Elliot's Philosophy Livestream #76

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_S6QBGgGZT4

Here’s what I wrote on stream:

Elliot’s Philosophy Livestreams – 2023-01-12

Streaming Benefits

  • Show process
  • Style variation
    • casual style
    • voice and text mix
    • real time, not finished products
  • Make more stuff
  • Allows viewer interaction

Authors generally just show you final results. Here is a polished book. That’s it. You don’t see how it’s made. You don’t see mistakes and edits. You don’t see rewriting. You don’t know how to make a book yourself.

They create an illusion of low effort. In general, part of social climbing is hiding most of your effort from people. Do effort in private. Then show results in public. Women do hair and makeup in private. People like to hide their learning process and give the appearance of being naturally good at things. They try to hide weakness and show their most impressive stuff. Curated facebook and instagram pages, that make their life look better than it is, are another example. People tend to hide the bad parts and missteps. This is all problematic and misleading. It leads to lower self-esteem, “depression” and even suicides from people who are misled. People are less happy because they see their own failures and effort but compare to what they see from others. Even if they do the same hiding (and moderate lying) as most people, they usually don’t fully internalize what everyone else is doing so that it’s intuitive for them.

Explaining the same things in many different ways tends to help people learn. They can see it from more angles, in more formats, more styles, explained in different ways, etc.

People don’t have a good model of what doing philosophy looks like. Seeing words appear on the screen is not perfect but it’s better than nothing. For example, when I streamed in the past, a bunch of people were surprised by how quickly I could write stuff. And one person was surprised by how slowly I wrote stuff. That guy was always carelessly rushing and needed to make changes. As to the majority, it gives them a better sense of what things going well should look like. Most of your writing should be pretty quick and easy. If it’s not, try something easier. If you’re working on stuff within your current abilities, on topics you understand well, then you should work fairly quickly without a lot of mistakes. If that isn’t happening, then you’re trying to learn new things or work on topics that are hard for you; maybe you’ve overestimated your knowledge; maybe you moved past some things without enough practice, mastery, automatization.

It’s find to do slow, hard stuff sometimes but that shouldn’t be typical. The majority should be reasonably easy. The standard way to make progress is to go only slightly beyond your limits. Try to learn one small thing at a time, or maybe just a few. If you want to learn or do something big or hard, break it into parts. If the parts are still big or hard, break them into parts.

Some people get stuck agonizing over details for tens of minutes or even hours or days. This is almost always really bad and leads to hating philosophy/reason/analysis/etc.

If something is hard, brainstorm easy things that might lead to progress. Then try doing them. Then see if that helped. Don’t just keep trying to do the hard thing directly. Being stuck mostly leads to frustration, wasting time, giving up.

Giving up almost immediately is bad too. Did you try for even 1 minute? 5 minutes? A lot of giving up happens in less than one minute, and that giving up is mostly bad. But if you’re stuck for over 15 minutes, usually you need to change approaches, not keep at it.

What I’m currently writing isn’t new to me. I tend to explain my process more when working on new stuff. Overall, if I stream a lot, some of it will end up more revealing about my process than just seeing words typed and not knowing how I thought of them. These words are mostly coming from memory, past thought processes, and automated conceptual understanding. I’m not doing much conscious, creative thought to write this. My conscious mind is doing some guiding. I consciously decided on the first topic (streaming benefits). Returning to the issue that you can’t see everything I’m doing was a conscious idea. I want to say more about that. I was monitoring and saw I wrote about something else and didn’t explore that a lot.

My main goal today was to try a stream. I figure I could do some more of my work on stream. There are downsides though so this is just experimental. I’ve streamed a lot before though.

