On Vid Snacks

“Hi, I’m Tim Holt and uh I made this little site called uh Vid Snacks and uh Vid Snacks is designed to uh help teachers and students and and uh educators in general or people involved in education learn how to do video ’cause video is gonna be the way we communicate in the new century. So uh I hope you’ll all come along.”

transcript of the first thirty seconds of Tim Holt’s video entitled “Welcome to Vid Snacks

Video is the language of the 21st century.

banner headline for Vid Snacks

And I disagree. Not only does Holt withhold any justification for his futurism, the form of his introductory message (distraction, rambling; he’s driving, I realize, but why? to what effect?) belies his content (paraphrased: “this is what communication looks like in the 21st century”).

Consider these three mediums, in increasing order of technical difficulty: blogging, podcasting, and vodcasting.

  • Successful blogging requires original thought, sturdy writing, and bloodthirsty editing.
  • Successful podcasting requires original thought, sturdy writing, bloodthirsty editing, and a command of the aural experience.
  • Successful vodcasting requires original thought, sturdy writing, bloodthirsty editing, a command of the aural experience, and a command of the visual experience.

In order to achieve the same communicative result, not only does the number of necessary skills increase across all three mediums but the editing process for each grows harder and vastly more technical, the difference between hitting the delete key in one and wielding Final Cut Express’ digital blade in the other.

Holt doesn’t edit his introductory video at all, hardly uncommon among vodcasters, which is the blogging equivalent of typing everything you’re thinking and promptly hitting “Publish.” Even if Holt and I agreed that video is the language of the 21st century, I think we would disagree on how difficult that language is to speak or teach.

[via Downes]

Related Visual Essays:

These visual essays, I think, realize the spirit of Tim Holt’s site. They each use video to create a more compelling and more coherent point than a great writer could with words or a great podcaster with audio.

  1. The Kingdom’s Credits
  2. The 22nd Amendment
  3. The 2-Mile Challenge
  4. Wanna see how to edit and write a vodcast in our post-Ze Frank age? Meet Jay Smooth.
I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. > In order to achieve the same communicative result, not only does the number of necessary skills increase across all three mediums

    The presumption is that it’s the same communicative result. It isn’t.

  2. Dan, I continue to believe there is true ‘light’ in your consistent call-to-arms on the ‘design matters in the classroom’ front. In this, I agree with Rick’s “Preach it” echo.

    Whether the average educator will therefore rachet up their bulletin board savvy, rethink the default use of student PowerPoint bullets as sufficient audience-engagement, or dip her/his toes into the ever-spiralling waters within the fast-emerging video currents (or eddies) is to be seen in the coming days/eons. At worst, perhaps Target’s demographic will increase in shades of monochromatic buying frenzy due to ‘design’ being more and more the common currency. Educational outcomes? I’m certainly hoping so (and nudging you and your message forward, my friend).

    I do — forgive the popping of perhaps a single idea balloon here — need to question one premise/assumption of your argument, Dan. Hopefully it won’t merely tread water in semantic kiddie pools. Hopefully it’ll actually offer you a chance to feret out your higher purpose without running afoul of those who might misinterpret your message. Perhaps it even borders on the same “presumption” that Stephen D. mentioned above. We’ll see.

    I’m curious about your word “successful” with regards to the “technical difficulty” of the 3 selected mediums (blogging, podcasting, vodcasting). From a “technical” point of view — without concerning ourselves with something as tacky as “audience” — I’m not sure that we gain much by arguing here. Let’s assume that “successful” at least requires an “awareness” of each, whether grace or flow is taken into consideration.

    What seems to be missing from your premise (tell me if I’m wrong) is the simple fact that audience no longer is required to or choosing to be “passive” in the experience. The mediums of blogging, podcasting, or vodcasting certainly are more “entertaining” if they are seamless and sensorally clean from a technical point of vew…but the remarkable change (afoot at the Circle K) lies in the allowance of what I’ll call the “messy” factor.

    In other words, the value no longer is the one-way expert presentation (regardless of medium). “Success” instead lies in the exchange. And frankly — as I’ve learned via the irony that I techically failed at most of what you laid out as requirements for blogging (alone) — yet still had “success” with regards to an audience — it turned out that the messy ricochet between voices (often beyond my control) was where the true value lay.

    While I want you to continue to preach the value of design on all media fronts, let us not forget that the goal of 2.0 technologies is not to allow a minor fraction of technical experts (aka designers) to flourish alone while gearwhacking the minds of passive audiences who are beaming with mindbending entertainment.

