Good hello everyone – this somewhat quirky greeting has been around YouTube for a few years and you can even buy it on a t-shirt now. The person responsible for this phrase in hundreds of videos: Alli Speed. Between 1 May 2009 and 6 April 2014 she documented her life in daily vlogs with her then-partner. That’s 1,802 videos/ days. On 12 August 2013 the record for “most consecutive daily personal videos posted on YouTube” was certified by Guinness World Records, with 1,565 days at the time. While the daily vlogging is in her past now, Alli Speed’s YouTube story and her positive spirit continue on her personal channel with her own mix of travel vlogs, lifestyle tips and (drunk) gaming. And although her story is about as ‘new media’ as it gets, it is also as human and as personal as it can be.
► You are done with the daily vlogging, but let me ask: When you and your then-boyfriend started the vlogs in 2009 – with the plan to do it for one year – what were your expectations?
When that was first on the table, my first thoughts were “Who the hell is going to see this?” I never thought of myself as an interesting person. I enjoy travelling and I am a pretty outgoing person, but I thought there was no way that something like this would ever be a huge sensation, because nothing I do in my life is that important that people would take time out of their lives to watch my life.
► When you didn’t stop the daily vlogs after one year, did you continue with a ‘we can get out of this whenever we want’ attitude or did it feel like more of a commitment at that time?
That’s a good question. It was a very time consuming job. And we knew that the more we commit to this, the more people will commit to it in return, so we really have to step up our game and we really can’t disappoint anyone. I’d say, at this point it took a turn to something way more serious and a lot more long-term than we initially imagined it to be.
► At the time you were still in college. How did the vlogging fit into your post-graduation plans?
Well, when I was in school, I still wasn’t a hundred per cent sure what I was going to do with my future. In 2009 we had become engaged and at that point I knew that my life was going to take a slightly different direction than I initially thought it was going to go. I thought I was going to be a professor, go back to graduate school and become a teacher. But I started to realise that there was really something to what we were doing, that people were really interested and that it would be kind of a stupid decision on my part to walk away from something that was, in effect, just living our lives and having a great time, while making a career out of simply that.
► Other than a job that paid your bills, what positive things have you gotten out of it?
A lot. The fact that I’ve been able to go to so many amazing places and get to meet so many different people I never would have had access to – that’s a really big deal in my life. I think it has definitely opened doors for me to continue to do this as a job. It was a really awesome and formative time for me to get to know the ins and outs of YouTube, because I wasn’t familiar with it as a business platform at the beginning.
► Living your life so openly isn’t all sunshine and roses, though. Just scrolling through YouTube comments of a random video, I find things that drive me nuts – and they’re not even talking to or about me…
Yeah, occasionally you read some really snide comments. But after a while that kind of stuff no longer really bothers you. If you’re on YouTube constantly, you know that, unfortunately, it just comes with the territory. Really, I just want to give those commenters a hug. I guess the negative stuff that comes with this job doesn’t come from a place of hatred or a dislike for you as a person. Because they don’t know you as a person. Not really. You just have to keep a clear mind about that and learn not to respond to the negativity with more negativity.
► And in terms of the negatives of it as a job?
Of course I can only speak for me, but there was a moment when the job turned from living our lives and filming it to looking for what we can do to make it more exciting. So instead of vlogging our lives, we were living our vlogs. It was a feeling of being stuck in trying to figure out what to do in order to stay interesting. With a growing audience, the pressure also grew – people expecting more videos, longer videos, more exciting content. Once you jump out of a plane or something, people won’t be as interested anymore in seeing you sit around the house, talking about cereal. There is the pressure from the audience – although it is not intentional on their part – and so you want to be exciting enough for them, because you know it all could go away and go away very quickly.
► Pre-marriage, maybe before starting the vlogs even, or when you got married – did you at any point discuss what would happen to this joint endeavour should you ever split up?
It didn’t ever come up, actually. The truth is that the CTFxC channel was Charles’ first. That’s unavoidably true. But the vlogs were started with both of us and they included both of us for the entire time and we sweated over them together. But I would never take the credit or the channel away from him. Also, I had my own channel with my own content, so I think that’s why that aspect didn’t become a big issue. But no, we never discussed it during our marriage.
► But would you advise people who are looking to get into vlogging or have already started it to plan for the worst case scenario right away – no matter how uncomfortable that conversation is?
Honestly, one of the biggest things I’ve learned – not just from this experience but from that short quarter of a century that has been my life so far – is that there is nothing more valuable than keeping open communication, with either your friends, your significant other or your business partner. Once issues start to crop up that haven’t been discussed and you’re already in the thick of it, it is really difficult to take a step back and work through something that is already a stress on your shoulders. So it would be helpful to do a little bit of research, which of course is true for any business, but especially so for something like YouTube or vlogs. Because of how deeply personal vlogs can be, you definitely want to take the time and see where the line between your business and your personal life is. You don’t want either one to bleed over and ruin something good. You need an honest and solid foundation from the beginning.
► Of course in asking that I assumed that you would even encourage people to start vlogging. Is that the case?
(laughs) Oh god. You know, it’s funny, because sometimes, when people say they started a vlog channel, I want to yell at them “No, don’t!” (laughs) But that’s the wrong approach. I would say, carefully consider how often you want to post. That is, carefully consider the frequency with which you want to be tearing your hair out throughout a week. (laughs) Especially if you’re going to do a lot of travelling, internet can be very difficult to come by and timezones can affect your posting schedule. And once you get into it, people will expect your videos. In order to keep a good flow, you have to be consistent, which certainly is something I struggled with in the beginning on my channel and it hurt me a little bit. So before people start with vlogs, they should work on a schedule that is good for them. Not everyone should dive – at least not immediately – into daily vlogs. Much less if you have never started any kind of YouTube channel before. And that becomes even more true if you have another job or go to school.