Kate Gregory's Blog
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
The Medium, The Message, and Context
I watched a video the other day from someone whose blog I read and whose presentations and sessions I have enjoyed. I was drawn to it because it said C++ in the title, and it was a really non-C++ person. Oh my. I did manage to last about 12 minutes, until it was pretty clear there really wasn't going to be any C++ content at all. There even was a tiny bit of useful content in those 12 minutes. But it was all mixed in with joking between the hosts, including something that must have been a running inside joke, because they sure were liking it and I didn't get it, snips of music, throwaway lines about "as we all know" when I didn't know what they were talking about but it might have been interesting to explore, and actual interesting things. Plus, the two hosts disagreed a lot, which I suppose was interesting, but impeded my ability to actually learn what one of them was trying to convince me of or explain to me. I couldn't watch to the end of it.
It got me thinking about the number of times I have read people blogging that they don't bother listening to podcasts. The theory goes that podcasts and videos are super quick to produce - just turn on the camera or Camtasia, plug in the mike, press record and off you go. A lot of them are not edited at all. And it shows
. There are good podcasts (
comes immediately to mind, and not just because I appear on it once or twice a year) and they are the product of significant effort. There is conversation in advance about "what are we going to talk about". There is awareness of how the conversation is going, and genuine work during the conversation to keep it flowing well. And there is editing afterwards. All of this combines to make a higher quality experience for the listener, which is the point, right? You can find a zillion bad podcasts, and the good ones have one thing in common: they are motivated by the experience for the listener, not the ease or fun for the creator. I wish that wasn't so, I wish there was a magic easy way to get your knowledge out there to the community that was quicker than blogging or writing books or teaching courses or traveling to far away places and getting up on stage - but there isn't, they all take work.
I have all this in mind while I'm recording some screencast/tutorial type videos. When I give an actual presentation, I probably say um and ah and you know. I hope I say it less than some folks, but I still expect I say it. I know for a fact I say it when the mike is plugged in. How do I know that? Because right after I hit Stop on the recorder, I hit Edit. And I listen to the whole thing and whenever I hear um and ah and you know, I edit it out. I also edit out the pauses and the messups. I think that's the exchange we make between in person and recorded materials. An in person presentation or session or training is spontaneous and adjustable - you can ask me a question and I can go deeper on that one thing you want to know more about. When it's recorded, you can't interact. But hey, you get a crisper and more polished presentation. You don't have to ever watch a demo fail. Products that in real life take 15 seconds to launch are already launched when the demo starts, or appear to launch in two seconds because I edited out 13 seconds of splash screen.
This means that producing a ten minute video is going to take me way more than ten minutes. First, there's prep time - writing slides, creating starting point demo code, practicing a demo and ensuring that I have a good example that really covers the point I want to make, rehearsing to be sure I can do it crisply, and all of that. When I present at a conference or user group, deliver training, or even just visit a client one on one to show them something, I have to do all that prep. It's often about 3-5:1 - for a one hour talk there will be 3-5 hours of prep - and that's if you know the material cold, it doesn't count learning what's new in product X or learning how to do thing Y. Don't underestimate this effort. Folks who skip it find themselves
the bad example
in other people's blogs. Then there's rehearsing the whole talk a few times, which I generally don't do for recorded videos but have to do for in person material. What recorded videos need is about 12 minutes to actually record it, with pauses and ums and false starts and all, then 30 minutes or so to play that and edit out the two minutes that don't belong.
I'm not complaining, mind you. I think if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing right. And for videos, that means prep beforehand and editing afterwards.
Is the medium the message?
Well, you can't do the exact same thing in different media (eg in person or video) and expect to deliver the exact same message. Um in person and um in your video carry different messages. Joking with the guy who introduced you at a user group and joking with the guy who introduced you at a 5000 person keynote carry different messages. McLuhan was right.
Seen and Recommended
Tuesday, July 06, 2010 2:24:37 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, July 09, 2010 4:21:53 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
But by the time you've prepped and edited, are you really saving much time compared to just writing the thing in glorious text-o-vision?
I can certainly see the advantages of podcast and video formats to producers. But for consumers of informational material (as opposed to entertainment) they're always, ALWAYS massively inferior to text. You can't skim, you can't search, you can't excerpt, you can't adjust your pace.
Genuinely curious - does anyone prefer non-text for this stuff? Is it maybe confined to people for whom drive-time is part of the daily routine?
Friday, July 09, 2010 4:25:19 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
I think I agree with you for audio-only, they are for the folks who drive/workout/run and want a sound track. But a video, where you can watch the demo instead of having dozens of screen shots in among the text, has real value to all kinds of people.
Saturday, July 10, 2010 2:59:17 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Thanks Mrs Gregory, very useful information you have offered
You bring me up just to say that,
again thanks! :)
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