Daily tips for using Microsoft Excel.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Jilted by YouTube Without An Explanation

I am suffering that post-breakup emotional hangover this morning. Yesterday, I learned that I was permanently disabled from YouTube for violating community standards. All of 1,065 videos are gone. I am forbidden from ever setting up an account at YouTube again. I had a long relationship with YouTube. I started podcasting back in 2005 and signed up for YouTube shortly after Amber MacArthur mentioned it on the set of Call For Help in Toronto.

There was no warning. No e-mail asking me to change my behavior. One day, everything is fine. The next day, my account is marked as permanently disabled.

At first, I figured it had to be some massive mistake. An automated program, left unattended on Christmas had wiped out a bunch of accounts. But a visit to search.twitter.com found only three other people noting that they have been permanently disabled in the last 24 hours.

When you go to YouTube help, they diagnose the "Your Account Has Been Permanently Disabled" message with this:

There are a variety of reasons an account may be terminated. The most common reason is repeated violation of the Community Guidelines or Terms of Use (including claims of copyright infringement). For severe abuse, it is possible for an account to be terminated on a first offense, such as predatory behavior or spam. Individuals whose account has been terminated are prohibited from creating new accounts. If a new account is discovered, it too may be terminated without warning.

There are two reasons that I could be terminated without warning: predatory behavior? Spam? I am not sure how Excel tutorials can be predatory. I haven't spammed anyone.

I asked for more information. They replied with:

Thanks for your email. Your "bjele123" account has been found to have
violated our Community Guidelines. Your account has now been terminated.
Please be aware that you are prohibited from accessing, possessing or
creating any other YouTube accounts.

YouTube staff review flagged videos 24 hours a day, seven days a week to
determine whether they violate our Community Guidelines. When a video or
account is brought to our attention we investigate and take action if

We are unable to provide specific detail regarding your account suspension
or your video's removal. For more information on our what we consider
inappropriate content or conduct while using YouTube, please visit our
Community Guidelines and Tips and our Help Center article 92486.

The YouTube Team

The answer 92486 talks about getting a series of three strikes before you are banished. I've received none. We then have the rather ominous "Serious safety and privacy violations such as threats and harassment may result in immediate termination without prior warning." What? What could I have possible done that is considered unsafe or threatening or harassing? Well...there was that one time that I suggested using INDEX/MATCH instead of VLOOKUP, but that can hardly be considered unsafe.

The community guidelines prevents porn, animal abuse, bomb making, graphic violence, hate speech, predatory behavior, threats. I've been fully clothed and filmed from the shoulders up in all of my videos. No animals were harmed. I do hate the way that double-clicking the fill handle fails when it encounters a blank cell in the adjacent column, but I don't think that I ever suggested violence over it.

They define spam as "Donít create misleading descriptions, tags, titles or thumbnails in order to increase views. It's not okay to post large amounts of untargeted, unwanted or repetitive content, including comments and private messages." I have repeatedly taught people how to do things in Excel and I am guessing the double-click the fill handle trick probably came up three times in the 1065 videos.

They talk about copyright. I created all of my videos. I licensed the theme music for the first 500 episodes and then hired George Wood to write the three themes that we've used since then. The Dueling Excel theme sounds reminiscent of the song Dueling Banjos and another theme uses the same chord progression as Born to Run. Is there any chance that the Boss himself complained about my Excel videos? Bruce...what are you doing watching Excel videos?

I exchanged an e-mail with Leo Laporte. Leo wondered if my gmail account had been hacked. We just recently had an employee resign, so all of the passwords were reset with new hard-to-break passwords about three weeks ago. If there is any time that I feel that I have safe passwords, this is it.

In reading the YouTube terms of service, item 4D prevents commercial use of YouTube. But item 4E says that I can use YouTube to promote my business or enterprise. The first 1040 videos all included a closing slide that suggested people could pick up my Learn Excel from MrExcel book for more tips like this. Recently, I cut the 15 second theme down to 8 seconds and included a 6 second "Support for the MrExcel Podcast is provided by Easy-XL" voiceover.

Item 7 in the Terms of Service says that they can terminate people who are repeat infringers. YouTube gets to decide if something is pornographic, Obscene, Defamatory, or of excessive length. Are they getting me on excessive length? Over the four years, you have 1065 videos times 3 minutes which does add up to 53 hours of free Excel tutorials. Microsoft awarded me as an MVP for that content; perhaps YouTube thinks it is enough for permanent banishment.

Bottom line, I've been jilted by YouTube and there is no good break-up letter. Tell me I snore in the middle of the night. Tell me that you wish I would rather be promoting Google Docs instead of Excel. Tell me some good reason for dissing me for life. Right now, I really would like some closure to understand why YouTube is banning me forever.

I've spent just over four years producing five video tutorials a week. I employed a person to edit videos which cost tens of thousands of dollars over time. I've donated my time in going through e-mailed questions, finding suitable questions, and recording videos every week. There is nothing controversial here. I just don't get it.

The good news...YouTube is a very tiny piece of the audience. Most of my viewers come from iTunes or Libsyn or HowCast or Graspr. Losing YouTube will not put a dent in the podcast viewership. It just doesn't make sense. No trial. No jury. No explanation. Me, and my videos, are just no longer welcome at YouTube.