Interview with the creator of YouTube's new #1 video

While researching the meteoric rise of the fan-made Hot Hot Sex video to the top of YouTube’s charts, I tried to get in touch with its creator, Italian writer Clarus Bartel.

I sent him a message through his Flickr account, but he responded that he didn’t speak English, so I asked Philip Rogosky to do the honors. Here’s the first published interview with Clarus Bartel about his #1 video.

Translated from Italian

It all started with the Qoob music channel’s video contest. I didn’t participate in the contest, I just downloaded the footage in order to edit it and I added a different track. I cut out some scenes where they were singing, added some effects to the background, and then I uploaded it to YouTube.

Never would I have imagined that such an ugly video, made on a whim, would make it to the top of the charts. Believe me, even taking the iPod commercial effect into account, nothing can explain the absurd number of views. I get constant messages accusing me of being a hacker, when i barely know how to turn a computer on and off. Some people call me a genius, because I beat the system. Everyone is free to imagine me as they choose, however they prefer. Like the kid from Rome who keeps writing me because he’s convinced it’s all some kind of conspiracy!

The discrepancy between the number of comments and the views has to do with the fact that I’m deleting hundreds of insults I receive every day. But for the rest of this absurd occurrence, I have no explanation. I have as much of a clue as you do!

His original response:

Tutto nasce da un “Video Contest” del canale musicale QOOB Io no ho partecipato al concorso, ho solo scaricato le sequenze per il montaggio inserendo un’altra canzone. Ho fatto dei tagli eliminando le scene in cui cantavano, poi ho aggiunto qualche effetto per lo sfondo e di seguito ho inserito il video su youtube. Mai mi sarei aspettato che un video così orribile e creato in un momento di svago, arrivasse al numero uno della classifica.

Credimi, anche se fosse stato aiutato dalla pubblicità dell’Ipod, questo non spiega il suo impressionante numero di visualizzazioni. Mi arrivano continuamente messaggi di accuse perchè vengo scambiato per un Hacker, io che a malapena so accendere e spegnere il Computer. Alcuni pensano che io sia un genio che ha fregato il sistema. Ognuno mi vede è mi immagina come vuole, a suo piacimente, come quel ragazzo di Roma che mi scrive continuamente e che crede in una cospirazione!

La discrepanza del numero dei commenti e il numero di visualizzazioni e dovuto al fatto che ogni giorno devo cancellare un centinaio di insulti indirizzati a me.

Il resto di questa assurda vicenda non so spiegarla.

Ne so quanto te!


He definitely seems sincere. Though I still don’t believe that the video’s been viewed 4.2 million times in the last 24 hours, I doubt that he had anything to do with it. (This Google cache from 1am yesterday showed 84,883,762 views. At the time I published my post early this morning, it was at 89,174,590.) That growth seems extremely unlikely for a video that’s been around for 11 months, but who knows? It’s always possible that 65% of Brazil’s broadband users viewed it yesterday, but I doubt it.

Also, I noticed Clarus disabled ratings on the video this morning. This makes it difficult to discover how many ratings he’s received, which I can’t help but wonder about. I can understand why someone would turn off comments (moderating them can be a nightmare), but why turn off ratings? I can only think of two reasons why someone would turn off ratings: they’re unhappy with the ratings they’re receiving, or they don’t want the rating counts tracked.

Update: In a followup email, Clarus confirms that he disabled ratings by mistake, and he’ll turn them back on once YouTube ends their maintenance period tonight. Here’s the second part of the interview, translated into English:

What do you do for a living? Some of your photos are very good.

Thanks so much for your appreciation of my photos! I make my livelihood working in a factory. In my free time I listen to music, watch movies, and I take photos. For fun, I recut films and music videos, re-editing my versions.

You’ve been adding and removing references to Barack Obama in the CSS video title and description. Why?

I took advantage of the video’s visibility and added in “Vote Obama” because, even though I’m Italian, I’m following the American primaries closely and I hope to see an African-American in the White House.

I deleted the phrase because the primary voting is suspended for the moment. If, when another vote comes up, the video is still there at its rank, I’ll continue my support for Obama, adding the phrase back in if necessary.

When did you decide to turn off ratings?

I read the article on I see there are still (legitimate) doubts about me. I disabled ratings by mistake, and only noticed late because for a while there YouTube was doing maintenance.

It bothers me to see that in this article, I’m passed off as a hacker.

Before disabling comments there had been 486 of them in 5 or 6 hours, almost all of them with the usual accusations of hacking, and some with variations such as black bastard, gay bastard, Brasilian bastard, and similar crap.

I started to seriously consider deleting this goddamned video, when finally this article came to my rescue, calming me down some (unless my crappy translation is fooling me).

Thank you, Clarus!


    Sweet! My post on RWW saved the #1 video on YouTube from deletion? Ha ha, rock on Clarus! It’s time for an encore video!

    Thanks for posting this. Very curious about the whole YouTube hacking scandal. Sad that such a large website can be gamed like this, especially when its owed by Google.

    Have you tried seeing if there are cool Google-types at YouTube interested in helping you research this? It would seem to me they’d have a pretty strong desire to make sure humans were watching their videos rather than scripted bots or something else essentially defrauding their site’s advertisers and costing them bandwidth.

    honestly. i dont know anything about the youtube ratings, or views. or whatever.

    but i absolutely love the video. i ended up torrenting the album, then ordering the vinyl version. its a great album.

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