Friday, April 30, 2021

How Low-Tech Items Can Help Your Streams

All kinds of equipment can contribute to your Twitch streams. In past entries, we've talked about subjects from the realm of computers, video, lighting, audio, game systems, software and more, each with different levels of complexity to choose from. In the entry Turn Your Household Tech Into Stream Equipment, I even helped you to find and organize all the technology you may have amassed in your normal life without realizing, and harness that for your broadcasts as well. But there's another category of item that I haven't touched on explicitly, which I value very highly for streaming. What about the equipment that isn't even equipment? I'm talking about the lowest of the low-tech. Sometimes, all you need is a little creative thinking, and the right item to get the job done. 


You've probably heard the classic story about writing in space. In the 1960's NASA realized that pens weren't able to function properly in orbit, so they spent millions of taxpayer dollars developing a new kind of pen that could eject ink onto paper efficiently in zero gravity. Meanwhile, Russia simply gave their astronauts pencils. This legend is based on several fallacies, but that doesn't change the power of its message. Often, like Alexander cutting the Gordian Knot, you can solve complex problems with the absolute simplest of solutions. And if something takes too many steps to solve, you're probably exploring the wrong pathway. This is the kind of thinking we've applied in past entries like Simplify Your Streaming Problems when optimizing nebulous concepts like our streaming ideas, but it applies just as well with good old, non-nebulous hardware. 

I first learned about the WWII bicycles from the
game Heroes & Generals.

Throughout history, some of the most difficult technological problems have been solved with the simplest non-technological solutions. For example, did you know that throughout World War II, soldiers regularly rode bicycles around the battlefield? (And for anyone who skipped history class, this was at a time when cars, tanks and motorcycles had already very much been invented.) This was so prevalent that various armies actually prepared assaults using bicycle squadrons, and the British even created folding bikes that they could attach to their paratroopers as they jumped from planes. Not only could a bicycle help a soldier move faster and carry heavier loads than they could on foot, but bikes could actually traverse trickier terrain than cars, didn't require gas, and were completely silent. All the money in the world wouldn't have been able to create a better high-tech solution than this simple, human-powered vehicle, when faced with certain types of problems. I try to apply this valuable lesson to my streams wherever I can. 


One low-tech item I've mentioned in several previous entries is the notebook. This is a great way of keeping track of streaming problems so you can solve them later, and in a pinch it's faster and less intrusive than opening your phone, navigating to the notes app and tapping away. I do the same with various sticky notes, leaving them on my keyboard if I need a reminder of something before the next show begins. I've also drawn marks on my headphones' volume bar with Sharpie to indicate the various sound settings I use for my streams, so I don't have to guess. All these things allow my mind to stay clear, and operate my stream with less friction. And none of them require anything more than typical household stationery.  

The seated position in my streaming area is a major concern for me as well. I design the experience of being at my desk in the most convenient way possible, so that I minimize the need to get up during a show. Everything is within arm's reach. I keep multiple bottles of water on coasters in the corner of my desk so I won't need to replace them often during a broadcast, and I have an ultra-insulated coffee thermos, so my hot drink won't get cold until I'm finished with it. I use adhesive wall hooks to take advantage vertical space around the desk, hanging things like headphones, microphones, props and other items that I can grab at a moment's notice. I even keep a little compact mirror from the dollar store nearby, so I can check whether there's food in my teeth right before going live. As we've explored in past entries, it's a difficult enough psychological trial to go live each day. Each time you need to get up from your chair right before your stream starts, it can chip away at that willpower. So it pays to design your stream area for maximum convenience, and as you can see here, that doesn't necessarily mean you need to buy anything expensive- or anything at all. 

Every day on stream is now like a day
beside the pool!

There are other invaluable low-tech tools I've found to fix major issues, which simply improve my quality of life while streaming. A bright light used to shine around the volume dial of my computer speaker, and it always distracted me in the corner of my eye, until I cut a piece of black construction paper to block the glow. In one instance, I found that my arms would have big indentations cut into them after a long stream, and sometimes even lose circulation, because of where I typically rest them on the edge of my desk while holding a controller or using a keyboard. Instead of buying a new desk or doing anything else drastic, I found a pool noodle at the dollar store and cut it to fit over the desk's edge. It perfectly padded the area, and has stayed in place for over a year. This one fix alone has measurably improved my streaming life, and all it took was a little bit of creative thinking. 


