Bratty Redhead

the sarcasm is free!

Screencasts: Context Is Everything

Yesterday I tweeted in frustration about being confronted with yet another screencast/video when searching for help on the internet. This has been a growing frustration for me as I branch out away from pure command line/coding tools.

I find help videos in general to be obnoxious. I read and comprehend fast and generally want to skim some text to understand the thing that I’m looking for. I find “new user feature” videos that we end up from Google and stuff to be especially annoying.

I get that not everyone wants to just figure stuff out, but I generally can figure things out way faster than you can tell me about it.

A few months ago I was writing my first public talk and also using Keynote for the first time. I kept having to search the Internet for answers to questions because (2 years later) I’m still getting used to the way OSX presents things and am never sure where to look for formatting-type stuff. Something that really set me off was trying to figure out how to make new masters for Keynote. When I looked around, all I could find were videos lasting several minutes on the topic. Seriously. All I wanted was a paragraph on the general method and maybe a line with the actual tool bar clicks to begin with. Eventually, on the second presentation I worked on, I found what I was looking for. But I was really annoyed by the whole exercise.

On the other hand. I subscribe to RubyTapas. I find that an appropriate use of a screencast. Similar to a podcast, it’s a discussion of a complex topic that doesn’t have an answer at the end. When I want to figure out how to do something, I want to read about it on stack overflow, not watch a movie. BUT, if I’m interested in the how and why of a learning topic, then I love a good screencast. I especially like the short and sweet nature of the RubyTapas because they are not a major time commitment to listen to one.

But if I have a question, and that question has a fairly simple answer like “click here, here and here and type these things” I’m not sitting through a slow moving video to find out the answer. Yesterday I was looking for the start command for a tool I’d just downloaded and, when I clicked on the “getting started with Tool” link, it took me to a screencast which is was sent me over the edge and caused that tweet.

It was interesting to me that this is probably my top ever retweeted tweet. I think there’s an assumption out there that people want video instead of words. I never watch video on news sites either. I hate it. I want to skim stuff. Maybe places making these assumptions should recalibrate. Or maybe those of us who can read and comprehend faster than someone else can talk are actually in the minority? We’ll probably never know.