Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Taming YouTube, Part 1: Why?

I have a love-hate relationship with YouTube. On one hand, its endless content is an invaluable resource for learning darn near anything. Where else can you watch a 45 minute video on boiling water, and think, man, that was awesome. Or ponder why does a battleship need to carry hand grenades, or rock out to 59 minutes of near perfect music?

On the other hand, my account is cluttered (hello 600+ items on my 'watch later' list), I find it tricky to track and organize videos--especially the ones I want to come back in the future. And most problematically, the very endless content which I love, can easily result in zombie scrolling. That is, instead of doing something useful with my time, I find myself scrolling page after page of videos.

And don't even get me started on 'YouTube Shorts.' That aspect of YouTube is a disaster. I mean, it's impressive content and kudos to the content creators who make the fascinating work that's featured there. It's just that consuming shorts feels like I'm doing battle with an addictive drug. C'mon man, just one more video, this next one is the best. I promise! Best to just not hit play in the fist place.

To address these issues*, I've conjured up a workflow that lets me be more disciplined about finding, consuming and tracking YouTube content. YouTube offers an API and back in 2017 I wrote a shell script to interact with it. My plan was simple: tweak this shell script to make my workflow trivial to execute. I could then have the good parts of YouTube with the annoyances dialed down.

My plan fell apart almost immediately.

The first step in running the tool I created all those years ago, was to authenticate with Google:

$ youtube_auth init

I dropped this URL into my browser, like I have so many times before. But this time I got an error:

Ahh yes, Google has banned OOB style OAuth. The authorization method that I used back in the day is no longer available. Before I could implement my Life Optimizing YouTube Workflow©, I was going to have to untangle this OAuth challenge. And that, my friends, shall be the topic of part 2 of this series.

*Except YouTube Shorts. That section of YouTube is irredeemable. 

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