Streaming isn't always about the things other people can see when they look at your broadcast. It's also about making sure you're comfortable and confident while you sit in a chair for several hours a day, so that you can fully enjoy what you love doing. When thinking about my stream, I value my lowest-tech solutions just as highly as the high-tech ones. In fact, when discussing streaming with friends, I often find myself talking more about the most seemingly-insignificant additions (like that pool noodle) more than any of my actual stream equipment. And my friends who are streamers often brag about their own low-tech fixes. Because when you're doing this day in and day out, anything that improves your quality of life becomes a blessing. And in this regard, low-tech items can majorly help your streams. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Sacrificing For Your Stream

Most of us are familiar with the concept 'no pain, no gain.' We're constantly taught that if we want something in life, we need to make sacrifices to get there. And this is just as true in Twitch streaming as it is everywhere else. Most of us who engage with The Twitch Playbook have ambitions for our channels. We want to be able to make the kind of content we want, every day, without worrying about a thing. But there are always obstacles getting in the way of doing our shows the way we want, and there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. Most of us realize pretty quickly that something will need to be sacrificed in order to reach our goals, but the big question is: what? 

Often, it's assumed that sacrificing means you have to dislike what you're doing for a while, until you 'get to a comfortable place' and can then finally enjoy yourself. If you've been following this resource so far however, you'll know that I don't subscribe to such a mindset. I think the key to properly sacrificing for what you want is to make sure you always enjoy the thing that furthers your ambitions, while removing all the clutter that might prevent you from working on that dream. If you can find that balance, you'll have the best of both worlds.


I died so many times in this game.

When I was a kid, I was always terrible at turn-based RPGs. When I got into combat, and my characters could only do one action that turn, I'd always choose the option to attack. I never saw the value of casting buffs or debuffs, I simply wanted to make the bad guys' health bars go down. For anyone who isn't familiar with the terms, a 'buff' is a spell you cast on an ally character in order to raise their stats. A 'debuff,' as you might imagine, is a spell you cast onto an enemy in order to lower their stats. Both of these moves require a bit of patience. When casting them, you won't do any damage this turn, but you'll be able to do more damage on the next turn. But my younger self never invested in these kinds of moves, because they didn't get tangible results right away. Of course, this strategy worked in the beginning, but as soon as battles began to require actual tactics, I would always get all my party members killed. And at the time, I simply couldn't figure out why. It never occurred to me back then that I was constantly losing because of my unwillingness to cast these support spells. 

Many of us treat our lives in this exact same way- we go for instant gratification over long term happiness. And just like in my RPGs, while this may seem fine in the beginning, we eventually realize that such an approach gets us nowhere. James Clear, the author of the excellent book Atomic Habits, says, “Growth is trading discomfort in the moment for satisfaction in the future. Decline is trading satisfaction in the moment for discomfort in the future.” We need to facilitate this satisfaction by effectively casting buffs on ourselves every once in a while, and casting debuffs on all the wasteful activities that get in our way. 


In this context, buffs would be any things that aren't related to your stream, but help you to be a complete person. That might include spending time with family, engaging in your favorite (non-streaming) hobby, or learning new (non-streaming) things. While you may not see how these relate to your Twitch channel in the moment, they boost your overall happiness and ultimately, that helps you to be a better streamer. And then of course, you're going to want to debuff your enemies every once in a while. Those enemies are all the activities that drain your time and energy from what you actually care about. These two steps, buffs and debuffs, are extremely important. But in order to make sure this RPG party we call Your Twitch Career is actually effective, you need one other move in your arsenal. You have to make sure you're focusing all your attention on attacking the proper target. Namely, you have to make sure whatever you do on your Twitch channel is always leading you in the direction you want it to go. 

Keep your eyes on the target.

