What makes a video go viral? It’s a question filmmakers and marketers alike are constantly trying to crack. As the head of culture and trends at YouTube, Kevin Allocca has the answers. (In fact, he gave a TED talk about it.) Kevin tracks what’s trending across YouTube, and studies how global culture and online video intersect.
We caught up with the digitally obsessed Mr Allocca to talk about inbox zero (or, in his case, non-zero), workspaces, apps and more.
Location: The internet (but mostly New York City)Current gig: Head of Culture and Trends at YouTube
Current mobile device: Nexus 4
Current computer: Macbook Pro
One word that best describes how you work: Enthusiastically
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Each day, there are a seemingly infinite number of things I would like to see or know about to satiate my compulsion, so I’m a fan of tools that help me filter and comb feeds. gReader Pro is one of my most used apps for personal reading on the subway and in bed and I still use NetNewsWire to plow through things at the office. I’m trying to better leverage IFTTT. I use TweetDeck, but I’ve done a sub-par job pruning the list of accounts I follow. I spend an absurd percentage of my day in front of a Google Hangout screen (which has a handy YouTube plugin for co-watching) or on chat, so I’m not sure what my life would be like without it. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do my job.
What’s your workspace like?
When I’m actually at my designated workspace in Chelsea, I have a sit-stand desk with a big monitor, and two TV screens on the wall showing news headlines, popular videos or trending search terms (until March Madness, at which point our work area magically becomes the most popular office on the floor). I really want to hook up a second monitor to my laptop, but I haven’t had the patience to figure out how to set up multiple monitors with a Macbook Pro. Any advice?
Pictured above: Kevin’s workspace.
What’s your best time-saving trick?
It consistently amazes me how many people don’t know about the “Watch Later” buttons that are all over YouTube. I see people doing all sorts of crazy hacks to save YouTube videos for later. If you’re a busy person and come across a lot of videos during the day, this will change your life: When you stumble across a video, click the little clock thing on the player. When you go home, all those videos will be sitting in your Watch Later queue. Sometimes I’ll spot a 30-minute Vice documentary or TED Talk (or clip from one of the fantastic PBS Digital Studios channels I’m subscribe to) and won’t have time to watch it then. I just chuck it into Watch Later, pull it up on my Xbox or whatever when I get home, and I’ve got at least an hour of hand-picked stuff to watch.
What’s your favourite to-do list manager?
I have been using Evernote just in case I was ever asked to do this column. So… check. (I genuinely do like it a lot. Thank you, Lifehacker.) I tried to replace my haphazard usage of sticky notes all over my laptop with Field Notes after reading this. Not going great. Like most people, I use Gmail as a kind of to-do list. I think the “Inbox Zero” thing is really adorable. I subscribe to more of an “Inbox 4,363” philosophy.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
I’ve been working from California for two months and there are three things that have made my time away from home wayyyyy more enjoyable: Nexus 7 (which I have an unhealthy relationship with), Jambox, and my new Chromecast. The Chromecast + tablet situation has completely changed how I think about entertainment consumption, and it’s sweet.
What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
Distracting people at work. I’m the Michael Phelps of the “Hey, have you seen that thing?” game. I’m the best and also worst person to have a desk next to for this reason.
On any given day, there are an unreal number of amazing/entertaining/informative things happening on YouTube if you just know where to look or have the right channels in your guide. I mean, things you could never imagine. I’m just really good at that, I guess. (Subscribe to YouTube Spotlight and/or YouTube Trends if you’re looking for a place to start.)
What are you currently reading?
My summer fun book was Ready Player One. In addition to my gReader blog list, I check Google News, Reddit and the new Digg regularly. I wish I had some unique book to name-drop that will make me look smart, but, frankly, the internet has utterly demolished my attention span.
What do you listen to while you work?
I work very socially and find that music impedes that experience. Plus, you know, all the videos make stopping and starting my Rdio annoying.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Extrovert. Especially at the office. I do better work when I can talk through and explore ideas and concepts with other people.
Pictured above: Kevin’s Nexus 4 screen.
What’s your sleep routine like?
I’m totally a night owl. My favourite time to work and catch up on interesting videos I may have missed is between 11pm-1am, luckily most of my colleagues are in California, so I basically sleep a West Coast schedule from New York City.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see ______ answer these same questions.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Being employed at Google, I’ve had the good fortune to observe some of the sharpest people I’ve ever met. One thing I’ve definitely learned is that it’s not good enough to be smart. To make things happen, you need to make smart decisions quickly and stick to them.
Also, my dad always used to say this thing, “Sometimes you need to look out for #1.” I despise shameless self-promoters, but I also think a lot of people who come out of college with humanities degrees can forget that it’s not a bad thing to occasionally be openly self-interested if you pick and choose your moments.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I just want to say I read Lifehacker pretty much every day and I love this column, so thank you for this. Mum, I know your friends at the gym don’t know what this blog is, but trust me that this means I haven’t squandered my life.
Also, hey guys, have you seen this? 🙂
We’ve asked a handful of heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Every week we’ll feature a new guest and the gadgets, apps, tips and tricks that keep them going. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.