Video Blog Comments (Ironically) Aren’t Conversational

TechCrunch has added video comments to its blogs, courtesy of Seesmic. Oh lordy. Think you’re feeling overwhelmed by social media? Try following video comments.

Online video has gotten traction as a one-way communication and entertainment vehicle. Is it ready to add “conversation” to its portfolio of uses?

Where Has Online Video Worked?

YouTube is undeniably the success story of online video. And what has been so successful there? Entertainment. Selected hits from amateurs have become mega hits, like the guy playing Pachelbel’s Canon on his electric guitar. The most popular videos on YouTube are professionally produced music videos, as reported by Michael Learmonth at Silicon Valley Insider. My 4 year old is a huge fan of Feist.

This entertainment is very much a one-way experience. They play. You watch.

Online video has also been useful as a communication tool. Google has been particularly active on this front, such as with this video explaining Google Apps.

The training video, again, is a one-way communication.

Seesmic’s Mission: Make Online Video a Conversation

Seesmic wants to turns these one-way communications into conversations among two, three, heck even dozens of people. You post a video, someone posts a video in reply and you post back. Kind of an asynchronous conversation. From the Seesmic site:

Until now, online communication has lacked personality as it’s been limited to text (IM, SMS, email). Now, Seesmic brings conversation alive through video. See and hear people share their experiences straight from their webcams, join in live conversations, and engage in real interactions with real people.

The concept is pretty innovative. As always, the question is whether it makes sense in real world usage.

My Rant About Online Video

I personally do not watch videos online much. If I land on a page that has video instead of text, I usually hit the browser’s ‘Back’ button pretty quickly.

Why? I don’t have time to wait on whether the video will be interesting. After the video loads, you then sit through its latency to see what the person is saying. It’s a crap shoot as to whether the time was worth it. Thus, the Silicon Valley Inside story about professionally produced videos YouTube dominating doesn’t surprise me. You know what you’re getting ahead of time.

Which brings us back to online video comments.

The Blog Video Comment Experience

The implementation on TechCrunch seems to be well-done, based on the video comments of several people. Kudos to Seesmic for making that happen. This is an innovative idea.

Three issues make video comments less conversational overall than basic text comments:

  1. You have no idea what you’re getting when you click a video
  2. It’s hard to reference someone’s comment
  3. It takes too much time

Video comment quality: Variance in comment quality is a well-known dynamic on blogs. It will apply to these video comments as well. This comments here and here on TechCrunch intrigued me…

The big difference is that with text, you can pretty quickly size up the quality with a quick scan. You have to endure much of the online video before realizing it won’t serve up nuggets of insight.

This is a turn off, and it undermines the participative quality of comments. If people aren’t watching your video comment, then you’re not really participating in the conversation.

Referencing comments: Say someone leaves a 60-second commentary on a post. You’re going to have to remember that interesting thing that was said 27 seconds into it. And then you’ll have to rewrite the interesting thing to properly reference it in your text comment. Or in your video reply.

The burden of tracking an audio commentary for response purposes hurts the conversational aspect of video comments.

Too much time: Keeping up with the entire thread of a conversation may require viewing several videos. On the TechCrunch post, I found the time for each of 43 video comments. Average run time = 29 seconds. Median = 24 seconds. The typical text comment doesn’t take 25 seconds to read. So your time investment just went up to stay on top of videos.

And that detracts from the conversation.

Final Word

I’ll admit to sticking through several of the 43 video comments on the blog. There is something to the idea of watching a person speak their comments. The hard part is to know which ones will be worth it. I assume over time, some people would just have a flair for the medium. Regular blog visitors will consistently click their videos.

But the majority of video comments will just be time sucks. There’s probably a real opportunity to implement some sort of rating system on comments, and on people who comment that will help filter out the video noise.

Still, I prefer text comments for the conversation. Learning on my time, not the video creator’s.


See this item on FriendFeed:


About Hutch Carpenter
Chief Scientist Revolution Credit

4 Responses to Video Blog Comments (Ironically) Aren’t Conversational

  1. Pingback: Video Comments are a Dumb Idea. : The Last Podcast

  2. Sachendra says:

    “You post a video, someone posts a video in reply and you post back. Kind of an asynchronous conversation”…. but hasn’t this already been done by YouTube and is a reason for YouTube’s immense popularity. Fail to understand what’s new here.

    Am I missing something?

  3. bhc3 says:

    Hey Sachendra – I’m not a huge YouTube user. I may be wrong, but the reply to a video aspect of YouTube isn’t what drives its popularity. Its the consumption of videos for the most part as I understand it.

    But if I’m wrong here, let me know.

  4. sachendra says:

    Correction, one of the reasons for youtube’s popularity

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: