Today is “Project for Awesome,” so Watch for Nerfighters Reducing “World Suck”

Today, December 17, is the third-annual “Project for Awesome,” where thousands of Nerdfighters will be using online-video to “reduce world suck.”

Even if you understood nothing in the headline or lead, I encourage you to keep reading because you’ll learn a lot about online-video through this story.

Project for awesome 2009 logo

John and Hank Green were brothers who lost contact over the years, and decided to change that through daily vlogs to each other (which they posted for the rest of the world as Vlogbrothers). I find myself increasingly frustrated with people in online video that don’t know their name… and give them the look of disgust you get from a sports enthusiast when you say “I hope Tiger Ruth helps the New Orleans Rangers make it to the Superbowl.”

Unlike other popular online video creators, the vlogbrothers put their loyal viewers, ideals, intellect and charity above themselves. This has created a genuine fan base of people (we call ourselves Nerdfighters), who would pretty much do whatever the Green brothers asked unless it involved hurting small animals. We’re bonded on the pursuit of increasing awesome and decreasing suck. After all a good planet is equal to awesome less suck (put mathematically, that’s GP=A-S). In my opinion, increasing awesome is easier that decreasing suck. It’s easier to bond around a cause than a complaint.

Today, like the two prior years, hundreds of video creators will make “Project for Awesome” videos to promote good causes (here’s mine, which is to promote awareness of autism). “We want to make the world a better place, and so we’re thanking people who have dedicated their lives to do that, and promoting their cause with our time and our money,” the brothers write on their website.

So here’s what to watch for today:

  • Hundreds of videos will be posted to YouTube with a specific thumbnail (icon).
  • Via Twitter (using hashtag #p4a), hundreds or thousands of people will be giving these videos “5 star” ratings, and commenting aggressively on them (to push them to most-discussed and most-viewed pages, which are as important as the homepage itself.
  • The team will be using a ProjectforAwesome Livestream to communicate as well.
  • As a result of this, many newer YouTube users will be perplexed, but then find themselves amused and perhaps compelled to participate.

Now let’s say your heart is made of ice, and you really don’t care about community or charity. What can you learn from this as a marketer? Well to keep it real, you’d unlikely be able to replicate this, because people tend not to rally around a brand or commercial effort like this.

But it does show the influence that a few people can have on a larger group (the YouTube “community” that is still vibrant), and in turn to a much wider audience of YouTube grazers (the rest of the world). Give people something to care about that’s bigger than your brand or you, and do something selfless (to help reduce world suck). That’s a noble cause, right? And maybe we’ll see major charities or brands tossing their hats in the ring this year or next.

22 Replies to “Today is “Project for Awesome,” so Watch for Nerfighters Reducing “World Suck””

  1. The vlogbrothers are a pair of slick marketers that leverage the ease with which it is possible to create a personality cult on YouTube and use that cult following to hijack the sites automated promotional systems.

    Anyone can do what they do on the cheap if they can find a few idiots to take care of the intern work for free. Telling other marketers that what the vlogbrothers do is difficult or special is tantamount to lying, especially when another marketer can approach YouTube Inc directly with a real world budget to spend can achieve in three weeks what it has taken the vlogbrothers three years to acheive.

    You are backscratching. The only question is who’s back and what is in it for you.

  2. @1 Well, aren’t you just a delightful little ray of sunshine?

    I find the vlogbrothers mildly irritating (from what very little I’ve seen of them), but this project looks pretty harmless. I don’t know if it will really help spread awesome or reduce suck much, but if it makes people feel good pretending to care about something greater than themselves, then I’m all for it.

  3. Its just a marketing trick, and I read a little more of the stuff Nalts has posted recently and it appears that he has drunk so much of the coolaid he has gone completely blind.

    Project4Awesome is just a pyramid scheme based on the failure of Google’s best and brightest to add the 10 lines of code to their server that would prevent comment spammed videos from appearing on the Most Commented and Most Popular pages. The current spate of “comment contest” videos on the Most Popular pages that are being made by YouTubers who already have tens of thousands of subscribers is evidence that spam is everything, content is nothing.

    The Vlogbothers pyramid works by promising the people at the bottom of the pyramid they will get lots of comments that will generate lots of views when their video hits the honors pages if they take part in the spam. The truth of course is that only a few YouTubers that already have large followings will appear on the honors pages and of them only a tiny number will make it to the Most Popular pages.

