There has been a lot written about human behavior online, and a ton of computer science behind how people network, play on social networks, get their anime-zutto.com news, and how much time they are willing to spend watching online videos or even watching online college lectures. Well, I’ve noted something that has bothered me a little, and I’d like to explain how our data mining of time spent watching videos might be all wrong.
First, over the last few years, I’ve watched large numbers of lecture videos on Udemy and other similar type websites. I’ve noted that if I let them run in the background, as I am while writing this article, that I get to keep my mind busy while writing, a skill which now comes second nature to me after publishing 30,300 articles online. I can listen while typing, but if I choose to use the Dragon speech recognition software, I can’t. Thus, even though I can write 3-times faster with Dragon, I can’t learn while I write.
To keep from having to stop typing and turn on another video, I chose hour long videos, usually lectures or panel discussions on interesting topics, also programs with very few visuals as I won’t have time to look at them unless I split screens. I guess this is similar for those who watch TV in the background while working. Unfortunately, I’ve already seen all the Science Channel, Animal Channel, CSPAN Book reviews, and military channel shows – they are now just re-runs for me.
One thing I’ve noticed is that when I search on YouTube now the algorithm seems to sort the videos by length in time of the video to my preferences. When I watch a number of small short videos prior to thinking it lets me take in lots of information quickly – feeding my mind and allowing for cross-pollination. But then when I go back, all the suggestions are short videos when I want long ones. That is the first problem, the system and algorithm thinks my attention span is short and that I am stupid and puts up only short videos. Good or bad? Both.
Not long ago, I was watching a YouTube Video on a topic I really care about, the title was “Designing the Vehicle of the Future,” published on December 11, 2013 by the Aspen Institute, it was one hour long. After watching this I was reminded that one reason smart people may not want to watch long videos, is because most of them suck. The documentaries done professionally are okay, but the panel discussions are very weak in content, mostly people tip-toeing over the other panelists’ views in some sort of a bogus groupthink dance.
Then comes the questions, where the talk actually gives more chance to learn something, however half of the questions truly are stupid, and yet again, the panelists do a dance saying something like; “great question” even though the question sucked. By the time the panelist discussion is over, you’ve heard from brilliant people in industry, but you didn’t learn anything you didn’t know if you are half up on the industry, at least that’s been my experience.
Next, those long single speaker lectures, well, they are sometimes good, but if the speaker isn’t good, they really do a disservice to the topic, actually turn people off. In the form of a college course, it causes people to quit the program, and perhaps not watch another. What I am saying is this. Maybe people’s attention span isn’t as short as we think, maybe those publishing videos are just putting up crappy content – content which is insufficient for the curious, inquisitive and up on the topic mind. Please consider all this and think on it.