Friday, July 3, 2020

Clipping and Highlighting Your Streams



If you've been streaming for a while, you've probably had several amazing moments on your shows: an incredible match-winning headshot, the last-second boss victory, the perfectly timed chat-activated fart noise- truly legendary occurrences. But after each stream is over, what's to prevent these magical memories from simply fading away? You've decided you want to become more effective at using Twitch's clipping feature to save your show's best bits for fans to watch at any time. Twitch clips are of course incredible useful. They can help new viewers find your channel, they can be shared to social platforms to expand your reach, and they can be saved to speed up the editing of your compilation videos or channel trailer. You can extract an incredible number of uses from your clips if you're keeping an open mind, which you can find more info about in the entry Using Twitch Clips to Their Fullest.

But what's the best way to obtain Twitch clips? After all, while the stream is happening you're busy in front of the camera- it would be hard to grab, edit, and name your clips effectively. Of course the ideal scenario is for viewers to clip your show for you, preserving those great moments without you needing to do the legwork. But in reality, viewers won't necessarily think to clip everything you want them to. Sometimes when they create a clip it will have a problem, like being cut off in the middle of a sentence or rambling on way past the funny part. Maybe there was just no one in chat willing to clip your show at that instant. At the end of the day, your viewers saving clips for you should be treated as a privilege, not an expectation. In short, if there's a moment you really want to save, you should be prepared to save it yourself. In this entry I'll give you some tips for creating and managing your stream clips and highlights without missing a beat. 


➢ GRABBING GREAT MOMENTS


Preserve that 360 No Scope! 
To create a clip, there is a button you can press while watching a stream either during the broadcast or after the fact to save a section of the show. You can then edit the length of the clip and give your creation a title. This is very useful for someone watching, but what about for you as the streamer? You wouldn't likely be able to clip something while you're in the middle of hosting your own broadcast, and wading through hours of content once your stream is over to find a single 30 second snippet would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. However, there is a tool available on Twitch to make this process significantly easier. 

Enter the 'Marker' function. At any point during one of your streams, you can place a marker and attach a note to it. Then, when your stream is over, you can go into the 'Highlights' section of your episode to see that marker and its note at the exact timestamp where you placed it earlier. As you could imagine, this is incredibly useful for keeping track of those top-tier moments that you'd rather not let slip away. Similar to how we started taking notes about potential stream improvements in the entry Fix One Thing About Your Stream Every Day, utilizing markers frees up your mind to focus on the stream, without having to worry about remembering to clip something and where that clip might be. I use markers on almost every broadcast I do, logging moments I'd like to share on social media, appearances of our channel's custom-voiced characters, and even potential problems I want to take a look at later. There's no end to the marker's uses. 

As to placing markers, you have a few options. Inside your Dashboard's Stream Manager, there's a widget you can click to add a marker with a description at any time. This of course requires you to be able to click on something outside your game, so its usefulness may vary based on how your particular shows function. Since most streamers only use one monitor, this would mean switching out of the game itself in order to open your dashboard, which might not be desirable during a show. What I've found more useful is using the marker command in chat. Inside any chat window of your stream, whether on your computer or phone, you can enter /marker to place a marker at that spot in time. If you follow /marker with written text, it will add that text as a note into the marker that gets saved. This is my preferred method, because I always have chat open on both my PC and my phone while streaming, so no matter what kind of game I'm playing I'm always able to type in the chat and add markers if I need to. 


➢ ARCHIVING FOR ALL TO SEE


Now that you have a marker placed on one of your broadcasts, it's time to decide whether that moment will live as a clip or as a highlight. Though ultimately similar in function- clips and highlights on Twitch both preserve segments of your streams for posterity- there are a few key differences between these two features. 

Keep your favorite shows in their entirety if you want!
First, a clip can be a maximum of 60 seconds long, but a highlight can be as long as you want. This is an important distinction, as a highlight will allow you to capture some moments which simply wouldn't work as clips. You can even permanently save an entire stream by making it into a highlight. I know streamers who do this with every stream they've ever done, so viewers can go back and watch their content later. This is especially useful among streamers like me, who focus on story-based games. If someone joins one of those games while you're 10 episodes into the storyline, they might want to go back and catch up. Saving a full broadcast also works well when you're making limited-run content, like a marathon stream or a world record attempt. For me, after returning from my trip to Japan, I highlighted all 18 streams where I walked around the Tokyo streets, so anyone can watch at any time after the fact. 

