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As Mark Twain once quipped,
"If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter."
There's a pair of videos on my channel
that were in the works for over a year.
The Tekoi Videos.
One exploration and one explanation.
And while the exploration video is fine,
I made a catastrophic error in the explanation video.
I've re-uploaded a corrected version,
and I've also made this video
to show you some of the behind-the-scenes
of how those videos got made,
how the error got in,
and how the decision to re-upload came to be.
But I've written this video in as little time as possible
to correct the error as fast as possible.
So, be warned.
It's a long letter.
The story of Tekoi starts with Past-Grey traveling
to Indian reservations for… an other project.
During that wandering,
I came across the Skull Valley Indian Reservation
out in Utah, and within its borders,
the Tekoi Test Range,
information about which was limited and scattered.
I got the impression it was an
abandoned military weapons facility.
Which, come on!
Three more intriguing adjectives
you could not precede a noun.
At this point on YouTube,
I'd played around with making
a few vlog-style videos,
and while working on the bigger project,
I thought Tekoi could be a little shard to examine
to make into an easy and quick vlog,
exploring the place and explaining what it was.
And the Tribal Government graciously
granted me permission to go on site and film.
Which, as a side note, please do not try to visit Tekoi.
It is private property,
not open to the public,
and super dangerous.
In retrospect, I was shockingly stupid
to explore it in as unprepared fashion as I did.
But, I went, I filmed.
I didn't fall in a hole and die,
or catch histoplasmosis from the
bat droppings everywhere.
And I didn't get attacked by
the "really mean owl" I was warned
defended warehouse number…
Oh, I forgot to write it down!
Seriously.
I could not have been a worse UrbEx newb.
But the celestial dice rolled in my favor that day
and I got back to my hotel with some amazing video.
Now all I needed to do
was explain this beautiful shard.
Of course, joke was on me because
every topic is an entire world
unto itself once you start looking,
and months later, the one video split into two
and I was barely closer to a
coherent explanation of Tekoi then at the start.
Okay, pause here,
and let me tell you a little about
the video production process in general.
Videos get started either through wandering
the real world or
the Forest of All Knowledge,
seeing an interesting area,
exploring it and, if lucky,
some part will look like it could be a video.
I've come to accept that I am a slow writer,
so it's best to hold off the first serious draft
until long into the exploration phase.
Often long enough that by the time I get to the
"Okay, seriously, sit down and write this thing,"
I've forgotten a lot of what I've read.
But that's actually a useful way to filter
for the interesting and important
and frequent ideas in a topic
before the many, many rounds
of revisions and checks to come.
I used to make my videos all alone,
but over the years, I've gathered a small team,
and at some point,
if I can get the script into a readable "ish" version,
it's time to let the team know what the next project might be.
And there is celebration or dread at what will be
at least many weeks of their lives spent on this thing.
Everyone has a specialty.
Animation
Research
Logistics
Music
Sometimes custom artwork or audio.
And everyone provides useful feedback on the topic,
sometimes having personal experience,
or finding further details,
or hunting down related lost artifacts.
For me, there's also a lot of double-checking at this point,
going back to notes I made during exploration time,
or looking into an out-of-place-seeming fact.
The script eventually progresses from merely readable
into what is nearing a final (ish) form,
and this is were it's sent out to experts.
Now this phase seems like it should be the easiest.
A teacher checks your homework.
But often it's quite troublesome.
The first problem is finding an expert.
If the video ends up being largely a book or a paper adaptation,
and the author is alive,
then that's pretty easy,
and those projects are generally more straightforward.
But for a lot of videos,
figuring out who is the expert on this thing
isn't always clear.
And for some topics,
there simply isn't anyone.
For others, experts may exist,
but finding them is basically impossible
because there isn't a good public record of their expertise.
This last is particularly frustrating because,
the instant the final video goes up,
all the un-findable experts will find it and get in touch.
Now, in theory, this problem could be solved
by publicly announcing what the active topics are.
And back when Past-Grey's channel was smaller
and he younger and naiver,
that's totally a thing he did.
But Current-Grey in current year
has seen shockingly blatant cases
of those who work fast scooping topics
from those who work slow.
It's not the early days of the Internet any more,
and surviving while supporting a team
means you must compete with
The Entire Entertainment Industry in all its forms.
So, some secrecy is necessary.
