As you know, at the start of this year I began experimenting with bringing on other creators in the hopes of increasing the output of the channel. After trying this out for a few months, I've decided to roll things back to being more of a solo project. Needless to say, this was a very difficult decision. Since all of you have been so unwaveringly supportive of the channel and what I'd like it to accomplish, I wanted to take to the time to write out my thoughts on where I'm coming from, and what my plans are moving forward.
[After writing this, I'm realizing that what was meant to be a simple update is now somewhat of a wall of text. To quote Pascal, "I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter." On to more video work!]
First, you may have noticed that so far there wasn't any increase to the rate of output. That wasn't actually the root of the decision, though. As best as possible I wanted to think things through with respect to the most reasonable best-case steady state we could achieve in the future.
For context, let me give a little background on some principles I had in mind while seeking out others for the channel. I want it to be the case that all videos on the channel have the feeling of being a passion project driven by an individual, rather than a creation-by-committee product coming off an assembly line. That's not to say other works out there which are team-efforts can't still be great; channels like Kurzgesagt come to mind, not to mention the entire film industry, and in fact most great products out there. It's just that there is a very real distinction between individual efforts and group efforts, and I want the works on 3b1b to fall into the former category.
Why? In any video, the goal is not simply to teach someone a particular lesson about math, but hopefully to make them see their own relationship with the subject a little differently. Maybe that means taking someone from confusion about a topic to feeling like it's perfectly within their abilities. Maybe it means reigniting a passion for math in someone whose interest had been dormant for a while. Or in some special cases maybe it means igniting that passion for the first time. Either way, as I reflect on the works that have had the most influence on my own self-identity, they all tend to be the product of individuals. My best guess for why this is the case is because works-by-individuals feel more like one half of a conversation than works-by-groups, and if you want to change someone's self-identity, it's much easier to do so in the context of a personal relationship (or something approximating it).
At the same time, though, through 2017 I had a pretty steady background process of guilt based on not producing as much content as I wanted to. The only way to change that without sacrificing quality is to increase the number of man-hours going into videos, hence the need for more people.
So the roles I had in mind for new additions were ones of independent creators. Subject to the constraint of falling within the general style of the channel, the aim was for a long term steady state of parallel and independent creation from different people, all while maintaining the feeling of each video being a passion project, not an assembly-line product.
What I started to realize upon experimenting with this, though, is that when I really unpack what I mean by "general style of the channel" in terms of the topic choice, writing, animations and editing, etc., there are quite a few personally driven quirks I have for what the content should be. In practice, this implies a necessary trade-off between the full freedom I would want to give to other creators, and what my hopes are for stylistic consistency. It also means introducing a pretty big inefficiency to the process, in the form of feedback cycles.
Ultimately, I decided that in much the same way that I think the channel should remain under one voice in a literal sense, to make sure it has the same passion project feel I'm going for it should also be under one voice in the more figurative sense.
But this alone does not imply rolling things back to being more of a solo project. One thought I explored seriously was starting a second or third channel. For example, this is what VSauce did. That way there's a platform where additional creators can genuinely have full control.
There's something enticing about this, but it did make me step back to ask "What is the goal here?" Is it to have more math content on YouTube? There is no shortage of people who want to make math videos, many of which are extremely good, and I'm quite sure the future will bring with it many, many more people who want to enter the space. There's a co-branding benefit to be had in cultivating new channels under the 3blue1brown name, helping to spur their growth, but I'm not convinced that the best way for that to work is for me to own those channels. Instead, perhaps much of the same benefit comes from playing my part in helping to grow existing small channels which are under-appreciated, rather than inventing new ones.
Yet another step back had me questioning the basic premise for expansion in the first place: More content. Really, that goal might have been better phrased as "more content in the 3b1b style", since a goal of more content in general would probably be better achieved by spending the time and resources helping other creators. But realistically, as I learned, more content of a personal style doesn't happen by adding more independent creators.
One thing I should add here is that when I say I'd like to return to this being a solo-project, that does not mean I won't still seek ways out outsourcing parts of the process where it makes sense. There are certain parts of the visual/audio production which might be best to hire out (though core animations are hard to disentangle from the writing), it's just that there won't be other full-time creators.
And aside from all thoughts about goals or stylistic principles, there is also a simple personal motivation underlying this. What I would like is to spend as much of my time as I can creating content and learning/teaching new math, not running a small organization that creates content. On the scale of two or three people, there is not too much conflict here, but to get to a point where an increase to the frequency of new videos is enough to meaningfully change what the channel's total influence is, I think it would require scaling up to a point where the solo-artist/manager dichotomy is much more real.
Moving forward, I'm as determined as ever to make sure the quality of the content deserves your support, even if my goals have shifted away from quantity. Also, as you can probably tell my mind has been floating around thoughts one how I can start doing more to help smaller creators. I have a few ideas here, but I'll wait until they crystallize into something more concrete before adding on to an already rather wordy update.
Thanks, as always.