You might be saying, "But Nick, I already set up my channel to store Past Broadcasts like you told me to in previous entries! Why would I need to highlight a full episode if it's already saved?" Well, the wording is a bit confusing on that feature. When you tick the box to Store Past Broadcasts, it will save your previous episodes for between 14 and 60 days, but after that they'll be deleted. Having that window of time to watch your previous episodes as Past Broadcasts is incredibly useful for checking on your recent progress, and keeping shows around so you can clip them at your leisure, but if you want something to be saved forever, clips and highlights are the only way to do it.

When getting into shorter content, there are other distinctions between highlights and clips to consider. Funny singular moments and jokes are great for clips, but when you win your first Victory Royale it might not be enough to merely clip the final 60 seconds of the match. You might want to highlight that winning match in its entirety. This of course is doubly useful, because viewers can then watch your win at any time, and you yourself can also go back if you want to check your playstyle to see where you could improve. 


➢ CAPTURE THOSE MEMORIES


As of this writing, Twitch displays a tip whenever you visit the Dashboard: "32% of viewers that watch a highlight return to watch a live stream within a week." I can't say I've measured the difference from when I started highlighting to confirm this, but it's quite a staggering number if true. I've certainly found a huge amount of value in the highlighting and clipping features of Twitch, so I would always recommend taking advantage of these at every opportunity. And by embracing my workflow for marking and preserving stream moments, you should be equipped to clip and highlight like never before! 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Stream for the Moment


What is it we love about Twitch streaming? What gets us to sit down, prep a show and press the Go Live button day in and day out? Often we aren't being paid to do it, and the vast majority of those who do monetize don't make anywhere near a living wage from our broadcasts. The preparation, post-show and streaming processes take an incredible amount of time and energy, requiring us to devote ourselves on the level of another work or school commitment- often dozens of hours a week. We face several of our fears every time we go in front of an audience- performance anxiety, stage fright, sometimes outright harassment. All in all, this whole pastime is incredibly taxing in several aspects of our lives. So I ask again, what is it we love about Twitch streaming? 

The answer will vary for each of us, but to me it's clear: We're creating something out of nothing.

As streamers, we have the audacity to enter a very crowded space and plant something of our own. We say, "Here I am, this is what I've made," and we invite others to be a part of it. And you know what? Despite the field being packed with thousands of others creating their own projects, people do join our budding little channels. Starting from the smallest seedling, each of our creations invariably ends up being unique and valuable not only to ourselves but to others as well. Every one of us who takes this leap, who has the courage to stake their claim and stick through the hardships, has created something with its own look, feel, style and personality. We can gaze upon our content in a month, or a year, or ten years and say, "This is what I created. Look how it has grown." To me, there's no idea more rewarding.

Have you stopped to smell the roses lately? Have you considered why you personally love streaming? 


➢ STREAMING FOR STREAMING'S SAKE


We're all trying to create something great, and in that long grind we can often lose the forest for the trees. Each show has to be better, and each week we're trying to add, refine, or customize something or other. We can get so caught up in the details that we never slow down enough to truly enjoy the here and now. Think about the most recent stream you made. Pick something about it that you truly loved. Maybe it was the way you conducted yourself, a funny joke you told, or an excellent play you made. It could be that you simply take pride in your most recent show going off without a hitch, no errors in sight. Possibly you're happy about the way you handled a tough situation in chat, or brightened someone else's day. Forget, for the time being, all the things about that stream you didn't like and focus just on that one aspect of your most recent show that you're proud of. Give yourself a moment to appreciate the things that you get to do, the people you get to meet, and the zen state of creating something all your own. 

Rock on!
I think about this concept often. When you're out there doing your thing, there's nothing else but the stream. It's almost like streaming itself is a form of meditation. Sole focus. For all the chaos, excitement and unpredictability of actually making a show happen, all my energies are always directed toward a single fixed point. Making content. As Ryan Gosling says in La La Land, "It's conflict and it's compromise, and it's brand new every night. It's very, very exciting." Make sure you aren't too caught up in the grind of improving your channel to appreciate the simple pleasure of creating your content for its own sake. 


➢ MASTERING YOUR CRAFT


Consider Jiro Ono, who you're probably familiar with from the excellent documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. This 94-year old culinary artisan has been making sushi day in and day out since he was nine years old. He simply fell in love with his trade and aspired each day only to be a tiny bit better at his craft than the day before. After opening a modest ten-seat sushi restaurant in the corner of a subway station, Jiro quietly did exactly as he set out to do. He got a little bit better every day. For 60 years straight. If you've seen the film, you know what comes next. Jiro's shop attained a perfect 3 Michelin star rating, the man himself has been recognized by the Japanese government as a national treasure, and the 10-minute dining experience at his restaurant (which still only has 10 seats) would cost you $400 USD if it weren't impossible to get a reservation. 