    Allow for messy factors, Dan. Including the teachers who don’t ‘get it’ yet.

    All the best. Cheers, Christian

  3. I think this piece from Ira Glass could be instructive:


    He points out that when we are starting out doing creative work, we suck. I think many of us (myself included) are still learning how to use these tools. I NEVER pictured myself doing videos a year ago. I couldn’t conceive of doing a podcast three years ago. Doing regular writing like a blog, wouldn’t have entered my mind 5 years ago. I love using them now, but I’m definitely still learning my craft, and that’s okay.

    I use what you, and others, do to help learn how to be better at what I create, but I sometimes worry, “What if Dan took it into his head to deconstruct my PowerPoint/Video/etc.?” as you’ve done here and in other posts. There is constructive criticism (when you deconstructed the second place winner in 4 slides), stuff from out of the blue (from Vicki’s comments about your work on her flat classroom preso it wasn’t clear that she knew that was coming), to condescending (this post). Frankly, I’m grateful that I’ve flown (well) under your radar.

    Christian makes an excellent point about allowing for messy factors.

  4. Stephen, patching up some lazy logic then:

    Say you want to make the point: “Google has involved itself dangerously in our personal lives.”

    To communicate that clearly (née “successfully”) in a vodcast, you have to consume every quality of a clear podcast and every quality of a clear blog post ā€“ screenplay, soundtrack, and cinematography in one.

    I don’t know if you think a comparison between mediums is unreasonable but from my perspective, having attempted all three, video is the hardest technically and the least democratic presently, both of which facts cast my suspicion on Vid Snacks’ banner headline.


    Regardless of my authoritative posture on design, I am nothing if not the quintessential amateur, unschooled and untaught except by what I could find on the Internet. I think that fact matters a lot here.

    Because I don’t want to deny anyone her right to like dabble or dilettante her way through any communication medium. The access is there. I don’t want to be that guy whose soapboxing scares someone from dipping her toe into the pond.

    What does concern me, though, is how satisfied some tech proponents are to feast on the low-hanging fruit, how content they are to remain with toes half-dipped into the pond in spite of how many free resources exist to turn novices into skilled practitioners, in spite of how many professionals offer free access to their work.

    But such is the predicament when amateurs create content to entertain and educate amateurs. Access increases but the bar lowers. And then that bar, set somewhere around shin level, is labeled the new standard in language and I can’t help scratch my head at how that happened.

    Alice, by definition, it’s difficult to “condescend” to anything touting itself as highly as Vid Snacks does in its banner. This is criticism, which Holt’s unsubstantiated futurism needs.

    Furthermore, whenever I’ve “gone after” an amateur’s work, it has always been because I saw something of value there, something to push a conversation forward, and I make it a point to give as much as I take, whether in the four slide sales pitch, or with Vicki’s final slide, or (especially) with Greg Farr’s dashboard, to which I contributed hours of pro bono design work.

    I’ve seen your del.icio.us aggregator, Alice, and for whatever it’s worth, I think you’re emblematic of the teacher who’s pursuing every resource at her disposal to improve that which her peers would suggest is already good enough.

  5. Dan,

    A colleague once said to me that offering someone your CV or resume is a ‘dead’ offer in this day and age. [Point coming]

    While traditionally helpful, it offers little in terms of what the team, organization, or project may truly receive if ‘you’ join. Same is true of being a speaker and offering ‘your’ background/expertise in an opening validation moment before content/experience takes over. [Point nearly visible around the bend]

    On the other, if ‘you’ were to lead with ‘your’ biases and passions, imagine how much more honest, authentic, and relevant the exchange would be for the audience (active or passive). [Point making chugga-chugga sounds as the station nears]

    Your ‘low-hanging’ fruit comment is a profound [read: valuable] bias. Your ‘design’ sensibilities/vision are equally profound as passions. Combined, they offer an extraordinary filter by which to engage the question of ‘successfully’ using any particular medium.

    The killer intersection, however, lies in whether or not any proponent of any given medium/technology is seeking the same end-game as ‘you’. If our collective goal is to simply maintain an expert-driven culture and educational system, then it would certainly behoove all of us to minimize the very existence of any ‘amateur’ from the discussion (unless they are waxing on and off for some conceptual Mr. Miagi behind closed bamboo gates until it’s go-time in the public dojo before a packed audience with a sparkling trophy ready to be handed out to the winner). If, on the other hand, we perceive that there is some value (you pick your scale and relative measuring tool) in the ‘process’ of discovery, then we are obligated by the sheer democratic nature of the Net to soften our need for expertise as the sole ticket to the show.