    The only guarantee is that the vlogbrothers who sit at the top of the pyramid will make it onto the most popular pages and reap the rewards from the associated publicity and attention from YouTube’s employees (some of who promote the vlogbrothers and some of who are trying to shut the vlogbrothers down, funny place, YouTube HQ).

    Nalts is a bit naive. If this blog serves only one purpose maybe it is to give him a chance to ask the wider world what he is doing wrong. Doing stuff for free for the vlogbrothers is wrong.

    They are not selfless, they are selfish and manipulative (no offense intended, business is business and the ruthless get ahead).

    It is unlikely that any charity video will have any impact at all during the vlogbrothers self-publicty stunt/crapflood that is project4awesome

  4. @1 Believe it or not, I agree with you. Not necessarily with the Vlogbrothers, cause I know nothing about them, but just in general.

    If I sat around and thought about all the things that are corrupt, I’d probably go insane.

    Think of the smaller picture. I’m not subscribed to the Vlogbrothers, but am to Nalts. He has over 150k subs…so if his message reaches just a few people, I believe it did do its part to “end world suck.” Nalts’ son Grant has Asperger syndrome, so it seems appropriate that he would choose this cause.

    I highly disagree that Nalts is “naive” to the situation and, in the past, has used it to his advantage. Hell, he’s a marketing consultant for goodness sake, I’m sure he’s fully aware at how to pull at our heart-strings; however, there that little feeling in my gut that lets you know that he’s a good guy.

    So if there are people using this forum to merely be on top and could care less about the awareness, then they truly have issues. I’m just saying…I believe it WILL do some good. I also believe in karma, what goes around comes around.


  5. You know what’s more interesting than a pyramid scheme?

    People who hide behind an anonymous server and bitch about pyramid schemes.

    Where I come from opinions from people who hide in anonymity don’t count unless they’re a spy protecting a nation from evil deeds or reporting terrorists.

  6. @6 I was thinking exactly the same thing.

    This project for awesome thing doesn’t seem to me to be very effective. I’ve been watching the lists of top videos today and the only list where p4a seems to be successfully manipulating the automated systems in in the highest rated category.

    While it is almost certainly doing some good (I’ve noticed some corporate sponsors have gotten involved), I think the project is far too unfocused. Everybody is busy pimping their own charitable cause. There seems to be no unifying causes other than some vague concept of reducing suck and spamming out the wazoo.

    But I really shouldn’t be so negative just because I personally find it irritating (probably mostly because I loathe the herd mentality I’m subconsciously associating with jumping on this bandwagon). Do your thing nerdfighters; go be awesome! Show us you really can make a big difference in reducing world suck.

  7. 1000- You seem pissed. I could maybe see that if it was a commercial effort. But I can tolerate a day of “gaming the system” for a good cause.

  8. What John, Hank and their Igor, Alan Luftwaffe do is of little concern to me. There are always going to be Hare Krishnas handing out flowers and seizing control of gullible kid’s trust funds (you do know about the distribution contracts that they are getting YouTubers to sign that give them rights to the YouTuber’s income don’t you?)

    Your acceptance of this gaming of the YouTube system is more than likely the trigger behind me bothering to comment at all.

    I am not pissed enough to spend time checking details so accept this as a rough sketch of what the world sees right now.

    On Nov 6 you indirectly called out Mark Day for featuring the same 20 people over and over again on YouTube when you posted this

    “I’ve suggested before that the day of the YouTube editor is behind us, because the sub-page featured videos don’t seem to garner significant views..[shortened].. Interestingly we tend to see a few dozen of the same Partners with the most active rotation, which suggests editorial favor-ability”

    Mark Day spotlighting these same people over and over again gives those people a huge advantage (that advertisers would pay tens of thousands of dollars for) and gives every other person on the site a handicap. The situation was even worse a few months ago when YTwatchdog said he was going to make a video about it (never happened, since he is under threat of suspension he probably chickened out).

    Surprise, surprise, the video that you posted on Nov 17th got spotlighted.

    On Nov 30 you said that you had been to visit Mark Day. A few days ago the nobody-site that you had been promoting in your blog was made curator of YouTube’s front page and guess what, you were the featured YouTuber on the front page. (Circle jerk much?)

