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. 

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