Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Defective Website

Given the great demonstrative power of online video for showing safety and security flaws, a purpose for which many amateur filmmakers on YouTube already use the medium, you would expect the Consumer Product Safety Commission website to follow the lead of other government agencies and have an easy-to-play digital video channel that clearly shows the rationale for various warnings and safety recalls.

Unfortunately, their video clips are unplayable from a number of Internet browsers that I tried. They came with the following Byzantine directions:

For those who wish to obtain a description of the video and the full text of the audio in the clips below, please choose the word "transcript" at the end of the entry for the clip of interest. Also, videos in the streaming video format have closed captioning which can be viewed by enabling captioning in your media player. Also, if you wish to download one of our clips that is in streaming format, simply replace the .asx extension with .asf and you should then be able to save the file within your player.

After a five-minute RealPlayer download, I was able to view one of their videos, which did not use voice-over to underline the print message about a dangerous toy with magnets that could do damage if swallowed. In fact, the video used very little sound at all. It was often either silent when the danger was being illustrated, or it used dopey ironic cross cutting between the voices of children at play and silent text warnings about the hidden danger that the children could not see.

Obviously producers of the video don't understand how online viewers multitask when footage is on one of a number of competing windows and how important it is to get to the point with a YouTube viewership and deploying audio and video simultaneously rather than just relying on text. Strangely, the public service announcement part of the video with an authoritative looking agency official explaining the defect directly and with the ethos of state authority comes at the end rather than the beginning of the film.

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