Let’s just start with “Lazy Sunday,” shall we?
As told in its recent episode, “Planet YouTube,” Recode’s podcast Land of the Giants describes the unintended impact this video had on the internet. After debuting on YouTube, it:
racked up 5 million views in just a few days. Which, for the internet of 2005, was a lot. Traffic to YouTube went up 83% the week “Lazy Sunday” posted.
Regardless of opinions on how funny the video actually is (I love it), in a very real way, Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg had a hand in the creation of YouTube (which is not only the world’s most popular video-sharing site, but also the world’s 2nd most popular search engine) and thus have had a tremendous impact on how we all entertain, teach, and distract ourselves. YouTube is more than just a website for entertaining videos: its user-generated content means that, in many ways, it is the internet.
A key difference between the YouTube of 2005 and now is that YouTube doesn’t need anyone to produce content: it thrives on UGC (user-generated content). The term YouTuber is common enough now that you don’t need to explain it, although, on the Decoder podcast, Marques Brownlee (MKBHD on YouTube) does a great job describing how he tailors his response to the question, “What do you do for a living?” based on who is asking. He sometimes goes with YouTuber, other times video producer. Many people know that YouTubers are a thing — just not exactly what that thing is.
Many adults roll their eyes when young people list the celebrities they look up to: invariably instagram and YouTube personalities top the list. My young nephew loves Dude Perfect, which has nearly 55 million subscribers. That same nephew is often glued to his iPad, jumping from video to video, as the algorithm recommends a seemingly endless list of new channels, videos, and content producers. His sister, age 6, loves to “host” her own videos, making sure to remind her viewers to “like and subscribe.” It would be easy for me to roll my eyes at this if YouTube weren’t indispensable in my own life. When I’m not working on projects in real life, I spend my time learning on the same site my nephew spends so much time watching men throw frisbees from buildings. Even my wife, who spends far less time on her computer than many, begins nearly every day with Penny Barnshaw — Garage Fitness Girl. Our four-year-old daughter can even mimic her opening, “Hey there, Penny here!” in her best Australian accent.
I truly don’t know how anyone learned before YouTube. I remember changing the cabin air filter in my 2009 Subaru Forester — because of YouTube. I can do some reasonable amount of maintenance on my various bikes because of Park Tool. There doesn’t seem to be anything one can’t learn. Of course, YouTube is also an ideal medium for learning software design. I’ve worked through so many tutorials they begin to blur together. I’ve watched portfolio reviews, crash courses, tutorials — you name it. After having spent countless (I truly would prefer it was never counted) hours on YouTube, below are my favorite channels.
Programming with Mosh: Thus far, Moshfegh Hamedani is the best instructor I’ve found on YouTube. His instruction is patient and his explanations make sense. His channel covers many topics, from RESTful APIs to Angular Tutorials, and many have millions of views. He always has a great website with even more original content.
Next up is Jessica Chan — Coder Coder. She definitely seems newer to the scene than Mosh and others, but I love her channel. She has a real enthusiasm and passion for coding, which comes across in her videos. She also has a great story: she didn’t jump into software development after attaining a CS degree. She worked her way up from a temp job, which gives her great insight into what it takes to really learn how to code in your own time and on your own terms.
If you’re focusing on Front-End web development, these next two are excellent. Kevin Powell and Gary Simon have endless videos on their respective channels that help you design and style web pages. They have many tutorials that will help you to understand the concepts behind modern web design.
Lastly, Fireship has over 500,000 subscribers and is the home of #100SecondsofCode and #CodeThisNotThat. The “100 Seconds” videos are incredible; they deliver a tremendous amount of information in such a short time.
We all know YouTube isn’t perfect. Just as it can be a great resource for learning how to fix a toilet or create hover effects with CSS, it can also help radicalize its audience and foster hate speech. While society grapples with the often polarizing values of moderation and openness, I can at least say that the media behemoth that is YouTube can be a force for good — especially for those who looking to learn. Who knew all of this would come from a company started by Chad and Steve and first made popular by the star of Hot Rod?