Thursday, August 24, 2006

the problem with YouTube

It's not just YouTube. It's podcasts, and vidcasts, or videopodcasts or whatever they're called. A lot popular bloggers are podcasting and vidcasting now, and it seems you can't help but come across a half-dozen YouTube embeds during any web crawl. Perhaps I am a dinosaur, but these latest web fads fail to captivate me.

Dean Esmay of Dean's World posted Resolved: Dean Puts Up Far Too Many YouTube Clips.

He does indeed put up a lot, but I'm not complaining about that. Dean's into good music and likes to spread the word. YouTube's great for that. Here's my response to Dean:
I'm fine with scrolling past them, but I wouldn't miss them if they were gone.

I like reading, it's quick, and there are often fun links to follow. YouTube, podcasts, and all that jazz forces me to sit and watch/listen at the speed of the recording, and there aren't any embedded links -- it is what it is. My favorite thing about the 'net is that it handily gets around the limitations of traditional print media without losing its strengths: win-win, now that we've got big, high-resolution monitors. Audio and video are stuck in the past, and from what I can tell, always will be.
The first issue is that these methods try to impose a use of my time. I find myself closing most videos after a few seconds. I get the idea, I don't need to see all 3 minutes of it, I figure -- so at least I do have some control. But I can't affect how less information-dense video and audio is than text with links can be. I don't see how you can get around that limitation with current technology, although the Hot Air site does a decent job of including links alongside the video player. Another minor consideration: you can't leave comments on a podcast or a vidcast, although you can often comment on the blogpost giving you the link. But those conversations rarely develop into much of anything -- which makes sense, given the thin nature of the source material.

But there is a major consideration I forgot to mention in my comment to Dean: unless you're wearing headphones connected to your computer, there will be audible sound. Clicking on a text link can be risky, but nothing like clicking on an audio link. You don't know what volume the audio will stream at, and you can't be sure of the content, either. It's akin to taking an XM radio, randomly turning both the tuner and volume dials, and then turning it on. You could get vitriol pouring out at top volume, or a nicely modulated symphony. Or you could get a really loud symphony.

That's fine if you work alone, but in an office environment, or if there are kids around, it's a no-go, especially if you can't be sure of the content of the clip you'd like to play. Daily I find myself teased by YouTube clips and podcast links waiting to be clicked, but I have to pass because the kids are two feet away. And no, I'm not going to put on headphones to listen to a 2-minute clip, at least I haven't so far. No one has been able to sell their audio/video persuasively enough to get me to do that (yet).

I've tried listening to a few podcasts, but I can't do it at the computer -- sitting here, listening, feels silly. No one has inspired me enough to get into the habit of downloading their podcasts to listen to on my iPod when I'm away from the computer.

When I'm away from the computer, I want to be away from the computer.

1 comment:

nina said...

I so agree with you. Technology offers great possibilities but it's up to us to push away, selectively, those which waste time.