On hosting a video

When I published my one and only video on how to use Text Collector, YouTube was friendlier to small-time creators than it is today. In the end cards, for example, I could link to my Play Store listing, but that’s no longer allowed. My end cards are grandfathered, but I can’t change them unless I want to lose the link. Much worse, a couple years ago, Google started playing advertisements before my video, a significant change quietly tucked into a November 2020 terms-of-service update:

Ads can now appear on videos from channels not in the YouTube Partner Program (YPP), and we will begin gradually placing ads on brand safe videos… Because these channels are not in YPP, there is no creator revenue share, but creators can still apply to YPP once they hit the eligibility criteria, which remains the same.

For now, YouTube “Partners” can still demonetize videos if they like, but I don’t qualify for the YouTube Partner Program and probably never will. So viewers are stuck with seeing a pre-roll advertisement on my video and there’s nothing I can do about it short of taking down the video.

This isn’t really surprising. Google isn’t much more than an advertising broker, so they pepper their properties with ads. Hosting isn’t free and it doesn’t bother me that they make a little money on ads in the sidebar, but interrupting my content is another level of nuisance.

This is the same video that appears at the top of my listing on the Google Play Store for Legal Text Collector.

Play Store listing

Google’s strategy being a Web of monopolies, they require that the video on my Google Play listing be hosted on YouTube and their own guidelines concur that I shouldn’t have ads:

Disable ads for your video to be shown on Google Play. When users browse Google Play, we want them to see a video about your app, not someone else’s ad, as this can be confusing for users.

Wish I could disable ads, Google. I guess one hand can wash the other without knowing what the other’s doing.

So what are my alternatives?

YouTube’s stranglehold on Internet Video makes removing my video from YouTube unrealistic. In addition to YouTube, I’ve hosted the same video elsewhere now for more than a year, yet a Bing video search for “Legal Text Collector” only finds the YouTube version.

Bing shows 'There are no results for "legal text collector" -site:youtube.com'

I considered adding a block of offensive terms to the video description, hoping that the Algorithm would remove ads in the name of brand safety, but more likely I’ll just get unsavory advertisers.

No, despite the apparent futility, the best I can do is give people some alternative place to watch.


Vimeo is the best-known competitor, in the sense that a gnat is a competitor to an elephant, and they promised not to do this:

Vimeo never puts ads before, after, or on top of videos. However, we do have limited display advertising below the player on some vimeo.com pages.

They’re targeting those of us who wants to host a video that isn’t a product unto itself, but an extended advertisement for a product, so I put my video on Vimeo.

How did it do? In its three years on YouTube, my original video accumulated just shy of fifty thousand views, or roughly thirty per day. In nearly two years on Vimeo, it’s received twenty-eight, total.


I can drop the Vimeo link into a WordPress article and WordPress shows the video, easy:

But wait. In this blog, I don’t host pictures on a third party site: I can upload pictures directly to WordPress, I should be able to do the same with videos. And indeed I can, but it’s awkward. On WordPress.Com, the Classic editor lets me inline a video with the wpvideo shortcode:

But there are a couple problems. First, it doesn’t let me upload my .webm version, for “security reasons.” For those readers not steeped in computer jargon, “security reasons,” is an idiom  meaning, “can’t be bothered.”

WordPress.com’s rejection of .webm is a merely a nuisance; the important problem is that the shortcode provides no way at all to add captions1. So I have to abandon the shortcode and though I prefer to pretend the new “Gutenberg” editor doesn’t exist, Gutenberg does at least let me insert a video with captions:

At least, it lets me add captions to a video today. When I first drafted this post in 2021, it didn’t.

For a long time, the only way to add captions on a generic WordPress installation was via a tortuous workaround. With that in hand, I followed the steps its author generously called “needlessly opaque,” and I found myself blocked as WordPress.Com banned subtitle track upload, again for “security reasons.”

I wonder what they have to say for themselves.

Diversity typically includes, but is not limited to, differences in … physical disabilities and abilities… we welcome these differences and strive to increase the visibility of traditionally underrepresented groups.

we’ve established a Diversity and Inclusion committee


Captions on a video aren’t an esoteric issue, people. Sadly, the eight years between WordPress getting video hosting ability and being able to add captions on WordPress.Com is all too typical. Consider that to this day, Medium doesn’t allow tables, which is why so many Medium articles use images where they ought to use tables; for that matter, Medium didn’t even allow alt text on images for years. Why not punch a blind guy while you’re at it.


But wait. I have a website for Legal Text Collector already. It serves files and videos are nothing but files. Browsers display them with a simple tag:

<video controls width=600 poster=_static/video/youtube_banner.png >
<source src=_static/video/howto.webm type=video/webm >
<source src=_static/video/howto.mp4 type=video/mp4 >
<track label="English" kind=captions srclang=en src=_static/video/howto-en.vtt >

Html doesn’t yet directly support “adaptive bitrate” streaming: the way that a video starts fuzzy and then gets more clear as the buffer catches up, but I don’t think I need it and if I really wanted it, there are JavaScript libraries out there that can do it.

Small price to pay for avoiding the web of arbitrary policies when you host elsewhere.


  1. In the time since I drafted this article, they seem to have retrofitted the shortcode to use the captioned video. I maintain this was embarrassingly late, but I’m happy to see a positive move.

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Print text messages: video edition

Today I published my first YouTube video, How to print text messages on Android:

I already knew the obvious choices of software to use for some elements: Audacity to record and edit narration, Pixly to draw the hand pointer animation. I’m a novice at making videos, however, so I spent a good deal of time figuring out what program I should use to edit the video.

First, I tried Kdenlive, and managed to put together the entire video how I wanted it, only to run into a fatal error: I couldn’t export successfully.

Eagle-eyed viewers may notice that the part where I demonstrate a purchase doesn’t use an actual currency. There are actually several layers of compositing in this shot:

Purchase screen with generic currency symbol

When Kdenlive attempted to render this, it just produced glitches: it flashed images like the sad face emoji, from completely unrelated parts of the video. No settings tweak I found solved the problem.

So, on to OpenShot, whose interface feels largely comparable to Kdenlive. I soon discovered, however, that it lacked some basic effects that I needed, particularly freeze frame. Apparently version 2 lost a number of effects that were present in version 1.

Finally, I moved to Blender. I guess, deep down, I always suspected it would come to this.

Blender is a ridiculously capable program, especially when you consider how lightweight it is. It manages to include 3D modeling, rigging, rendering, animation, compositing, video editing, a game engine and more in a download between 80 to 150 megabytes, depending on your operating system. Compare to, say Maya, which can take days to download.

How Blender accomplishes this is surely black magic, but it’s not for fear of the dark side that I avoided it till last: it’s the user interface. To the uninitiated, Blender feels like learning how to use a computer for the first time.

Want to select something in the timeline, or, in Blender-speak, the “video sequence editor?” It’s right-click, not left-click. Want to move it? You can click and drag, but it won’t release when you let up on the mouse button. You need to click again to release. Scroll wheel zooms. Ctrl+scroll wheel scrolls. And so on.

In other words, Blender’s interface is comparable to Dwarf Fortress.

Nonetheless, it only took me about day and a half to re-cut my video in Blender. On the bright side, if I ever need to add a 3D Text Collector mascot and some explosions, I’ll already be in the right program.