I didn’t know it then but two years ago on this day a sequence of events began that ended up changing my life in a major way though that’s not exactly the right place to start. To tell the full story we need to go back a couple more years first.
Social Blade’s history can be tracked back all the way to November 11th 2007, the day I rejoined the once monolithic social bookmarking site digg.com which made headlines last week for selling for a measly 500k. I had been a user of digg since April 18th 2005 but never *really* started posting until that day. I just all of a sudden decided I wanted to try to see if I could get a story on the front page of digg if I tried hard enough, so first I found some really good stories, and began trying to ‘hack’ digg’s algorithm. I used a pretty simple technique. I submitted my stories, added a whole bunch of friends, and then used digg’s ‘shout’ system to shout my story out to my friends along with digging all of their stories. This in turn got all my friends, or at least enough of them to digg my story and bam, not only did I get one story on the front page I got two! Two in one day! My addiction began 🙂
After ‘hacking’ digg I was determined to use my power for good (many people submitted stories for others or for money, I never did this, only submitted stories I truly though were great), bettering the community with only the best tech stories but I also started getting to know many of the other top people on digg and reaching out to them in various other means. I want to say around late December 2007 I saw one of the top users, msaleem tweeting some stats about stories he had submitted as they hit the front page such as how many diggs it took, how long it took, etc. This got me thinking and by the end of January 2008 I decided to build a website to provide all the information msaleem was tweeting but do it on a massive scale, gathering this data on every story. February 8th the SocialBlade.com domain was registered and a few days later the site launched.
For a few years the Social Blade’s Digg Stats was the hot item for diggers and even got mentioned several times on town hall webcasts by Kevin Rose & Jay Adelson the founder and former CEO of the site. Digg of course started going down hill in August 2010 but we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves now. In June of 2009 I was approached by a couple other top diggers about starting a webshow to talk about Social Media news, one of these people actually was the one who helped me come up with the name Social Blade in the first place. The name by the way if you were wondering was to signify slicing through the data and figuring out how to do better on digg and other social media sites. The first slogan was “Social Media Toolkit” as the site was to expand to cover many social networks. Anyway they proposed the show’s name to be the Social Blade Show and originally wanted me on to help engineer it. A couple of weeks later, on July 9th 2009 we had our first episode of the show, streamed live on ustream and then uploaded to YouTube. Our first episode was horrible but we had a lot of fun and I ended up being on the show as a permanent cohost.
Now we’re finally getting to why this blog post is being written in the first place. By 2010 I was starting to lose interest in digg as it was becoming less about tech and more about images so I started exploring more deeply another passion of mine, YouTube. I had been making videos on there since July 2007 and watching many people too. In May of 2010 after watching a video by nalts, or unclenalts shall I say where he coined the term YouTube Orbit as a challenge to make a video a day for a year I immediately jumped on board and ended up turning the idea into a whole community. From May 2010 until May 2011 I posted a video a day for an entire year and got a couple hundred people to also attempt the challenge. In order to do this I got my hands dirty with the YouTube API for the first time in June 2010 so I could auto favorite everyone’s orbit videos on the youtube orbit channel once they uploaded them to have a to this day unique kind of channel on youtube.
So as you can see by now I was getting really involved into YouTube and in July I started looking for websites to track my progress and compare myself to others similar to what I already had running for digg. I did find one such site which I actually had to pay to get myself added because I didn’t have the required 20,000 subscribers they required to be tracked for free. To my dismay, a week or so after I paid my $20 (I think that’s what the cost was) the site shut down! They put up a message saying something to the extent of “I’m sick of all the drama, I’m shutting this site down for good”. Now that you know me a little better you know that I could just not stand for that. I cracked my knuckles and over the weekend I put together the alpha version of the Social Blade YouTube Stats site! July 20th 2010 Social Blade YouTube Stats launched! This was for sure the beginning of a great new era in my life even if I didn’t know it then.
If you think the design of Social Blade looks bad now you should have seen it then, it was *really* bad. Just a plain white background with a search and some tables. That being said in that one weekend I already had all the features I was using on that other site and I actually was already tracking more people then it was! Ever since then I’ve allowed anyone with 5 subscribers or more to add themselves for free and I don’t plan on ever raising that limit. This goal has been a challenge and continues to be one as now Social Blade tracks 400k users daily serving up 8 million pageviews a month!
Ok ok hang on, we’re getting a little too far ahead though if you want to know the whole story. After launching the site did receive a lot of great support but had some problems growing due to the really bad design. I kept improving and adding features but it wasn’t until watching the movie The Social Network that I was really inspired to get back to work on it and make it work even better. That week I went out and bought a few whiteboards and started planning out the design of Social Blade YouTube Stats Version 2. By November 2010 it was ready for the public and the site you visit today pretty much is what went live then. Now that the site actually looked like a website rather the a scratch pad more and more people started checking it out but it wasn’t until Feb 2011 that I can really track its growth.
It’s actually really an odd coincidence how things happened. In February 2011 we were still doing the Social Blade show but we had already replaced one cohost and were having a lot of issues trying to relaunch the website with a new design and it was really burning everyone out. Add to that everyone’s schedules were getting crazy and we were just not able to dedicate the proper amount of time to the show that it really needed so February 17th we decided to end the show at least until we were able to find more time. I had named that episode based on lyrics from a song I liked growing up, Semisonic’s Closing time: Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning’s End. I did not know it then but this title was more true than I could have imagined. On this same day, a huge channel in Germany, videoamt gave Social Blade a shout out which got 145 people to subscribe + countless people heading over to the site and I can literary plot on a graph massive traffic growth month after month since then. A new beginning truly did come from the shows end.
Okay so now 1431 words later we’re finally up to the present. Though Social Blade itself is 4 1/2 years old the YouTube Stats portion of it is two years old today and still growing strong! A few months ago we launched the Social Blade Partner Program which is run by Maker Studios’s RPMNetwork division where we now have 700 channels partnered. From a human aspect this has been great for me as I’ve been able to meet so many other wonderful people and also be able to help them grow on YouTube, even more so then the work I did with the YouTube Orbit. The site itself has gone through a lot of changes behind the scenes but its at a point where I’ve pretty much outgrown my current server and I’m currently exploring various ways to upgrade. From a technical aspect its great! It’s allowing me to learn new technologies as right now I’m trying to decide if its best to bring the server into the Amazon cloud or bring up a dedicated database server with much faster hard drives near by the webserver for better traditional performance. If there’s interest I can blog/vlog more about this time goes on.
Other then the behind the scenes things there’s a lot of front end things I have for the future as well. I’d like to in the next few months roll out a brand new design to the site that will keep the simplicity and abundance of data that you all love but also bring the site forward about 10 years in terms of look and feel. I also want to expand the analytics section much further then just top lists to include many other metrics as well. To top it off since mobile is becoming such a hot item I plan to have both an android and iphone app by the end of the year to complement the current android widget and along with this, a mobile version of the site too. I can’t spill all the beans but lets just say that if all of these things I’d like to get done get done you’re all going to be in for a treat.
I’ll end with this. Thank you all so much for joining me on this ride so far. It has been an amazing one and one that I think has truly changed my life turning a hobby into something more. It’s helped me grow a lot and I think this is really just the beginning. Thank you so much for your continued support, especially those who help me day-to-day keeping the wheels going and I can’t wait to post the report on year 3!