Published On: July 26, 2023By
The busy courtyard in front of the Anaheim Convention Center during VidCon

I’d always been a bit of a nerd growing up. What that meant for me was spending a lot of time playing video games, hanging out in online communities and watching YouTube – mainly The Vlogbrothers, Hank and John Green. So, when I was asked if I wanted to go to VidCon, a convention created by the Green brothers for video-based content creators, I was beyond excited. Especially since I’d also be going with two like-minded coworkers who I consider close friends. I couldn’t believe I had been given this opportunity through work, and I was ready to fangirl hard.

I believe the things that led me to working at UpHouse are the same traits that got me sent to VidCon:

  1. Genuine curiosity about how people work
  2. Wanting everyone to have a voice at the table
  3. Being loud about my passions

That’s also what led me to watching Vlogbrothers videos over a decade ago, and their videos only helped engrain those values in me.

VidCon Panelists speaking on diversity

Hank and John have always encouraged people to care deeply for each other and learn more about the world. They’ve created YouTube channels like SciShow, Crash Course and more to explain complex ideas in accessible ways, all while hiring a diverse group of people to host their shows. They also established an international holiday that encourages people to tell their friends and family that they love them. The day was created in honour of a young fan who died from cancer and it occurs every August 3, so mark it in your calendars and prepare to get mushy. I know I will be.

I saw John speak twice during VidCon. The first time he talked about Study Hall, an affordable online resource for earning college credits where students are only asked to pay for their credits after completing a course, and only if they’re happy with their grades. The second time, he was recording an episode of the Dear Hank & John podcast live, which he recorded alone because Hank was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He spoke about family. He spoke about love. He spoke about Hank. He cried. I cried.

VidCon Panel in progress

The Greens sold VidCon to Viacom in 2018, but the brothers – and their core values – are still front and centre. We took in panels about accessibility, diversity, being kind online, the responsibility of representing a community and so much more. New and familiar faces alike shared their lived experiences with us and talked about how creators can make authentic content that uplifts communities.

Hint: Include voices in these communities from the planning stages through to completion!

It felt good knowing we’re already taking these steps at UpHouse. When we created the brand for Huddle, a youth hub in Manitoba, we held focus groups with youth to find out what resonated most with them. We based every decision on their feedback – from design elements right down to the name. And for National Indigenous Peoples Day, we hired an Indigenous horticulturalist as a consultant to create a mocktail recipe with Manitoban harvestable ingredients that tied back to Indigenous culture in a respectful way.

UpHouse works towards this type of inclusion every day – and I’m immersed in a world of people who really care about it – but I still learned so much from the VidCon panels. Since I don’t have the lived experience that people in many diverse communities do, I could spend my whole life learning these things and not be done. But what kind of Nerdfighter would I be if I didn’t take initiative to learn more about the world so I can care more deeply about its people.

I’m so incredibly grateful to be surrounded by people who want to keep putting in the work, forever, and be loud and passionate about it. I’ll appreciate the opportunity I had to attend VidCon – for the rest of my life.