    You are not alone.

    Sxephil recently posted a video complaining that one of the YouTube editors was continuously spotlighting the videos of a company that the editor had a financial interest in (while ignoring sxephil’s videos).

    Surprise, surprise, sxephil got invited into YouTube for a chat with the editor.

    AskCarrieLee also complained about so few youTubers being featured, she got a sub-page feature to shut her up. The pitiful 5000 views she netted from that should be compared to the 300,000 views that Happyslip got from the tier-1 spotlighted on the browse pages that she got at the same time as AskCarrieLee’s tier-3 spotlight. (Be honest about why you think Happyslip is ok for the main pages but AskCarrieLee isn’t). Compound that discrimination over 3 years and you arrive at the situation we have today, and its ugly.

    Saying that Mark Day is too busy to do his job is bullshit. Firstly, it is his job, he should do it or be replaced. Secondly the people that he picks are personal friends of his and “business associates”. He does his job in the most unethical way possible, driven purely by self-interest. No wonder he was “tight-lipped” with you.

    Fortunately SaraBenincasa and MattKoval are not tight lipped and these personal friends of his are all too open about the fact that he is spotlighting them because of their personal relationship. Did you think that MattKoval’s “YouTube 1985” video that you appeared in and virtually every MattKoval video since got featured because he was soooo talented and interesting? More fool you.

    YouTube is an impossible place for a marketer to operate because of people like Mark Day, unless of course you are one of his “20”.

    You are slow Nalts. It took you 9 months to figure out that YouTube had a community. Even with being that slow I am sure that you have figured out by now that you need Mark Day if you want to be able to pay the rent as an eMarketer on YouTube.

    Good for you that you scared Mark Day into becoming your friend, but how long is that going to last? What about all the other marketers that this blog is supposed to be giving amazing insight to? Are they supposed to threaten Mark Day with exposure as well?

    Its hardly a foundation to build a professional business model on. Its no use at all if you want to build a career and future on it.

    You have drunk the koolaid and put on the sneakers Nalts. You are too blind to see that Mark Day is running a game on you. Its the exact same game they ran on AskCarrieLee. Throw you a bone, shut you up, and 3 years from now you will be making up excuses why Mark Day’s other day job, MyDamnChannel, is the most financially successful independent video site on the web yet you, a viral video guru, have had to remortgage your home because all the YouTube promotional tools are reserved an arbitrary elite that you are either too honest or too much of a liability to be part of.

    “I can tolerate a day of “gaming the system” for a good cause”

    What about gaming the system everyday, for the rent?

  9. Flatulence is the expulsion through the rectum of a mixture of gases that are byproducts of the digestion process of mammals and other animals. The mixture of gases is known as flatus, (informally) fart, or simply gas, and is expelled from the rectum in a process colloquially referred to as “passing gas” or “farting”. Flatus is brought to the rectum by the same peristaltic process which causes feces to descend from the large intestine. The noises commonly associated with flatulence are caused by the vibration of the anal sphincter, and occasionally by the closed buttocks.

    In many cultures, human flatulence in public is regarded as embarrassing but, depending on context, can also be considered humorous. People will often strain to hold in the passing of gas when in polite company, or position themselves to conceal the noise and scent. In other cultures, it may be no more embarrassing than coughing.

    While the act of passing flatus in said cultures is generally considered to be an unfortunate occurrence in public settings, flatulence may, in casual circumstances and especially among children, be used as either a humorous supplement to a joke (“pull my finger”), or as a comic activity in and of itself. The social acceptability of flatulence-based humor in entertainment and the mass media varies over the course of time and between cultures.

    Historical comment on the ability to fart at will is observed as early as St. Augustine’s The City of God (5th century CE). Augustine mentions men who “have such command of their bowels, that they can break wind continuously at will, so as to produce the effect of singing.” The fact that mankind in general has lost this ability he attributes to the first sin of Adam and Eve and its consequences with respect to body control. Intentional passing of gas and its use as entertainment for others appears to have been somewhat well-known in pre-modern Europe, according to mentions of it in medieval and later literature, including Rabelais.

    Le Pétomane (“The Fartiste”) was a famous French performer in the 19th century who, as well as many professional farters before him, did flatulence impressions and held shows. The performer Mr. Methane carries on Le Pétomane’s tradition today.

