Ask the Readers: Do Engineers Watch Video?

Ask the Readers: Do Engineers Watch Video?

***If you’re seeing this text on the front page of EB and cannot see the video, please click on the title of the post to see the individual page with the video.***

I sure hope so because the content of this post is all video!


I turned off the YouTube comments (because I already have enough stress in my life), so be sure to drop a comment below if you have any feedback!


Personally, I feel it all depends on the exact type of information.

In general I favor both audio and text over video most of the time, for reasons of convenience, but sometimes I find video works best.

For example the “Phase Lock Loops 101” video by Jeri Ellsworth and Bil Herd, is a much more clear and informative explanation of phase locked loops than I’ve seen elsewhere. Much of why it works well is the way the whiteboard and slides are used. Some of Dave Jones’ tutorials are also good examples of where I feel video really is used to good benefit.

To be clear about where I’m coming from though, I’m a young new-grad, so maybe there’s some bias there.

Chris, I generally avoid video for the following reasons:

1) It’s low density. I could have gotten everything from this blog in under 0:30 instead of the 1:45 your video ran.
2) It requires more attention, while a podcast can be listened to on the run or driving.
3) Videos often seem to come with annoying, non-skippable ads. At least web pages have the “skip now” button (if you can find it).

That said, I’ll watch a video if it provides a good visualization that makes a process more understandable. If it’s just “talking heads”, then I don’t need it. And if cable/phone companies get their wish on bandwidth caps and tiered pricing, then I think most others will make the same decision.

Of course, this whole analysis goes out the window if you put booth babes in the video. Then I’ll be all over it.

I’d watch if you were to wear Borat’s Mankini. I’d go as far as finding ways high and low to unblock youtube in China.

I prefer audio for low density conversational stuff. Like the AmpHour podcast.
I hear that on my way to work and sometimes at work.

Videos are tricky, because 100% attention is required. I have less time available for that.
I only do it if there is more that just information to gain. Like someone reading slides and repeating himself all the time vs. someone talking random but generally interesting like EEVBLog Dave.

I prefer audio and text with lots of pictures and perhaps small videos. I have only limited time budget for long video.

I much prefer text or podcasts to video most of the time. With text I have to the option of skimming an article at work and saving it for later when I have more time to process it. I also prefer it for lengthy technical articles as well because I like to flip back and forth between figures and go at my own pace while reading. With podcasts* I’m always slipping in my headphones to block out noises during work and catching up on one of about 16 or so shows I follow. At home I’ll throw a podcast on while I’m cooking or cleaning all the time as well and of course there’s my commute too.

That being said there are some videos out there that are really well done (Dave’s series on designing his power supply comes to mind), but unfortunately I most likely don’t have a block of time big enough to invest in them regularly.

*For any iOS users out there, Downcast is a fantastic podcast manager and is worth much more than the $2 it costs. I highly recommend it.

For work purposes I haven’t videos or podcasts as an information source. That is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

For personal interest I do subscribe to a small number of channels but find it difficult to allot the time to watch a video, especially the longer ones. Often they end up in the background with the audio playing only switching back to the video when necessary to follow the topic.

I didn’t have time at work to watch video. With most videos, I find that the amount of information gained versus the amount of bandwidth and time required is pretty low (signal to noise ratio). Video is OK when there are diagrams and oscilloscope photos and the like, but I still prefer a high resolution image (still) in a pdf file. I automatically avoid webinars. I don’t get much value when the program spends all that time buffering. Online trade show/conferances not only have a lousy user interface, but the signal to noise ratio is non-existant.

One other comment – I do not like the iTunes burden for podcasts. It makes me install this software that wants to “organize” all of my mp3’s. Please make any podcasts available with an rss feed that I can subscribe to using Google Reader.

One last comment – I can download PDF files and save them in an organized manner for future reference.

I just thought of two other pet peeves. I like to get magazine susbscrptions delivered digitally. Since things that used to be print are now electronic, why can’t publishers format the layout to make it easier to read on a computer screen. Scrolling all over the place to read a 2 or 3 column page that does not start at the top of the screen and stop at the bottom of the screen, makes the readability very bad even in a pdf file which is easier to read. Why do magazines use anything other than pdf. If the magazine is not available in pdf, I cannot read it as the text and pictures are way to small on my 10″ screen.

I usually read this blog, but I didn’t bother this time. Videos are mostly a waste of time and bandwidth. I’ll watch a well-produced movie for entertainment, but give me searchable text for learning.

I’m going to come at this from the other direction, from someone who makes videos:

There’s a rule I use to tell when to make a video or not from legendary animator Chuck Jones: One shouldn’t be able to tell what was happening on screen if you’re only listening to the audio. Or in other words show, don’t talk. If talking about it gets the idea across (or better yet, printed words that I can read faster or just skim) then do not make a video.

When I do make videos I assume that no one wants to watch them or will watch them begrudgingly. I also assume they might watch them without audio. (At work, etc.)

This means:
a) Duplicate as much of the video as possible on a web page somewhere. Don’t make a video as a time saving way of doing a blog post. A worth-while video is a supplement to the main content and will take additional effort to make. (I found it kind of infuriating that you didn’t post any text with this video, though I know you did it for effect. You -made- me watch the video and I kind of resent that. I’d like to have the option.)

b) Don’t try to do everything in the video, just the stuff that needs demonstrating. It’s a teaser and if someone wants more information they can visit the damn web page which will have longer text and photos.

c) Make it as short as possible. Edit as tight as possible. Cut out anything that isn’t necessary to the video. They can watch it twice if they need to, but don’t make everyone else drag through it. If you have a big monologue either demonstrate what you’re talking about or summarize and put the rest on a web page. I shoot for 3 minutes max, depending on the subject.

I’m not saying don’t do video, because there have been times when a short video has completely enlightened me in ways that photos and text didn’t.

Bill Hammack’s “Engineer Guy” Videos are great examples of all of these. He gets to the basic, correct explanation quickly and uses videos to demonstrate, what words alone would be difficult to get a cross. But of you want the full explanation buy his book.

(I’m not an online video expert yet, but I have close to 2 million views between YouTube and Vimeo which is hopefully worth something.)

Personally I listen, watch and read, and do all 3 at work and home.

I like videos for demonstration purposes, since it is often easier to understand something that is shown. Often I like to have a written document along with the video though for more technical information and as something I can refer back to.

Audio is a lot more passive for me. I like to listen to podcasts while doing other things and get general information.

I prefer to have heavy technical information written because I find it easier to reference.

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