Many assume that, if they want to really prove that they're 'serious' about their Twitch careers, another kind of sacrifice is necessary. They assume that they need to put off their full enjoyment of streaming now, in order to gain a full reward from it later. So they go for growth hacks and other schemes that they think will bring results, in the hopes that they can have a solid base of followers for the day they might want to start doing what they really want to do on stream. This is very dangerous, not just because you might lose your taste for streaming before you ever reach that goal, but because you will be building your channel in a way that's not even compatible with your future plans. When I began my channel, I used to speak essentially at all times. Even though I knew on some level that I wanted my channel to be about enjoying the storylines of video games and I didn't like speaking or reading during cutscenes, I would often talk or scan the chat window during these moments anyway, because I couldn't resist. I was compromising on my channel's values in order to make it grow faster. And this got the results I was looking for at the time- it did gain followers more quickly- but as they say, you reap what you sow. Once I worked up the courage to start playing games the way I actually liked playing them, I had to rebuild much of my community from the ground up. By subduing my vision, I had been climbing the wrong ladder.

Looking back, it's easy to see that I had been putting off my true enjoyment of streaming until reaching some arbitrary height, not realizing that the 'height' I was reaching wasn't applicable progress towards what I wanted to build in the first place. What's the moral here? The process of streaming should be fun from the beginning. If there's ever a long enough time that you don't find your own channel fun, that means it's time to change. You should be sacrificing things around your stream in order to make more room for what you love, but you shouldn't be sacrificing from your stream and putting off enjoyment from the thing you're supposed to enjoy most. 


By casting buffs and debuffs in an RPG, you're sacrificing fighting ability in the moment for the promise of better fighting ability in the future. It's important to do the same with your streams. But these support spells can only help your streaming career if you keep the right targets in view. Streaming should be fun throughout your channel's journey, not just at some vague point in the future. Steve Jobs once said, “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” So take a look at your own stream and see if there are any sacrifices you might need to make in order to improve the whole. And most importantly, make sure you're not sacrificing your enjoyment in the process. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Your Content Should Make You Happy

What does it mean to stay true to your values as a streamer? Have there been any trials in your personal journey, which have tested your resolve in this sense? In past entries, I've talked about the dangers of chasing followers and streaming things you don't enjoy to get there. I've also talked about pursuing side projects, merch setups, sponsorship deals, and other things outside of your streams that may take a toll on your streaming stamina. But what about when you do like what you're creating, and it simply happens to get bigger? Often just because a brand increases in size, others begin to expect more of you, and the sheer weight of your project's own popularity begins increasing the pressure to change. This is when it gets really hard to continue doing what you love in the way you love to do it. You may experience this in various ways on your own channel, but here I'll use a very personal example of building The Twitch Playbook brand to communicate it. In essence, as you grow it's important to ensure that your content makes you happy above all else. 


Ask anyone what the next steps for someone who makes a popular self-help podcast should be, and they will likely assume you're interested in pursuing a particular trajectory. They'll probably tell you that if you make something like this, it's smart to leverage it to turn yourself into some kind of 'motivational influencer.' One would expect that your Twitch streams, which used to be (in my case) about playing story-based games, would now become a bastion for new podcast listeners who want to further their educations, tell stories of their own channels and get one-on-one advice. Cross-promotion with other similar influencers is typically considered a great idea as well, sharing stories on other podcasts and featuring guest hosts on this one. Once all that has been going for a while, you could offer personal channel consultations, and finally, once you're really big, go into speaking engagements so you can help others to build their brands on a larger scale. This is what most other people making self-help content are either doing, or are working towards, and it's a great way of building a media empire. 

When something gets larger, it becomes harder
and harder to steer.

But what if the things I'm interested in doing haven't changed? On my Twitch channel, I've always liked to play video games and pursue my creative passions. I've never had any interest in becoming a 'self-help guru' by making this podcast, and that hasn't changed just because the show has reached a wider and wider audience. Lots of people who know the podcast assume that joining my streams should be the beginning of a new chapter in their learning experience- a natural extension of The Twitch Playbook's content. Now that they've heard the tips, they feel they can get even more knowledge directly from the source. This is a totally understandable mindset, because it's how most creators run their brands. But that doesn't mean I have to do the same. I write about my experiences, and it's helped a lot of people. But that doesn't mean the streams- which have always been my main interest- have to get consumed by this side project, no matter how big the side project gets. For the past several months, The Twitch Playbook has reached more people weekly than my Twitch channel ever has. Someone new comes into my chat almost every day to tell me how much they love the podcast, and strangers follow my channel every few hours even when it's not live (a clear sign that they sought the channel out after hearing about me from outside the streams). Many people I know think I'm crazy for not pivoting my brand to focus more on self-help content and less on streaming. Or at least, if I'm going to stream, why not make the streams into something where I offer live advice, give consultations on other channels, and leverage that into massive growth opportunities for myself? It's really Social Media Management 101, and I'm essentially leaving value on the table by not doing it. Unless you reconsider what I define as value. 


