After this question came up several times in comments to my regular recommendation to ban videos as source of information and assistance I'd like to give some background information which doesn't fit into a comment.

An example is the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMyMqqU2Mqs on installation of Ubuntu on a chromebook. It is not a bad video and the intention of the contributer to provide assistance (to read the lifehacker.com website on how) to install Ubuntu on a device is much appreciated as a step forward to make libre software and OS more popular. I chose this video as an example because I watched some part of it trying to assist in How do I boot Ubuntu from a USB on an Acer C720 Chromebook? and got caught up in examining it more closely after giving the recommendation to avoid videos as information source. I did not watch 100 % of it and nevertheless want to make following exemplary points (all of them are typical, time references to the example are necessary, though):

  • I stopped with a watch 4:37 of 31:25 of silence while waiting for command completion.
  • Some parts simply explain how to read things (~10:00 ff.)
  • Selecting commands on the website and copying them into a terminal takes up to 10 seconds!
  • 1
    Do you have examples? It is easier to discuss with examples.
    – Seth
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 1:24
  • 1
    Slow internet connections or slow hardware may forbid some users from seeing internet videos. Text is always accessible.
    – a06e
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 14:04
  • Add this as answer and you might get some reputation or I'll add it to my answer below - like you want. Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 14:06

2 Answers 2


The answer is mostly: Efficiency!

  1. If an instruction in the video fails you have to type the failing instruction from the screen. You don't want that which is why you'll probably reference the minute and second in the video -> inacceptable overhead for people who want to assist you (after the video failed in doing so)!
  2. You can read 3 to 5 times faster than anyone can speak, and therefore gather important background information which help you to abstract the problem.
  3. Make the test! Read a difficult text and observe how often you repeat reading half a sentence or even only a tiny bit of it. When was the last time you replayed micro sequences of a video of 5 minutes 50 times? Now you know why there're so few videos on difficult problems.
  4. Seth's point that videos tend to create link-only answers when posted in forums or Q&As. As video hosting is expensive the linked content is likely to disappear very quick. In my opinion taking responsibility for information one shares includes the responsibility to keep it available and editable for as long as possible.
  5. Videos are not editable and therefore hinder development of information! They're not editable and mergable, but more importantly they don't allow change tracking like text does (it is impossible to retrieve information from the part of the video which has been removed/added/moved). That is not very ubuntu, BTW.
  6. Text can be structured very well and be made a hypertext very easily. I'm not a video expert, but AFAIK navigation in videos is limited to forwarding and rewinding and will be for the next years. Text can be enriched with meta data referring to limited sections of the text with well known and established techniques (make a search engine populate a section of a text as results only/directly).
  7. Text is fully searchable both manually and programmtically.
  8. Most information is provided in English language (especially editable information) and reading allows better understanding and accessibility for people troubled with it (even if the speaker(s) in the video speak cristal clear) (taken from Rmano's comment)

other good comments and answers on this topic include

points of secondary importance:

  1. Transferring simple information, like instructions and commands to be typed into a terminal, in video form can require almost arbitrary more resources than doing so in text form[1]. That's a waste!
  2. Due to popularity video platforms (for a few more useful things than technical assistance and a lot less useful things) companies and associations feel/become obliged to increase or maintain popularity by participating in such[2]. That leads to the tendence to interlard information with entertainment. Potential (key) users (espcially those who see themselves associated with the/a technical community) might doubt the capabilities of the company/association to withstand "monkey see, monkey do" logic rather than obeying the mechanisms serving/directed by monopolistic property-based unfree technical equipment and software producers. These users should be attracted with suitable information (see above).

[1] assuming that the space that text can consume is somehow limited to its encoding which won't exceed UTF-32 in a long time and can't be enhanced infinitely with markup and still make sense while the quality of the video of the screen showing the commands (worst case) can have basically arbitrary high quality and therefore consume arbitrary high resources.

[2] http://www.ubuntu.com/phone/ubuntu-for-android

  • 8
    It is also worth noting that answers that do nothing but link to a video would be considered link-only and deleted. I don't mind people linking to videos, but they should be supplementary content to the answer, not the answer.
    – Seth
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 1:26
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    If I can chime in: not everybody is proficient with English, and a lot of quality information is in English out there. It is much more easier for someone with a basic grasp of English to read and understand written information, than understanding the spoken language with all its nuances and accents. It happens to me with other languages; I can quite read technical French but I would be completely at a loss trying to understand an equivalent video.
    – Rmano
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 16:47

I'd say that one can produce good informative and structured videos with all the unnecessary parts cut out or speed up, including a whole lot of metadata and backing up project data once the project is complete. (I tried doing so several months/years ago.)

However, my experience is that the average tech-YouTuber or tech-screencaster fails badly in this category and mostly cares about generating/getting attention.

Though while I listen to podcasts and certain videos at up to 2.5 playback speed, I would almost never care to watch someone else's 10+ minutes video tutorial, just because some user tried following these instructions and failed without a clear hint where. (And I dislike blarring loud music, impossibly to understand voices, useless banners or other kinds of goofing around. Get a decent microphone and focus on content or get out.)

Watching wannabe video producers in context of AU/SE is a waste of my time that I would prefer to spend on users that put more effort into explaining their issues themselves. Even if they fail at that, it seems to be more fair to me and let's not forget that one of the best things of AU/SE is that you can improve someone else's post and everything is CC-licensed. Try to achieve that sense co-operation with someone else's video where you have no project data and have to probably ask for permission[⁉].

This is more getting in the way of solving problems than actually solving them from my point of view.

The Chromebook + Ubuntu topic is a good example for reputation damage (done to Ubuntu, because it looks like Ubuntu is at fault here or "too complicated",) caused by copying content over and over again, instead of better explaining and improving it. The tool itself is nice, the documentation in its wiki and the Chrome OS wiki is usable, the rest that's posted and copied in various places should be tossed in the bin.

Final note: When I tested this, Chrome OS complained at every boot about being in developer mode and waiting a few extra seconds (5-10), ruining the "instant on experience".

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