And then of course there's that other master artisan who we all know and love: Spongebob Squarepants. Like Jiro, Spongebob never aspired to be the owner of a hamburger conglomerate, or use his first job at the Krusty Krab as a stepping stone to claw his way to the top. From the outset, Spongebob aspired to be a fry cook. It's the thing he loved doing, and every day he was excited to get to do it again. He lived for the simple act of working on his craft, and became acclaimed at what he did (even beating the ocean god Neptune himself in a cook-off) by simply living in the moment. 


➢ CONTENTMENT IN YOUR CRAFT


Focus on your craft.
So don't always worry about furiously adding, removing, boosting and measuring things on your channel. If you want to relax on certain days, being content in what you do is enough. Time spent doing something you love is never wasted. As long as you keep moving forward and don't skip days, you will continue growing no matter how many tricks you employ behind the scenes. Don't forget that Twitch streaming is about the journey. Whatever finish line you think is out there will only change to another, less attainable finish line once you reach it. The only way out of this deadly loop is to stop playing for a prize. Stream for the moment and you'll find out just how happy you can be. 


Friday, June 19, 2020

Making Your Streams More Flexible



At the end of the day, there's only one important thing when you're a Twitch streamer, and that's streaming. If you aren't streaming, and doing it consistently, then it doesn't matter how many graphics you've made, giveaways you've done, or social channels you've created. If you can't get yourself to stream, then you're just procrastinating. For most of us, this is a no-brainer concept. Of course you have to stream to be a streamer. And yet in practice, getting ourselves to actually go live regularly without ever missing a day is one of the hardest things for any Twitch streamer to do. 

Lack of time is the most common excuse. A lack of time prevents most from ever starting their channels in the first place. Or if someone has been streaming 100 days in a row, a dinner reservation taking up their night might make them feel they need to break their streak. Twitch streamers tend to get overly rigid ideas into their heads about what it means to be a streamer, and if a potential show doesn't meet their arbitrary criteria, they oftentimes won't bother going live that day at all. This is a bad way to look at streaming. It'll erode your habits and lead you down a dark path. In this entry, I'll help you to make your streams more flexible. 


➢ WHEN LIFE COMES KNOCKING


Small differences can change an entire outcome.
There's a classic scholarly article by Herbert Simon called 'The Architecture of Complexity.' In this work is a parable about two watchmakers, which I'm going to paraphrase here. The two men, who we'll call John and David, made excellent watches and the phones rang often in their workshops with new orders coming in. But over time John prospered, while David continually got poorer until he eventually went out of business. What went wrong? 

The watches they both made were comprised of 1,000 individual parts each. It's incredibly intricate work to create a watch, and whenever David needed to put his watch down in the middle of assembly, all the pieces would fall apart and he'd have to start over. This means that the more that customers liked his watches, the more they would call him on the phone to place orders. The more customers would call to place orders, the more he'd be interrupted and have to start from scratch in creating a watch. The phone would only keep ringing more and more often, and he'd find it harder and harder to carve out an uninterrupted chunk of time to build a complete watch. Eventually, no such chunk of time existed, and David was ruined.

The watches John made were of exactly the same quality and complexity as those of David. But he designed them in a different way from the ground up. John would create subassemblies, each of which only had ten little pieces inside. Then he'd combine ten of those subassemblies to create a larger piece, and he'd combine ten of those larger pieces to make a complete 1,000-piece watch. This sounds like a trivial difference until you consider the practical realities. When John would receive phone calls, he would only lose the progress from putting together his most recent ten pieces. He wouldn't lose his progress on the entire 1,000-piece project like David. Therefore, despite both of them creating watches that were identical on the outside, one prospered as he grew in popularity, while that same popularity ironically drove the other out of business. 

I know what you're thinking: why didn't David just get a secretary? Well it's a parable, okay? But it hits closer to home than you might think. Most Twitch streamers build their careers like David. Their brand becomes solidified around completely rigid ideas of what it means to stream on a given day, but as their responsibilities increase with size they find it harder to carve out the time for their actual streams. The usual all-or-nothing streamer mindset goes something like this: "My show is always three hours long, and if it weren't three hours long then it just wouldn't feel like a complete show. Whoops, today I have a plan to do something that won't leave me enough time to do a three hour show. I guess I'll have to cancel." If you think this way, you're at risk of getting hooked on the most addictive substance in the world: the excuse. 


