I’ve been noticing a trend lately – content that was originally text and image-based, such as tutorials, tech support reference material and so on, is now showing up as video content. Not all content can or should be text-based, that’s a given, but my beef about this trend and towards those trying their hand at being a mini film director is a far from a noble one.
Just because I want to know something doesn’t mean I have any interest in the person behind the information, their voice, their on camera inexperienced and sometimes unintelligible speech.
First of all, I don’t acquire, consume or assimilate information like everybody else does. I’m by no means claiming some high-brow ground, I’m just pointing out that if I have a ‘frame rate’ for how I scan content for my takeaways, it’s probably not 30 FPS. Moreover, if I was reading your technical content and you had somehow left all your uhms, ahs and uncomfortable gaps in the document – I wouldn’t be consuming the content for much longer.
When I look up an issue or solution online, or a tutorial on how to do something, I groan a little inside when the link I click on that I feel has promise leads to a video. If the video isn’t part of the same content delivered in images or images plus text, it’s rare that I will watch it. With all due respect, in-browser video just isn’t good enough to be able to ‘skip ahead to the good part’, so I typically end up with a video that starts out with subject matter 101 e.g. ‘To draw in xyz axis using Supercool3d, first, let’s review how a mouse works‘, or the author assumes I’ve avidly read every single video in a long series ‘Like we showed you last October in video series H47B Alpha, start out by [insert obscure prerequisite task not covered by this content here].’
Often, I find it disarming or even charming when the nuances of tech speak in different languages emerge in text with things like ‘first, when you have made the data’ nuances. I’m sure these are mirrored across cultures and they don’t ever cause me to think ‘great tips on integrating machine learning algorithms into Ruby code but gosh, don’t they speak English?’ That would be crass and rude and I’m grateful when people from other cultures are involved in the same things I am, it makes the world seem a bit smaller, a bit more accessible.
But, and I say this as I grit my teeth ever so threateningly, if I open another ‘deep dive into complex issue X’ video and the first thing I hear is really bad techno or I’m treated to a collage of every possible special effect that can be applied to the opening headline, I’m going to start throwing things.
Video excels at delivering content to consumers in very specific ways, but we don’t always want to sit through an entire video to get one tiny answer. Finally, in an age where the first ‘solution’ might not be the last one you seek out, video forces us to consume far more content than we should have to before we even get to know if the content solves the problem! There is no Ctrl+F to find in the video the specific term you searched for, and this alone is something that allows us to quickly evaluate a variety of content before honing in on that right bit of insight.
There are plenty of individuals and companies out there creating some great video content. I call out Railscast as a fantastic example of having both well-edited video, and also copious notation, summary links to source code and key concepts along with each topic.
If you’re planning to use video to deliver content, by all means do it. But do try to keep the same scope of context as you would have in the pre YouTube era – be precise, practice the speech, provide ‘contents’ so we can skip ahead. Beyond that, leave out the Skirillix and have an accompanying text document or web page with a transcript so everyone can enjoy your wisdom. There are plenty of transcription tools out there, and ultimately in transcribing your video masterpieces, you’re getting two content types for the price of one and potentially extending the reach of your content.
All it takes is a bit of planning and common sense.