(not from the 60s, but you get the picture)
So I hit upon a plan. I found this great dobro player, Martin Gross, who has a terrific YouTube channel. So my plan is to learn one song of his every month. OK, all happy again now that I am "working" at having fun.
As I've been working on "Blues Stay Away from Me" I've made a couple of observations.
The old way of learning a song was to play it on the record player and keep hacking away at it until you figured out how the person was playing it. Essentially, not much has changed except that with YouTube you get the video channel as well as the audio. And honestly, that makes it easier, but not in proportion to the orders of magnitude increase in information that the video makes available. Anyone who's worked on televisions is well aware of the difference in bandwidth between the video signal and the audio. There's just a lot more information in the video signal, and Mother Nature is an exacting accountant (the cost for transmitting information is bandwidth--the more information you are hauling, the wider the highway has to be).
Seriously, if you had to choose between learning a song by just listening to it without seeing the video, or watching it without hearing the audio, you'd be much better off just listening.
Kind of ironic seeing that the video has a ton more information in it. So what gives?
Well, most of the visual information is irrelevant. The color of the guitar, the spacing between the strings, the freckles on Martin's hand, etc. The most important information is what fret he is putting the slide on and what strings he is plucking. Since this is not a split-screen video, those two pieces of information are at opposite ends of the display and it takes a bit of replay sometimes to figure out what he's doing.
It might be true that a picture is worth a thousand words, but apparently a K of sound is worth a Meg of video.
About this time you're checking the header of this blog, thinking it was supposed to be about user experience and user assistance stuff. Well, it made me think about screen cam versus written procedures. Does the same thing apply here?
I think it does. I've felt for a long time that if the only thing we have to say is click this and type that, then a video is not the way to go (and a LOT of software videos are of that variety). Lot of bandwidth for just a little information. I wonder if Tufte's concept of chart junk and data to ink ratio can be applied to useful info/bandwidth analysis. Things like tone and physical manipulation in motion seem to justify the kind of bandwidth that video carries. I don't think of this is as a transmission efficiency issue, no more than Tufte was trying to save ink costs. The human bandwidth and ability to focus is more at issue here.
Plus, it's easier to scan a written procedure to get to that snippet of information I need than it is with a video.
So the point is twofold:
- Written words are still an incredibly efficient channel for conveying information. Quit beating yourself (or others) up if you consider yourself a writer and that to be your primary channel. "I am technical writer, hear me roar."
- If you can afford to throw a video or two into the user assistance, do something worthy with that bandwidth.