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Hi. My name is Peter, and this is Go Verb a Noun.

So, last time, Hank Green talked to us about business and ethics, and the role that they have played in the online education scene for him. In this video, he's going to talk to us a little bit about the Nerdfighteria census: what went into it and what came out of it. 

So. Let's check it out. 



Peter: What inspired the Nerdfighteria census?

Hank: Uh, the first census we did was two years ago. What brought it on?

Ugh. Every business in the world studies their consumers. And then I realized that not only was it an opportunity for us to do that, but it also would be an opportunity for us to share that.

So like, mostly you do these demographic customer things, and they're highly confidential because you don't want your competition to benefit from this $400,000 market research thing that you just did. Um, not that that's how much the census cost. But I have friends who work in market research and know how much it costs.

The census doesn't cost anything, by the way. Because I write it and then I analyze it. And we have volunteers who help analyze it, but it's just a fun thing. 

It was also an opportunity for the audience to get to know itself better. Because then I can make this video where I go through 100,000 humans you have answered this thing, and I like . . . The cumulative hundred thousand humans, what kind of people are you? Where do you live?

And to understand that, like, no age demographic that makes up 50% or more. There are no majorities in Nerdfighteria except, unfortunately, racially. But there are, like . . . It's a huge bisection of countries. And the tail of countries goes on and on forever.

We have people who watch us in over a hundred countries. And then, like, what are those people into? Really diverse things. And also understanding that, like, for me the things that people are passionate about are so far beyond -- of course, just Nerdfighteria -- but even things that I even know about. You know? 

I love looking through these things. We ask a question that's just like, "What are you super into right now?" And going through and being like, there's a thing I've never heard of. And Googling it, and being like oh, that is an adorable anime about this do who also is a samurai warrior. Or something. 

So that's really cool. I mean, the motivation was just to know. As a creator you're always imagining your audience. And like, that's an important part of being a creator. You wan to know how they're going to respond to this, and what they're into, and what excites them. How to make things that people are going to like. 

A big huge part of that is internal. Like, you think, what would I like? And that's an important part of it for me. It's probably, you know, the biggest piece of the pie. It's like, I want to make something that I like. 

There's also the piece of the pie that's like, what is John going to like? Because I'm still thinking about him, as like the next biggest piece of my audience. But then, the majority of it are all of these other people. And what do they want? What are they interested in?

And I think you get a skewed views of that if you just look at comments. And you get a skewed view of it if you just look at twitter or Instagram. Those things are demographically selected. Like, my Instagram for example, is very clearly a younger audience than my YouTube channel. I'm sure it would be even younger if I were on Vine. But I'm not. 

My Tumblr is where I do the majority of my actual interaction with people, but I'm aware that Tumblr is somewhat demographically selected. So the people who are on Tumblr are not the same group of people as the people who watch our YouTube videos. So I wanted to actually know.

It's still doing a little bit of self-selection because it's still just the people who answer the survey, who care enough to answer. But, really. Those are the people I care about. The people who care enough to spend a half an hour responding to a survey are, by far, the most important part of our audience. 

And the, you know, the 150,000 people who don't care enough to answer the survey . . . eh. Like, I hope they keep watching, but they're obviously not super into it. So like, eh. You know, that's not as important to me. 

So to get this information about the people who really care about what we do -- and who maybe identify as a Nerdfighter and consider this a part of who they are as a person. Just to know those things was really valuable. And I have encouraged other creators to do it, and I am having good feedback from other YouTubers who are interested in it. 

Really, the unexpected thing about the census . . . the biggest unexpected thing about the census is how many people fill it out. But deeper than that is why people fill it out. And that's because they feel as if they're doing a favor for the community. They're doing a thing for this thing that is important to them. And that's absolutely true. They absolutely are. 

It's great to see people, their excitement and enthusiasm manifesting itself in that way. And like, I just didn't anticipate that that would be an effect of the census, but it really is.


 Results of the census

Peter: Is there anything that's been a direct result of the Nerdfighteria census?

Hank: Subbable. The entire idea and concept of Subbable.

We asked people on the first census, "How much would you pay, if you had to pay, for Crash Course?" We recognized that this wasn't going to reflect reality, but if you took all of the dollar amounts that people said they would pay per month, it was ludicrous. It was like $700,000 per month.

And so we were like, okay, so we need to do that. We need to give them an opportunity to pay. We're not going to make them pay, because the question was if you had to pay how much would you pay. So we didn't want to make anybody, make people pay.

But if $700,000 a month of potential value, taking even a fraction of that -- which it turned out to be a substantial fraction -- but like, but still. So yeah, that Subbable was a direct effect of the Nerdfighteria census. 

Other examples, we've found YouTube channels that we really like and didn't know about and have promoted through the census. In terms of events -- which this is all like, head, like idea space right now. I'm really into the idea of creating real life spaces for online communities. Obviously, VidCon is a manifestation of that.

But like, moving beyond VidCon, I'm really excited about bringing other online communities into the real world. So finding out what Nerdfighters are into, and how else they're identifying, and what they're enthusiastic about, is very helpful for that, as well. 

