Casey Neistat, a very charismatic individual known for his crazy off-road driving, killing hover boards, sneaking into various places, directing films, running, ad campaigns (for Nike and Mercedes amongst others), and his daily YouTube vlogs, has finally unveiled what he and his team have been working on for the past year. I was personally curious what his newest project was going to be for quite a long time now and both my suspicions were correct: it’s about video and it’s an app. Despite that, it’s not exactly what I suspected it would be…
Beme—pronounced “beam”—is an iPhone social networking app which is “the simplest and most honest way to share your experience on video.” I installed it almost as soon as it came out1 and… got my first surprise. I was asked to reserve my username—which wasn’t obvious at first, because the button was way down on the bottom of the screen—and wait 99 days 23 hours and 59 seconds until I start using it. Since there was an unlock button in the top right I rightly figured someone would send me the necessary code sooner or later, and I was correct in my assumption—a few minutes later I was in!
Casey wants to fight with what the “selfie world” currently is—a highly modified and heavily curated version of our lives. He wants to cut out the filters and the bullshit. He wants real video and real people showing others the real world around them. I can get behind that.
But will everyone else? Do they even want to see the real world, or will they prefer to live a fantasy?
The UX of the App
Beme asked me to follow some people, which I did, and then I watched what they were sharing by holding my finger on the screen, covering up part of the video. Hopefully this strange need to hold the screen will go away soon—even Snapchat got rid of it. Anyway, the app asked me to follow a few more people. So I did… again. And then I watched what they posted. Aaannnd I followed some more people. And watched. And followed…
At this point I actually thought that I would be able to begin sharing my own content after a predetermined period of time or after watching a certain amount of videos. So I left the app be and came back to it a few hours later. I also wanted to find my friends, which was not possible without asking them in person for their nicknames, which then had to be manually entered into the app. I also wanted to follow Casey Neistat, since he was probably using the app. I failed, unable to find him.
Someone on Twitter—I’m sorry I forgot who it was—linked to Casey’s latest video, in which he talked about Beme and explained how to use it. That was the moment when I understood what and where the problem was.
- I would have probably never figured out how to use Beme had it not been for Casey’s tutorial, which is not linked to in Beme in any way.
- Beme does not have a built in tutorial, which explains how to use the app.
- I had no clue that I had to cover the proximity sensor to start recording.
- After recording my first clip I did not realise I wouldn’t be able to review it before posting it for the world to see.
- If not for Casey’s video, I would have never guessed how the reaction system works (you have to wiggle your thumb on the screen and press your “selfie window” in the corner with another finger).
- I did not know I would not be able to delete any of my videos (I probably should have read the TOS).
- I still haven’t figured out if it’s even possible to watch my own videos.
- I couldn’t confirm my phone number due to what I assume is a bug. Not really an issue; I understand that this is a 1.0 release and ‘shit happens,’ although it should not be there.
Vanity and Quality
Casey is a content creator. He makes his vlogs on a daily basis. His films won prestigious awards at various film festivals. Obviously he knows what he’s doing, but he spends a lot of time looking at himself. He has even mentioned that he prefers cameras where he can see the LCD screen to confirm that he is actually framing his shot correctly in his vlogs. I cannot understand how he missed the fact that while people might actually want to “share video in an honest way”, they want either the video to look good or want to make sure that they look good in it. That is one of the reasons people take fifty-nine selfies before they post the best one of the bunch to whatever social network they’re on at the moment. This is the reason why it takes Jerome Jarre so long to post a single snap—he’s careful to frame it just right for maximum effect. Whether this is good or bad is besides the point—people want to either look good or create good looking content. Sometimes both.
Personally, I want to make sure what I’m putting up is of good quality. When I Periscoped the best parts of a Robbie Williams concert, I could easily verify that the tall guy in front of me was not in my shot, that I was holding the phone straight, and that my viewers were getting the best live stream I could deliver. How in the world am I supposed to do this if I’m holding the phone up to my chest to cover the proximity sensor? Or to my forehead, which at times seems like a better idea. With all the noise around me I won’t even know if the recording started and if what I posted was any good.
Killing the filters and fluff is one thing. Making the creators unable to verify or control their content is another.
While I have enormous respect for Casey and his work, I do not understand nor can I recommend Beme in its current form. The UX is not very good and the UI is a nightmare to use. The lack of control over anything is unacceptable to me. This is a perfect example when the team working on the app doesn’t take a step back to look at it through the eyes of a person who will use it for this first time in his life.
I get put off by things I don’t fully understand, which is why I have deleted Beme for the time being. I will however continue to follow Casey’s vlogs and perhaps return for a 2.0 update, once there is something to get excited about and some control to be had. I trust he will not give up on his newest baby and work hard to improve its shortcomings.
- My thanks to @micr for shouting it out on Twitter. ↩