This all comes back to the story I shared in the entry Twitch Streaming is About the Journey, about the village fisherman and the Harvard MBA. You can hear the full story in that entry, but the gist is that the Harvard man wonders why the fisherman doesn't work harder for the next few decades, in order to build an empire out of his fishing. The ultimate goal would be that the fisherman can eventually retire, and settle down in a small village to relax and do all the things he's already been doing. This story exemplifies the American Dream, and the way we might skew our ability to see what we really want in a blind rush toward some perception of status, wealth or power. The fisherman liked fishing, and he was able do it every day sustainably. He had already attained the reward, but because there was no fame or money associated with it, the Harvard man couldn't see the point. Similarly, I'm already able to do what I love each day- I stream the games I like, meet people in chat who are interested in talking about games and movies, and I pursue my creative passions. I like writing about the process of building my channel in a passive way, but that doesn't mean I enjoy actively telling people one-on-one how to run their own brands. Often, Twitch Playbook listeners who make the pilgrimage to my streams become confused. While I always love meeting people who were helped by this resource, and I appreciate their compliments, I don't ask them to open up about their own brands, or whether they have any questions about what they've learned. It's because The Twitch Playbook is separate from my streams. The podcast is about making the streams, but the streams aren't about the podcast. 

Like the fisherman, make sure to keep in mind
what you actually want from your journey.

I'm aware this is not a 'well-rounded approach' to building a personal brand. It essentially creates a dead end in the experience. Once someone has listened to every podcast episode, there's no opportunity to get tips one-on-one from me on a stream- they simply have to wait until the next episode is released. This stunts the potential growth of both my channel and the podcast. And I'm fine with that. Because I'm staying true to the things I actually like about making the content. First, the podcast clearly does what I hoped it would do: it helps people learn from my personal mistakes and experiences. And second, I just like writing and producing it. Those are the only aspects of the podcast I like doing. Therefore, those are the only aspects I actually do. Pauline Kael, one of the greatest film critics of all time, once said, "The main thing is fighting off the successes that trap you." This is hard for many to understand, though if you recall my origin story, you'll know I've lived through that process already. Previously in my career, I helped run a streaming brand with multiple millions of fans, so I've been in the position where I simply need to get bigger and bigger results, without really about thinking whether I like doing what gets me there. On my personal channel, I have no interest in pursuing this kind of growth for growth's sake. I do exactly what I like, and I don't worry whether that fits within anyone else's perception of success. The side project has happened to become bigger than my main project in a public sense, but that doesn't mean I have to change anything about what makes me enjoy creating it. 


In several previous entries, I've talked about finding your own happiness in Twitch streaming and not pursuing attention if it means compromising what you like. This growth of The Twitch Playbook brand, and the pressure to let it consume my primary streaming passion, has been the latest (and largest) challenge in that department within my own personal journey. I've had to really look within myself and exhibit a lot of restraint to keep everything in perspective. In fact, if you've been reading between the lines in all those entries within the past year, most of those 'stay true to yourself' style episodes have been veiled ways of writing about this Playbook challenge without mentioning it overtly. But I think it's an interesting example to use within this resource specifically, because many of you have been watching it grow from the beginning. And it shows how even something that's helpful and fun to make can threaten to compromise your creative vision as it gets larger. So as your own channel grows, make sure you're paying attention to what you really care about. Pivoting your brand, shuffling things around, and introducing new facets are all perfectly valid options, and of course I always recommend experimentation. But when going in any direction for the long haul, make sure that your content always makes you happy. 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Building Your Own PC

Twitch streaming comes in many forms. Throughout these past entries, I’ve talked about how you can go live from your phone, directly from your console, or other portable devices like laptops and tablets. The one piece of equipment many Twitch streamers aspire to use however, is the PC. Using a PC, you’re not only given much more computing power than any of the other options, but you have more versatility in the graphics, effects and other aspects of your streams. And while I don’t think it’s necessary by any means to buy a PC just for streaming, I think it’ll be useful to give a few tips when it comes to pricing out and building your own computer, should you find yourself in the market for one. These lessons I’ve learned over the years can come in handy whether you’re assembling an entirely new machine, or you just want to add parts to an existing one. 

