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Webcasts considered harmful

By f-626541 ·
I know that we have oodles and boodles of bandwidth. I know that CPU cycles are cheap. I know that high quality graphics systems are ubiquitous. Can we stop distributing technical content via webcasting?

1) Webcasting is generally too slow but sometimes too fast. I can read much faster than I can hear. Also, when I am reading something, I can read at my own pace, going faster through the stuff I already know and slower if something is complicated. I can stop reading at any moment if a user needs help or a server goes down.

2) Webcasting usually requires synchronization in time. I have to be there at a certain time to hear the webcast. As a practicing sysadmin, I can't always do that.

3) Webcasting usually requires niche software. There actually are open standards for webcast file formats, but vendors generally don't follow them. Note, for example, the comment in one of these threads from a guy who was told he needed a specific version of a player. HTML, by way of contrast, will run on any browsers.

4) Webcasting isn't as utilitarian as reading. If I am reading something on my web browser that I think might be interesting to somebody else, I can stop, copy and paste the content into a quick E-mail, and continue. I can't do that with webcasts.

Time is the greatest asset I have. I have to use it wisely. If you don't treat my time carefully, then I am going to ignore you.

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I actually like web casts.

by faradhi In reply to Webcasts considered harmf ...

And pedagogically it is usually better to combine as many senses in the process as possible.
Webcast, in spite of the downsides, allow us to see here and read material. That is proven to improve retention. I

I personally learn better in a classroom environment rather than just reading. Many people are the opposite. You are apparently one of those persons. Maybe issuing material in both forms rather than just doing away web casts altogether would be a better solution.

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Choice is better

by Tink! In reply to Webcasts considered harmf ...

Webcasts are nice, if you have the time, which many of us don't. Yes, it probably does improve retention, but if you are rushed and can't finish the whole thing, you miss data anyway.

faradhi has the right idea in that they should offer both formats, the webcast and a text/html version for reading. After all, everyone IS different and each knows the best way for them to absorb info.

Personally, I agree with Jeff in that reading is better cuz I can skip thru parts til I hit what I want. And I've always been pretty good at retaining what I read.

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by Dr Dij In reply to Choice is better

webcasts quality of interaction exceeds reading due to 'facetime'. How many times have you asked a book (on keyboard or audio) 'how does that work?' on an esoteric IT topic? except for online books (e.g. informit, books24x7 or oreily) this stuff is not in easily digestible format online - just finding it in pieces would be problem. THen unlike scott picking up his mouse and saying 'computer..' talking to books generally doesn't work. Even ask-jeeves is a bit retarded with its answers.

Webcasts work because they are the internet enabled equivalent of a meeting.. the web lets you meet with sales persons, tech experts without the huge expense.

You can usually view them off line if you don't want to meet at that time and/or download their ppt or slideshow or pdf. Rerunning them with audio is much better tho, just register for them or goto vendors sites for on-demand. Most don't actually take all that much bandwidth. a good codec compresses video, and most now simply have photo of author or participants at begin.

So they have compressed streaming audio which shouldn't be too much of a drag, and unlike video is necessary, as the person is usually NOT reading a book but explaining slides, and even more required when they do software demo's, i.e. they switch it over to demo'ing their product via web. You can't read a sofware demo on or in a dead tree book. And you've got the guy there to explain what he's doing. Add in question sessions at end.

If you're any kind of smart and want to learn / evaluate what the vendor sells, you usually have a question or two. If not view the webcast offline. but like I said is a way dift media than a book. Mostly, what webcasts do is summarize in meaningful tech way with some meat, what you might read in an advanced book on the topic anyway.

If it's not something of that much interest or advanced, why are you attending that webcast anyway? E.G. they had the author of a book related to biz objects data universe design on one webcast. The cool thing was I found the book online at books24x7 while webcast going and poked thru it, enhanced my learning greatly.

And M$ had great demoz of their new visual studio in their traveling roadshow, which I think will be turned into webcasts. It was great to be there, with gal actually building app on 30' high projection screen.

Anyway, I think you're blowing these off too cheaply. Either you've seen ones that didn't interest you or were maybe to basic for your level. Sure, you're not going to learn beginners java from a webcast but you might find one on an advanced topic on similar items such as soa, etc.

These have proliferated as they are effective, cheap and pack alot of info in a short period in an easy to understand format. e.g. the webinars about their software simulators.

Maybe they're not for everyone tho, as your post says.

You do have some points:
1) I find they cram alot into some screens and so small (graphics) or bad quality that I can't read them all before they goto next. I usually enlarge them but doesn't always help, sometimes makes them blurrier. I usually complain if this happens.
2) synchronization: if its something you want to hear you make time for it. I still have to wander off in middle to do things sometimes. (I don't think they know! :) Again, you can always replay it off line if worthwhile enuf. Sometimes speakers are such experts I want to hear it.
3) OK, I've got 3 or so installed, two are niche, but WMP - windoze media player isn't exactly niche software. I've found this is the only one that occasionally loses sync, audio goes on but slides stop advancing till I exit and re-join.
4) sometimes they do this on purpose so you can't just cut and paste their stuff all over web. One even disabled cut and paste when mouse over webcast portion. other allow you to download their slides, there is a button to do this on one of the softwares.
And you're right, you can't get back wasted time. however I think you learn more in a webcast on a product than dry literature. you can ask questions. it is rich media so is often time well spent.

Watching someone's face speaking for an hour is not however quality info to me. I'd rather listen to just audio with slides, demos etc. and how many people who download a software demo actually have time to get around to try it?

and if you do, and you're an absolute beginner in this software, will this negate the point? online demo / webcast has the expert doing it and showing you, way better.

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