Tuesday, October 23, 2018

I pretty much never watch videos anymore, and this one sums up why

While scrolling through Deadspin or Gizmodo, I saw a link to a post, titled "Discover the Secrets of the Tape Measure," on one of their sister sites, Lifehacker, that made me pause for a moment. I was pretty sure there wasn't going to be any new information for me -- I've been using tape measures for going on half a century, professionally, even, for many years -- but I thought, eh, don't be a closed-minded old guy, maybe you'll learn something new.

Clicked the link and *sigh*, yep, it was a video. Didn't click play. I like to read. Watching, like a drooling couch potato, makes me antsy as all hell. It never goes fast enough, there's no equivalent to skimming, it always feels like three more minutes of life tossed out the window.

A couple of days later, I thought, okay, one quick look. And all of my gripes about videos were confirmed.

I mean, even going in, I was thinking, this could (should!) have been a text post, that would have taken about a twentieth of the time to read as it did to watch. And worse, 98% of the useful information conveyed was? Yes. Nothing. But. Text. Streamed over video. With each sentence displaying on screen for an excruciatingly long time.

And further, in this age of oligopolistic telecommunications giants, how about the bandwidth considerations? Even if you thought the post would need some visuals, a few line drawings would have done just fine. Say, four PNGs, at about 50Kb each. Instead, who knows how many Mb were spent.

And don't even get me started about the pre-roll ads.

You want an idea for a killer AI app? Make something that "watches" video, distills it down to its essence, and delivers the result in text, the way God intended.


[Update 2019-12-25 18:02] Some more thoughts on the matter, from me, in comments under this Facebook post.


Bruce.desertrat said...

Got here via the Jon Swift Round-up, just wanted to say Yes, YES YES!!!!! A thousand times!!!! [insert Meg Ryan in the Deli clip]

This drives me BONKERS. Instructables is getting bad at this, too, because it's expressly designed as a site for text, still images for the instruction, and all too many are now 'Watch the video above'.

bjkeefe said...

Thanks, Bruce!

Andrew Johnston said...

I'd like to add my agreement as well. News videos 1.) seldom contain necessary visual content; 2.) are entirely too slow; 3.) don't work so well at times when I don't have sound (surprisingly often), am in a public place or have something else playing; 4.) can slow down load times, something that especially bothers me since I'm usually using a VPN.

The good news is that the "pivot to video" seems to have been a failure - we're not the only ones annoyed by autoplaying video in every article. Unfortunately they're still everywhere, and on some sites they aren't even well marked, which is especially obnoxious.

Procopius said...

I'll sometimes watch part of a video, but I will not click in a podcast. I have, a couple, and the results were all bad. Look, I grew up on radio. We didn't get a television set until I was twelve, and we were early adopters. You know what all the radio programs of my childhood had in common? They had scripts that were read. I don't want to hear a lot of "ah, er, ah ..." while you think of what to say. If I want that I'll go to a Joe Rogan clip on YouTube and I can't watch one of those all the way through, although he has interesting guests and is an interesting person himself. Give me a transcript. If you need to give me an ad with it, fine. I learned how to ignore ads by the time I was three. By the way, there's a progress bar at the bottom of most of the video players, and if you click on a point to the right of where the bar is you can skip ahead. Sometimes when people are forced to link to a clip they'll have the courtesy to include a reference to where the point of interest is. That helps.

bjkeefe said...

Thanks for dropping by, Andrew and Procopius. Glad to hear there are some more of us out there with the Bring Back Reading mindset.

Procopius: I, too, was a long-time fan of radio growing up, and later, a fan of a few podcasts. I get what you mean about the lack of polish, but not all of them are that way. One that comes to mind is On The Media's weekly podcast. I have a few more recommendations, if you like. That said, I have not listened to a podcast in a few years now, due largely to increased demands on my time, a commute too short to bother with setting up things to listen to, and a conscious decision to take a break from all things political for a while, for the sake of my stomach lining and general mental health.

Andrew: I hope you're right about the growing awareness of a backlash to the "pivot." Unrelated: just curious: why are you usually on a VPN? Lots of travel? Dislike of your ISP tracking you?