every week. Check out ¨Russia Will Join the EU Within 30 years…¨ here or above. We followed up with an inexplicably little watched video on why humanitarian intervention is dumb. Youtube provides detailed analytics of viewer behavior throughout the course of the video. This one has some of the best retention of any, but very few people showed up to watch. Not so easy to discover probably.

Our last video of the month was the first installment of ¨Ask a Libertarian¨, and our first attempt at interview programming. It taught me that I, like,umm, sort of, you know, really fricking need to work on my interviewing skills.

June saw a bit of falling off in viewing statistics. Views fell to 18,123 from 21,100 in May. The majority of views in both months were of the one FATCA view. A (sort of) viral video is an interesting thing. I owe the majority of my views to this one video. While it is raging, the channel is healthy, but when it falls off?

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May 2014: Europe, the Media, and Success

Most of our work in May was dedicated to Europe. The Notes From the Golden Age (NFTGA) Series continued with three videos celebrating the European Union, and dealing with the weird attractions of Euro-Skepticism. We provided a little counter-programming to the general media approach, which was filled with warnings about the new power of the anti-Europe populist parties.

We started off with two one-shot videos. The first was the (fairly successful) search engine bait of “Is Putin Hitler?” in which Neville Chamberlain walks us through why the two figures couldn’t be more different. The second was a meditation on the changing nature of media and journalism. It fits comfortably in the NFTGA category, so you know we’re optimistic about it!

We produced three EU videos. The first focused on the dominant historical position of European Violence and the EU’s role in shutting it down. The second focused on the ridiculousness of Euroskepticism, specifically in the UK context. The third video came out the day after the disappointing EU elections at the end of May. It focused on the Genius of European Expansion, and the democracy it has brought. Through reddit, this video, also featured above, became our fastest watched video ever.

May was a great month. It made my dream of making a career of this seem very, very, possible. Our May totals MORE THAN TRIPLED our April totals going from 6,978 to 21,100. We produced a sort of Thank you video. Most of this massive month was due to the continued success of our video on FATCA. More and more people are becoming aware of the problems that FATCA implementation will bring, and there is a real thirst for a decent video on the topic. Fun Stuff.

Many thanks for taking the time to make the channel as successful as it has been…

April 2014: Ukraine, Mom, and Neville Chamberlain..

April was an exciting month here at the More Freedom Foundation. It was our first chance to cover an on-going news event, and it was pretty exciting. We believe that it is impossible to understand current news events without looking into the history behind it.

Our first video of the month continued our look at African development, and the truly great news that you should be thinking of whenever one of Africa’s 54 countries is experiencing a crisis.

Vladimir Putin did us a favor and hijacked most of the rest of April’s output. As much as I loathe the guy, he’s kind of got a point when it comes to NATO’s expansion. We took two approaches on the topic. One was a straightforward map-based video explaining Russia’s justified concerns. The other approach was a message from the “US Government” explaining the motivations behind NATO expansion with an honesty that real bureaucrats are not capable of.

My mother was kind enough to swing by Istanbul for a weekend, so we decided to collaborate on the third chapter of Notes From The Golden Age (NFTGA) focusing on the Cold War. People don’t spend enough time celebrating the fact that that is over, so we did our part.

We ended the month with a quantum leap in the quality of our production. “Appeasement” seems to be the only historical lesson that the US government has learned. We resurrected Senior Hitler Correspondent Neville Chamberlain to tell us about his experience, and how nothing since has really compared. It was a tricky video to act and produce, but it was pretty successful. You can see this fan favorite video here, or at the top of this post.

April was also an exciting month in terms of viewership. Our April totals MORE THAN DOUBLED our May totals going from 2,861 views to 6,978. Very exciting stuff.

If you want to hear more from us you can sign up for our e-mail list to the left, follow me on twitter, and if you haven’t done so yet, please do head over to Youtube and Subscribe!

March 2014 Efforts…

The success of November’s FATCA video got us thinking. Would it be financially possible to do this full time? So far the answer is no, but we’ve been having a lot of fun. I left my job in February, and am now working with a great team to produce a new video every Tuesday. This week we uploaded our sixth video, a quick satirical sketch on the post cold war history of NATO and how it led to Ukraine.

March also included uploads of another five videos. On March 1st we uploaded a general introduction to the More Freedom Foundation Youtube channel. Later in the month, we introduced our web series Notes From the Golden Age, and also uploaded the first and second videos in the series, which both deal with Africa. The series tries to show that the world is in much better shape that we have been told, and describes some of the reasons why these facts are hidden. The series will return in a couple weeks to cover an entirely different topic.

We also uploaded the second of our videos on US immigration. Uploading these is always fun. They inevitably lead to endless arguments with white supremacists. You can watch the video and read the comments here.

Other than that we partnered with Nomad Politics to produce another piece on the impending implementation of FATCA.

Viewership is slowly rising, and we are excited to bring you a continuing series of videos in the coming months. Thanks for watching!

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FATCA, Immigration, and Political Dance Videos… Our 2013 Efforts

Despite an insanely busy and awesome year (I’m a very lucky dude), we managed to put together three videos, a new amazon broadsheet, and a bunch of blog posts.

I am most proud of our efforts against FATCA. FATCA is a crazy law that the United States Congress has decided to impose on the entire world. We are building a world-wide empire subject to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). I kept running into FATCA in my work as a legal consultant, and I realized that this stuff really needs to be described in layman’s terms. The US government says that it just goes after US tax cheats. Nobody likes them, so most journalists haven’t looked into it too much. When you look into the details, however, it becomes clear that there is a lot more going on. Its implementation involves over 500 pages of regulation, numerous agreements between the US government and other countries, and eventually individual agreements between the IRS and every bank in the world. We have tried to boil the regulations down to a four minute video, with a lot of swearing. To provide a more detailed and level-headed view, we’ve also published a new essay for the Amazon kindle.

We published two videos earlier in the year. I had noticed that all the really popular videos on youtube are music videos. So in a perhaps unwise fit of late night creativity we made one. In a more serious effort, we weighed in on the US immigration debate. Some say the video is a bit boring, but it deals with some important facts that Congress is ignoring in their discussions. Watching the video will make you more informed on the topic than most of Washington, DC.

Well that’s about it for 2013. We’ve got some new approaches and issues to tackle in 2014. It should be fun! We’ve now got a mailing list, which you can see to your left. Sign up if you want to be made aware of our future efforts. Thanks for watching and reading!

2012 Efforts

I have been working 60 hour weeks for most of this year, but I did manage to put two things together for this election fall. The first is a broadsheet entitled Avoiding the British Empire: How the United States Can Do Better in 7,000 Words. The polemic takes aim at a very broad subject, US Foreign Policy over the past 100 years or so. It tries to lay out the trajectory of the British Empire, and suggest some ways that the US can avoid its fate. Folks who have read it have been very kind. They have found it informative and occasionally amusing. There is a lot that goes on in our foreign policy establishment that is hard to explain. This pamphlet tries to do the explaining. Not bad for under a dollar.

We have also put together another short video, explaining why you should be voting for a third party candidate in the election that is coming up in a few weeks time. I am pretty pleased with this. If we progress as much in terms of quality and memorization next year we’ll be going viral for sure.

The reaction has been positive enough, and I am having enough fun to keep doing this. I would like to say it will be less than eleven months until the next product, but that would be over-ambitious. I haven’t figured out how to enable a non-spammy comment section, so if you want to get in touch, hit me up in the youtube comments. All praise, advice and abuse is welcome. Thanks.