Streaming Negatives

One of the main downsides is that privacy is kinda inconvenient. I have most of my windows on my second monitor. It’s inconvenient to IM right now. Breaks are boring for viewers. I multitask less when streaming. I have to be careful about what I show on screen. I don’t want to show everything on my computer. I cleared my search history in Firefox, since I haven’t been using it recently, so I’d have a safer browser to show. I cleaned up some stuff in my Ulysses (this text editor) sidebar to make it stream safe. I still have to be careful. If I clicked on “Freewrites” it would show one of them plus show excerpts from others in the list of files. Sometimes I have to do stuff off this screen to get it ready, then drag it on screen. Searching my email isn’t safe to do on stream, even when the email I’m looking for is fine to show.

Having a live mic continuously for a while requires more than zero attention. I have my computer muted currently. I could put on headphones. I have my phone on do not disturb. My Mac notifications will show up on my second screen so that’s safe. I go to display preferences then drag the menu bar over to my second screen (which changes which screen is primary) before streaming. That swaps all the windows between screens and moves notifications. It works pretty well and conveniently. It’s better than using Spaces. It even moves my desktop. My regular desktop actually has some files on it but they got moved over.

Another potential downside is people can see more of your mistakes. They can judge unfairly. They can save clips and share them out of context so people don’t realize it came from a live stream and you self-edited it, with no one else prompting you, seconds later.

You have to be careful with e.g. harsh criticism. You can write something that would come off mean, read it, see the tone is wrong and change it before posting it on a forum or whatever. But if you’re streaming, people can see the draft version and get offended.

People can plagiarize ideas that you haven’t even published in an article yet. I saw an example of this recently. An artist was working on art on a twitch livestream. They ended stream without finishing it. A viewer took the unfinished art and used one of the new AI art programs to finish it. Then they published it before first, before the author released it. Then, when the author made it public, the viewer tried to claim priority and say it was their image that they published first and they wanted the author to credit them!!!

Some people don’t actually understand what livestreams are, especially old people. I got a comment once from an old person – who I like and respect – who liked some of my work but not one of my livestreams. I think he didn’t really understand that it was fully unprepared, unscripted, live, real time … and therefore has to be judged really differently than, say, a prepared lecture. He had university teaching experience so might have intuitively compared my stream to a lecture. That stream involved mostly reading an ebook and commenting on it verbally, so it came off somewhat like a lecture on the book’s topic.

And of course lots of people won’t take into account livestream context when something is shared in a misleading way.

People can also forget something is a livestream if the quality is too high. It can intuitively seem more like a prepared lecture if you’re too articulate and have few off-topic or meta asides. I think people sometimes don’t realize or give full credit for how unscripted and unprepared my podcasts are. Although, to be fair, I tend to do those with automatic removal of any silences over 2 seconds. But I usually don’t stop and think a lot. But, for those, I definitely do pause more than live lecturers do and it’d be pretty noticeable without silence removal. (Sometimes it’s noticeable even with silence removal. Sometimes I stop to think mid sentence. I sometimes don’t plan full sentences out before saying them. Then usually I figure out the rest of the sentence as I’m talking but sometimes I don’t. I also have tried to train myself to just pause more instead of saying “umm” or saying something inarticulate. I try to be willing to just stop and think in the middle of something.)

Another potential downside of streaming is being self-conscious and trying to be entertaining. Lots of streamers put on significantly different personas while streaming and have to stay in their outgoing social mode the whole time. I’m pretty good at being unaffected by that stuff. I’m willing to have long quiet parts. I’m not trying to have a constantly entertaining stream. People can watch it in the background or speed it up. If it’s less entertaining one day and fewer people watch, that’s no big deal.

When I first started this kind of screencasting – I think mostly live streamed but some may have been locally recorded then uploaded – I was often pretty quiet and I gradually started talking more often as I did it more. But I don’t mind being quiet especially if I’m writing.

Streaming increases the risk of being distracted and losing focus. Viewers might talk to me. I can ignore them but usually don’t.

YT chat is kinda awful btw. 200 char limit. can’t paste images. tends to censor links. FYI, people can post on my forum and send one YT chat msg to let me know it’s there.

