A dip in the stream

After reading articles about the large and growing popularity of “streamers” on Twitch and YouTube, I wondered what all the hubbub was about. So over the last few weeks, I have dipped into several dozen streams. Mostly on twitch, a little on YouTube. I mostly look for software development/live coding streams, but also watched a few musicians, something that resembled a talk show, a broad category called “just chatting”, several gamers, and a streamer who streams about streaming. I clicked into some popular streams (thousands of viewers) and some with a single digit number of viewers.

Here are my impressions; I don’t have a broad understanding from this morsel of experience – I suspect a handful of my “gamer” colleagues will fill in and correct my partial understanding sometime.

But I gained a few insights on why people do this, why they choose to sit at a computer many hours per week, paying attention to an audience that they never meet, just experience as a series of check messages and various kinds of scrip.

Big streamers – it’s a business

Why did the big streamers stream? Well, because it’s their business. It’s like a YouTube channel, or many other kinds of social media business. Get a lot of followers, become an influencer, get ad revenue, get sponsors, companies mail you stuff and hope you talk about it, etc. No insight there.

Small streamers – wow!

There are lots of small-scale (that is, small audience) streamers live-coding for all to see. Often with an audience of at most a few hundred, and sometimes just a few. What are these folks getting out of it?

I suspect they’re getting quite a lot out of it! In addition to the sporadic rewards of positive feedback from the audience, streaming drives focus. On camera, these streamers don’t get distracted by twitter, news, casual game breaks, or any of the countless other forms of procrastination. They sit there and actually work on their side project for hours at a time. They also get some of the benefits of “rubber duck debugging”, and pair/mob programming.

This could pay off handsomely, even for those who never get a dime of direct/advertising/influencer revenue, and explains why so many of these folks don’t seem to be working toward those goals anyway.

That’s just the coders, the group I understand the most. Musicians and others likely get similar benefits. The benefit for small-channel gamers is less clear, as they seem to be doing something that already is a distraction rather than avoiding distraction.

Should I stream?

I’ve spent countless hours live coding for an audience, mostly in our training at Oasis Digital, occasional conference talks, technical talk videos, etc. But that usually is around code/ideas I’m already deeply familiar with – optimized for information density. Maybe I’ll try low-key streaming while coding something new sometime.

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