I’m sure you know the feeling — you see a link to something that looks interesting, follow it, and when it turns out to be a video clip, you shake your head and kill the tab. The problem with video is it’s just too slow. But sometimes slow is OK, and maybe video can be fixed.
This was provoked by I have found a new way to watch TV, and it changes everything by Jeff Guo, which recommends watching video, by default, in fast-forward mode. The pitch is compelling, I’ll probably pick the habit up. Right now I watch almost no Web video, but maybe that’ll change. Seriously, go read Guo’s piece, it’s challenging. Out-take: “In a way, what’s happening to video recalls what happened to literature when we stopped reading aloud, together, and started reading silently, alone.”
Voice too! · Overclocked audio is one of the big features in Marco Arment’s super-successful Overcast pod-catcher; you can get through a voice presentation immensely faster than you’d think without information loss.
Which I’d known since the Nineties. Way back in the day I was working at Open Text, which at that time was pretty well 100% server-side software. Our QA lead was this brilliant guy who happened to be blind. He was one of our major assets, but most people didn’t want to sit too near him, because he did everything with audio, only speeded up by some huge factor, so there was this continuous high-pitched gabble of ultra-fast voice reading server logs and source-code listings.
Video sucks · As a method of communicating information, I mean. When you’re using the Internet to learn about what’s happening in the world, you want words in a row.
Not everyone agrees. Check this out: “The best way to tell stories in this world, where so much information is coming at us, actually is video,” Mendelsohn said. “It conveys so much more information in a much quicker period. So actually the trend helps us to digest much more information.” That’s Facebook’s Nicola Mendelsohn.
But I’m pretty sure she’s wrong. Check out these two Tweet sequences from US political uber-blogger Josh Marshall, the first of which starts with the Mendelson assertion. Outtake: But the reality is that news consumers don't want video. It is sometimes successfully forced on them.
The second sequence, just as interesting, starts with A lot of reactions to my comment on video for news/politics sites. Some oddly sensitive from certain VC-backed outlets.
I suspect most Net-head news-junkies will agree fervently.
It doesn’t always suck · There are exceptions, chiefly live cameras pointed at live news. To this day I remember, in June 1989, sitting for hours like a garden vegetable, watching the live feed from Tiananmen Square. Same story with Gaza wars and legislative sit-ins and Olympic torch-lighting. And of course live sports; baseball can be agonizingly slow, but that’s the price of love.
What can’t you speed up? · To start with, some video. The British Film Institute helpfully lists sixteen great cinematic long cuts. I found that page by searching by “long take Tarkovsky” which will tip you off that I was profoundly moved by the six-minute one-shot (but sadly, not one take) finale of The Sacrifice.
Here’s another example: Recently Sigur Rós offered Route One (hm, that link currently doesn’t work), 24 hours of live-streamed video of a drive round Iceland, backed by their space-fluff ear-candy. The video was kind of low-rez and I’m not even a huge fan of their music, but I spent 90 minutes on Route One with them and don’t regret a second.
And so, music. Speeding up recorded music would be the lowest philistinism imaginable, but messing with a song’s speed is a long and honorable tradition. Cosider J.J. Cale’s original lilting lope through After Midnight, and compare Clapton’s live hell-for-leather dash through it on 1979’s Just One Night. I wouldn’t want the world to be without either.
The rest · For your convenience, here is a comprehensive list of things for which there’s a proper pace that really oughtn’t be sped up.
… or really any path to altered states of consciousness
Walking in the woods
Any activity for which beds are designed
I’m sure you can think of more.