What do you think of ShowMeDo

AK ak at nothere.com
Thu Apr 30 04:31:56 CEST 2009

Ben Finney wrote:
> Astley Le Jasper <Astley.lejasper at gmail.com> writes:
>> I've just stumbled over this (http://showmedo.com/) and being the very
>> visual person I am, it seems like it could be a good way to learn
>> about python. However, before I smack down $60, I wondered if anyone
>> had any opinions on it. My gut feel is that it could be pretty good.
> I commend you on your prudence.
> The site makes a big deal about helping people with free software. But
> their videos are in non-free formats, with Flash being the only option I
> could see.
> The content appears only to play *in* a browser (I couldn't find any
> download links to watch the video offline), making it a pain for anyone
> without extremely fast internet.
> They require Yet Another Bloody Site-specific Authentication, instead of
> allowing login with an existing OpenID as provided by any of the
> hundreds of millions of accounts people already have.
> Those barriers are enough that I haven't yet *seen* any of their content
> to know if it's worth paying for.

I'd like to defend showmedo a bit here.

First, re: UI. If I go to the front page and see something in the 
'incoming tutorials' section on the right that interests me, and
click on it, (let's say, python beginners - file i/o), I get to
the page that indeed does not start showing a video right away,
but that makes sense because most topics contain a number of collections 
of videos, since you don't know which of these a visitor wants to see, 
you have to show him the choices. On this page I immediately see a 
'video tutorials' section on the left, where you can either click on 
title or the image thumbnail. On the next page I see a thumbnail that 
has a 'play' arrow overlayed on it and 'click to play' in bold font. 
It's the most noticeable item on the page. If you click on that, it 
brings up a video screen that - here I have to agree this is one click 
too many - you have to again click to start the video, however, in my 
experience, this is very common on sites that embed video players, I'd 
say about 60-70% of them will ask you to make that extra click to start 
playing. That video player screen has a play arrow overlayed over it and 
also common video controls on the bottom, so it's really a no-brainer to 
click on the play arrow in the center or on the play arrow on one of the 

All of this took me no more than 4-5 seconds to get to the video. I did 
visit the site before but when I was on my first visit, it did not take 
any longer than that, either.

So, if using these videos saves me more than 4-5 seconds of learning 
time, I'm already ahead.

Secondly, in regard to use of flash videos: if you have a slow 
connection you can pause the video and wait for it to buffer fully. I 
haven't worked with free alternatives to flash so I can't comment on 
that, it's a matter of how mature are the free/open tools to do the same 
thing as flash authoring software and how easy it is to install them on 
   firefox and IE. If they're hard to install on IE, it seems reasonable 
to  me to use flash, because otherwise you'll seem too elite and 
exclusive and push away too many well-meaning people.

Re: site specific auth. You don't need that to watch videos. You need it
for some other things like downloading them--as I mentioned above, you 
can prebuffer video if you have a slower connection, so downloading them 
is not really crucial. Even if you do want to set up an account, it 
should not take longer than a couple of minutes. The way I think about 
this is I try to look at the benefit provided by the site and the cost 
of using the site: some of these videos are very good and I'm sure that 
they saved me many hours of slower book learning, therefore spending 2
minutes on registration would be well worth it (although I did not 
register because I had no need for that). They could set up the OpenID 
thing but with limited time I think it's more useful to create new 
content rather than work on such non-essential niceties (although I 
really don't know how much effort it is to add OpenID support...)

All in all, nothing in this world is 100% perfect and this site provides
great content for free (well, most of it), and it's obvious that 
creators spent hundreds of hours of their time to make this available to 
community and paid content will only probably recoup the hosting fees if 
that. So, how about a little kudos where it's due? A bit less nitpicking 
and a bit more appreciation?

Just my humble opinion, that's all. (I'm not connected to the site in 
any way, I did watch a few dozen videos some time ago).

-ak (rainy)

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