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Thumbs Down and What I Think It Really Means (Audio)

Any content creator on YouTube, be them woodturner’s or not get a few of the dreaded ‘Thumbs Downs’ and pathetically critical comments. This week, I look at the possible reasons why this cowardly anonymous Thumbs Down may occur on our videos .

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You’ve made your video, uploaded it to YouTube, added a nice description, tags and stuff. You sit back and wait for the views and comments to start rolling in. They do – Hoorah! It’s always a nice feeling when your video is watched…and even better when it is commented on with great supportive and constructive comments.

But then, possibly within hours of the video going live, what’s this? A Thumbs Down? How can that be? There are no negative comments, so what is the point of hitting the thumbs down in the first place?

In the beginning, some hundred videos ago, a thumbs down was like a dagger in my heart.

Before we dive into the possible psyche behind the ‘Downers’, or, those people who anonymously give you a thumbs down, you need to understand that a Thumbs Down on my channel now means virtually nothing without a comment to back it up. Not just a comment that slates the video, but a comment that gives clear reasons why the video was disliked in the first place. Without that sort of feedback, how am I (or anyone else who creates content for YouTube) going to improve the content?

The Reasons for a Thumbs Down

Curious as to why some people disliked one of my videos, I took a long hard look at my content and came up with these points that I now think about on every video I produce. Some I think about before I film, others I think about during the editing – some during. It is difficult to criticise your own video for sure, but the more you are able to play the Devil’s Advocate, the better your videos will become. (I do not, for one minute believe my videos are perfect!)

Is the video too long? Have you included a load of footage that just shows repetitive use of the tool without anything useful being said or demonstrated? A video that is too long will not be seen in it’s entirety by many viewers. By the same token, a video that is too short may miss out something important. Remember, the average view time on any YouTube video is just seven minutes. This could trigger a Thumbs Down.

I used to think about this a lot, but then changed my mind and figured that it is my channel, and it’s free, so why shouldn’t I post what I want? The subject matter of the content could be another trigger for a Thumbs Down. Perhaps the viewer simply doesn’t like the subject of the project if it is a bit non-traditional, or too traditional. Or something else. You could take this down to the n’th degree and look at all manner of aspects of the content, it’s up to you.

It is more than a possibility that a Thumbs Down could be given if the picture is low quality, shaky, out of focus, the piece is slightly out of frame or generally not well composed. How about he music choice? Maybe the sound is too loud, too quiet. It might be muffled or the sound  levels wavers from quiet to loud. Is there any music is drowning out the commentary (I’ve had this one myself). Are you considering the viewers attention span by trying to keep their interest for as long as possible? (See ‘Length’)

Presentation should be a really difficult one to dislike as everyone is different and we each prefer a particular style of presenter. Some like a jolly, energetic presenter whilst others might prefer a more serious, focused presenter. Take a look at your presentation style – it could be something that triggers a Thumbs Down. Are you being naturally ‘you’, or do you come across as ‘forced’ and not genuine? How do you sound? I’ve noticed that my ‘normal’ talking voice sounds a bit flat on video, so I liven up my presentation a little to compensate whilst still remaining as natural as possible. How about your general manner? Are you warm and welcoming? Do you smile when speaking, engaging with the viewer, or are you more aloof? And what about describing what you are doing with the wood and tools? Are you explaining clearly, or do you come across as patronising or condescending?  Anything you think may not be good about your video, someone else certainly will too – and may hit that dislike button as a result.

You, Personally
Yep, it’s true. Some people may hit the dislike button simply because of you. Because the dislike is so anonymous, it is easy for someone to give you a Thumbs Down simply because they don’t like you or what you are doing.

The Psyche of a ‘Downer’

There are a few people out there so bitter and bored that they have nothing better to do than try to pass their misery on to you. There’s no way of knowing how many Thumbs Downs are from these Downers, so just accept that they exist and move along. Nothing to see here.

YTthumbThere’s not much to be said about your every day anonymous Downer. A thumbs down without a constructive comment to back it up is a hollow gesture possibly telling you something is not to their taste and leaves you with the conundrum of what it could be. But why don’t they tell you what it is?

I reckon there are a couple of reasons why they don’t leave a comment with their Thumbs Down and this is probably the main reason: They don’t want to be seen as a negative person among the raft of the other, more positive and constructive comments. After all, they will be named next to their comment for all the world to see so maybe a Thumbs Down is their shadowy way of telling you they’re not confident enough to tell you as close to your face as possible,  leaving you to sort it out yourself – if you want to of course. As I’ve already said, without a constructive comment to support it, Thumbs Downs are virtually worthless.

There are Downers out there who are happy to Dislike simply because they don’t like you or what you do, and no matter how great your content is, they will never give you a Thumbs Up. I have one or two of those. Normally within a couple of hours of a video going live a dislike comes in – It is laughably predictable. I let them go like water off a duck’s back – normally with a smile at their predictability. It means nothing to me at all and I reckon I know precisely who it is.

