Worst Vlogs of 2006

1. Dogs Barking in Cars.com

Dude, you're not even trying.

Vlogger Kyle MacDonald presents a series of canine captives embodying that existential truth that we're all tragicomic prisoners in the parking lot of life. Either that, or it's just footage of barking dogs. The site's clever tagline — "Dogs + Cars = Barking" — signals its minimalist approach. (Short clips, no commentary.) The dogs are the stars, and the site's reason for existence — whether they're bravely frightening potential intruders or just lunging in impotent fury towards the defrosting grill.

Maybe it's an absurdist parody of the vlogging experience itself, with each entry necessitating prosaic tags like "one dog," "three dogs," or "even barking people". (Who, it turns out, are barking at dogs.) Video titles add their own meaningless epitaphs to the sound and fury. Two girls laughing at a dog becomes "ha ha bark bark"; a cab-ful of huskies becomes "so many dogs. so much barking". And finally completing the circle, an upload page invites viewers to contact "Barkly McBarkalot" to share their own footage of more barking dogs.

Behold the future of multimedia. It's a terrible idea for a video blog — or is it? Just remember that the site's creator is the far-thinking genius who parlayed a paper clip into a house in Saskatchewan.

2. Father doesn't know best

In January, Josh Johnson decided to film his kids talking about Hoodwinked. Then he dubbed them "the Cinekids," and made them do it over and over again.

Young Nick fidgets morosely, his eyes darting in that surreal helplessness every child feels before a parent with a videocamera, while his sister Kayla babbles on.
"Superman is very good excepting when — especially when he caught, he was flying through the, he — this is Superman. (Holds up finger.) He was flying through the air, and caught an airplane. (With fingers) Like, VVVVVVVMmm. And that airplane had a rocket ship! And he was like, VVVVVVVVVMmm to the rocket ship. And they went into outer space. That was probably my favorite part."

And here's Kayla on Santa Clause 3.
"I give it 30 thumbs up because it's so funny and goofy and laugh la-yadda yadda yadda."

15 episodes later, and it's still painful to watch. The children — who look around 8 years old — offer their mangled commentary on movies like RV, Godzilla, and Nacho Libre. The preening father adds a credit for himself at the end of each of "their" shows, apparently hoping to ride the "cute" train to a 6-figure development deal from the Lifetime network. (He's already pressed his kids into a family-friendly short he directed, then included its trailer before one of "their" reviews of Tim Allen's Zoom.)

Unfortunately, exactly one person has subscribed to Dad's YouTube feed, where episode 1 was given three ratings by YouTube viewers — all one star. The clip was favorited 0 times, and commented on twice. ("crap!" 5 months ago and "Shit!" 1 month ago.)

3. Vlogs 4 Peace

Next time someone tells you "I wish all the vloggers would just shut up," send them to Vlog4Peace — a Twilight Zone world where video bloggers say absolutely nothing.

Pete Rahon urged video bloggers around the world to submit one-minute movies of "silence and peace" in an effort to create "a collective sound energy" which would bring transformation and communication to a troubled world. Rahon believed this could ultimately lead to the impeachment of President Bush ("Impeachment is so close to being mispronounced as in-peace-men!") and he called for "a million minutes for peace" — that is, nearly two years of amateur YouTube footage of people meditating.

He apparently abandoned the project 7 weeks later, leaving behind a Yahoo group with exactly two members and an unnoticed post on Blogger titled "Vloggers of the World Unite! Let us Vlog4Peace!" ("0 comments; 0 links to this post.")

It also drew mixed reviews when it was uploaded to YouTube, including commenter ShotgunVinny, who wrote "fucking load of shit!"

Apparently world peace has not yet been achieved.

4. Rocketboom

Rocketboom is like a broken robot that keeps dispensing dispatches from an entirely insulated world. For two weeks in November, every news tip viewers sent was bounced back five days later after their server refused to accept it. But what's even more significant is they didn't notice.

While bad amateur vlogs can at least be endearing, Rocketboom uses an alienating professionalism, dividing the world into talking heads and the rest of us. Their formula is simple (despite the "Web 2.0-speak" in the above interview clip). It's like a newscast, but shorter, with a token wisecrack for each story delivered with artificial sauciness by a 20-something British woman. Day after day Rocketboom plows ahead with preciously pretentious topics, in a slick yet uninspiring crusade to turn the web's grand global conversation into a one-way TV show.

Interactivity is reduced to a few dozen comments left on their web page, many of them one word. ("Hee-larious!" "AWESOME") with no shout-outs to other video bloggers. In a December stunt they displayed URLs for other non-Rocketboom sites which they'd suddenly discovered existed elsewhere on the web — but only for one 24-hour period. Now it's back to business as usual.

There's nothing particularly original or ennobling in filming an attractive young female reading news stories. (Over six years ago another video blog adopted a nearly-identical formula, with an even more commercial twist. It was called The Naked News.) Ultimately it was Ze Frank who summarized the popular reaction to Rocketboom in a series of vlogs which made the argument that they couldn't possibly be as popular as they claim — because they're so horribly, horribly lame.