One thing people don’t see is how much I work on philosophy almost every day. I could do daily livestreams for a while but that’s probably too inconvenient.

If you look at what I just wrote, and you write this much every day for months, it’ll help you. It doesn’t all have to be clever or innovative. Just relevant to your life or work/topic.

If you share at least 10% of what you make, that’ll probably help you too, even with ~zero audience. You might get feedback. You can link it later to show a track record of making stuff. People can skim through it in the future. You can use it to look at your progress over time – the stuff you share is kinda like highlights (and all safe to be in public) so it has advantages over reviewing everything.

Writing/creating for the public instead of yourself means you have to think about what will make sense to other people. It helps keep your ideas connected to society and standard knowledge. You don’t wanna have a bunch of weird ideas where you believe you know what you mean and it’s great, but no one else would get it. You can have some ideas like that, but you should also have some ideas/creations that other people can understand or see value in.

And you want to ship finished things regularly. Don’t get stuck in perfectionist polishing or planning to do great things later. You can do some of that but if you only do that it’s bad. Don’t try to wait until you’re better before you share anything at all. Share some stuff and iterate and improve from there. Don’t try to wait until it’s super impressive first.

Tutoring Livestream Improvements

I guess the first issue is the goal of the improvements. Like I could try to make it better for the student or for viewers. Those could be different changes.

I don’t have good answers offhand but I can start by thinking of problems instead of jumping straight to solutions.

One problem was students (sometimes) not doing homework. I didn’t really plan for that. It’s hard because people need a bunch of practice. Limited practice limits what I can teach. I spent a fair amount of tutoring time helping with practice.

There’s a big efficiency gain if people can do some stuff without me. I wanted to do some guiding learning and suggesting activities, but had to walk people through stuff more than I hoped.

As to viewers, I think customizing it to a particular student puts some people off. A lot of people won’t even talk in a forum thread where I’m talking with someone else. They want stuff that’s fully generic or customized for them.

Some viewers would prefer it more condensed to highlights and they don’t want to see someone else’s learning process. People often make similar mistakes to the tutoring student, but not identical, and then they fail to extrapolate from the tutoring session to fixing their own mistakes. People can get stuck a lot when something is close enough that I think they should be able to use and apply it, but they don’t.

Also some viewers want more clear, specific homework assignments. They want it to be more obvious and guided for exactly what to do.

I can’t help everyone. I try to make things easier but people are going to need some initiative, some cleverness, some flexibility and adaptability, etc. I can’t make everything trivially easy for people. Or as Rand put it, I can’t bring the fountain of youth down off the mountain. People have to climb the mountain themselves. I can help and guide some but it’s more about them than me. I’m secondary in their lives and their progress.

I could have organized the tutoring more. I could have developed an outline/curriculum to follow. That has upsides and downsides. What I did instead was make it flexible and personalized. Like I worked on procrastination, motivation and time and energy management. Those could easily have been left out of an outline developed at the start.

If you’re going to be organized like that, you can do it as non-interactive lectures or essays. It gets more impersonal and generic. You can still do it with tutoring though. Math tutors tend to follow the school curriculum and go through the techniques in order. Then they see what the student is struggling with and give extra explanations and help about those parts.

I did have a rough outline which was partly related to student request. Max wanted to get better at writing or something like that. My rough outline was grammar, sentence analysis, paragraph analysis, essays. Building up writing and reading/analyzing skills from smaller to bigger. I’ve been broadly recommending this general plan to people for several years without a lot of success.

Some people work on grammar but they tend to stop there. The grammar part shouldn’t take a long time. You don’t need to be a super expert on grammar. Quickly learning the basics is efficient and worthwhile IMO. And being able to make reasonably accurate trees is useful. But being a perfectionist about grammar, or sticking with it for many months and never working on writing much, is problematic. Grammar is mostly meant to help enable other stuff, not as an end in itself. I did get past it with Max to doing writing exercises and paragraph analysis so I think that was good. His grammar wasn’t perfect but he could usually make trees, often pretty fast. His trees were generally roughly accurate and useful rather than just lost, confused, misleading. So, good enough. You can always go back to it later if refining it more will be helpful.

