Friday, September 11, 2020

Simplify Your Streaming Problems

When faced with problems on our streams, it's easy to feel trapped. There are a thousand variables which could be causing things to go wrong at any turn, and we typically put so much work into simply getting our content made that we don't really allot any time to puzzle out the solutions. Instead, we make quick fixes in the moment and write off the underlying problems as things which can't be helped. This is almost never true true. Most problems can be solved, and without buying anything to do so, if you only change your perception of those problems. 

Open your mind.

Truly opening your mind to potential solutions isn't as easy as it sounds, however. This requires you to set aside your ego and all preconceptions about your channel's content. It requires a clearing of the mental cache and a return to absolute basics. You want to reconnect with what's actually important about the area you're focusing on, and then build back up from there. This is typically referred to as working from 'First Principles' in the science community, but the same discipline is used by successful people in all creative and commercial fields. Typically, when we can't find a solution to something, it's only because we aren't going deep enough toward the core of the issue. Like sticking a piece of Scotch Tape to a leaking pipe, most of our solutions don't address the root of the problems we face. In this entry, I'll help you to simplify your streaming problems, in order to come up with true solutions to anything you might face. 


How well are you able to break down your streaming problems right now? Let's try a little exercise. I'm going to present a few common scenarios that streamers face. Then I'll dive into the various avenues of thought you might want to travel down in order to reach a solution for each. If you'd like to actively participate while going through this section, take a moment to pause after a scenario is presented. Then think through all the possibilities which might be causing each problem. Once you've done this in your head or on a piece of paper, you can move forward. 

1. Your viewers complain that they can't hear you, or that you sound bad.  
This is a pretty common one, and audio is a very wide field to narrow down. Of course, the knee jerk reaction might be that you need a new microphone in order to sound better. But this would depend on several factors- have you always sounded this way, or is it only just starting to happen now? If it's a new occurrence, there's likely some variable recently introduced which is causing the problem. Maybe the game is mixed too loud and it's drowning you out, or the automatic settings on your computer are making your mic sound distorted. Possibly the issue is hardware related, and there's something wrong with the cable connecting your microphone to the PC. It could be a completely analog issue, like sitting too close to the mic, or too far away. It could even be something totally unrelated to you, like the viewer's internet connection. Any of these categories (and many more) might be the root of the issue, but you have to keep an open mind to find them. Even if your mic has always sounded bad, that doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad mic- it could be that you simply set it up incorrectly from the start. As I laid out in the earlier entries, The Best Microphone Setup for Streaming, and Optimize Your Stream Audio Without Buying a New Mic, there are several factors which might make your stream audio sound better or worse, sitting right under your nose. 

2.  A viewer mentions that your show is lagging.
Take a breath and explore the root of the issue.

When you're told that the stream is lagging, there are two obvious thoughts: either their internet is slow, or your internet is slow. There's a third factor however: maybe your computer has hit its limit for processing power, and is now dropping frames in your capture software. This last one isn't technically considered 'lag,' but don't forget that to the viewer it wouldn't look any different from an ordinary internet issue and they'd likely describe it as such. All this should be easy enough to narrow down, simply by utilizing the tools available to you. Does the stream lag when you watch it on your phone as well? If not, then it isn't something on your end causing the issue. If so, it could be either your internet connection or your computer. If you open Task Manager, does your CPU meter touch the top of the charts? Then your PC is likely starting to chug. Simple tests like this, which narrow your search fields, can help you to make informed fixes as quickly and painlessly as possible. As I mentioned in the entry Getting Your Stream Output Settings Just Right, keeping your show from dropping frames is a careful balancing act which shouldn't be underestimated.
3.  You keep missing your scheduled streams.
Typically when someone can't keep to their schedule, they quickly chalk it up to 'not having enough time.' But this is a very surface-level analysis. If you feel this way, it's more likely that you aren't managing your time properly (covered in the entry, How to Find the Time to Stream on Twitch), maybe you're trying to stream at the wrong times (discussed in the entry, Trick Yourself Into Being More Productive), or you're biting off more than you can chew (which I help with in the entry, Growth Check-In: Simplifying Your Streams). Saying you can't stream because you don't have enough time is like saying, "King Kong died because he stopped breathing." It may explain the issue on a surface level, but it completely ignores the actual cause. 


When you thought up your own possibilities for each of the three scenarios mentioned here, how did you do? Did you come up with the same ideas for where the culprit could lie? Make sure to keep your mind sharp and open to all possibilities. Of course, the process of breaking down problems isn't about having one catch-all solution, but rather cultivating the kind of brain that can dig its way down to any solution, no matter the problem. Streaming can be stressful and confusing, but as long as you stay calm and simplify your streaming problems, you'll find your way out of a jam every time.

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