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11:57am on Friday, 10th June, 2011:

Linear Media


When people send me links to Youtube videos, my heart sinks. I'm going to have to give something my undivided attention for however long the video lasts. If it's up to 20 seconds, OK, I can watch that there and then and be done with it. If it's between 20 seconds and a minute, well damn, now it's no longer in the reading-my-emails category; instead, it's in my replying-to-my-emails category. If it's between 1 minute and 10 minutes, it's in my leave-it-in-my-inbox category: it might get watched if I feel duty-bound to watch it, but frankly it's unlikely. Anything over 10 minutes is like work, and it's just not going to get watched unless there's a very compelling reason to watch it. If you're a student and you ask me "will this video help me learn how to program the Android?" you're going to get the answer "watch it and see"; I'm not going to watch the damned video myself.

My problem is not that I have a short attention span (I played Mount & Blade: Warband for 5 hours straight last night, having given up on the new With Fire & Sword version on the grounds that the circled-wagons fights were too annoying). No, my problem with Youtube clips is that they're too slow. I just want them to get to the point. I've been recommended them or asked about them because they make some point: OK, so I just want to know what that point is and then I'm done. That applies whether the point is educational, outrageous, amusing, subtle, slapstick — whatever. I just want to get to it. Clicking randomly along the progress bar doesn't help because then I only get a series of snapshots and could miss the key moments.

What would be useful is if Youtube had some kind of speed-up system so you could zoom through a video at higher speeds and then slow down for the interesting or fun parts. I know there are plug-ins available commercially that will do this, but those would cost money and I'm a cheapskate. I wouldn't mind watching four minutes of a video compressed into 1 minute at a smaller screen size if a student asked me for a quick opinion; sitting through the four minutes in real time, though, bah, I have better things I could be doing (eg. conquering the world or winning the Premier League or becoming Aldermaster of the Hanseatic League or, as was the case last night, capturing Praven from the Swadians).

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).