Saturday, September 13, 2008

You Tube: What's It Good For?

Young folks these days seem to be addicted to something called "YouTube." I can't say I understand it. It seems to be like "America's Funniest Home Videos," except that instead of getting a half hour of stupid videos you get HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF HOURS of stupid videos.

Why when I was a kid we read books, and when we wanted to see something, we went there and saw it. (We also walked five miles to school in the snow and didn't complain about it.) Kids these days don't need to go anywhere or do anything; they just call it up on YouTube and get a low quality rip-off of the experience.

When I typed "Area 51" in the YouTube search box, I was amazed! Does anyone on the North American continent have a life? They all seem to have made the same repetitive video of driving down Groom Lake Road to see the restricted area signs.

Now I'll admit that YouTube might have the potential for some sort of productive use. I just haven't figured out what it is. The image quality is very low, hardly comparing to even pre-HD television. For conveying visual data, a still photograph seems far better. If you want to show how visual elements relate to each other, you take several photographs, or you draw a map.

The only personal use I have ever found for YouTube is playing purely audio information. For example, if there's a song I want to hear, there's a good chance YouTube has it, perhaps as a music video. In no case, however, have I ever cared about what was happening on the screen as I listen to the audio. The video portion is just a distraction. A lot of videos, in fact, just show a static picture while the audio is playing. They appear on YouTube only because that's the universal place where people exchange media files.

I challenge my readers to show me ANYTHING meaningful or useful on YouTube apart from audio information. I'm open-minded. I'm willing to embrace newfangled conveniences like washing machines and pop-up toasters as long as you can show me that their value exceeds their cost.

So where is it? Show me that one useful YouTube video -- something truly meaningful that can't be accomplished with words, a photograph or an audio file -- and I'll shut up.

Originally posted on my Area 51 blog.