November 4th 2010

Is Web Video a Good Thing?

YouTube is now the third most popular site after Google and Facebook. The web is becoming mostly video.

I just watched a talk by Chris Anderson, a curator and speaker from TED, a nonprofit devoted to ideas worth spreading on Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Here’s my summary of his talk.

Chris spoke about six year old Lil Demon who does dance tricks that no six year old has ever done before. How did he learn them? By watching web videos.

See him here.

Dance is just one example of improvements driven by web video. These cycles of improvement happen in many other areas, apparently driven by people watching web video. Before web video, the cycles of improvement were much more limited. YouTube changes that because many thousands of people can see your video. That accelerates the rate of improvement. Cisco estimates that within four years more than 90% of the world’s data will be video. (Editor’s Note: That 90% figure may be a little misleading since video files are ginormous compared to text and photos files, but even so it’s a significant prediction.)

Despite lots of noise, there is important education spreading thanks to web video. Consider Khan Academy which I’ve written about previously. Another one is which was founded to encourage scientists to publish their peer-reviewed research on video. Jove is an acronym for The Journal of Visualized Experiments. The problem with a scientific paper is that it can take months for a scientist to figure out how to replicate the experiments that are described in print. The founder of Jove, says we waste billions of dollars on this. But if you show that experiment on video rather than just describing it, the problem goes away.

What do these two things have in common – dance video and science experiments on video? They are both used to educate. This kind of global education overall can be a self-fueling cycle in which we all can participate. Who’s the teacher? You’re the teacher. You’re part of the crowd that may be about to launch the biggest learning cycle in human history, a cycle capable of carrying all of us to a smarter, wiser, more beautiful place.

You can see all of Chris’s talk here.