Even though, yes, I'm fully aware I've already divulged
what I'm working on in this very video,
and I will do it again later,
but I'm made an exception.
Even though I know from experience
I've never not regretted talking about work in progress.
Even if the topic is un-scooped or un-scoopable,
I just find projects harder to finish
once they're out in the open
and everyone is watching.
Back to the experts.
If they exist and we find them,
and they're willing to help out,
and they're willing to keep a secret
(for possibly months),
then that's great.
But it can still be tricky.
For example, which experts?
Just about any academic topic will have experts
who have spent their entire lives
thinking about this one area
and who also violently disagree with each other.
Which can leave you, the non-expert, to wander
dangerously close to the "What is True?" dimension,
which, if you're not careful,
will suck you into an unproductive, downward spiral
of "How do we know anything is true?"
This happens to me a least once a month
and is a topic which is way beyond
the scope of this video.
Maybe a story for another time.
[under his breath] Ugh, don't say that!
Okay, skipping the existential crisis,
the script is sent out to experts for checking
and then the final draft can be recorded
and turned into a video for you to watch.
That's how it works in general.
Now let's resume the story of Tekoi,
skipping ahead to…
Upload Day!
A day that is simultaneously
the joyous completion of hundreds
of hours of teamwork and
the solitude of stomach-churning
as you wait to find out if you have been
wrong on the Internet.
And there are many ways to be
wrong on the Internet,
which we will visit later,
but the process is designed
to be able to avoid errors
while still being able to publish something
(eventually).
And in this process,
I have learned that my initial impression
wasn't quite right.
Rather, Tekoi was a tiny part
of an enormous for-profit company
that used Tekoi as a static firing test range for rocket motors.
Motors that just so happened to be used in nuclear missiles,
including the famous Minuteman.
But there's often so much more
left on the cutting room floor,
so a new part of the process is
doing a director's commentary
for crowdfunders with all the extra bits,
after I wait a couple of hours
to ensure there's no Upload Day disaster
that needs immediate attention.
The Internet will tell you real fast if you're wrong.
But on Tekoi Upload Day,
the stomach churning lessened
as nothing came in.
I went and streamed the commentary
in a pretty relieved mood,
as this has become a nice, psychological marker for me
that a project is truly and completely, finally finished.
Doing the commentary kept me up late,
but, satisfied with a long days work, I decided,
right before trying to sleep,
"Let me check the comments one more time."
And that is when I found this:
the maximum possible stomach-churning comment,
asking the audience to imagine what it would be like
to do this whole video with the Minuteman missile,
but in the video itself is the evidence that
it wasn't the Minuteman missile.
It was the Trident missile.
Oh no.
I didn't have to imagine
what it was like to do this video.
I was the guy who did this video.
Not good.
At the time I read this comment,
basically seconds away from total collapse,
I was in no condition to address it.
But let's just say I didn't sleep well that night,
and we'll skip the depressive,
self-destructive, self-doubting part,
and jump back to where,
with a rebooted brain,
I was able to confirm that yes,
hootis8 was right and I was wrong.
Tekoi did not test Minuteman Missile motors.
Tekoi tested Tridents.
I even found a poster of one in the
exploration video itself!
[Past-Grey from Tekoi exploration video] Can't see anything down that corridor.
Alright, strategic pride!
[game show success sound] ding!
[Current-Grey] You may be wondering
how I could have spent so long on this topic
and yet missed the answer
to the most fundamental question.
The literal video title.
"What Was Tekoi?"
Well, me too.
So we conducted an autopsy.
[under his breath] Oh God, this is only half-way through.
It really is a long letter.
Okay, because there was so little available information about Tekoi,
in that pre-script early exploration phase,
I ended up reading a lot about the Cold War in general,
which was interesting
(unlike most history)
but was more than a little infuriating
because all the areas right around Tekoi
(the Magna Manufacturing Plant,
the Wendover Airfield,
the Utah Test and Training Range,
the Dugway Proving Ground)
all kept popping up.
But never coy Tekoi herself.
And this is where some mind muddling began to occur,
because, while I learned the United States Cold War
nuclear deterrence forces had three branches
(land, sea, and air)
most of what I read talked a lot
about the ground-based Minuteman missiles,
less so about nuclear bombers,
and very little about the nuclear subs.
So, in my mind, the Minutemen became
the real stars of the Cold War,
which played into the later error.
