By Jack M. Germain
Ficklin, stuck at home while his Ohio high school is closed due to COVID-19, spends his days and nights completing online learning assignments to end his sophomore year. Then he diverts attention to hands-on activities to learn more about journalism, audio and video production techniques, Web design and cinematography. At the end of each day, he reflects on his self-taught success and ponders what comes next.
High School Sophomore Skyler Ficklin
Although he’s on a continuous learning curve, Ficklin already sees his efforts paying off. His viewership is growing. He is learning key lessons on how to handle negative reactions to his sometimes unpopular opinions. He is discovering what it takes to become business-minded as he searches for product samples to review, and sponsors to advance his journalistic reach.
Tech News World recently met with Ficklin on a Skype conference call to discuss his interest in helping both his peers and tech-curious adults understand today’s world of mobile gadgetry.
TechNewsWorld: How did you get started on this technology journey?
Skyler Ficklin: For as long as I can remember, I have always had technology be a part of my life. I have always had access to computers in my house. My interest grew from there. Since I was 13, I had an interest in making little websites. I made a website for my IT class last year.
Not Zoom! TechNewsWorld’s Jack Germain joins a Skype call with young entrepreneur Skylar Ficklin to discuss his QuitZoom website and iSkylar tech review channel on YouTube.
TNW: How much of a role has your high school experience so far played in your interest in technology?
Ficklin: Last year I took a programming class. This year was very active. I made a big website for my Web design class. Zoom has become pretty central for me. I became aware of some problems with using Zoom so I shifted to other products for comparison since there are so many of them. I wanted to find a way to explain to people why I wasn’t using Zoom. So I put that together.
TNW: What kind of comments have you gotten about your opposition to Zoom?
Ficklin: Most people were very confused about why I wouldn’t use Zoom. A lot of people told me they just don’t care about the issues. They just want to use it. Some people continually denied that there were issues with using Zoom. They saw the Zoom bombing issues as separate from other problems.
They were not worried about bombing intrusions since they used passwords for their video session invitations. Still, the Zoom security is not as good as it could be. I did make headway with a few people who recognized that the issues I raised did make sense. So they tried to work around the problems.
Skyler Ficklin designed his own website — QuitZoom.com — to caution users about Zoom security concerns.
TNW: Do you plan to add other potential controversial technology topics to your QuitZoom website?
Ficklin: Nothing is in the works yet to expand the topic discussions. But I always wanted to have a website to support my YouTube channel where I make reviews on various tech products that I use.
What got me started on that idea was seeing a domain name for QuitZoom. I actually bought the domain name. I am also hosting a WordPress site on a hosting platform.
TNW: What got you started with the YouTube channel?
Ficklin: I have had that channel for about three years. I use it to talk about products that I really want to use and have an interest in. For example, I really wanted a pair of AirPods. I couldn’t afford to buy them.
I read reports about fake AirPods coming in from China. So I bought them and did reviews about them. I got some earphones for Christmas so I reviewed them. I mostly review things that I have. I am a big user of iPads and iPhones. I review iPhone software a lot.
Skylar Ficklin is growing a YouTube following for his mostly iOS product reviews.
TNW: Have you had to deal with adverse reactions to your product comments?
Ficklin: I once did a review of the iOS Safari browser. A lot of people really did not like that. I had some glowing opinions that apparently upset many people. I got some push back from people telling me to use the Chrome browser instead.
TNW: What is your favorite mobile platform?
Ficklin: I tend to favor iPhone. I have an Android phone that I mostly use for comparison purposes in discussing the features of the iPhone platform. There are some things I don’t like about Android. Mainly, I use an iPhone and focus my reviews on its products.
TNW: How did you learn the technology to produce your own content?
Ficklin: One of my first videos involved comparing an older iOS operating system to a current release. I had been looking for such a comparison online for my own knowledge. Not finding any articles, I decided to make my own.
That movie I made was pretty heavily edited in iMovie. After that I moved towards trying to just record my reviews live and uploading without editing. My goal was to do just one take to upload.
After that experiment, I went back to using iMovie on my phone. I concentrated on adding overlays and doing better editing to smooth out the final version.
TNW: It sounds like you had to create your own process. How did you handle those challenges?
Ficklin: I had gotten other editing software for a Christmas gift. I used it to experiment with editing some clips. I started adding some transitions and text overlays to the editing process.
I got a camera and learned how to get better quality images with it. I added lighting equipment and a microphone to get better sound results than the internal microphones produced. I used to use just the camera audio and the phone audio.
TNW: What were the biggest challenges you met that brought you the most satisfaction with your progress?
Ficklin: It was a very gradual process of learning by doing. It is a very bad comparison between the beginning videos and my videos now. My quality now shows so much of a big difference. Some of my videos have music now as well.
Time is also a big factor. I spend a lot more attention on pre- and post-production tasks. Both of those processes are very time consuming and get much more attention now.
TNW: So far you have been motivated by your passion for technology and sharing your insights with your viewers. Have you thought about the monetizing aspect of what you are doing on your websites and your YouTube channel? Are you seeing a cash flow yet?
Ficklin: Not yet — but I am hoping to get there very soon. For YouTube, in order to get monetization you have to have 500 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours. I’m getting very close to that. I am about 80 percent of the way there.
I am also contacting retailers and smaller companies to get products sent to me for review. I have not gotten any replies yet, but I am hoping to eventually get to a point where I can get that support.
TNW: What about sponsors? Have you considered that approach?
Ficklin: I haven’t done that yet. I hope to eventually get to that point. It would be awesome!
Recently, I have had a lot of growth. That makes me optimistic that I could get there eventually. Originally, I started doing these activities as a hobby. After I did my first OS comparison for the iPad, I began doing more of that type of content.
TNW: Have you noticed your viewer base growing as you continue to transition from hobby to business?
Ficklin: It is definitely growing. I started with a few people watching. They are still around, but many more are regularly coming to view the new content. I have had a large uptick in uploads this month alone since I have more time at home to work on the projects.
My future career plans include some form of technology. I was initially interested in computer programming. Now I am leaning towards cinematography and video editing and journalism also.
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