by: Jason Waddell
Hannes had been bugging me.
Pestering really. Text messages linking to the most inane, random YouTube videos.
“I’m not even interested in golf”, Hannes added.
I responded each time with the only appropriate response.
“Not now Hannes, I’m at work.”
When this proved an ineffective deterrent, I was forced to change tactics. “Tell you what, I’ll make you dinner Friday, and we can watch YouTube videos to your heart’s content.”
The dishes were cleared and the festivities began, aimlessly at first.
“Less than 5000 views! It’s a travesty!”
Hannes was nothing if not passionate. As we watched, he waxed poetic on the intricacies of the YouTube ecosystem.
“Every YouTube session diverges in one of two directions: you either get stuck in some obscure abyss, or you reach VEVO.”
“So there’s a tipping point? Could we intentionally cross from one to the other?”
We devised a game.
At the end of each video, YouTube presents you with a 4 by 4 grid of suggested videos. The goal was to start at a completely random location and, by navigating the suggested video links, eventually reach VEVO territory. More specifically, the Nicki Minaj: Anaconda official video. Truth be told I didn’t actually know what Nicki Minaj looked like, and had only heard the name as some sort of negatively regarded pop sensation. But I wasn’t one to turn down Hannes’ anthropological offerings.
Our starting point? A click of the Wikipedia “Random Article” page.
Perfect. We’d search YouTube for “gravity assist”, click the first link, and begin our journey there.
Video 1: Gravity Assist or Stealing a Planet Angular Momentum and Getting Away With It
Video 2: Gravity Assist
Video 3: Gravity Visualized
Video 4: David Blaine: How I held my breath for 17 min
Four clicks in and we’d made our first leap. We were moving on to greener pastures.
Youtube’s Got “Talent”
David Blaine led us to You’ve Got Talent territory, one step closer to music and one step closer to Nicki Minaj.
Click six was undoubtedly a bad move. Before formalizing the challenge, Hannes and I had gotten stuck in an inescapable web of cyrillicly-titled Russian folk music videos. Cultural diversity was not our goal. We needed to toe closer to America’s Got Talent and steer clear of the World’s edition, multiculturality be damned.
Okay, color me unimpressed, but performing a Michael Jackson piece at age sixteen is hardly noteworthy. The King of Pop himself started his recording career at a much younger age, so you’re not remotely in prodigy territory. And can we be clear on video naming etiquette? This video was hardly awe-inspiring, and certainly doesn’t classify as compulsory viewing.
But it did lead us to a deep place. A dark place. A swirling eddy we’d soon be desperate to escape. The Michael Jackson corner of YouTube. Neverland Ranch.
Michael Jackson Purgatory
There was no progress in sight.Every video ended with another wall of suggested Michael Jackson videos. We had to get out, by any means necessary. We devised a plan. Find Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal. Surely there we could take an Alien Ant Farm cover escape hatch.
We didn’t find a link to a cover. What we found was much, much worse.
Video 15: Disney’s Frozen – Thriller by Michael Jackson
Video 17: Michael Jackson VS Spongebob 2!!! Revenge of the Sponge
Ugh. The ‘2’ in the title isn’t an errant character. It’s the second in a series of, from what we could see, at least four installments.
We thought it couldn’t get worse. But that was just wasted optimism.
The Seventh Circle
Video 20: Creeper – A Minecraft Parody of Michael Jackson’s Thriller (Music Video)
Video 21: Wrecking Mob – A Minecraft Parody of Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball
Video 22: Like An Enderman – Minecraft Parody Gangnam Style
Video 23: Minecraft Style – A Parody of PSY’s Gangnam Style 1 hour (With animations)
Insanity began to set in. But our path was clear. We had to reach the surface. Swim through the mire of parodies to each an official PSY video.
Video 24: Baby Gangnam Style – PSY babies dancing (Evian)
Video 25: “Walking Dead – Dancing Zombie” – Gangnam Style – Daniel Cloud Campos
Video 26: Psy – Gentleman Spiderman (SA Wardega)
Video 27: PSY – “Gentleman” (Hongtleman) Parody by Trend Factory
Video 28: Gentleman-Little PSY
Video 29: GUNMAN STYLE – GANGNAM STYLE (ASIAN WESTERN PARODY)
Video 30: PSY (ft. HYUNA) 오빤 딱 내 스타일-
Video 31: PSY – HANGOVER feat. Snoop Dogg M/V
Jackpot. Our destiny was just a few clicks away.
The Promise Land
Video 32: Nicki Minaj – Pills N Potions (Official)
Video 33: Nicki Minaj – Anaconda (Lyric Video)
Video 34: Nicki Minaj – Anaconda Video Reaction
Video 35: Nicki Minaj Anaconda Video: Behind the Scenes Vlog
Something was wrong. Clicks that should lead to the official video didn’t. There was no way to get there organically.
“Are you sure it’s on YouTube Hannes?”
“I watched it yesterday. It’s got more than 200 million views. It’s on there. Keep trying.”
We tried a few more videos in vain, but the connection wasn’t there. Was YouTube silently directing traffic away from the video? Had they deemed it too raunchy to stumble upon by accident? What reasoning had caused this behavior?
As a final measure, we searched for Anaconda directly. And sure enough, it was there.
Maybe YouTube was on to something. Maybe we shouldn’t be watching this video after all.