People interpret some of my comments about mastery as basically perfectionism. But what you need to do is automatize something before you move on. Not everything. It’s OK to go back and revisit topics.

Aside: I guess I should post this text somewhere. A forum topic for the video should get auto-created so I’ll put it there.

Writing, analyzing intellectual passages, understanding what you read, and debating are some of the “good parts” or goals that grammar helps support.

I started doing grammar trees and stuff like that after realizing people often literally couldn’t figure out what sentences said. They’d misread what modifiers apply to what or get the basic logic or structure wrong. I was already intuitively really good at that stuff before I studied grammar. Grammar is a way to make it more explicit and learnable in a step-by-step way. Telling people to practice until they have great intuitions is not very useful. People often read, write or debate a ton and never get very good. So I’m interested in approaches that offer more reliable progress so people aren’t just stuck indefinitely. So partly I try to figure out what I do intuitively/subconsciously and get more conscious understanding of it that’s easier to share and teach.

This writing was all fine and moderately productive but didn’t do much to answer the question of how to improve tutoring videos. That’s actually a decent example to demonstrate. Sometimes I want to figure something out, and I write stuff that might help, and it doesn’t help a lot or directly lead to an answer. Which is fine. Sometimes I’ll just write several drafts of an article from scratch until I get one I like. I often find rewriting easier (and more fun) than fixing major problems in editing. Then I can do only smaller editing once I have something that’s pretty close.

To write multiple drafts and have them come out significantly different, taking breaks helps. I can often do them on consecutive days. Waiting longer can get larger differences though. This is similar to the advice about editing that if you wait a couple weeks then you can look at your essay with fresh eyes and see some problems you were missing. One thing that happens is when you write something and it’s fresh in your mind, then you know what you mean by each part. When you know what a sentence means, it’s easier to miss that it’s confusing. It’s harder to get in the headspace of someone who doesn’t already know what it means.

Overall I was happy with the tutoring. I’m glad I got all that on YouTube. I’ve been recommending it to people.

I’m sure I could improve as a tutor in terms of details like figuring out when a student doesn’t understand something (even if they don’t say they’re confused), getting better at asking the right questions, knowing more when to lead or give examples or demonstrations and when to get the student to try stuff themselves, etc. Some of that stuff tends to improve with experience. There’s also stuff about being critical in a nice, inoffensive way. People can be really sensitive about anything negative when they’re trying to learn. They get vulnerable when learning. They’re showing weakness. Tutoring is usually done privately for this reason. Most people don’t have a thick enough skin, enough self-confidence, etc., to be tutored on YouTube.

That reminds me of that psychologist who did therapy on Twitch with streamers including Reckful who then killed himself. It was not “official” therapy but it was therapy and it was really bad. He did it with people who did not have the right personalities to be sharing that stuff on livestream. And he did it without taking on all the obligations of actually being their therapist. Therapy is a lot more personal than tutoring. That’s way harder and more problematic. Therapy commonly involves talking about people’s personal lives, family and friends relationships, dating, work, personal problems, weaknesses, emotional problems, “mental health” issues, fears, anxiety, even secrets.

In tutoring I mostly focused on objective, impersonal knowledge oriented topics like grammar, math, writing, etc. The more personal stuff was mostly about procrastination and related topics which is common, widespread, covered in lots of self-help books … reasonably generic. Lots of what I said about it was stuff I would also say to other people and think could be useful to many viewers.

I could have prepped every tutoring session beforehand, made some plans for what to do that day, had more stuff pre-loaded in my mind, etc. That would make it better but it’s costly in time and effort. I was trying to do the tutoring in a more cost efficient way with minimal overhead.

Overall, I don’t know, I don’t have any great ideas to do better tutoring.