➢ SCALING TO FIT


There is no rule about how long you need to stream, which pieces need to be set up, how you have to look, what you need to play, where your stream needs to take place, or any other aspect of the craft. As long as you're not breaking the terms of service, there really are a lot more possibilities than you probably expect. Feeling sick or don't like how you look? Stream with no camera. Don't feel like playing the game you usually play? Play something else. Away from home? Make an IRL stream, or some other kind of show entirely. Don't have three hours to do your normal amount of streaming today? Stream for 2 hours. Or for 1. Or for 30 minutes. Or 1 minute. Honestly, there are very few legitimate excuses not to stream. Most of the roadblocks are simply detritus built up in your mind from how you think a stream has to be.

Be more flexible. 
The important thing about sticking with streaming is to do it every time, not to do it the same way every time. If your stream is completely inflexible, then it will eventually break. But if you can bend to life's outside forces while still showing up and doing the stream every day, then you will form a strong habit. In the entry Just Keep Streaming, I spoke about how you need to understand where to make compromises: "You should be flexible about WHEN and HOW you stream, but never about WHETHER you stream. There's nothing more destructive to a growing streamer than finding excuses to miss their scheduled days." 


➢ THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX


When everything else is stripped away, Twitch streaming is about forming a habit and then fighting like hell to keep that habit alive. It doesn't matter how or when you do your show. You could be in a great mood or a terrible mood. Your video feed might look beautiful or atrocious. But you get out there and you do it every time. Even when my internet is out, the classic problem to stop all Twitch streamers, I still don't let that stop me from doing my streams. In such a scenario, I record my show locally and upload it to my Twitch channel upon the signal returning. Yes, there may be no opportunity for chat interaction during that one episode, but I still made my content. The habit is intact, and someone who wants to watch my playthrough is still able to be entertained. The next time you feel you need to cancel your show, consider whether you really have a worthwhile reason. In most cases I can tell you now: you don't. Try making your streams more flexible: your shows will do the bending to prevent your channel from breaking. 

Friday, June 12, 2020

Growth Check-In: Getting Back on Track



As a Twitch streamer, it's easy to get off track. What we do is exciting, and we love to do it, and oftentimes we spin out of control, collecting new features and practices for our streams like Pok√©mon cards. And as soon as a few more features are in place, the old ones might fall out of practice. Even if they were good ideas. Even if these older practices helped our channels, they're not new or exciting anymore and we forget to keep maintaining them. The previous Growth Check-in entry, called Simplifying Your Streams, focused on helping you take an important pause to assess which things really matter on your channel and which need to be scaled back. But because we streamers can get so excited about things, jumping from one new big idea to another, we often collect half-formed habits in the same way we collect useless channel add-ons. 

Maybe you started using a calendar to organize your streams, but recently your days have been getting out of hand again. Or it's possible that you have been implementing a new style of chat engagement, but aren't getting the results you'd hoped. It even could be that you've lapsed out of streaming altogether recently. All of these things are normal, they're nothing to worry about. But if you want to improve, you have to be willing to admit that something needs to change. Just as important as dumping the baggage of our old stream ideas, it's vital that we check in every once in a while to make sure we're keeping up with the good habits we've tried to form. In this entry, we'll focus on the stream habits that you have the most difficulty with, and we'll bring them back on track. 


➢ STAYING ACCOUNTABLE


Have you been keeping track of the problems you've encountered on stream? If so, are you solving them in regimented fashion? Try not to only solve problems as soon as you think of them- this relies on inspiration, which is inconsistent. Write things down and return to them at pre-ordained times. For more info about how to maximize your problem solving, see the entry Fix One Thing About Your Stream Every Day.

Frank West has gotten very good at time management. 
How about a calendar? Have you created one in the first place? If so, do you still check and update it every day? Or maybe despite using a calendar you feel like your days are still getting away from you, and time is slipping away? I find a calendar only really works if so much of your day is on it that you need to regularly check it to see your plans. For me, the phrase, "Let me check my calendar," has changed over the past years from an ironic joke to an actual necessity when making plans. There's no plan I have that isn't in the calendar, and the fact that I can rely on it to be a complete picture of my day is how I know nothing will slip through the cracks. For more info about keeping a calendar and why it's necessary, see the entry How to Get in the Habit of Streaming.  

The easiest habits to lose track of, at least in my experience, are the administrative ones like these. Logging down channel problems, keeping a calendar, watching old episodes to to check for quality, anything that involves regimented actions behind the scenes. For me starting out, these were the things that felt the most like work, and therefore they were also the ones that I was least interested in associating with streaming. But as you could probably imagine by following The Twitch Playbook up to this point, keeping up with these kinds of structured tasks have been the most useful in making me not only never miss a show, but constantly improve and refine my channel. Rather than thinking of them as time you could have spent streaming, think of them as boosts to help you do more of what you love. 


