Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Thing (I Don't Like) About Video

Video is awesome. I like high-bandwidth communication. Even on the cheapest, most un-produced videos, I can see facial expressions and body language that I'd never be able to pick up from text. I can see candidness that's not going to come through in a document, even a blog that's written pretty much off the cuff. And videos with high production value, ...well of course it's awesome to watch a great short movie right at the tips of your fingers.

But...

But when you send me a 7:48 video, I have to budget 7:48 to watch it. (Well, more actually, because of the latency required to buffer it up.) When you send me a 13-page document, I can "read" it in 10 seconds if I want to. I can skim the first and final paragraphs really quickly and look for pictures or sidebars or quotes, and it takes practically no time for me to do it.

With a video, it's just more difficult to do that. I can watch the first 10 seconds and usually know whether I want to watch the remainder. But skimming through the whole video—like skipping to the end—is more difficult, because I have to sit there un-utilized while the whole video buffers up. Then I have to sit there while words come at me aurally, which is annoyingly sequential compared to reading buckets of text in one eyeful.

So, the bottom line is that the first 10 seconds of your video need to convince me to watch the remainder.

Or I won't.

Is it just me?

What's out there to make video browsing a better, more time-efficient, and more fulfilling experience?

13 comments:

purplepangolin said...

I agree. I deplore the current trend of posting videos to walk through technical concepts.

Cary Millsap said...

You know, you remind me: one thing I do like is using video to log bugs on graphical user interface software. Instead of trying to describe what I see in text or over the phone to someone with whom I have a language impedance mismatch, I just record (Camtasia or ScreenFlow) my repro case and attach it to my case.

Joel Garry said...

That's why I deplore the intertubes wiping out my newspaper. And why I bought your book. And why I don't bother with podcasts or books on tape, even while driving long commutes, which conceivably could be useful multitasking.

I love watching video and movies. But not for serious information dissemination. Larry or Charles pacing back and forth spewing Oracle marketing kool-aid? Entertaining, perhaps, but not all that worthwhile.

Conventions/user groups are an interesting mixed-case: lectures are useful, but what percentage do you really take home? Of course, that varies by individual. Add in papers and slides, and you fill all the holes, the different modalities reinforce each other and allow reference later on.

I think it was Cliff Stoll who gave the example of filmstrips - all of us remember seeing them, but who remembers the content? (Says the lone A/V-geek who raised his hand when he asked that :) I think there is a video of that lecture on the tubes somewheres...

I agree about the bug logging, but I've kvetched elsewhere about what a waste it is when it doesn't work, crashing your system including the hard-won demonstration case.

I think of printed material as higher bandwidth than video, as one measure of bandwidth is information density and volume. All those subliminal and non-verbal cues are useless and clutter up the metric. If you talked as fast as I read, I'd never understand you, even if I could comprehend as much at normal speeds.

word: riadve

Cary Millsap said...

Joel, I like your final paragraph a lot. You're right about density and clutter. And one more thing: when you write, you craft. Crafted content has higher value than un-crafted content. Not all video is un-crafted, but a lot of it is.

I do think that low-production-quality videos (like the ones I've made before) have an important place in the world. I even think it's better to make too many than not enough, because they help people get to know you, which is one important goal in a business.

That help-people-get-to-know-you goal is the most important reason I go to conferences.

Brian Tkatch said...

Cary, good point.

I know i thought a little of that myself, but never put it into words.

Doug said...

I write this as someone who sent you a link to a one hour (?) Randy Pausch lecture and yet I know exactly what you mean. I usually only work my way through the 5-10 minute videos.

fuaw said...

Okay. I broke down and loaded Windows Media Player v12 on my laptop running Windows 7 Enterprise N (N is the distro without Media Player). It has the ability to adjust the play speed of video with CTRL-SHIFT-(?), where (?) for fast is G, super fast is F, normal is N. Bored with the video, just fast it. The greatest part is slow (CTRL-SHIFT-S) where you can make anyone look and sound very drunk. ROLF. :)

Mike

Cary Millsap said...

Mike,

That sounds useful. But it feels to me like this is the kind of problem that needs a, "Wow, I'd never have thought of that, but now that I see it, of course that's exactly what I needed" kind of a solution. I guess we'll see...

—Cary

fuaw said...

One problem I've seen is un-indexed wmv files. E.g. You have to watch the whole thing and can not move the slider ahead or back. A program called asfbin can simply re-index those files, allowing jump ahead or back a bit. Not much of a solution like you want, but it fixes the pain with un-indexed wmv files.

Mike

jimmyb said...

Good thing you are not a Google Wave developer. They have an 80-minute video on how to use their product. Which might explain why no one is developing anything in Google Wave.

Cary Millsap said...

jimmyb: You know, I hadn't consciously put it together before, but you're onto something. That the reason I've never used my Google Wave account. The day I was really excited about getting my account, I didn't want to take the time to watch the video. In the days since that day, I've never been interested enough to go back and do it.

No doubt, Google Wave is really cool, and I'm missing out on something fantastic. But the video was too big of a barrier to entry for me.

That's the reason, exactly.

Marco Gralike said...

You could see the following than as being a test. Can you endure?

;-)

http://technology.amis.nl/blog/7597/hotsos-2010-presenters-presentations-presenting

Cary Millsap said...

So, will this (Camtasia Relay, with searchable speech-to-text translation, and searchable slide text) be the answer? Sounds promising!