Why are people obsessed with uploading flash videos in place of short, well written instructions on how to perform a given task? The web is full of people posting 5 minute long, low-res flash videos of how to install software X under linux or some such when a simple page with 5 bullet points and a couple of screen shots would do the job so much better.

Here’s an example illustrating how to run Windows XP in a virtual machine on Linux using VirtualBox. I’m not picking on this one in particular, it’s merely the most recent example I’ve come across. There are many problems with this approach, including but not limited to:

  • Blurred text

  • Slow Pace

  • Graphical artefacts obscuring what’s going on.

  • Very difficult to review a section

  • Specific only to that one person’s environment.

  • You can’t print them out!

You have to sit through the whole thing and follow it as it goes, making notes in order to be able to do it yourself, whereas if it had been a set of written steps, you could follow the instructions at your own pace with much less hassle. I’ve seen videos illustrating how to install linux, which is completely pointless - how are you supposed to follow along toa video? Surely you’d prefer to print out a copy of the instructions to follow them if you don’t have a second computer to hand during the installation?

This sort of thing isn’t limited to software installation guides, it happens a lot on the usually fantastic instructions site, Instructables. The whole point of the instructables site is to provide step-by-step instructions on how to perform some task or create something, yet all too often you’ll see a one-step instructable that merely contains a brief intro and a link to a youtube video. Use a video to illustrate a particularly tricky step by all means, but don’t use it as a substitute for proper written instructions.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying people shouldn’t produce their own instructions and HOWTO guide, far from it, I’m just saying that the appropriate form should be used. Thankfully, video instructions don’t rank so highly when searching due to the inherent difficulties in indexing videos in search engines in any meaningful way, but they still irritate me.