As it often occurs, the discourse of Diversifying Your Platform © has come around to the tune of “We need to leave” or “we need to build our own and stop relying on these other platforms to do right by us”. You know what, though…
You’re right. You’re absolutely right. We do need to do that, but the way this is discussed is often wildly out of pocket, presumptuous, and condescending at best. Let’s talk about it.
We Should Leave
This point is the easiest one to speak to because the results of doing so are already out there.
There’s a lot of effort to build and document tools for safety to keep our communities safe while we weather the storm and build places to rehome and root ourselves. The problem is that the most viable alternatives are places that are also proven to be harmful to marginalized creators. A single moment of search on google will net you a page of articles where creators have taken YouTube to task for failing to protect their LGBTQIA+ creators and where Facebook’s algorithms and AI have some hardcore racist biases where black people are concerned.
But at least they don’t have hate bots, amirite?
I wish you were, but alas.
However, services like Altair and Glimish being new to the scene means that people will be slow to uproot and migrate. How do I know this? I’ve worked in software for more than a decade and that comes with a lot of research and talking to people about what they enjoy about new possibilities…
…and what makes them afraid of taking them.
We have the evidence in front of us that Twitch is currently a hostile environment and most people who are new to streaming and/or are affiliates can likely afford to move to the platform; many except the very top of the top aren’t bound to any contracts that would force them to remain on Twitch. That doesn’t make this any easier to do because there are things to consider that most people do not ever have to consciously, which brings us to my next point.
We Should Build Our Own
The truth is, although our frustration is well-founded, it stops at the question of “what” and doesn’t go far enough into “how” we accomplish successfully leaving or diversifying our platforms. Moving forward means addressing that.
The push that I see for people to just… pick up and move somewhere new leaves something to be desired; while I understand the fire of revolution that lights that idea, I don’t see a lot of consideration for the audience you are addressing.
Are you a developer? This is a genuine question. Do you run sprints, do you write code, do you know how to manage and maintain a server or database?
A Quick Questionnaire: Producers
If we’ve learned anything from Twitch, it’s that listening and then acting is essential for what we’re trying to do. So let’s ask some questions and see how we do, starting with the premise that – like it or not – Twitch is the standard for what your users are going to expect from a platform. Here we go:
- What unique problems does this platform solve?
- What are the base features of the platform?
- What features would your userbase expect based on their previous experience in the space?
- Which do you consider essential versus optional?
- How are you building and maintaining the essential features?
- What parts of the platform can users customize easily (no knowledge of code or markup required)?
- What third-party tools does this platform integrate with?
- What kind and how much knowledge is required to integrate with those tools?
- How is this content monetized?
- What cut of that do you get versus your users?
- By what means is this platform paid for?
- How do users get support on this platform if they want to request feature changes?
- What moderation tools on the platform exist?
- What do users get as a reward for becoming involved with your platform, product, or community?
- What plans do you have to grow the features of your platform over the next 3 months? 6 months? Year?
- Where can users who don’t know about your platform find out about it?
- What documentation exists for your platform and how to use it?
- How accessible is the platform? As in, how easy is it for disabled people to use and navigate?
- What partnerships with other companies are you pursuing with your platform? How are you gathering your metrics to present to those potential sponsors and partners?
- How do people build community and engagement on your platform? What are the means? What metrics are available to your users to measure their reach and impact?
- How will you reward loyalty to your platform?
- How will the time and effort to accomplish these things be compensated?
A Quick Questionnaire: Creators
As for content creators and consumers, the question we need to ask about each part of a platform we use for engagement and monetize is: how much control do I have here?
- Where does your content go and who sees it?
- How is your content stored?
- How do sponsors, partners, and collaborators can reach you?
- How ownership of your content works?
- Membership management system options?
- Loyalty reward systems?
- Payment processors for monetization?
- Measuring your impact and reach?
- Information security protocols?
This list is by no means exhaustive. I thought about this for a day or two and came up with this list and that’s a large part of the point here; if you’re going to demand sacrifice while taking on something new, there needs to be reward and direction. It’s not fair to those who you are asking to take their established communities and connections and throw them straight into the trash for The Cause™.
These platforms aren’t just a collection of features. They are also access and opportunity.
Do you have an email account? Do you use dropbox or google drive? Have you uploaded a video to youtube? All outsourced services… that you don’t own.
Going in the opposite direction means you have to think in the complete opposite direction as if you had to answer for every part of infrastructure you had to use.
If we’re gonna advocate for “do it on your/our own”, then we need to advocate for the levels of tech literacy required to create and maintain the structure. I’m not seeing this part of the conversation where you have to get into the weeds of this and build it from scratch and the year(s) it will take to test it, refine it, soft launch it, take it to market… ya know, own it. So let’s talk about what that looks like.
What if you had to build infrastructure for other people to use? How much does it cost to run that level of infrastructure? What does a business plan to run that look like? What contingencies does it have?
What that means regarding your options and choosing whether to have either (a) a platform that does all of these things for you versus (b) controlling each of those things separately and integrating them into a central system? How much do you honestly understand about that? If you don’t know, what priority are you placing on learning? If you don’t have that time or knowledge, who are you paying to use that knowledge on your behalf and how are you going to maintain what they built?
Here’s the thing: unless you are willing to write the code, test the code, support the platform, and so on – at which point you have an entire business to manage – the most you can do here is understand what you are using and how it impacts you since every single part of these things will need to be outsourced. The common user of the internet, including your favorite creators, all use these services as a matter of course and don’t have to consciously think about this.
In your advocacy for “doing it on our own” because “it’s the right thing to do”, what level of literacy do you have on this? This part of the conversation is the ground floor.