I did eventually find this book about the history
of the Hercules Powder Company that built Tekoi.
And while the book contains more information
about a now non-existent chemical manufacturing company
than most people could reasonably want to know,
it does not in, its 433 pages,
mention Tekoi even once.
Either because, in comparison to the breathtakingly-large
international scope of the company,
Tekoi was just too small
to warrant even a passing mention.
Or because the work at Tekoi was classified.
Or both.
But I was still determined to make a video
about this place I had become
more than a little obsessed with
and was now a connection point to
future topics in the Grey-verse.
So with what I did have,
I went through the process.
And it is somewhere in the earliest drafts,
I wrote down, "Tekoi tested Minuteman missile motors."
That is wrong, but I didn't realize,
and it didn't occur to me to double check,
because at this stage, the script was still filled
with show-stopping holes
in need of dire attention
before the video had a hope of getting published.
Holes like:
"What are these things for?"
"Why is this building on rails?"
"How did all this work?"
Now, finding an expert who could discuss
the classified details of a site involved in
nuclear weapons production proved impossible.
While there are people who are experts,
and though Tekoi was abandoned for decades,
the United States government still takes
her secrets pretty seriously.
Fun fact: some of the information... uhh... revealed required
legal consultation to determine if it could be
publicly discussed without, you know, going to prison.
It was looking pretty bad for the project,
but I did get one confidential military expert
who worked at sites like Tekoi
to review an early draft of the video,
and who explained how sites like this worked
and filled in the holes.
But they hadn't worked at Tekoi itself,
thus had no to reason to know or comment on Tekoi
being part of the sea-based arm of nuclear deterrence.
Not ground.
So in the script,
this error had no expert to catch it,
but also I didn't catch it.
And in the autopsy, it's clear I had not one,
not two,
but three missed chances to catch the error.
First, this test facility footage.
[unknown speaker on radio] This will be the firing of D5 second stage Pet Five B250.
The D5 spoken refers to the D5 motor
of the Trident II submarine-launched nuclear missile.
I did wonder what D5 Pet Five B250 meant,
but I assumed it was a serial number or other code.
Typing any version of the spoken words into Google
would have been less than enlightening,
but typing D5 missile would have brought me right to it.
Second, the list of inspectable sites for START.
I had been reading about US/USSR negotiations and inspection sites,
but never saw an exact list until I pulled this one
from the Federation of American Scientists.
Here, I did notice that Tekoi was under the SLBM header
not the ICMB header,
but I didn't investigate,
because at this point,
the video was in final animation
and I was trying to wrap things up,
not wander off the path again.
Deciding when to stop tracking down
every little thing is a vital skill if you, say,
ever want to finish a project.
And if you go watch the director's commentary,
you can listen to poor innocent Grey,
who doesn't know what's coming,
discuss that point several times.
But this time, all I had do was but lift
my reluctant eyes to the top of the page
and there behold my answer.
SLBM.
Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile.
How embarrassing!
But it gets one worse.
Missed chance three.
The Timeline.
Over the years, one of the most effective tools
I've found to disentangle a complicated subject
is the humble timeline.
Sources you discover in a random order
and books often discuss topics out of order
so it's clarifying to just write out a list of what happened when.
And this often highlights bad or contradictory sources.
This is where I unambiguously failed the hardest.
To simplify, I've been calling the Minuteman Missile "the Minuteman Missile,"
but there's actually three.
One. Two. Three.
First deployed in '62, '65 and '70.
The United States ordered one thousand to be built
and I don't know how long it took to fill that order.
Most sources gave a vague the seventies
but maddeningly,
in doing another round of investigating for this video,
we found government sources ranging from 1977 to 1963.
What the deal is with that I have no idea.
I have to stop investigating now,
otherwise this correction video
you're hopefully still watching,
will never get published.
But, this is exactly how a timeline can show you something's up.
And Past-Grey should have known better
than to just accept a vague the seventies
for the full one thousand Minuteman deployment.
That sort of raises a yellow flag in general.
But even if that means the later half of the decade,
Tekoi was (probably) built in 1976,
which is a tight timeline to have tested the Minutemen.
This is 100% my fault.
I should have caught this way early in the process,
but I just didn't.
Which, well, is why we're all here.
Okay so big deal, you got the wrong missile.
Why not just fix the video and replace it?
