Nearly nine years ago, Hank and John Green realized that their brotherly communication had fizzled out the way most adult sibling relationships do. In order to combat this, they decided to start a yearlong project called “Brotherhood 2.0”, which would take the form of tag-team video diaries posted to YouTube. What began as a way to talk to each other grew into something much larger as more viewers became aware of the show, mostly thanks to John’s success as an author (Paper Towns, Looking for Alaska, The Fault in Our Stars). Today, these brothers are in charge of 33 channels on YouTube, from CrashCourse to the Art Assignment to The Lizzie Bennett Diaries. They’ve earned more than 7 million subscribers and have over 1 billion views across their network. They host both VidCon and NerdCon: Stories,  which are conventions to bring together their community of fans (called “Nerdfighters”) and the creators.

When they first started making video diaries towards each other, there was no format, just a strict time limit of 4 minutes. They could talk about whatever interested them, ranging from puppy-sized elephants to the inevitability of death. In a video that explained what they were doing and what content their videos possess, John and Hank said, ”Really, it’s not about anything in particular. Whether we’re talking about our lives, making each other laugh, or trying to get something more important across, people seem to enjoy it.” Rather than ending after their initial project, John and Hank decided to take initiative and keep going just to see where it went and what else they could do together.

Though this was mostly done from opposite sides of the country, it is a highly collaborative effort. They were making videos to each other, saying hello and signing off in each video. And as their community began to grow, they moved from working together creatively to having a business together, known as DFTBA Records. What’s important about these two brothers isn’t just what they’ve created, but in the message behind it all: Being a nerd is a great thing because it means you love something passionately. And besides, don’t forget to be awesome.

I first began watching the videos after reading John’s initial novel, Looking For Alaska. What got me hooked on the videos was just how random the topics were. Yes, Hank normally discusses matters of science and John will talk about AFC Wimbledon or the latest book he’s read, but there are also so many things that I learned just from watching their original videos. Now, they have multiple educational channels and I’ve turned to watch SciShow more than once to understand the basics of astronomy. These are two really smart guys that are perpetuating intelligence to a large young audience, so that when those viewers grow up, they won’t feel on outside of society but the center of it.

When I think about great collaborators like the Inklings, I like to think that Hank and John Green are working together in a way that would have made those Oxford men proud. Like the Inklings, they started with two guys and did that for a long time before bringing in anyone else. And while they have the expected sibling bickering, they are always quick to encourage one another about projects they undertake, whether it’s Hank with a new invention or John with a new book.  If we want to be successful as collaborators, we can look for examples outside of universities and writing circles. We can be inspired by people like John and Hank Green.

Link to Vlogbrothers Playlists:

Link to DFTBA Records:

Link to “A Brief History of the Vlogbrothers” by FootofaFerret:

About Danielle Coleman

Danielle Coleman is a novelist and writing coach. She is also, unabashedly, a Nerdfighter.

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