There's big interesting things happening on YouTube around beauty and gaming and books, and like all these different things. And so finding out that, for example -- this is only surprising because I don't watch a lot of beauty content -- a surprising number of Nerdfighters watch beauty creators. I would not have guessed that, only because I am a man who has never put on makeup. So knowing that is very helpful if we're every going to, you know, help that world have an event or assist those people who are making great content and doing cool things. 

There's like direct effects, and there's internalization of information and knowing things about your audience that you didn't know before.

I'm always fascinated to find out how many people found Vlogbrothers through SciShow and Crash Course, because to me it's a one-way street: Vlogbrothers is the thing that makes SciShow and Crash Course possible. But now that SciShow and Crash Course have their own very large independent audiences, it's really interesting to see people moving the other direction, too. 

I never anticipated that, which is a dumb thing. Like, of course that would happen. But here I am.



Peter: Has Subbable done what you thought it would do?

Hank: I thought Subbable was going to do a bunch of different things. Maybe. 

It has done the most important of them which is to fund SciShow and Crash Course, and a couple of other YouTube shows. And without that, it would have been very difficult to make the transition off of Google's money -- because SciShow and Crash Course were funded by Google for two years. 

So to leave that behind was terrifying. But Subbable made it possible for us to do that. And we even have a little extra. So. And also Google forgave us some of our debt, which was nice. 

So thanks to everyone involved in making that possible. It was a lot of different pieces that had to come together for us to keep doing these things. And we can, and we are. Yay!

So it has done that thing. You know, there was also this little piece of me that thought maybe that Subbable was going to be a place where people actually went to get content. But, blah! That's too complicated. It is so hard to get people to go to a new place, and the system functions okay now.

At the time, there was a lot of getting up in arms about the state of YouTube's distribution system. For example, I don't get the majority of the people I subscribe to. They don't show up on the front page of my YouTube the way they used to.

So I thought, well let's solve that problem. But really, YouTube knows what it's doing. It knows why it's only showing you select creators, and that's not as huge of a problem as people anticipated. 

More broadly what I wanted was for there to be a way to economically incentivize people to create content that isn't about getting the most number of views. If advertising is how you're making money, it's just about impressions. There's some engagement metrics that matter, but mostly it's about impressions. 

I wanted to incentivize content that maybe not everybody, but some people, really love and just need to exist. They want it to be in the world, and that's the whole . . . And to create a system for that kind of content that people are just extremely enthusiastic about. For that kind of content to exist, rather than the content that we currently have existing -- which is fine but is less exciting to me, and those systems already exist.

So to create a new economic system to incentivize the creation of content that people are very enthusiastic about. That was a huge goal of Subbable, and it has worked in a limited fashion so far.

But I see it as being very, like a definite, significant, impactful future. And Patreon is part of that. Different other subscription services that require you to pay are also part of that. Kickstarter is part of that. 

This whole movement toward people getting together and creating enough money for things that they want to exist, to exist. You know, Veronica Mars and Crash Course and, you know, that cooler that has a USB port and blender attachment. Those things that people want to be in the world.

And it's just, if you want to pay for it, then pay for it. Like if you want it to exist, it's up to us. It's not up to some investors. It's not up to whether or not we can get two million people an episode to watch this. Because that's not every piece of content. 

There's a lot of stuff that gonna be made that two million people just never will care enough about. But that's still important. Because even if it's ten thousand people, but it's creating ten times more value for those ten thousand people, then yay. Then that's a success.

And I think that educational content in particular, very clearly provides more value per minute watched than entertainment. Not that educational content can't be entertaining. But when you're being, you know, if this is going to help you on your GREs. If this is going to help you pass your chemistry test, like, and then get into a better school, and then have a better life -- that's significantly more valuable than, like, a very entertaining cat video. Even the MOST entertaining cat video.


 Bonus question: Curiosity

Peter: And now a bonus question: What role do you think does curiosity play in the learning process?

Hank: I think that all of the best learning is based on curiosity. And I think that we've lost that a lot in education. And I don't know why that is, and I don't know how to solve that problem. But I think that most people would agree with that statement. 

And honestly, like, the thing that we do to foster curiosity is just be curious. And like, express how exciting that is. Not just for six-year-olds, which seems to be the majority of where curiosity is in our culture, but among everyone. It's the greatest thing. It's what all of human progress is based on. That's crazy. 

I think that if you just make it clear that being excited about knowing . . . You know, I think that thing is inside of everyone, and if you express it, then people are like, "Oh! It's okay to express that. It's okay to feel that." That's the main thing you have to do.

So that's what we try to do.



Peter: In case you were curious, that last question about curiosity -- ha! -- came from Dr. Lindsey Doe of Sexplanations. Thank you, Lindsey, for an awesome question. And thank you, Hank, for an awesome answer.

I think by now you can probably see why it's so valuable to have data in the first place. Which is why I'm doing what I'm doing.

Now suppose you had access to hundreds of thousands of people who are actively in the online education community. What kind of questions would you ask? Let me know in the comments down below or on the social medium of your choice: twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, whatever.

As always, thank you for watching and thank you for caring. Until next time, guys, I'll talk to you later. Alright, bye.