It should go without saying, but there’s no way this single entry could cover every possible topic and piece of equipment related to whatever specific buying decisions you’re making. Hopefully you’ll find this useful as more of a blueprint for where to look, and how to approach the process itself. With that said, let's put together a PC! 


Silent Hill 3? Now that's scary.

If you’ve never built your own PC before, it's probably a really intimidating process. And if the whole prospect makes you super uncomfortable, you can buy a pre-built machine. But these will cost you significantly more than assembling one yourself, and they don't have as much versatility when it comes to taking them apart and changing them. So in my opinion the service of putting a PC together isn’t worth the inflated price. Because when you get into it, you’ll realize there are only really a handful of important points to keep in mind, and the rest essentially what I call ‘adult LEGO building.’ Even in the last 15 years since I assembled my first machine, manufacturers have streamlined their parts so there’s nearly nothing to it but to plug the parts in and connect the cables, like you would with any piece of hardware in your home. 

The other big fear is buying the wrong parts. There are so many things to choose from that you probably don’t even know where to start, and you don’t want to buy something that doesn’t even fit in your rig. But in recent times, it’s actually become incredibly easy to find not only what works best for your price point, but ensure that the parts are compatible with each other. And it's all thanks to a few incredible resources that I swear by when buying parts for my own PC: Logical Increments and PC Parts Picker


Don’t know a good graphics card from a bad one? Don’t know what kind of CPU would work for you? Don’t even know what kinds of parts comprise a PC at all? Welcome to Logical Increments. This is a website that gives carefully curated parts recommendations for a huge range of price points in every category, from graphics cards and RAM to hard drives and the cases you put everything into. Possibly even more importantly, when you scroll down past their chart of parts (and links to the best places to buy), there are fields explaining what’s important about each piece of hardware you might look into. This makes it very easy to be informed when purchasing your parts. In fact, it’s so useful that for the past several years, I haven't kept up with any PC-related news at all. I never know what the latest series of card is, or even what brands are out there in general, until sitting down to make a purchase. Then, using this one website, I learn everything I need to know in a few minutes. That's right: if you use it correctly, this site will essentially turn you into the PC building equivalent of Neo from the Matrix learning kung-fu. 

You don't have to be Otacon to assemble a
computer these days.

When getting into a resource like this, it’s important to utilize restraint. You may be tempted to scroll all the way down to the most high-tech parts, but these are not only ruinously expensive, but also not that much better than the cheaper ones when playing games. PC equipment doesn’t operate like a linear graph- the next best graphics card might only be 1% better, not necessarily justifying the price difference. And it doesn’t take as much power as you think to match the visuals you might have gotten on consoles. Many new PC users get upset if they can’t crank everything to max settings in their new game, but they don’t realize that the console version typically runs at the PC’s equivalent of medium or low settings. Even if your PC isn’t top of the line, it’s still in the upper echelon of what’s possible graphically. So you don't need to worry quite so much. For reference, my machine is comprised wholly of parts that are over three years old, and would probably align roughly to what’s considered a ‘Fair’ or ‘Good’ build on the Logical Increments site (not even reaching the middle of the graph), but still can run most games between high and max settings at 60fps, without ever dropping a frame. And as you can see by checking the website, a machine like that doesn’t cost much more than a new game console. So don’t get carried away with the shiniest, newest parts- it’s not always necessary. 


Once you’ve gone through the Logical Increments site and you’ve decided on which parts to go with, write all the names down. You now want to double check that everything will work together without issues. This is where the System Builder tool from PC Parts Picker comes in. On this page, you select each piece of hardware you plan on buying for your PC. When these are all in place, the tool will warn you if there are any problems. It can estimate whether your power supply will provide enough watts to keep everything running, detect if you’re missing any necessary components, make sure the CPU you chose is compatible with the motherboard, and all sorts of other factors. It can’t find 100% of the possible issues of course, so it’s still useful to read the customer reviews for your parts to find any weird quirks, but I’m constantly surprised at how well this tool does work. This step is important no matter your skill level, and every veteran PC builder I know uses this website to make that final check before committing to a purchase. 