➢ STAYING PROFESSIONAL


Don't rely on external excuses not to stream.
There are some aspects of streaming that mess with your mind. These factors can cause you to associate negative feelings with streaming, and against your better judgment, might even make you want to do less of what you love. Is the setup time for your show causing you strife? It could be that there are too many steps involved, and it's hindering your ability to create content. In the entry Perfecting Your Stream Prep, I laid out ways in which you could consolidate, shorten or even remove pre-stream steps in order to make the whole process smoother overall. Have you had a hard time finding motivation or energy because your surroundings have changed? The world may be different, but the difficulty of streaming will always be the same. It won't get any easier, but it also hasn't gotten any harder. You can find more on this topic in the entry Streaming Under Quarantine

It can be very difficult to cultivate the kind of community you want for your channel. Many times, in the pursuit of more views and followers, we let things slide which go against our core beliefs. Has your chat upheld the standards you'd like for your channel? There are several different entries dealing with this subject. In Who Is Watching Your Streams, And Why? we tried to understand the different motivations for people joining your shows in the first place. There's also Your Twitch Chat is a Reflection of Yourself, where I went deeper into setting up rules and enforcing them on your streams. Then The Power of Positive Streaming is all about making sure you put your best foot forward. And if you run into true troublemakers, entries like Dealing With Disruptors in Twitch Chat and Combat Negativity in Twitch Chat go into different strategies for removing those you don't want to deal with. If your community is putting out the wrong vibes, it's still within your power to shape and mold it into something to be proud of. But you have to take active steps toward doing this, and stand behind your decisions to make everyone know you mean business. 


➢ LOOKING BACKWARDS


Now that The Twitch Playbook has been going for one and a half years, your channel has likely changed a lot since you began following the podcast or blog. Some ideas I've laid out may have helped you, others may not. As I always say, not everything that works for my channel is going to work for yours. It's important to keep this in perspective. In other cases, it may not have been the advice that didn't work, but your habits- maybe you stopped doing something too early before it could take root and become a true part of your stream. If you went back from the first entry all the way up to now, much of my advice would likely take on all new meaning in your more experienced eyes. As Twitch streamers we're always evolving. It's important at various intervals to look back at our progress and judge for ourselves where we've strayed from the path. We're not perfect, but we don't need to be. We just need to get back on track. 

Friday, June 5, 2020

Creating a Pre-Stream Checklist



It's a very common problem on Twitch: you appear on your show but the microphone is muted, or your game is in the wrong spot, or your lights aren't adjusted. These kinds of problems are embarrassing and frustrating. As a streamer, there are so many things that get set up before every broadcast, but it only takes one slip to make the whole thing feel unprofessional. These mistakes can strike at any experience level too. Even when I had over a thousand streams under my belt, small issues like the ones I mentioned would still happen to me on occasion, and I've watched many other experienced streamers go through the same thing. Isn't there some way to prevent these annoying mistakes from happening? 

A while back, I began honing a strategy that has brought me an incredible amount of success in preventing problems on my streams. I stream three times every day, seven days a week- that's over 80 individual broadcasts in a month- a lot of chances to mess up while setting up my shows! And yet it's been over a year since I've forgotten to turn on my microphone or use the right layout. I'm not particularly smart and I don't have a perfect memory. I simply cultivated a well-tuned pre-stream checklist. Upon implementing my checklist and the techniques associated with it, my stream's professionalism went up by an order of magnitude practically overnight. In this entry, I'll help you to do the same. 

As I always say in entries like this however, experience is more valuable than fine-tuning. If you haven't done at least ten official broadcasts on your channel yet, get out there and start streaming. Mistakes are the least of your worries if you haven't even been live often enough to make those mistakes in the first place. Don't get bogged down preparing to stream and allow your dream slip away in the process. For more info on breaking into the craft, see the entry Surviving Your First Ten Streams


➢  PREVENTING PROBLEMS


What is a pre-stream checklist? It's a mental list (or even a physical one on paper if you need) that includes every single action you need to take before going live, down to the smallest detail. And once created, the power in this document lies in your ability to follow it, in its exact order, without the smallest question or deviation. When done right, you'll have a pre-configured script for your stream's setup process, making sure that your show will run smoothly once it starts. 

