in Things that make you go "hmm"

Why Videos suck


More and more, I hate videos as a medium for sharing information. I realize that many people don’t read nearly as fast as me, but as the world gets on the multimedia bandwagon and turns every 100-word idea into a 7min video, I find myself not bothering to watch.

There are some great things about making a message multimedia, like catchy music or heartfelt testimonials that tug at the emotions. For some things, being able to see and hear is much faster. If it’s a robot that can do handsprings, you want to see it. Obviously reading about it isn’t the same. But for most types of information, reading has big advantages:

  1. Speed — Even if you don’t read quickly, videos are slow. What could be summarized in a page or two of writing becomes as much as 10min of video. On a page you can quickly jump to the beginning of an article, but with videos there’s the apparently obligatory 30sec intro. When you watch a video, do you automatically skip the first 30sec? I definitely do. And often that’s still not enough.
  2. Skimming — Full disclosure, if I were reading this article myself, I would have skimmed it so that it read “…I hate videos… [stuff] … robot handsprings… [stuff] … SPEED… SKIMMING…” and so on. I do that with videos but it’s so much clunkier to click that slider to move ahead 30sec or so at a time. And oops, moved too far… It’s a pain.
  3. Reviewing — Skimmed too fast, didn’t get that last bit? What’s easier, glancing back at the last sentence, or fiddling with the slider and having to watching way more than you missed?
  4. Searchability — Unlike the written word, you can’t just search for the words “rutabaga communication” or whatever thing motivated you to watch the video. (Now there’s an idea for a startup. The audio searching, not conversational rutabagas, I’m thinking.) There’s also searchability on Google and apps like Evernote.
  5. Critical thinking — I’ve seen research [1] showing that people used much better critical thinking when we read compared to when we see video. Our brains tend to absorb the visual and auditory stimuli as closer to “stuff actually happening” whereas the written word is filtered through more critical thought as “stories or opinions shared by someone.” That’s one reason the current trend of arguing points of view through videos and visual memes is so dangerous. It bypasses some of the natural instinct to pause, think and ask “wait, is this perhaps completely stupid?”


  1. Citation needed.

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