You can even use your favorite controllers
on the PC.

Okay, so you bought everything it’s all been showing up at your door for the past few days. It’s finally time to build your PC! There’s a really important step to keep in mind at this stage: do not expect to use your PC on the same day you start putting it together. This isn’t because the build process takes a long time- it’s because you should expect the unexpected. Maybe a part was dead or broken when it got to your house. Maybe there’s some incompatibility that somehow got past both you and the PC Parts Picker. It’s not necessary to know what will go wrong, but it’s useful not to get too upset when something goes wrong on that first attempt. I’ve never put together a PC that was I was able to use on the same day I started to assemble it. Luckily, Amazon and Newegg have great return and replacement policies if you need to send things back. For more about tempering your expectations, see the entry Tips for Setting Up Your Stream Equipment

When it comes to actually assembling things, this is where it becomes important to seek resources related to the specific hardware you bought. There’s no way I can tell you how to build your exact PC. But just about everything at this stage is plug-and-play. There are just a few key points to keep in mind that I wish I knew when starting, however: 
  1. Use bowls or dishes to keep all the various screws and small parts organized. You don’t want to lose them on your floor.
  2. Before screwing your motherboard onto your case, do not forget to attach the I/O port cover. This is a very common mistake for beginners (and even sometimes experts), and can take a lot of time to fix.
  3. Look up how to properly apply thermal paste to your CPU, install the CPU fan, and plug the CPU in, before attempting to handle this aspect of the process. This is probably the hardest part, though even this step is easy once you get the hang of it. 
  4. Don’t put everything away and perfectly set the PC up in your room before you find out if it can boot up. 
  5. Don't throw away the boxes or cash in any rebates before you know that everything has been working properly for several weeks. 

Those are five specific points I wish I knew before getting into the game. In addition, watching any YouTube tutorial on PC building can show any other techniques you need to know, and I’d of course recommend reading the instruction manuals of whichever parts you’re installing. Other than that, have fun! I’ve always found the process of building or tweaking a PC to be a very zen activity. It’s a good chance to just stretch out on your floor with a bunch of building blocks and make something really cool. And by taking a little bit of time to assemble your own machine, you’ll have a skill that can help you in so many ways going forward. Swapping out parts will be easy, and you’ll be saving a huge amount of money over the ensuing years by not paying for the labor. Hopefully you’ll find these insights from my journey useful, when building your own PC. 

Friday, April 2, 2021

Become a Solution-Oriented Streamer

Throughout this resource, I’ve shared my personal stories and experiences with solving all sorts of problems. In the entry Fix One Thing About Your Stream Every Day, I talked about how to keep track of all your channel’s issues, and how to approach various challenges. In the entry Simplify Your Streaming Problems, I helped you to break an issue down to its simplest form, in order to better understand what you’re facing. And of course, dozens of other entries have dealt with specific streaming problems, from network settings and cameras, to the creation of graphics and how to interact with chatters. You can probably tell that I place a huge amount of importance on problem solving as a skill. As Twitch streamers, problem solving encompasses most of what we do each day. And so I think it’s worth going into a little more detail about how to face the worst kinds of problems. Not the ones that can be fixed at your leisure, but the really pressing ones that threaten to stop you from streaming altogether. In this entry, I’ll help you to become a solution-oriented streamer. 


Imagine the following: You tested your internet before going live today, and it’s only able to output one tenth its usual speed. Whether that’s caused by planned maintenance or some unknowable anomaly, the facts don’t change. The internet is way too slow to do the show you wanted to do, and even if you turned the bitrate down, the quality would be unacceptable. There wouldn’t seem to be any way to make your stream happen. 

What do you do? 

This is the ultimate problem for a Twitch streamer to face on the spot. It’s not like many of the other issues we’ve dealt with in past entries, because it stops the entire production unless you can figure out a solution. Most people would accept this as a valid excuse not to go live on their channel that day. But they’re simply accepting the easy way out. There are always solutions out there, for those willing to look for them. 

Donald tends to get frustrated by problems often.