A good question that drags us down into
the detailed bowels of how YouTube works.
YouTube does not let creators
replace videos with new versions.
You have to upload a whole new video,
which risks annoying literally millions of people
with redundant notifications
(should YouTube choose to send them)
and tempts the YouTube gods
to look unfavorably upon your channel because
[as YouTube god bot] That last video had terrible engagement.
[Current-Grey] While I will publicly and loudly complain
that YouTube won't let creators replace videos,
I'm also secretly grateful for this
because it forces a definitive end to projects,
without which my channel would doubtless have
but a single video still,
"The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained,"
which I would have spent the last ten years
tweaking, revising, expanding, fixing, and fixing again
as the fixes introduced new things to be fixed.
Oh, and updating as the facts themselves changed.
So, I can't believe YouTube won't let me
replace a video with an updated version, but also
[whispering] please don't ever let me, YouTube,
[whispering] I only have a career because you force me to move on.
Now, there is additionally a general opportunity cost
of going backward instead of making something new,
separate from the specifics of YouTube.
So how to decide, in general,
when the mountain of backwards costs is worth ascending?
To discuss, let's visit...
The Menagerie of Mistakes
For example,
in the video about Northern Ireland's lack of flag,
Scotland has three arms.
This is a glitch.
Glitches are harmless (if annoying) creatures.
Well, annoying to creators.
For audiences, they are fun and easy to catch.
Which is why within seconds of posting a video,
"Scotland has three arms" will be the top comment.
Glitches get in because, for the creator,
glitches are really good at hiding in plain sight,
surviving revision after revision.
And if you do spot them and try to fix them in a rush,
you often just cause their multiplication.
It's best to realize glitches will always be with you,
and accept their companionship as part of the process.
Next over, we have blunders.
Blunders make you look like a fool,
but still in a mostly harmless way.
I've only ever once before re-uploaded a video,
and it was "Holland vs The Netherlands"
because of a blunder everyone caught minutes
after publication and I couldn't live with.
I'd swapped flags of France and the Netherlands at one spot.
That's wrong and embarrassing,
but had it not been caught instantly,
I probably would have to had to learn to leave it be.
In the same way, I blundered this name,
pronouncing it Kur-a-ko (Kʊərækoʊ),
demonstrating exactly how familiar I was with the place or the alcohol.
When you're feeling amazing
about a thing that you've made,
it really tempts delighting a blunder to steal your thunder.
Next are errors.
Ugly, charmless things without redeeming value
that come in many different species.
From Error Trivialius,
Bad Takeus,
Technically Correctus,
Error Factualius,
and many, many others.
Their variety make it impossible to talk
about management in general because,
unlike glitches and blunders,
which look the same to everyone,
errors come from the "What is True?" dimension,
which means different humans will perceive
their size and importance and species in different ways.
Or disagree about if there's an error at all.
But, if you make things, there will be errors.
And post publication, deciding what to do about them
will have to take into account the size
and species you perceive and the cost
of extracting its disgusting tentacles
from what you have made.
Versus the benefits of accepting that you can't always
get them all and moving onward to make a new thing.
But.
When errors grow large enough, they become a new subspecies:
The Error Cataestrofagus
An error that fundamentally breaks
at least part of what you have made.
And, in making a straight-factual video called "What is Tekoi?"
(a video that was, at the time of publication,
the only generally accessible summary
of information about this location)
Getting which type of missile they tested wrong
is a catastrophic factual error.
Which I why I decided to fix it.
Part four.
There were no other parts.
But this is finally the end.
My dad always said to me,
"The cost of perfection is infinite."
And he was totally right.
I can't promise perfection,
but post-autopsy,
me and the team are not only working on future videos
with this experience in mind,
but also working on the process
that makes the videos,
and if we need to make that process longer
to bring videos closer to perfection,
we will.
Without a doubt, Future-Me will watch this video and wonder,
"Why, oh why, did Past-Grey have so many words
in this script to convey the simple message.
I was wrong, I apologize, I've fixed it."
But Future-Grey isn't Current-Grey,
and as Pascal famously quipped,
"If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter."
The old Tekoi video is now unlisted
if you're curious to see what's changed.
The director's commentary is public now
as a sort of historical curiosity, I guess.
And the new version of "What is Tekoi?" is here for you to watch.
I hope you like it again and thank you for making it to the end.
[soft chill music slowly fades]