YouTube unleashed the power of online video with the promise that everyone would have the chance to “broadcast themselves” to the world. It was the 21st Century’s fulfilment of Andy Warhol’s oft-quoted claim from 1968 that in the future everyone would have 15 minutes of fame. While that’s not literally correct, YouTube has given plenty of people their 15 minutes, holding the dubious honour of delivering the world the likes of Justin Bieber, Rebecca Black, countless parodies of Hitler’s rant in that scene from “Downfall” and numerous other “internet celebrities”. A social phenomenon indeed.
At its best it has helped democratise broadcasting and allowed people to share, imitate and innovate – a concept now known as “Crowd Accelerated Innovation” (see the below talk from Chris Anderson at TED 2010 ).
This ability for online video to mobilise the “crowd” to share and innovate is an exciting, revolutionary concept and innovation in areas like break dance techniques or meme creation occurring between people on different sides of the world is proof of it’s awesome potential to change the way we learn and develop.
However, has YouTube reached its potential for an audience of business professionals looking to develop their knowledge or innovate in their area of expertise? Or for anyone looking for quality learning opportunities? Has it allowed for any meaningful discussion and learning between this class of users? Not at all. That’s because trying to development professionally via YouTube is like talking about work at a keg party – wrong audience, wrong time… no one wants to break up the party to talk shop.
So, exactly what’s wrong with YouTube for the business professional?
- Poor, generally abusive commentary. The low standard of comments on YouTube is well-known. Even an excellent video provided by a top source will fail to provoke intelligent commentary that can assist people in learning from the content or building on its ideas. Exchanging ideas via discussion is not YouTube’s strength – this is probably because when you “broadcast yourself” you’re not expecting people to talk back.
- No effective measure of quality. Is the best content the most “liked”? Not really. On YouTube what’s “liked” or “disliked” is a competitive sport waged between different audiences with differing opinions of the respective merits of certain elements popular culture or politics not it’s merit as judged by an audience interested in engaging professionally with it.
- Hard to search. It can be near to impossible to find what you’re looking for on YouTube especially when half your results are parodies or unrelated, sponsored videos.
- Disruptive advertising. YouTube may allow you to broadcast yourself but it also does an excellent job of allowing advertisers to do the same, which has become highly disruptive to the user experience.
YouTube is a social phenomenon and a lot of fun but is it the future of professional development and learning? Probably not, it’s just not in its DNA.