My favorite projects of 2023


I saw someone post on Bluesky asking people to bring to Bluesky the tradition of posting threads containing the year’s work that you were proud of. I’d never posted an end of year wrap-up thread before, and I’m not posting a bunch of links on Bluesky, but it did inspire me to take part in the tradition. So here we go!

Mario – 100 billion views

Released in April, this is a project that began with a request from my teammate in Japan, who was interested in finding a story to tell about Mario to coincide with the release of the Mario movie. We worked together to dig into YouTube data related to Mario to develop insights and a narrative about the intersection of Mario and YouTube within the Mario fandom. It was through working with my ride-or-die, Alex Gomez on gaming marketing, and the agency Big Door that we were able to take those insights and translate them into a video that truly celebrated the community of Mario creators.

What I learned: With this project, we had a creator do the voiceover, and when used correctly, having a creator from the community provide a voiceover can provide credibility that a generic voice, typically probably construed to be a stand-in for YouTube can’t.

Like & Describe – ASMR: The Truth Behind The Tingle

This is the second episode of Like & Describe that I got to participate in. Like & Describe is a podcast created by the Culture and Trends team, hosted by MatPat, that tells the story of popular YouTube trends. I’d gotten to work on the first one, which focused on V-Tubers, but my part was recorded in a separate interview and edited into the podcast. I’d really wanted to chat with MatPat, which I got to do for this one. We’ve known each other for a while, and I just thought it would be fun to shoot the breeze with MatPat about ASMR, and it was.

What I learned: Patience and gratitude. You’re not going to get every opportunity you hope for, and it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate it when you do get those opportunities you’d like.

Culture and Trends Report 2023

We released our polymorphous trends report in June, and in many ways, it represented an evolution of a lot of ideas we’ve already expressed before. While we began from the position that we are in the midst of a rapid technological shift that is pushing creativity and culture in new directions, many of those directions are similar to things we’ve discussed before. If anything this report gave us an opportunity to further clarify some previously stated ideas and discuss AI even though we were very early in generative AI explosion.

What I learned: Getting this project out was challenging, and I learned that doing less does not necessarily mean that that the complexity decreases. Compared to two years prior when we produced a twenty-minute video and dozens of supplementary videos, we had a much smaller project, but the complexity of producing and releasing it didn’t feel much different.


I’ve already posted about Flowers a couple of times, so I’m not sure I need to write more about this. I think the thing that stands out to me on this is that we began working on this in fall of 2022, and we thought we’d release the first video in February. It turns out, we didn’t release a video until almost a year-to-the-date of our initial kickoff. The series has been and done everything that I’d hoped for it. People seem to be appreciative of the stories, acknowledging the impact of the creators. I’m hopeful we’ll make more.

What I learned: Do what’s right for the project. This is the third year in a row where I had a project that experienced big delays from a projected launch date until the actual launch, and it’s the third year in a row, where the project ultimately benefitted from that delay. With Flowers, at every step of the way, when confronted with a difficult decision, we’d ask ourselves “What’s best for the film(s)?” and then take that route, even if it was difficult. No regrets.

How Choreography Videos Got Their Groove

This is not a video on which I was a creative or a trends lead. Both of those roles were handled by my teammate, Maddy Buxton. I supported her work on this, and I helped her work through refining the narrative and giving feedback to the creative agency (this is a real skill that I think most people underestimate). It was great watching her take this video from its earliest state, where we deeply worried about the execution, to this video, which does a great job of laying out the progression of a video format.

What I learned: We learned the importance of creator voices in our work. Often our work is built on our own hypotheses, and when we deliver out trends narratives, it’s us talking about the content and creativity. Being able to let a creator talk about their process in the context of our trends narrative strengthens the narrative.

Try A Trend Installation

All year long, my pal and partner, Gina, and I have been collaborating on a program called Try a Trend, where we collect a handful of trends each month to relay to the creator community. Gina was the architect of this program and wanted to close the year out by doing an IRL experience with the trends for Try a Trend, and she pulled it off! The video above is a creator’s look at the event, and you can skip through it to see what some of the installations looked like. The highlight was definitely the Lofi room.

What I learned: One person with a clear vision can be more effective than a group of uncertain people. I think we only pulled this off because Gina had such a clear idea of what she wanted to achieve and didn’t need to rely on anyone else to achieve it.

Grand Theft Auto VI Trailer Record

From our Culture & Trends site

That one video and that one sentence led to one of the longest three-day stretches of the year as we raced to validate that record and make the public announcement. I know this may seem small when compared to the other projects listed above, but the cross-functional collaboration and trust required to pull this off was probably just as great, if not greater, than was required for the other projects.

We entered 2023 with very few plans for what we’d call trends storytelling work. There was no roadmap that included most of the things above, and yet, by the end of the year, my team and I had put together quite a resume of major projects and achievements! I’m proud of all of this work, and I’ll be back in a year with another year-end roundup.

About the author


Earnest has been working in viral web content curation, creation, and trends research for more than 15 years. When not trying to figure out if it is still possible to become a professional wrestler, Earnest leads trends research for YouTube's Culture and Trends team.

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