Our family got a cordless phone when I was in 5th or 6th grade. I went to an all-boys school so it was one of the only ways to communicate with the girls from our sister school.
A few of them would sync up by three-way dialing each other and then call us at random to chat. When the conversation hit a lull, they’d say, “ok, bye!” and call someone else.
It was terrifying.
Seamlessly innovating on new ways to communicate as multiple new technologies allow for it (three way dialing a chain of friends with cordless phones for privacy every night) – no adult would ever do that.
I don’t know what that adult effect is. Something about getting older, time moving faster, managing attention becoming more important – it all makes me want whittle down what I’m doing instead of expanding my horizons.
But I took a leap and have spent about 20 hours on Twitch in the past two weeks. One of the first things I heard a live streamer say was, “how could I ever explain this platform to someone over the age of 30?”
What’s Twitch? And why should experts care?
It’s that social media platform (now owned by Amazon) you might have heard about on the news few years ago – the weird platform where young people make millions live streaming playing video games. Incidentally, Microsoft’s competing platform, Mixer, announced it was shutting down yesterday and merging its creator/audience base with Facebook Gaming.
But that’s just how it started.
Since Covid shutdown, usage has doubled. And the way it’s being used is evolving.
While most “categories” are just the names of video games, it’s becoming so much more than that.
“Video games” as a term includes everything from guitar lessons, dancing, even virtual cooking in an industrial kitchen, to more traditional board games like Chess online.
In fact, the category with the most viewers at any time is “Just Chatting,” sort of the catchall category for streamers when they’re not actively playing games.
Yes, heavily skewed to gamer channels when they’re taking a break from their first person shooters, BUT I think that’s a really strong signal that live streaming to and with an audience as a content format deserves your attention.
The category I’m spending time on is “Science & Technology” where all the live coding happens. Here are interesting ways just that one subset is getting used:
- Will Leon of @Neo4j_ is live streaming building a Zillow clone – geo data + content recommendations + social network features, it’s more formal – like a course with live Q + A component.
- The Kitze livestreams building Sizzy, a browser for developers. And asks followers for feedback on features, ideas, and help with bugs.
- live streams learning Python with Codecademy
- For more: here is a team of 100 live coders with 5+ viewers per session and a mega list of dev streamers and their programming languages.
And it extends way beyond coding: what about live streaming bee keeping, goat farming, quiet study sessions, or cooking dinner?
You can follow a channel – that gets you notified when they go live. You can subscriber (paid) to a channel. They start at $4.99/month and goes up from there. Subscription tiers (from what I can tell) get you different levels of access, but how streamers use them varies.
By subscribing, you unlock emotes (basically the ability to use certain emojis in the chat).
Twitch streamers can build their streams to include chat, green screen of themselves in the corner, what they’re watching as the backdrop, or have other gifs and sounds triggered when things happen. Some go minimal and some are really busy.
On some channels, higher tier audience members can enter those emojis in the chat to trigger things to happen in the real world.
Those on Twitch with audiences are constantly narrating surfing the web, clicking on links shared by audience members, and getting instant feedback on what kind of content live viewers want to see. It’s just a lot of fun.