Videos are the absolute worst medium for presenting technical information like programming or other computer related technology. If I have to look at another video where you watch a programmer programming on a screen to teach you how to do something, I am going to go insane. Use your writing skills people!

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The Worst Trend Ever: Technical Video Tutorials

21 Jan , 2013  

I still struggle to understand the logic behind these. So we take content that could literally fit in a couple of paragraphs and create a video of someone navigating a computer and coding something, or doing some other highly technical work. In many cases, since the video stands alone, the video actually contains large amount of text itself.

It is like “reading” a novel by watching a video of someone turning the pages, and it is utterly ridiculous.

The web is replete with these, all over the place. It has become a common way to present new “exciting” information about technical topics. It is also usually mind boggling and a major irritation because synthesizing information via video is so slow.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that many people have different ways of learning. Some people are visual, some auditory and some learn by doing (touch). However, the information that you are trying to convey has to have some kind of importance in the presentation of said information.

If I were to create a tutorial on how to best cut an onion, then a video would certainly be the best option. If I were to create a tutorial on how to best create a web part in C#, then the best choice would be words and not video, with some graphics mixed in as well. I wouldn’t really want to read about cutting an onion (it would be very ambiguous likely), just like I wouldn’t want to watch a video of someone programming because it would be ambiguous and slow.

Many of them consist of many different steps, some of which either you already know and would like to skip, or the author pontificates (much like I am doing now) and you really want to skip whatever they are talking about. Typically some kind of table of contents and paragraph division allows us to do this easily with the written word, however most videos do not have this capability.

It is not that I can’t understand a video tutorial, seeing as though many times I am forced to watch them to see information on some new technology. It is that I would rather not spend upwards of 30-60 minutes watching a video containing information I could have digested in 10 minutes via reading. Consider that the average person can read at a rate of 250-300 words a minute, while that same person can only speak (with a reasonable level of comprehension) at 150 words per minute or so. If I can read twice as fast as someone can talk, while still comprehending what they are saying, then why on earth would I choose that to consume information that is just as easily consumed either way?

I swear, what really gets me, is that the written word is something that we learn early in school as being a major milestone in human evolution, yet it seems to be abandoned in all kinds of medium. Youtube videos, Facebook status updates, and Twitter tweets do not constitute written word, or adequate communication. The quick, visual and audio fix pervades society to where people scoff and actually have trouble reading large amounts of text.

This has an effect on society, if you think about it. Most people, whether they notice it or not, are actually constantly taking in information, synthesizing it, and acting on it by creating information that is likely used by someone else. The chain could end there, for example if a mechanic used information about how to fix your car, it would end with your car being fixed. Many times you may use information from others on some subject, add some additional information, and then disseminate it out to others who could also use that information. If information is disseminated in a manner which adds additional slowness or “drag,” then information is flowing inefficiently through the system. This likely causes a negative effect on the system when compared with faster information transfer.

This baby clearly knows more than you because it is using a faster method of learning.
This baby clearly knows more than you because it is using a faster method of learning.

If we had Matrix style transfer directly into our brains, that would represent the best .. but we until then I suggest people look at the content they are creating and start with the words, add pictures, and then add videos. This way you are presenting your content in all the best ways possible.

It may be more work for people that put together content, but in the end it will pay off because all of your “readers” (or more accurately consumers) are going to be able to consume your content in the most efficient and most comfortable way according to their own preferences.

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