Don't let problems get out of hand.
If you've encountered recurring problems on your streams before, you'll know why a list of this sort and the accompanying discipline to follow it is necessary. The human brain is very versatile, but it has an incredible capacity for lapses in memory, judgment and focus. You may not think there's so much involved in setting up your streams now, but once you write everything down you'll realize that there are dozens and dozens of things you have to do, each time you want to go live. And over the course of tens, hundreds, thousands of streams, nobody's brain is able to keep it all straight every time without some kind of structure. If it can be quantified, why not quantify it? You'll save yourself time by not always having to think about what needs doing, there won't be as many headaches from coming up with creative solutions on the spot, and you'll cut down on the frustration of being live with the wrong OBS layout for 20 minutes without anyone telling you. When you're more rigid behind the scenes, you'll free up more mental energy to be creative and entertaining in front of your audience! 

Try going through the process of setting up a stream, and start to get a feel for every step involved. Consider what order the items typically fall into. Which aspects are creative, like writing a title or 'going live' Tweet (yes, things like this get included too) and which items are simple button presses like switching to the right layout, or turning on your microphone? Are there any creative steps that can be automated, like finding a permanent placement for your lights so you don't have to constantly rearrange them before every show? For more details of this sort, I went over specifics of how to really maximize your pre-show activities in the entry Perfecting Your Stream Prep. Essentially, write a comprehensive script for setting up a stream which lays out every step involved, as if you need to guide someone else through it. Make sure this list isn't just based on ideas in your head either- every aspect has to be from experience, from steps you've actually taken several times in streaming before. If you haven't streamed yet, or you don't do it often, don't let this process become another way for you to procrastinate.


➢  UPDATING THE LIST


If something goes wrong, don't panic.
Once you've made your list and you've been sticking to it while prepping your streams, you should already notice a huge boost in your consistency of professionalism. But there will likely still be slip-ups. Don't become discouraged by these, but do take notice of them. After your show is over, use the incident as a learning experience to figure out where your pre-stream regimen is lacking. Typically if something goes wrong on your streams while you're using a pre-stream checklist, it means one of three things: 

1. The list isn't complete enough. You may be glazing over steps, or not getting specific enough about the steps, leaving aspects up to chance. For example, "Set up OBS" isn't a good checklist item, because it isn't a single action. Break things down to their smallest increments.

2. You're not sticking to the list well enough. This is a question of discipline. Improve your ability to not deviate from the list. Don't simply skip a step because it doesn't seem necessary this time. An airline crew doesn't check the flight preservers only when they think their plane might crash, they check them before every single flight. And when you complete your checklist items every stream, whether they're needed in the moment or not, you solidify the habit that prevents you from forgetting 100 streams from now.

3. There might be a unique situation at play. Sometimes when software gets updated, wires get crossed, or computer parts go bad, you might experience glitches that are out of your control. The key here is to accept that first, they are not your fault, but second, they are still your responsibility. Take the error in stride as it's happening and do your best to solve it. But understand that even if there's a glitch that happens with your capture card randomly every month, it's up to you to figure out a prep strategy that prevents the problem from appearing in the future. Go back to your pre-stream checklist and see if there's a troubleshooting solution you can implement before your shows, or maybe just remove the inconsistent piece of hardware or software from your streams altogether.


➢ STAY ON TRACK


For me, implementing and refining a pre-stream checklist vastly improved the quality and consistency of my streams. But you don't need to have a broadcast count in the quadruple digits like I do before you start regimenting your own process. Even a few months into streaming, if you have the basics down and you want to step up your professionalism, setting up a system that allows fewer mistakes is a great way to do that. Systems are always more important than actions in the end. An action can help you fix a problem once, but a system can prevent the problem from appearing ever again. By creating a pre-stream checklist and sticking to it, you'll be taking steps toward making this a reality.

Friday, May 29, 2020

How Distractions Hurt Your Twitch Channel



In several previous entries, I've spoken about how to remove low-value activities from your life in order to make room for your Twitch streaming dream. Facebook, Netflix binges, aimless web browsing, anything that eats away at the time you could be using to make progress. But I get it- ditching something so deeply ingrained into our daily routines is difficult. Plus, if there doesn't seem to be good enough reason to go to the trouble, namely if removing such activities doesn't seem all that connected to building a Twitch channel, then it's easy to find yourself glazing over these steps altogether. In this entry I'll show you exactly how distractions can prevent you from starting a new channel, stifle progress on an existing one, and sometimes stop you from streaming altogether. In short, I'll prove to you why you should be paying more attention to what distracts you, and work harder to remove those things from your path.