  10. Know what Nalts? About Grant? You have mentioned it a loooong while ago. I just remember things like that, plus my nephew is autistic. You’ve gotta realize that you have tons of favorite Youtuber’s you try to keep up with, I have one or two so its not hard. 🙂

  11. whoa, hold on there 1000!

    first, you’re anonymous.

    second, you know way to much about youtubers in general, especially Phil, and it’s close enough to look pretty unhealthy.

    third, you’re speculating all over the place.

    fourth, other than Chad and Steve Mark Day isn’t the only guy who works and gets high at YouTube.

    fifth, if this is such a big deal why not put all your cards out on the table and say who you are? What’s your channel? If you’re going to play tuber advocate then get up off your ass, come out and take a real stand cause I’ll tell you this, using your approach does nothing for change.

  12. @1000 What is your stake in the game?

    First: One thing is for sure; whatever issues you have are not going to be resolved by anonymous rants here. Why would anybody give a rat’s ass about your perceived injustices if you don’t even have the guts to declare your position in the scheme of things.

    Second: Whatever criteria there are for getting featured / promoted, people will always figure it out and exploit it. Such is the cutthroat nature of marketing. It is also impossible to create a perfectly fair system for everybody, all the time. (The problem inherently overconstrained in the case that it is nontrivially well-defined.)

    Third: You do realize that the content creators don’t own YouTube, right? It is owned by Google and they are entitled to run it however the hell they want. Nobody has a constitutional right to equal opportunity promotion on YouTube. YouTube isn’t obligated to feature you or anyone else. Obviously YouTube wants to keep its creators happy, but as with most businesses, it’s often not who you are but who you know. If you don’t like it, go find somewhere else to build the Utopian community you are seeking.

    Either stop your damned bitching, or grow some balls, reveal who you are, and do something besides whining about how life it unfair.

  13. Oh wow. I’m running into a lot of vlogbrothers hate these days.

    Then again, even if people don’t give a crap about Jesus, he these days is accepted as a good guy, and *he* received a ton of hate. Mostly from people who saw him as a threat. Why attack this project? Are you threatened by what is happening? If you’re upset about it, then don’t log on to YouTube for like three days. I promise, epic FAILS and cute kittens will be back when you return.

    And also, I’d like to note that this assumption is ill-informed if not entirely spurious:

    “The Vlogbothers pyramid works by promising the people at the bottom of the pyramid they will get lots of comments that will generate lots of views when their video hits the honors pages if they take part in the spam. The truth of course is that only a few YouTubers that already have large followings will appear on the honors pages and of them only a tiny number will make it to the Most Popular pages.”

    For one, no one was promised lots of views. The idea was that views generated would be for charities instead of the general funny and cute things generating views. No where was it promised, written, or anything that your specific video would receive anymore attention than you would normally get.

    The other part of this is that the large-following crowd would be the only ones to be promoted. Unless you consider my 85 subscribers a large following, then my video being promoted challenges your theory, “1000”.

  14. I thought NutCheese’s post was the most interesting. I found her post enlightening and educational. The rest sound like bickering and whining. I work in a middle school and get enough of that all day from the kids, so I don’t need it in my casual blog-reading.

  15. Whooo! I don’t know what we ever did to make anyone angry.

    “Hey everyone, let’s hang out together for a day, talk about charity and mess with YouTube’s head” was the initiating idea behind the Project for Awesome, and that idea hasn’t changed much in the last three years.

    We get big YouTubers involved so that they can reach their large audiences with messages that coca cola would pay six figures for. Jeez, I’m so sorry.

    And we get smaller YouTubers involved so that we can spot new talent, make connections in the community and teach a younger generation that philanthropy in a secular society isn’t just for Bill Gates, but that we can all do our part. Again, my apologies if this seems like a horrible thing to do for the world.

    I mean, I’m thrilled that we’ve found a way that we can accomplish all of those goals in one day with one project, it’s a testament to the power of community and it’s something I’m really proud of.

    The fact that anyone could hear the idea and immediately assume that it’s some kind of money-making scheme for my brother and I makes me worry a bit about the state of the world…but I was pretty worried already, so I guess it’s all good.

    – Hank Green

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