Friday, October 29, 2021

Be Careful of Glacial Stream Changes

Twitch streaming is a long process. Many of us have been doing it day after day for the past several years. And along the way, it’s easy to lose sight of our goals and fall into traps. Not by making one bad decision, but by letting things change over a very long span. Time is often the enemy for a Twitch streamer, because it can distort the way we see our shows, and cause us to forget what made our content special in the first place. In this entry, we’ll explore how to recognize and deal with these kinds of glacial stream changes. 


We’re all susceptible to this glacial change issue, because it’s almost impossible to detect in the moment. The best way to explain it is the metaphor of the boiling frog. The idea is, if you dropped a frog into a pot of boiling water, it would of course immediately jump out. But if you placed a frog in a pot of room temperature water, and only raised the temperature by a degree or two every few hours, the frog wouldn’t be able to perceive the changes and would stay inside until it was eventually boiled alive. Now, apparently science has proven that this won’t actually happen among real frogs, but that doesn’t make the metaphor any less powerful. After all, the same thing happens to us humans every single day. 

Geralt reflects on where things went wrong
quite often.

Think of how many times in your life you’ve looked back on something and asked, “Where did it all go wrong?” Whether this was something personal, professional, or creative, it’s likely that there wasn’t one specific incident you could point to. Instead, it’d be thousands of little things which continually crept up while you were busy worrying about something else. All of us are completely oblivious to these effects in the moment, and can usually only detect them once it’s too late. Like everything else in life, Twitch channels can easily be affected by this imperceptible deterioration as well. Therefore it’s useful to prepare yourself against these glacial changes so they don’t do too much damage to your streams. 


I’ve talked about this concept in various different forms before. There are a few different entries which deal with stream stagnation, as we often just settle into what works if we don’t actively challenge ourselves to stay fresh. In entries like How to Easily Free Up Time for Twitch, I talked about how even the smallest idle activities we do throughout our daily lives can ripple into major problems for the creative drive. Recently, in the entry Cut Back on Recurring Stream Costs, I discussed how stream-related subscriptions can erode away our bank accounts without us even realizing. There are countless ways for us to fall into the boiling frog trap. And of course this may lead you to ask, “If the changes happen so slowly that I can’t perceive them, how am I supposed to prevent them from happening?” This is a very valid question. It’s not necessarily about prevention, but instead recognizing the warning signs as early as possible. 

Either bring something new, or bring
something back.

For those of us who struggle with missing scheduled stream days, it can be useful to keep a tally of which days you’ve missed. Then, you can see week over week whether that number has been rising or falling. When wondering if your streams have stagnated, it actually helps to listen to your gut. With my own channel, I’ll sometimes get some idea stuck in my head, like a new game I can’t stop thinking about, or a radical new idea for a stream concept. If this persists and compounds for enough days in a row, I usually take that as a sign that I need to put the change into effect. Similarly, I’ve also learned to grow suspicious of being too comfortable in my stream tasks. It may sound strange, but when I find that I’m so practiced at everything I do on stream that I haven’t made any mistakes or had to solve any problems for hundreds of broadcasts in a row, that’s a red flag. Yes it’s natural for us to get better and better at what we do with more practice, but when we aren’t being sufficiently challenged, it can be a sign to switch things up. Lastly, it’s possible to use channel metrics to help detect long-term problems on a Twitch channel. Dropoff over the recent weeks or months can sometimes be signs that things have been slipping. This can be a double-edged sword, however. Anything can affect stream numbers, often completely unrelated to you. The beginning of a school year, for example, can majorly staunch the flow of viewers entering your streams, without you doing anything wrong. So if you’re checking statistics, be careful not to alter things unnecessarily based on false or skewed data. 


Once you’ve recognized that something is either declining in quality or becoming stagnant, you can begin course-correcting. If you have records of your older streams, whether in Highlights, Past Broadcasts, or saved somewhere else, those can be very helpful. Compare the show you did yesterday to a stream from six months ago. Is there a magic to those shows that’s been lost somewhere in the interim? If so, was there something you removed from your content offering since then, or is the problem a lack of change? Maybe a totally fresh take on how you produce your shows is called for, or maybe it’s as simple as sprucing up your room in the background of your camera shot. Only you’ll be able to know what needs to be done on your specific streams, but as long as you recognize the problem, you will have taken the biggest step already. 

Whatever kinds of streams you make, being able to see the signs of these glacial stream changes will make you much more equipped to stick with streaming for the long-term. If you’ve been doing your shows in a certain way forever, it can be difficult to imagine changing them. But this problem only exists in your mind. You can always alter the course of your streams if you put your mind to it. 

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