Friday, February 28, 2020

Growth Check-In: Simplifying Your Streams

What does your channel look like today? How many features have you added since you began streaming? Whether hardware, software, or ideas, these additions could be anything that improve the look, sound, feel, or growth metrics of your streams. In previous entries, we've gone over many ideas for new improvements that you could add to your shows. But let's look at something different this time. Since beginning your channel, how many features have you removed?

I'm willing to bet that the list of features added dwarfs the list of features taken away. It's understandable- we all want to feel like our channels are marching ever forward, and removing features feels too much like taking steps back. But here's the issue: whether by bleeding you financially, sapping away time, or draining precious energy, taking steps forward without ever looking back will eventually cause you to feel burned out.

It's time to check in on your channel's growth once again. The previous Growth Check-In entry, called Boosting Your Streams, was about measuring your success in various fields as your channel became ever larger. In this entry, I'm going to give you actionable steps to cut back in certain areas, which will allow you to excel in others. One step back, three steps forward. Today we're going to simplify your streams.


When most people grow their Twitch channels, they look forward to certain milestones. These might be their first community game night, opening their merch store, creating their stream's Twitter account, or upgrading to a more complicated but prettier camera. These moments and countless others like them are all seen as checkpoints on the path to greatness- definitive ways to make the channel feel more legitimate as it grows. Once they've passed these checkpoints, they never feel the need to think about those old milestones anymore- instead, they can move onto the next items on their list of things to add. What's the problem here? Most streamers confuse 'growing their channels' with 'bloating their channels.'

Don't get over-encumbered.
To use a video game analogy, adding new features to a stream is typically considered akin to 'leveling up' in an RPG- an event which moves you indisputably into a higher tier, and able to take on tougher challenges from that point forward without ever needing to worry about lower-level hardships again. But this analogy doesn't hold up when you scale it over time. After all, there are only so many things you can do well on a Twitch channel before the quality starts to suffer, and beyond that, there are only so many things that you can do at all. How long will it take before you hit one or both of those breaking points? Instead of thinking of everything you add to your stream as a 'level up,' think of your stream's feature list as an RPG game's inventory screen. In games like Skyrim, Fallout, and The Witcher, simply picking up every item you find will cause your character to run out of carrying space. The same thing happens when adding features to a Twitch channel- eventually the streamer or the stream itself will become over-encumbered, and it'll be hard to keep everything moving at the pace you'd hoped for.

In these games however, filling your inventory isn't a cause for concern- you simply go to the nearest town and rid yourself of all the junk you've been carrying around. What many of us streamers don't realize is that we should be doing the same thing with the countless features we acquire on our channels. In order to fill up our inventories with things we really want, like cool new ideas or bigger improvements, it's necessary to remove some of the old ones which aren't proving as valuable as we'd hoped.


When you think about your channel right now, can you honestly say that every single addition you've made is working perfectly? Maybe you have a YouTube on the side where you can't quite find the time to post clip compilations, or a Twitter account you've been struggling to fill with content day after day. Maybe it's a special type of weekly stream which eats up a lot of your time, or meetups you organize with your community outside the streams which are causing you stress. As I've mentioned in several entries before, just because you get high viewer numbers from a change, or because your audience wants it, doesn't mean it's necessarily working. The most important thing will always be: does it make you happy? Could you see yourself doing this extra thing for the rest of your life?

Alan Wake can own up to his mistakes,
and you can too!
It's time to quantify all of your channel's features, and put everything out in the open. Get a piece of paper and write down every single feature you've added to your streams which takes any amount of time for you to enact. Sometimes, things become so ingrained that we forget that they aren't necessary, and we tell ourselves that a feature can't be removed without breaking the channel. Let's put all those preconceptions aside for a second and really honestly assess everything you've added to your streams. Whether it's a 1-minute process of setting up your lights, or a 4-hour weekly community event, make sure you include everything that happens before, during or after your shows, including each piece of hardware, software, new concepts, plugins, raid responses, time-consuming OBS Scenes, satellite social channels, video editing processes, and every other individual feature you've added to your shows since you started. If it isn't 'play the game on camera,' you add it to the list.

Now some of you might be sweating bullets right now, getting ready to put down this entry and run as far from your computer or phone as you possibly can. You might be thinking, "This is ridiculous! This list is going to be massive. There's no way I could write all this down!" And to those people I say: Congratulations! You're the one who needs this entry the most! You've added so many features that you don't even want to think about how many features you've added.

Taking inventory of all your stream's features might take you two minutes or two hours, but as long as you very truthfully lay bare your channel's baggage, you'll gain the kind of clarity that many others may never achieve in years of streaming without looking back. Once you have your list ready, try assigning a rank to each item individually. Base this rank only on how much you enjoy doing it, and how important you think it is to your stream. Don't think of things as apples & oranges, simply assign a single ranking number to every item on the list, from most to least important. Now, what would it look like if you removed the entire bottom 25% of those items? Based on your channel's size, that could be one thing, ten things, or more, but whichever features are the least mission-critical and worst for your personal happiness levels have little business being there. You may have to change things around to make up for these features going away, but there's really nothing that can't be removed from a Twitch channel if you apply some creative thinking. Even if you only remove the bottom 10%, you'll be freeing up a huge chunk of your channel's inventory space in order to make room for more valuable new ideas that work better and make you happier.


Everyone likes to add things to their channels, but no one really likes to look back at the things they've added and assess whether they've been working. For most streamers, doing this would mean swallowing their pride, and accepting the fact that they made one or two mistakes along the way. And as I've mentioned in a previous entry, most people on Earth would rather be 'right' than be successful. But removing sub-optimal features is arguably even more important than adding good ones. As the French writer Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry put it, "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." So don't be afraid to add new features to your channel (I will always support trying new ideas!), but make sure you're also not afraid to assess those same features and remove the ones that don't work. Embrace the art of simplifying your streams.

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