In today’s digital age characterized by an endless stream of information–on our RSS readers, facebook and twitter feeds, google searches and youtube–our reaction is decisive: screw reading if it’s more than two sentences.
While this is a bit of an exaggeration, the new digital landscape does affect our cognition and it’s getting harder and harder for information to keep our attention. Reading a lengthy article online has become an insurmountable task for many web surfers and skimming is becoming one of our favorite pastimes.
This theme is exactly what technology writer Nicholas Carr explores in his famous article “Is Google Making Us Stupid” and his 2010 book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains.
That’s where videos come in, explains Steve Huang, webmaster of several domains. His latest project is Online Learning For Free, an organized portal to the best educational videos on the web.
“When I’m online, I’m mostly looking to learn about different things, but reading pages and pages of materials online can be boring,” Huang says. “I search for videos online and it’s very hard to find a site that had all the different types of learning videos grouped into categories.”
Huang embeds videos from video sharing sites and he strives to select categories that users most want to watch. “I find that out by doing some side research,” he says.
The website also has a social aspect: users can suggest a video or register in order to interact with other members and add favorites for quick access.
The categories of videos offered by Huang cover just about everything.
A typical user might watch a couple in the “make money online” category and then quickly go to a video the “dance” category because they are so happy.
A less optimistic progression for a user might be watching a video in the “gambling” category and then some time spent in the “mathematics” category after he or she bets away the house and family.
Huang started making websites when he was 13 and is finishing up a Computer Science program at his college. We’ll wait to see if he stops doing his required readings in favor of solely watching the videos on Online Learning for Free.