Besides, everyone knows British accents are just a giant conspiracy to feign superiority over Americans.

5. Rocketboom Lite

Even after two shows, it can only be described as "Like Rocketboom, but with ads. And not as good." Before viewers can even watch the clunky transitions of former Rocketboom newscaster Amanda Congdon, they discover that there's a mandatory commercial from the food and beverage division at Procter & Gamble. (During which her corporate overlords have decreed that pause buttons shall be disabled.) Immediate gratification from fast-paced video stimulation will have to wait until ABC-Disney is through shilling coffee — and even then, they've also decreed that a mandatory second ad shall be displayed at all times. ("Garlic Chicken pizza with punch! Now in your grocer's freezer...")

Also, no rewinding is allowed, ever. I know you can just start the program over from the beginning, but — guess what? That means watching another ad!

It's painful to watch Amanda feign enthusiasm for pre-scripted jokes which aren't funny with a voice that's not resonant, and a personality that's not engaging. Bad acting, a lack of charisma, all under the mistaken belief that she's talented. ("Congratulations! I've arrived! You're welcome!" she seems to say.) It's an infuriating self-satisfaction which violates the web's original promise that online communication is open to everyone, and you don't ascend to a ruling class because you're cute and perky. (This week's crappy episode even appeared over the self-congratulatory and wordy headline "You Want Sexy and Irreverent? You Got It!")

"Try a new stomach-friendly coffee," urges the Folgers ad to the right.

While Amanda retains her trademark spin-to-camera-two move, she's jettisoned Rocketboom's lightning cuts, along with background music, outdoor interviews, and a sense of excitement. Now she's just going through the motions, possibly out of spite (according to some half-understood posts I skimmed on Valleywag). I can't think of anything less exciting than watching Andrew Baron feuding with Amanda Congdon, unless the whole thing took place on a Yahoo group. Maybe next they can argue in a comments thread on MySpace.

But it does offer a nice counterpoint to her show's smug, smirking cadence with its unmistakeble whiff of ha-ha-I'm-on-ABC-and-you're-not. And just as her delivery seems to be picking up some excitement, the show ends, to be immediately followed by yet-another ad! And then ABC News immediately shoves viewers into a non-consensual second video from their back bench of crappy video news stories.

Amanda Congdon's new show is the equivalent of deciding that Lite Beer isn't bland enough, and asking for a LITE lite beer. Is it unfair to compare Amanda Congdon's new video blog to footage of dogs barking in cars? No — because I hate it that much.

I will give her credit for breaking away from the formula, and taking chances in an attempt to find a new voice. I like how she plays video comments from other bloggers on her laptop during her own show. And to her credit, Amanda is acknowledging other weblogs and actively soliciting input from her viewers and the online community.

But as 2006 ends there are just 19 vlogs, according to a badly-researched category on Yahoo. (And one of them is just a Wikipedia page defining the word vlog.) In a weird way this proves the medium is genuinely new, and gives even the worst blogs the honor of being a pioneer. The worse they are, the more they prove that the medium is still wide open, and as Howard Rheingold used to say, what it is...is up to us.

See Also:
10 Video Moments from 2006
ABCNews Amanda Congdon - Rocketboom = Whuh?
2007 Re-Mixed
The Simpsons on Drugs: 6 Trippiest Scenes

20 thoughts to “Worst Vlogs of 2006”

  1. Lou – great writeup – I esp. agree with the comments on RB (tho I like Joanne) and AC on ABC.
    I wrote a post yesterday about how not to launch a video blog which covers some of the items you mention. I also actually count her comments to see which are negative/positive/looks based.

    You can check it out on digg too:

    Happy new year!

  2. I’m with you on Amanda and Rocketboom. I’m actually frustrated this year didn’t turn out any household names. The biggest Internet video star was Andy Samberg, and that was AFTER he moved from thelonelyisland.com to SNL.

  3. Lou, you sound so bitter!

    I find the new Rocketboom is really pretty good. The British chick is funny and endearing.

    RB is certainly much better than Ze Frank, who has an ego the size of the Titanic. Yikes! He has a New York “screw you” attitude that is really toxic, and that I’ve come to expect from the Mainstream Media.

    RB feels like mainstream, doesn’t take itself overly seriously, and is a pleasure to watch.

    Their only problem is that 80% of the people on the show are Jews, so they don’t represent 98% of the US population.


  4. I’m a little surprised at your choice for number one, actually. I think a significant portion of the population (including me) would find videos of dogs in cars WAY more exciting than some of the narcissistic orgies of self-adulation and glory seeking people throw in their vlogs. No shamefully commercialistic, hatemongering, propoganda spreading, teen libido competitors for the top spot?

    Small issue in comparison to the great job you did putting this together. A solid contribution to cultural commentary.