Reacting To The Downers

Simply put: Don’t react publicly. If the number of thumbs downs gets to you, moan about them privately, but never publicly. To react publicly to a Downer is like reacting to your own shadow  – It will do nothing but tire you out and make you look silly to those watching – especially the Downers. Then, they’ll keep going because they got a reaction from you.

The best thing to do, in my opinion is to quietly go about your business and either totally ignore them or try to figure out why they disliked the video in the first place. Continue reading on page 2 for ideas on what to do next.

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16 thoughts on “Thumbs Down and What I Think It Really Means (Audio)

  1. Great Essay again.

    With such a large amount of content how could I not give my thoughts on some of it.

    Average watch time 7 minutes. Now is this based on videos of a certain length? I would guess not so those 7 minutes also includes videos that are only 30 seconds long and in reality if every video was 20 minutes long I would expect the average to be much higher.

    As to giving thumbs down. I don’t think I’ve actually done that to any video on You Tube. If I had then it would more than be likely something very distasteful or if I was searching for one subject and the video even if titled on that subject actually had very little or nothing to do with the subject, therefore wasting my time where I was specifically looking to learn something.

    To me looking at woodturning videos is not just to learn. I am also looking for ideas. As you are probably aware I trawl through someones channel watching every video once I watch one or two and think that the channel will be interesting. When you do that the presenter or person running the channel then becomes as much as the content.

    I always try not to be negative. So the thumbs down is not an option within woodturning videos to me. I try to leave comments but not on every video as I trawl through them. I know a presenter will love comments, but if I was to watch 15 or 20 of their videos every day and just put “Great Video” they are less likely to reply and in reality just be bombarded with messages. When I have caught up then most of the time on new videos I will try and leave a comment.

    Leaving comments is harder than clicking on one of he thumbs. You have to remember that a lot of people could read them, so therefore try not to upset anyone. I have made comments to you at times where I thought that some of the videos lost your personality. At the same time I also stated that I realized it was more of a tutorial, possibly for you to sell and therefore needed that clinical edge to it. Again what may be seen as negative I hope is seen as feedback. Another example is the audio book on this essay. As you read through it sounds very scripted. Every now and then you add in what is not in the script and it shows your personalty. I know it is an audio book, so what else do I expect? Nothing because I know why it is that way.

    I recently watched someones video and wasn’t over impressed with the result. Parts were very good but I didn’t want to be negative so I made positive comments on what I did like. I think you will agree that even on some of your recent projects I made what could be seen as a negative comment but hopefully turned that by saying that seeing the item in the flesh would be so different.

    Video is such a different experience to reality. Not turning myself yet I have watched hours of video. A month ago I went to an open day in the South Lakes to a turning club. Seeing turning done in the flesh is so different to what you see on YouTube. You can see how much grip someone has when holding different tools and how much pressure they use when cutting. This you cannot see in a video.

    I’m hoping you see this as positive feedback. They are my thoughts and although may be rather boring I do sometimes like to speak out but not upset anyone.

  2. Like trolls, they do it to get a reaction & it’s obviously worked.
    It’s only the good, honest people that worry because it’s in their nature.
    Keith Barron at 54A – #60 A Sycamore Bowl calls one a gutless moron
    “Great!! I managed to get a thumbs down before he could have even watched it!! Gutless moron.”
    Obliterate them from your memory. They really aren’t worth thinking about.
    BTW, keep up the good work.
    No reply needed.

  3. If it was just that. More than once I had a thumb down within 20 seconds of posting the video, which just tells me some people are actually waiting for a video release just to thumb it down. It’s ridiculous. I never mind if someone actually didn’t like something, but just to thumb down? useless on all accounts.

    1. Absolutely agree with you, Yuval. After a while they become a totally useless waste of pixels on the screen – and a waste of time someone actually clicking them because the desired effect is not achieved. This is especially true on hardened YouTubers the likes of you and I!
      All the best,

  4. Great post Martin. Thoughtful as always. I have said to you previously that the first time I got a thumbs down, I realised I had made it 🙂 I have been noticed and regardless of the content or quality of the video, someone thought long enough about it to give me a thumbs down. More power to their elbow, I am happy for the traffic 🙂

    1. Hi Ian. Thank you. Thumbs Downs will always happen of course, and it is great to see your positive outlook on them. Take from them what you will, and so long as you don’t get down-heartened by them, there is nothing at all to worry about.
      All the best,

  5. Great discussion Martin. As a YouTube video maker, this is a very interesting commentary. As is the commentary on negative viewers who take the time to mock your speech. The world is made up of all kinds of children.

