Video Usability, Cont’d: The Descent of the Starlings

We have starlings in our backyard.

Anybody who has experience with this pest bird knows what an invasion means: acidic bird crap that can kill or eat all it touches, including trees, plants and concrete; a chalky, particulate stench that fills the air; the unspoken threat of omnipresent virulence; a wall of flapping and shrieking that, if you were actually able to sit outside, would obscure conversation; fear of nests in the attic, eaves and dryer vents; and, each dusk, the descent into trees of the flock as thick as a fury of bees but as big as the Hindenberg.

So a woman in my neighborhood (who, to protect her privacy, I will describe simply as “my wife”) goes online to see what we can do to relocate, dispatch or if necessary outright terminate the things.

Beginning with the obligatory Google search, she finds, 2/3 of the way down the first page, a link to an amateur video by a guy named Scott Fraser. She clicks it first. It conveys in 2:14 far more about the vulgarity (his phrase) of these birds than I could manage in the labored paragraph above.

Digging into text links we’ve developed a stategy, which involves balloons with big eye shapes on them, shiny metallic tape, laser pointers and paintball guns. (Hey, this is war, and they started it.)

But I digress. My point is that this starling clip is another example of how video can be deployed on the web with great effect, regardless of production quality, monetization strategies or snazzy distribution technologies. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I’d say an informative, on-point video like this is worth at least several hundred thousand. (That would be a lousy web experience, but you get the idea.)

I mention this because I am beginning to fear that my position on web video–that it has value and commercial potential only to the extent its content is strong enough to overcome the truly lousy experience of viewing video on the web–is doomed. I fear I’m becoming like that famous dolt at IBM turned away Bill Gates and his little DOS program because the IBM guy didn’t think anybody would really want a personal computer. I’m beginning to suspect I’m on the wrong side of history here.

That may not shut me up for a while. But it does obligate me in fairness to point out a recent report, this one by advertising.com, again demonstrating how quickly people are (or appear to be) adopting web video viewing habits.

From the press release:

Study results indicate that the majority of consumers are viewing video online, at 62 percent of survey respondents. Contrary to popular opinion, these viewers are not just young adults viewing user-generated videos; in fact, most (69 percent) are ages 35 and older with a preference for viewing news clips online.

Now this report, by an ad agency trying to puff up the video advertising business, is comically self-interested and its findings likely biased. Still, it adds another gram of weight to the possiblity that those who believe video will take over the web are right and I am fatally wrong.

This is unlikely to change my public stance on the future of web video for some time, of course. When facts begin to accumulate to one’s disfavor, the only reasonable response is to deny them, cling to whatever fragments of data support one’s thesis, and generally get more shrill and insistent. I apologize in advance for this behavior.

Or perhaps I can direct a flock of starlings in the opponents’ direction and hope for the best.

Explore posts in the same categories: starlings, usability, video

One Comment on “Video Usability, Cont’d: The Descent of the Starlings”

  1. John Kelly Says:

    When I undertook my first solo Web video–behind the scenes at the Great British Cheese Festival–I had the words of Craig Stoltz ringing in my ears: No longer than 2 minutes! I trimmed and I trimmed and I trimmed and I almost got it down to 3. There’s nothing fancy about the final product, it’s quite rough in fact, but it was amazingly EASY to do. That’s probably the strong point and the weak point of Web video. It’s so easy even a caveman can do it. The bar is incredibly low.I don’t know how you monetize that but maybe, as in so much in life, people will be willing to pay for stuff, or support stuff, that stands head and shoulders above the crowd. The rest of us will just be starlings fighting for crumbs of cheese.


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