The dangers of outposting your platform

As seems to happen once a year or so, YouTube has been in a bit of an uproar over some platform changes made under the claim of adhering to COPPA regulations. There are a thousand things I could say about the situation, but they’ve already been said by people much more knowledgable and articulate than me. It would also deviate a bit from what this post is really about, so instead, I’ll stay on topic.

I will give you a brief summary of how it affected me, because that part’s important: I share my dolls here sometimes, though I mostly share them on YouTube. It’s a very visual platform and the dolls themselves are highly visual things. But because they’re dolls, I slipped into a gap with a lot of creators like me. Because of the medium I work with, turning dolls into art, my work was labeled as child-targeting content. While I was able to mitigate some of the impact by making quick changes to things and ensuring all my videos were labeled as not intended for children, there were some I couldn’t recover. The videos are still there, but practically invisible. The worst part of the situation? I saw it coming, but I still allowed myself to be unprepared.

I was guilty of something known as outposting. I’d made YouTube the hub of my creative platform for my dolls, instead of building my own platform from scratch. When you play in someone else’s field, you have to play by their rules, too. And when they decide it’s time to send you packing, there’s rarely anything you can do. But all those sandcastles you built while you were there? Yeah—you have to say goodbye. You leave them behind, and all your audience, too.

I am familiar with the dangers of outposting. Like most people who adopted the internet in the late 90s, I’ve seen more than my fair share of perfectly good sites shuttered. I saw Geocities collapse, watched MySpace fade away, watched instant messaging platforms like AIM and MSN Messenger disappear.

Yet despite knowing the risks, I was complacent and I let YouTube’s changes—which don’t even really follow COPPA!—endanger the security of my artistic platform. It’s easy to fall into the complacency trap; platforms like YouTube come with a built-in audience who is already there and looking for what you can provide. The site is easy to use and makes things simple. Who could want more?

They say the internet is forever, but it’s not. A wealth of information and a massive number of contacts have been lost due to platforms closing. Most of those connections will never be made again, because they took place on a platform outside of your control. This is what almost happened to me with YouTube. For those unsure what the changes entail, it means any videos labeled as kids’ content—including videos like mine, which are erroneously labeled—are removed from things like user subscriptions, and users are no longer able to leave comments, which means creators hit by this issue are unable to interact with their community. For a lot of content creators, me included, this is crippling. The stuff I do with my dolls, I do because I want to help other hobbyists learn to do the same things. If they have no way to contact me, or YouTube were to shutter—which it eventually, someday, will—then everything I’ve done over the past 3 years would be lost.

The good news is it’s not hard to combat that risk. It can be a little time consuming, but the end results are usually worth it.

So how do you combat outposting?

The answer is simple—keep the heart of your platform grounded somewhere you control. For me, that’s this site. I update the thing myself. Me and my husband are the only people who have access to it. I run regular backups, so even if my website host were to suddenly go under, I could move all of my content easily and be back up within a matter of days.

Keeping backups is important. I keep backup copies of all my videos for when there are options other than YouTube, or for when YouTube someday goes down. Right now, YouTube is the only place you can find my videos, which is a little unfortunate, because it’s in violation of one of the other internet best practices for platforming:

Diversify where you can be found. This is why, even though I plan to launch all my books in 2020 into Kindle Unlimited, they will eventually end their term and will be available on all platforms. Because Amazon will someday fall. Even Jeff Bezos has said as much. If you have to use social media (And you should, because it offers great visibility) you should be available on multiple platforms. Though I use some platforms more than others, I can be found on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. I also have accounts places like deviantART, Flickr, Blogger, and Tumblr. Even if one platform goes down, anyone who follows me would be able to locate me on any of those other platforms.

Point everything back to you. This is something I’m going to be working on more in the coming months. In the past, I tried to keep my interest divided for sake of keeping things tidy, but all I really do now is write books and then make dolls into characters from the books. There’s no reason those two things can’t be unified, so in 2020, I’m going to go ahead and unify them. I’ll start documenting some of my projects here, in addition to social media sites like Instagram and outposts like YouTube, because if anything happens to my work on YouTube, my existing projects will also be catalogued here… and easy to find.

Plus, it gives me more things to talk about. As excited as I am to let people know I edited over 10,000 words of the sixth Snakesblood Saga book yesterday, that’s an update that probably belongs on social media… because I can’t think of anything long enough to write that would justify posting it here.

75% done, though. Snakesblood 6 should be done by the end of the year.

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