    Cheers my friend

    1. Thanks, Harold. There’s good negative comments and bad negative comments, if that makes sense, and it is the good negative ones you can take most from. Those who mock you as a person are not worth responding to other than a swift delete of comment and blocking from doing it again.
      All the best, your playground buddy,

  6. That was very good I feel that you covered everything about the downers. I for one leave a comment as to why the video was not the way it should have been.
    Most of my bad comments to people I don’t leave a thumbs down, as I’m just letting them know what was wrong with video and actually the most comments I have left is about sound and about music. The sound is usually due to bad recording and making things hard to hear. The other is having some loud heavy metal head banging music blasting away while you are trying to watch an interesting video.
    I feel that if a video has to be longer in length to show the correct procedure then that is great It shows that you do care about us out here who are trying to learn how to make our own projects.
    I watch many you tube videos mainly wood working lately, for wood turning to straight out wood working and if I don’t like it well I move on and find someone else, Its only those that i have found interesting that I may suggest changing something, like if you started playing head banging music over everything I would then leave a comment suggesting that you
    go back to the format you had before.
    I take a bit from all the good presenters as you all have your own ways of doing things, which helps us as viewers find our own way of doing things –hopefully safe ways–
    Well I best stop now before I overtake your essay haha.
    One last bit — you must be doing something right for me to keep coming back and always waiting for your next installment.


    1. Hi Shaun. Thanks for commenting – I’m really pleased you enjoyed the essay.
      It is very much a balancing act to get a video ‘just right’ – it’s all the aspects of the final cut balanced off against the time it takes to get it that way. Hopefully, I’ve got the balance about right. Some things have to be sacrificed in order to not spend too long editing though, it has to be said. I read all my comments and react to criticism where appropriate, as I hope you have seen, and it is those comments that help to make videos better – but too many without a comment on the project itself can seem like people are watching for the sole reason of being critical and not for the turning.
      It’s great that you take a bit from each presenter you watch – (hopefully) we’re all good a different things and convey certain things better than others.
      Please do keep coming back, Shaun – it’s always a pleasure to hear from you all the way down there in Aus.
      All the best,

  7. Thumbs up that’s what I say, I find your video’s very inspiring as I am new to wood turning keep up the good work

    1. Cheers, Brian! I won’t be stopping what I’m doing – it is too much fun to do, and too many people to help with their turning. I’m really pleased you enjoy the videos…so thanks for watching!
      All the best,

  8. Hi Martin,
    I really liked this audio file and a lot of good tips. I totally agree on all your tips. I once herd, one can do everything right, and they will still be disliked by someone. I’ve had a few people on my channel with vulger language, and those people will be reported and or blocked. Do you ever block or report someone, I only do when someone is psychotic or vulger because my kids like to watch my channel? Thank you and as always thanks for sharing. Cheers!

    1. Thank you, Speros. There is no pleasing everyone, that is for sure, but so long as you do your best to please most people, then you’ll be alright. Those who use vulgar language should not be commenting, and those comments will be deleted from my channel. Thankfully though, I have only ever blocked two people from commenting (you can’t block them from watching though). Both of them kept asking me to subscribe to their channels without any other comments. I got tired of it, so I blocked them!
      All the best,

  9. Martin, I suspect that thumbs down w/o clarification might be poor etiquette. I have done this myself and never given a thought to specify the why of it. (But it was never to you.) More over I never thought about it being anonymous. I really don’t know how most of the you tube works. One of the people who does videos said she gets paid if we watch commercials. But another guy I used to watch almost daily said he made more than enough to pay all of his bills including house and cars. And he thanked us all. Of course he does up to 3 videos/day. That’s pretty much the extent of my knowledge. But you see you have gotten me to think. I digress. I do enjoy your essays, paper, videos, product reviews, and your answering my comments. As for you personally, you are a cutie-pie. I can’t imagine how busy you are with career, family, and friends. I am a retired nurse, with kids, grand kids, great grand kids, and the most wonderful man God could ever have given me. Somewhere in the mix, you seem to fit right in. God bless you Martin. Keep on keeping on. LB

    1. Hi Lynne. Thank you for such a kind and thoughtful comment. *blush*. I was quite conscious of the ‘Thumbs Down because I didn’t like a video’ thing…and perhaps I was a little harsh on that point in the essay. Both the thumbs down and thumbs up are anonymous, sadly.
      It is true what the others have said – those YouTubers who have ads appear on their videos do earn a bit of money from them. I don’t make a vast amount from YouTube, but it is slowly growing. It’s a numbers game – the more a video is watched, the more adverts are (likely to be) clicked, so there’s more revenue. It is possible to get to a point where the revenue is enough to sustain a full time income, but it is a long, hard slog to get there, and requires tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of subscribers and a regular pump-out of content. One YouTuber, a guy called ‘PewDiePie’ earned an estimated $7.7 million last year, just from YouTube. It is most unlikely a woodturner will ever reach that level of income! I digress too!
      Life is busy. I get bored easily which is why I keep myself up to something as much of the time as possible. If I don’t create something each day, I have to create something crazily creative on the next day in order to catch-up. It’s hard to get to sleep at night as the old grey cells are constantly working, cooking stuff up. I wouldn’t change it, and I don’t think my family would either – they seem to enjoy the madness of the world I’ve created for myself as much as I do…and your life must be pretty busy too, Lynne, with all the offspring and a great man with you – and in your nursing life, things must have been pretty crazy a lot of the time too.
      All the very best, Lynne. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you.

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