A ten-year-old who uses the internet for something besides checking the Nick Jr. programming schedule or some other form of non-Webkins-related business is definitely the exception, not the norm. But fifth-grader Alex Makuch of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, has been broadcasting Apple product reviews and iPhone SDK tutorials on his YouTube channel, TheAppleReviewGuy, since winter of last year. And while he’s happy that his expertise has helped people in need of guidance on technical matters, he’s found that his incredible level of know-how also makes him just the right person to hit up when computer troubles arise — especially in the eyes of his teachers.
When did you start up TheAppleReviewGuy channel?
December 21, 2009. It’s up on my channel page.
How often do you post reviews?
Maybe once or twice a week. I do some App reviews, but iPhone SDK tutorials are my most popular videos.
I hear that you actually write some of the iPad applications. Is that true?
Yep! I have four Apps in the App Store: I’ve made an App called “iTruck” — it’s a game where you race against the computer or you can race against someone on your iPhone; I also made an App called iCuthut — you input a long link, and then it makes it into a shorter link that you can share; My Tweet, which is a Twitter application, is the fastest Twitter application — it tweets from your iPhone; and what was my fourth App? Oh, PCA! PCA stands for Politically Correct Alert — my dad wanted me to make that App. It’s for meetings: when someone’s doing good, the iPhone screen shines green; if they’re being inappropriate, it shines red.
Oh, wow, that’s very cool! As a person who has absolutely no technical skills whatsoever, everything that you do sounds very complicated. I’m sure there’s “coding” involved, and that just makes me queasy to think about. So where did you learn how to do all this?
I watched a few videos on YouTube and I checked out a book from the library.
[Alex’s mother Jane walks in and joins the conversation]
Jane: My husband and I are not technical, and he taught himself everything. It was between eight and nine that he started teaching himself coding.
Alex, do you ever check the comments on your videos to see what people are saying?
Alex: Yep. I actually have YouTube e-mail me every time there’s a comment. A lot of people ask me if I’m six. I don’t know why they think I’m a six-year-old.
Jane: I think it’s more that they’re so surprised at how young he is; he’ll get a lot of, “How old are you?” He does get people asking if he’s ten, but I was surprised with how many people he’s helped with his tutorials, where they’ll say, “I didn’t know how to do this… thanks for that.”
There’s a “People I Watch” feature on TheAppleReviewGuy where you promote other people’s YouTube channels — is that feature included on every channel?
Alex: I custom-made the name. Most people just use the default name — “Other Channels” — and maybe you put other people’s channels in there.
Do you find that there’s a strong sense of community among others who do the things you do online? Do you guys support each other in that way, by linking to one another?
Alex: Yeah! There are a lot of other people who do pretty much the same thing.
Jane: There’s a group of them that supports each other. There’s one guy, DetroitBORG, an actual YouTube partner, and Alex made a channel design for him and he used it. He put Alex’s name on it, so that was pretty cool.
So channel design is just something where another person with a YouTube channel will approach you and ask for you to maybe give their channel a facelift?
Alex: Uh-huh. I’m just starting up — I made two so far.
What kind of videos do you think have been the most helpful out of the ones you’ve put online, and when you’re making the videos, are you making them with a particular viewer in mind?
Alex: My most-viewed video is probably the most helpful, and that’s, “How to Make an iPad App.” It’s kind of intermediate. It uses more advanced words… not really, really simple.
Looking very far into the future, is that something you might want to do as a career?
Uh-huh! I actually want to work at Apple in new product design and development.
That’s amazing! I can definitely see you creating new products in Cupertino. But what do you think about the fact that your age is pretty different from that of a typical reviewer? Do you think it might be harder to make a name for yourself once you get a little older?
Alex: Probably not. I like that 230 people subscribe to me and watch most of my videos, and that 50,000 have watched my videos so far.
Jane: He’s always been told that he can achieve anything he wants, and I think that really encouraged him. On his seventh birthday he got his first MacBook laptop, and since we’ve always said that he can do anything he wants, he doesn’t know any different! [laughs]
So how is school going for you? Do a lot of your classmates know you do this on the side?
Alex: Not many of them know that I do this.
So how is it that your teachers first came to find out that you’re handy with a computer?
Alex: Because I type faster than most of the kids.
Jane: He types close to 50 or 60 words per minute. He actually asked for SpongeBob typing software back when he was in kindergarten, and taught himself. [laughs] Even though he was offered some alternative programs, I think he just likes being a regular fifth grader.
So while you’re at school you’re just Alex, and it’s only at home that you really become The Apple Review Guy?
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
Allex: You could subscribe to my YouTube channel, TheAppleReviewGuy, and let me know if I could make you a channel design, or iPhone or iPad App. And you could help me become a YouTube partner by subscribing and watching my videos!
YouTube subscribers, App customers