Before I talk about the solutions I’ve used over the years, it’s first important to talk about the way to face a problem. I’ve found that in order to solve anything, it’s necessary to become the kind of person who’s willing to actually look for a solution. This may sound like a no-brainer, but in practice, most of us don’t think this way. It’s common to cultivate a small collection of unsolved problems, rather than simply solve everything that comes our way. This gives us something to complain about, which allows us to feel like the things happening to us aren’t really our fault. Though I see the psychological value in this for many, I’ve never agreed with its logic. To my eyes, complaining is only a way to replace action with inaction, publicly saving face while our habits and dreams wither in the background. In the entry Streaming With No Complaints, I likened the act of kicking a complaining habit to making a long-term investment in your future. 

You're going to be molded by the mental environment you place yourself in. If you tend to think of the things that inconvenience you as problems, you’ll feel like you're constantly beset by problems. Personally, whenever something goes wrong on my shows, or in my schedule, I force myself to take a breath before I allow myself to react. I say out loud, “I’ve seen worse,” and I think of the reasons why I’m lucky. At least factor X, Y, or Z didn’t happen on top of what’s happening now. I consider what’s truly important to my channel, or what’s important about the specific show I’m trying to make, and I think about how I can uphold those values with the more limited toolset I’ve been given. I find that by viewing the barriers in front of me as mere stumbling blocks, or even better, naturally rocky terrain to be found on the path of any streamer, then I can’t be shaken by these inconveniences. You too may find that your capacity to solve even the worst problems becomes much greater when you start to feel that they aren't problems at all. 


So your internet speed has been decimated, and your stream can’t go live. Now that we’ve internalized what it means to become a solution-oriented streamer, we can apply a more level head to the situation we’re facing. Before moving forward, do any new avenues reveal themselves to you? Study all the factors involved in the earlier example, and try to think about what’s really important to your specific stream. Condense this into a one-sentence priority statement about your show, and work up from there. Using those tools, there will always be some way to come out on top, even if it’s not 100% ideal. 

Here, I’ll give three examples of solutions I’ve come up with at different points in my streaming career, based on what was important about the stream I was making at the time. These won’t necessarily apply to your specific channel, but hopefully you can see how this style of thinking can be very effective. 

In the first example, I was getting ready to do an extremely low-intensity stream. As I’ve mentioned in previous entries, I often livestream my Duolingo studies and artwork creation. These types of shows display an almost-static screen for the entire stream’s duration, which means I wouldn’t mind if the broadcast had a low bitrate or even dropped an immense amount of frames. As long as someone could hear my voice and see the image every once in a while, it was fine by me. So in this case, the priority statement was: “The stream has to go live, but doesn’t need a high bitrate.” This allowed me to do my broadcast, even with the decimated internet settings, without sacrificing the values of the show. 


In another instance, I simply changed the show I was going to do. When faced with terrible network settings, I took the opportunity to try new things. Of course, my home internet was out, but not my phone’s internet. So I drove to a section of LA with a lot of my favorite restaurants, and did an IRL stream in which I ate ramen and talked to my chat. In this case, the priority statement was, “The stream has to go live, but it doesn’t have to be the usual stream.” After this, IRL streams where I ate at restaurants actually became a favorite on my channel too, which was a nice bonus. 

Third, I was faced with an instance where I wanted to put on my planned show, and didn’t want to sacrifice its quality. In this case, I was going to play a very story-intensive game, and didn’t want any blurriness or dropped frames to hamper the dramatic impact. And especially because the game involved a lot of cutscenes (during which I personally never talk or interact with chat anyway), I found an unexpected solution. In this case, it was most important to create a show that people could watch at its best, so the value statement for this one became, “The stream has to be at full quality, but it doesn’t have to be live.” So I made an episode of my show like normal, but recorded it locally and uploaded it after the fact. My content creation habit was kept intact, people could watch the show at its full quality, and the next episode went live as planned when the internet came back. 


As long as you’re able to keep a positive outlook in the face of streaming hardships, there’s no problem you won’t be able to overcome. Again, my solutions won’t necessarily be right for you, but there are plenty of other ways to approach the same scenario. Think to yourself: What are the absolute priorities of your channel, or the specific stream you’re making? What trade-offs can you make to ensure those core values are upheld? As long as you can put yourself into this solution-oriented mindset, nothing can stop you from doing what you love.