  5. My money for the worst V-log has to go to hometown favorites The Public Eye.
    Its sub-Rocketboom delivery, by two cute but hopelessly braindead young women makes you wonder why they bother. Production values aren’t too bad, and the girls are pleasant to look at, but it’s as if you handed an expensive camera to two really dim Cinnabon or GAP employees and asked them to do a cute and whimsical news show. And the material is really, really dumb. It’s usually about some light, vaguely amusing factoid or an urban legend. Sad thing is, this received a raving news story in our local daily, praising its creator for his modern entrepreneurship and innovation. Too bad it’s complete and utter crap. It’s worth mentioning again that the girls ARE nice to look at, provided the volume is turned down.

  6. Too bad it’s complete and utter crap.

    those girls are cute and witty, rich. i think the humor is going over your head. (and how sad is that?)

  7. Lou, just you wait until that talking dog you dissed reads your blog post. He’s gonna have a few words for you. I think you’re just jealous: he has a driver, and someone to scoop up his poo. You do not.

  8. On the internet, no one knows if you’re a dog. So someone creates a vlog in order to show that now YES NOW on the internet you know that it’s, well, a dog… and you go and say it’s the worst?!

    How could you?



    (okay, I haven’t seen the vlog in question, but I have heard the “on the internet…” statement many times.)

  9. Your comments on Rocketboom and the new Amanda Congdon show are spot on! Bravo! It’s particularly annoying that they don’t even acknowledge emails sent with story tips. What’s wrong with having a robot send a reply so that you know it at least arrived. I’ve just linked to you from my front page. Good stuff!

  10. These comments are far more amusing and informative (Jews, really? Wow!) than any of those vlogs. You actually watched Rocketboom? You poor, poor man. I’d say at least half of those barking dogs have four times the qualifications that Amanda Congdon does.

  11. You’re right about the first two.

    Rocketboom is lame, huh? Hmmm….well, let’s see YOUR video, Mr. Critic. I can’t find 5-10 so I must be dumb.

    Anyhow, you got me to read your list. Kudos.

  12. It’s easy to cut up other people.

    If you were an attractive but aging, self-absorbed pseudo-intellectual with no acting ability that had nothing to offer the world — I doubt you would make a very good video blogger either.

    Amanda Congdon is dumb as bricks _and_ pretentious to the point of making you want to punch her in the throat.

    I don’t see how she could possibly make her videos any better. She has done an excellent job with nothing to work with.

  13. Lou, you should get your facts straight before writing about vlogs. I am the Mom of the Cinekids.

    The Cinekids WANT to be in the podcast. They continue to beg to do Cinekids. Even though a new podcast has not been posted in months, the subscriber stats according to FEEDBURNER continue to grow (Cinekids is featured on more than just YouTube. In fact, most episodes are not even on YouTube but rather on other video sites, and the subscribers and traffic CONTINUE TO GROW).

    During the time that Cinekids was still being produced, it was featured on the Yahoo Nine as well as G4. It was never scripted. We never told them to like a certain film or dislike a certain film.

    Cinekids has been canceled but not because it is a bad podcast – people love it. But in fact, because there is so much interest, we canceled it so the kids can have a normal childhood. They continue to BEG to do the podcast and we continue to tell them no. They should be riding bikes not signing autographs.

    And now I’m going to give you advice I give my kids: Bullies only pick on other people to increase their own self-esteem. Lou, find a better way to boost your ego, okay?

  14. Lou;

    It always comes across as moronic to be a supposed adult and come down hard on children. You are as annoying as the butt-headed coach who yells at little leaguers. It’s one thing to write a negative review…it’s another thing to be just plain mean. These are not kids acting, Lou…they are kids, being kids, reviewing their favorite films, and you are one self-important prick by deciding to play it cruel. Then you try and take it out on their dad by attempting to blame your “pain” on their father with your “made them do it over and over again” theory, which was completely shredded in the comment above by the Cinekids’ OWN MOM. Your “pain” is unjustified because it takes a moron not to understand that you are not their audience. If you don’t subscribe to Highlights magazine, watch Disney films or have small children of your own (which I hope to God you don’t, with the all the cynicism dripping out of all those ignorant pores of yours) then, “Helloooooo Lou!”, you are not their audience. Save your negative diatribe for the appropriate material.

    And, yes, you are a bully. Bullies who pick on kids, deep down inside are actually wimps. And I know you know this to be true.

  15. While everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, I think it’s pretty low to take a podcast that’s entirely unscripted and produced by kids (with help from their dad to FILM, not for content) and created FOR kids and rip them a new one. You’ve probably never spent time with kids — that’s how they communicate! Nick and Kayla are everyday kids with access to technology that most kids their age don’t, and they’ve done a great thing putting a podcast together that basically lets kids talk to kids. It’s because of people like you that drag other people down to make yourself feel good (as good as posting some crappy list like this in Dec and over 3 months later receive a pathetic 18 comments, 3 of which are people that know Nick and Kayla personally that only wasted enough time looking at this trash to show we support kids and their right to grow and try something and not be afraid of people trolling around looking to tear them down). Seriously, congratulations. Your tens of fans are probably cheering you on right now!

  16. C. Sheen has become this type of a fool. Come on, man, is everybody really stunned with this man’s activities? Nowadays, you would probably imagine we would come to assume as much.

  17. I completely agree with your list. They are absolute epic fails. Nobody has time for boring people talking about nonsense.

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