Should we include a animated GIF of a screencast in our answers? Or should we post a series of screenshots instead? Or is a link to a video hosted externally preferable?
Here's an example of a animated GIF of a screencast, taken from this answer:
The pros and cons should be taken into consideration before using an animated GIF for a screencast. When it doubt, they should be avoided, as text accompanied with screenshots don't suffer from the previously listed cons of GIFs.
However, there are some occasions when an animated GIF is very appropriate. For example, take this animated GIF, from this answer explaining how to move icons in the launcher:
This is an excellent use of an animated GIF:
I think animated GIFs can be very helpful and you should not be afraid to include them. If you happen to abuse or use them inappropriately it can be handled just like any other content of lesser quality (editing, voting, deletion, etc.)
Remember that some people may have animated GIFs disabled, access the site with a text-only interface or for some other reason do not or cannot view the animated GIFs. Thus, animated GIFs may be best used as a complement to textual instructions. Also, do not forget to add an alt text for images so that those who do not view the image can get a hint of what it shows and it makes their content searchable. Syntax example:
![alt text](image URL)
People who do not want to see GIFs can turn them off. It is your choice. People like me who want to see the cool-looking GIF animations – instead of jamming a massive amount of instructions in hard-reading stream-of-consciousness – should be able to see the GIFs. You can see animated GIFs in other Stack Exchange sites like here so why not here?
P.s. For people who are able to do the nice-looking GIFs, please, instruct people in your answer to do them. I know you can do animated GIFs with iPad's Echograph app but I would like to learn how to animations for instructions in the GUI. It is very hard to explain things only in text or images, animations add a new layer of communication.
In my opinion they can be useful, though they can be rather large and cumbersome downloads depending on the resolution.
Youtube videos are also useful, though they cannot be embedded, and we have no real control over them.
Personally I hate GIFs they make the site much slower and it's very hard to see the exact instructions. I think pictures tells much more and you can do it in your own phase.
I don't like them, I want a nice old fashion list with pictures so anyone can do it.
I think GIFs are just fancy things that doesn't do the job.
As en example this page lags really much when i try to scroll. And I'm only running the usual programs, eclipse, Spotify, 8 tabs in Chrome. GIFs aren't a good solution to a problem that doesn't exist.