    Yes, the medium does scream for talent on occasion. Especially if there is some expectation of ‘wowing’ the audience. But the end-game is never consistent,for either creator or audience, especially when the lines are becoming fuzzy math at best these days.

    Cheers, Christian

    P.S. BTW, I agree with you — 100% — with the idea that many of the technology-as-center-of-world professionals do seem to accept the very usage of a given medium as ‘good enough’. Or the “If they Twitter, it must be learning” theorem. Design is a ‘value-added’ component, at best, for most. Good or bad? Not for me to tell ‘you’, truth be told.

    If I really thought that their individual or collective goals (with regards to being oh-gosh about the use of said medium in the learning arena) were the same as mine or ‘yours’, I’d be worried. I’m freed up, however, because I long ago realized that we’re not all looking at the same horizon line or really concerned with the same starting point.

    99.9% of the ‘future of learning’ conundrum lies in the fact that we use the same word (school, teaching, learning, education, etc.)…but rarely mean the same thing. Same with the ‘need’ for 2.0 medium/tools entering the picture.

    I’m more and more of a process-guy with a ridiculous amount of design envy. Beyond that, I’m just an amateur.

    P.P.S. Telling comment: “Access increases but the bar lowers.” I’m sure the elite felt just as much prior to mass public education. Perhaps on the edge of Civil Rights, too.

    Not suggesting — truly — that you consider yourself a social elitist, Dan, but in relative terms, experts have always worried about the bar being lowered as the masses suddenly get a ticket beyond the velvet rope of some previously rarified intellectual cocktail party.

    For what it’s worth.

  6. Had to pull this one out on the floor, Christian, for reasons both of general interest and ’cause my reply took a crudload of time.

  7. Dan, thanks for the vote of confidence. Glad you visited the vidsnacks.ning.com site.

    Actually, Vidsnacks was created because video is becoming more and more a part of the everyday experience of educators. It does not take a mound of research to understand that students are now creating video content and that teachers need to be able to understand how video content is supposed to be made inorder to incorporate it into their classrooms.
    (Perhaps you have heard of something called Youtube or maybe Teachertube?)

    Thus I created the Vidsnacks site as a place where teachers might be able to share their techniques about video content creation. It may be successful, it may not be successful, but at least it is an effort.

    As for the introductory video I made while driving, I made that on purpose to show those that might be hesitant to make video, that anyone can make video content at anytime, even, God forbid, while driving. ( I do not recommend it all of the time pf course.)

    Of course it is not perfect.
    Wasn’t meant to be. It has to do with context, not just content.

    But if you are going to rag on me for a few “uhs’ in a 1.5 minute video, why don’t you count the “uhs” in one minute from your local professionally produced news, or your local professionally produced radio programming.

    Seems pretty petty and pretty picky to me.

    Tim Holt
    El Paso

  8. Hi Tim, forgive my delay, this post has been out of my line of sight for awhile now so I’ve had to reorient myself.

    You and at least one other reader found my opening blockquotes demeaning, specifically to you and subsequently to your network’s mission. I can see how that’d be the case though that was nowhere near my intention. I’m sorry anyway.

    It’s the juxtaposition of the two that confounds me and it’s possible we’ll miss each other here, operating under two entirely different sets of assumptions.

    Mine, summarized brusquely is that, just because the technology is becoming easier and more accessible, not everyone should use them or, especially, use them lightly.

    This isn’t elitism (which was my thesis in a later post). Amateur videography (my bona fides as a videographer are here) so often suffers from a lack of clarity, concision, and editing. So often the technology impedes clear, sophisticated thought. The same, of course, can be said of podcasting, blogging, and even every-day person-to-person speech.

    I’m convinced the priority in all these things needs to be on better communication, greater clarity, more content, more art, stronger signal, and less noise.

    What your introductory vodcast did was take a sentiment I could’ve read on your blog inside ten seconds and stretch it out to thirty. This is not the direction I’d like to see people (your audience, including teachers and students, for example) take an extremely capable medium.

    Sorry that seems petty and picky to you. I’ve been back to VidSnacks several times since this post and it seems like a resource of great potential. I think your priorities for the medium and mine diverge, though, which is fine with me ā€“ all in the game ā€“ just as I hope you’ll tolerate my criticism.