Ask the Expert
Ask the Experts is a new Tech 2025 online learning series that offers a unique twist on learning about emerging technologies. Expert guest speakers participate in live video discussion and analysis on recent hot topics in the news and research on emerging technologies that highlight a particular problem or potential of the technology for us to explore through an interactive Q&A session. Then, we turn the tables and our guest speaker will ask questions of participants to help solve the problem (making you the expert).
Our Guest Expert for this session is Matt Gielen (founder and CEO of Little Monster Media Co.). Before founding Little Monster, Matt ran programming at Frederator Networks. During his time there he was a frequent contributor to Tubefilter, writing research papers such as Reverse Engineering the YouTube Algorithm, and Cracking YouTube in 2017.
"The most valuable knowledge you can have [about YouTube] is how the YouTube algorithm works. But, like everything algorithm-related, that’s hard to do. YouTube doesn’t make the variables that factor into its algorithm public. So, to figure out how it works, we must peer into a very big and very dark black box with very limited data. There are also factors at play that we have absolutely no data for whatsoever. These data points (such as thumbnail and title impressions, user viewing history and behavior, session metrics, etc.) would shed a lot of light on the algorithm. But, alas. They don’t exist. Despite these limitations, we still have an obligation to try and figure out as much as we can with the data available to us." -- Matt Gielen
Piercing the Big, Dark Black Box
This past year, the top social media platforms have increasingly made extreme changes to their algorithms to define and govern the content we view. But these changes have also created a severe backlash from Users and content creators who were confused by the changes and angry about the content the algorithms were serving and banning, among other unpopular changes.
The following five articles cover the most contentious, recent YouTube controversies as a result of the platform's new algorithmic changes:
- YouTube’s top creators are burning out and breaking down en masse (Polygon)
- The Algorithm That Makes Preschoolers Obsessed With YouTube (The Atlantic)
- YouTube stars' fury over algorithm tests (BBC News)
- As algorithms take over, YouTube's recommendations highlight a human problem (NBC News)
- Is YouTube's Algorithm Endangering Kids? (NPR)
When a company changes its algorithms in ways that significantly (and possibly detrimentally) alter the User experience on their platform (or negatively impacts people's lives, as in the case of YouTube creators who have seen their income significantly cut due to the new algorithms), can we every know and understand the precise changes that are being made to the algorithms?
Using the following research that he co-authored with colleagues, Matt Gielen will take us into the belly of the algorithmic beast and and share key insights from his research on how YouTube's algorithm works. And, using the above news stories as the basis for discussion, we'll explore what this means and how we can become more knowledgeable about algorithms:
About Matt Gielen
Matt Gielen (@MattGielen) is the founder and CEO of Little Monster Media Co. the premier audience-building agency for digital video. Little Monster is dedicated to helping brands build and grow audiences for social media platforms by leveraging the power of video with a primary focus on YouTube, Facebook, and other emerging social video platforms. The company provides strategic consultation, paid media planning and execution, corporate training and operational support for major brands who want to build and cultivate real, engaged audiences through video. Clients include Conde Nast, BBC, Fandango, CBS, Sesame Street and many more.
Before founding Little Monster, Matt ran programming at Frederator Networks. During his time there he was a frequent contributor to Tubefilter, writing research papers such as Reverse Engineering the YouTube Algorithm, and Cracking YouTube in 2017.