Home Video Comments? No Thanks – 5 Reasons They Don’t Work

Video Comments? No Thanks – 5 Reasons They Don’t Work

Yesterday morning the web’s largest web tech blog added video comments courtesy of of live video startup Seesmic. About 24 hours later, video comments had turned into a mini-trend with another 80 blogs installing them. While adding them at TechCrunch was a smart move by founder Michael Arrington — who is also an investor in Seesmic — because they’ve clearly already paid small dividends in spreading the product, I wonder if they’re really adding to the conversation. Below are 5 reasons why I don’t particularly care for video comments out of the gate.

Edit: We’ve added a poll. Please vote below.

You Can’t Scan Them

Especially for larger blogs — like say, TechCrunch — that often get hundreds of comments per post, reading can become more like scanning. It’s easy to scan over a hundred comments looking for text responses that are compelling, but video requires you to stop and fully engage in each comment to see if it is worth your time. A comment that might take 10 seconds to scan in text form, might take 45 seconds in video form. And if you want to rewatch it, it will take the same amount of time, whereas a text comment will theoretically take less time to read on the second pass.

Says erickhill on Hacker News, “You can’t ‘scan’ the content of video comments like you can, say, this comment. It’s an interesting idea, but seems to disrupt the flow of communication.”

Harder to Moderate

For the same reason that they’re harder to scan, they’re also harder to moderate. A video comment must be watched, start to finish, before you can determine if the content is offensive, inappropriate, or spam. That means one of two things: either you put more time into moderating your comments, or you let your community do the moderation for you. There are implicationson the user end, as well, because now you might invest time watching a comment that is totally not worth your time, when it is easy to spot text comments to skip with a quick scan.

They’re Inaccessible

Video, especially user generated video, is very hard to make accessible. In order to make video accessible, you need to add captioning — which is probably not something you’ll see on Seesmic anytime. That’s fine — it’s a sad fact that not everything in the world can or will be accessible to everyone else — but large blogs that add and encourage video comments also alienate a portion of their readership who can enjoy the textual part of a post, but are then cut out of part of the resulting discussion.

You Can’t Leave Links

One of the best things to come out of comment threads are links people leave to related resources. We often find things we never knew existed through links in comments that people leave on this blog (spam excluded, of course). Videos don’t have links. So you’re left with basically two options — say the URL out loud in the video reply, which is clumsy and annoying for the watcher to follow up on, or leave a second comment with your link sources, which is also clumsy and adds a bit of noise.

They Increase Load Time

Whether you watch the video or not, the player is one more rich media element that the browser has to load. Video comments tend to be small and the Seesmic player is light weight, but that still has an effect on load time. The particular implementation that prompted this post is also a third party service — so one more call off site that increases load time. As web sites get more and more overloaded with third party widgets, they tend to start to slow down and the user experience degrades.


Video comments are a relatively new thing, and now that TechCrunch has started a mini-trend, they’s something we’ll probably see more of. They’ve only been live at TechCrunch for a day, so it is too early to make an verdict about them. But so far, they seem more of a disruptive force — one that I’ll be inclined to generally ignore — than something that adds to the flow of conversation.

Certainly there are some blogs that they make sense for. A blog like Beet.tv, for example, which posts in video format, might do well to let users respond in kind. But for most blogs, I think they generally don’t make a lot of sense. What’s your opinion of video comments on blogs? Please let us know in the comments and vote in our poll.

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