➢ THE PHANTOM TIME SINK


Now, how does a distraction really damage your ability to stream on Twitch? The obvious answer would be that ten minutes where you aimlessly scroll through Instagram while working on stream graphics is ten minutes you could have spent making graphics for your stream. Two minutes reading and responding to a Twitter thread is two minutes you could have spent engaging with your Discord. Thirty seconds spent responding to a text could have been spent... I don't know, downloading game updates or something? On their own, these incidents would seem to be so trivial in scope compared to your larger day as to not merit thinking about them all. I mean come on, adding an extra thirty seconds to your stream is sort of a drop in the bucket in the scheme of things, right? 

Kaz, I'm already distracted.
But what if I told you that each individual distraction is taking more time away from your life goals than it seems? According to a study from the University of California-Irvine, it takes over 23 minutes to return to full focus after being distracted by any activity. Let me say that again: TWENTY THREE... MINUTES. That means that pausing your work for 30 seconds to check Twitter isn't actually taking 30 seconds, but robs you of almost half an hour of operating at your full potential. And because the average person can't go 23 full minutes without being distracted again (in fact, according to another study, the median is about 40 seconds) that means that habit of checking Twitter, or chiming into the group chat, or scrolling Instagram for a few seconds here and there, is actually preventing you from ever putting your full effort into building your dream. For many, this phantom time sink blocks them from starting their channels in the first place, and it causes others to slip from their streaming habits until those habits are no more. Ask yourself, which of your idle activities and check-ins are worth more to you than your streaming dream? 


➢ DISTRACTIONS IN PRACTICE


Despite the empirical research data, this 23-minute figure might seem farfetched when you look at it on the surface. But there's one example I think we've all experienced which exemplifies this phenomenon very well. Imagine you're reading a book while sitting in a room with a friend of yours, who is also reading a book. That friend looks up from their book in order to tell you a joke, and you laugh. Now you go back to reading your book. But upon looking back at your book, you probably can't get right back into your former groove of reading. You may have been blazing through pages before, but now you're stumbling over words or paragraphs, having to go back and read them again, or simply reading slower. It takes time to actually get back into that pure flow once your attention has been severed from your task. This is the same with anything you try to do, including working on your Twitch channel.

Sully, let me read this map!
What's even more interesting is that the threat of distraction can be a distraction in itself. Think back to that same example of the friend telling a joke while you're reading. Now imagine that this friend is one of those people who simply can't sit quietly for long stretches, and they've looked up from their book to tell ten more jokes while you've been sitting there, despite you asking them not to. At this point, it's not only the distractions which cause you to lose your focus, but also the pure possibility that you might be distracted again. Some of your concentration while reading actually gets partitioned off toward thinking about them making the next joke, and trying to keep an eye out for them peeking their head out over their own book so you can stop them. The moral of the story? You probably shouldn't read books in the same room as that friend. And just like that friend who might distract you at any time, your phone is sitting nearby, constantly threatening to take you away from the passion project you're trying to build. Don't let it. Disable notifications for all but the most important things, or simply leave your phone on silent more often. Your ability to look at someone's Facebook comment within 30 seconds of them tagging you won't likely change your life for the better, but it could be changing your Twitch career for the worse.


➢ ENCOURAGING GOOD WORK HABITS


There are all sorts of other things you can do to prevent distractions from reaching you. Silencing the phone is one, sticking to a schedule is another, sometimes it's as simple as locking your door or communicating boundaries with your roommates. In plenty of previous entries I've spoken about how to go about attacking your distraction problem. The entry How to Get in the Habit of Streaming focused on combating the mental enemy that tries to get you to perform low-value tasks rather than build your dream. In The Cost of Doing Nothing I talked more about how small things can topple your large ambitions. And then in How to Easily Free Up Time for Twitch, I laid out actionable steps to remove these distractions which suck your creative lifeblood every day. If you can't tell, this subject is very important to me. It's hard to identify a problem when you're looking at it from the inside, but as someone who has put these steps into action I can say definitively that cutting down on distractions has improved my Twitch streaming immensely. 

A passion is the easiest thing to get distracted from, after all. Because it's what you love, your brain doesn't want it to feel like 'work,' and that means you're likely to treat it with the least discipline of any project you're a part of. Don't let your dream slip away. Take charge of your habits and stop these distractions from hurting your Twitch channel before it's too late.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Combat Negativity in Twitch Chat




In the past entry Who Is Watching Your Streams, And Why? I talked about the various reasons a chatter might join your shows. And as you keep streaming, you'll eventually get various viewers who cause trouble. Some simply misunderstand your channel rules, while others are only there to ruin everyone else's good time. In the above entry as well as many others, I've discussed how, using patience and kindness, you can sometimes help someone who is disrupting your streams to become a positive member of the community. Don't lose sight of the big picture after all: the objective isn't always to remove anyone causing a small issue, but to have everyone watching your shows able to enjoy themselves. Whether that means silencing someone problematic or guiding them toward following your rules, either strategy achieves the same end goal. As Abraham Lincoln once said, "Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?"

