All good points Jonas, Ben W, Ben P, and Stefan. Was uncertain at the beginning but am pretty convinced now. Also, side-note, very happy about the nature of all of the comments, in that they understood my POV and engaged with them in a polite manner.
By the way, I also was surprised by Rob only making 4 videos in the last year. But I actually now think Rob is producing a fairly standard number of high-quality videos annually.
The first reason is that (as Jonas points out upthread) he also did three for Computerphile, which brings his total to 7.
The second reason is that I looked into a bunch of top YouTube individual explainers, and I found that they produce a similar number of highly-produced videos annually. Here’s a few:
3 Blue 1 Brown has 10 highly produced videos in the last year (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). He has other videos, which include a vide of Grant talking a walk, a short footnote video to one of the main ones, 10 lockdown livestream videos, and a video turning someone’s covid blogpost into a video. For highly produced videos, he’s averaging just under 1/month.
CGP Grey has 10 highly produced videos in the last year (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). He has other videos, which include a video of CGP Grey talking a walk, a few videos of him exploring a thing like a spreadsheet or an old building, and one or two commentaries on other videos of his.
Vi Hart in her peak made 19 videos in one year (her first year, 9 years ago) all of which I think were of a similar quality level to each other.
Veritasium has 14 highlighy produced videos in the last year, plus one short video of the creator monologuing after their visit to NASA.
CGP Grey, 3Blue 1Brown and Veritasium I believe are working on their videos full time, so I think around 10 main videos plus assorted extra pieces is within standard range for highly successful explainers on YouTube. I think this suggests potentially Rob could make more videos to fill out the space between the videos on his channel, like Q&A livestreams and other small curiosities that he notices, and could plausibly be more productive a year in terms of making a couple more of the main, highly-produced videos.
But I know he does a fair bit of other work outside of his main channel, and also he is in some respects doing a harder task than some of the above, of explaining ideas from a new research field, and one with a lot of ethical concerns around the work, not just issues of how to explain things well, which I expect increases the amount of work that goes into the videos.
I think it’s possible that last year was just unusually slow for people (possibly pandemic-related?)
I looked at 3B1B (the only Youtube explainer series I’m familiar with) and since 2015 Grant has produced ~100 high quality videos, which is closer to ~20 videos/year than ~10/year.
I’m not familiar with the others.
and could plausibly be ~20% more productive in a year in terms of the main, highly-produced videos
I feel like this is low-balling potential year-to-year variation in productivity. My inside view is that 50-100% increases in productivity is plausible.
Yeah, I agree about how much variance in productivity is available, your numbers seem more reasonable. I’d actually edited it by the time you wrote your comment.
Also agree last year was probably unusually slow all round. I expect the comparison is still comparing like-with-like.
:) Appreciated the conversation! It also gave me an opportunity to clarify my own thoughts about success on YouTube and related things.