Sometimes however, whether someone is repeatedly toxic or they come out of the gate saying something completely reprehensible, you have no choice but to get rid of them. As I've mentioned in many previous entries as well, the act of timing out or banning someone isn't the end of the process either. Even when you've removed someone problematic, you could still end up inadvertently giving them the power over your stream that they craved all along. In this entry, I'll teach you to avoid the most common mistakes in preventing negative viewers from taking control of your shows. For larger channels, these insights can apply to moderators as well as the streamer. But for anyone starting out, you'll likely be on your own without any mods to back you up, so keep these thoughts in mind in case you find yourself in a difficult situation.


➢ AVOID SNOWBALLING


The first rule when dealing with negativity is the one that most streamers can't help but break: do not get into arguments on your stream about whether or not something should be allowed on your stream. If you have a rule, it's a rule. You simply refer someone to that rule, and then enforce it. The burden doesn't fall on you to educate someone about right and wrong, only to remind them about the law of the land. After this, it's up to the viewer in question: they either play by your rules or they're removed. Arguing with someone in chat will only lead to other chatters joining in. Ironically, this snowball effect does damage regardless of whether the other chatters are trying to help or harm you, because they're prolonging the subject's time in the limelight.

Don't let a negative subject grow into a monster.
Again, even if you end up removing the problematic chatter from the stream, you're still not out of the woods. The snowball is still rolling, and you need to make sure that no one else brings up the subject you're trying to avoid. Someone in chat might make a joke about the subject in an effort to relieve the tension, another might talk about how much quieter it is in chat now that the problematic person is gone, or a third might discuss how frustrating it is when people disrupt the streams. All of these things, despite being good-intentioned, will only lead you right back into talking about the negative subject, thereby prolonging the topic of conversation even after it's been dealt with. Don't allow that specter to hang over your stream- simply change the subject, don't talk about the problematic incident, even delete comments if you have to. Just because the negative person who pushed the snowball into your stream has gone away doesn't mean the ball itself will stop rolling on its own. You have to actively work to stop it from growing.


➢ TENTH AVENUE FREEZE OUT


Then there are comments which are just wrong, and anyone posting them knows they're wrong. Whether the remarks are racist, sexist, homophobic, overtly graphic, or anything else way outside the bounds of human decency, this person isn't someone who even needs to be told your rules. They simply have to be silenced.

Walked into a...
In this case, I personally like to execute a strategy I refer to as 'The Freeze Out.' This move involves seeing their comment, deleting it, and banning the offending user, all mid-sentence while in the middle of talking about something else. It ensures that the person trying to terrorize my stream not only has absolutely no voice on the show, but even more frustrating to someone of this character type, they can see that they haven't ruffled me in the slightest. When someone posts absurdly inappropriate things on a stream out of the blue, they're not only trying to get satisfaction from disrupting your chat- they also want to see how much they can upset you. Because your face is on-screen for them to see at all times, the reactions they get from you are the main attraction in their mind. The Freeze Out is a tough move to master, but when you're able to do it effectively, it feels good to know that they weren't able to terrorize either your chat or yourself in the slightest.

There are a few considerations when going for an option like this, however. First, don't forget what I mentioned at the beginning of this section: this response should be saved only as a last resort, against someone who is completely beyond help. I don't recommend doing this to anyone except those you've never seen before and never want to see again. When encountering a person who makes a Freeze Out necessary, consider looking inwards after your show: is there anything about your channel's infrastructure you could change to prevent things like this in the future? In the entry Setting Limits for Your Streams, I laid out ways you can prepare commands and automod features to prevent hateful words and phrases from being allowed in your chat in the first place.


➢ WORDS HAVE POWER


At the end of the day, preventing negativity from taking root is on you as the streamer. Not only in what you say, but mostly in what you choose not to say. Anything spoken out loud on stream, and anything that gets said in chat, becomes fair game for conversation. So if you don't want a subject to spread, don't say anything about it. If there's a rule in place, refer someone to the rule. If it's beyond the help of your rules, remove it without even giving the person or their comment the time of day. When you keep in mind these ideas, it's possible to defeat the bulk of negativity in chat with minimal incident.