Magazine article Wired

Get Up to Speed

Magazine article Wired

Get Up to Speed

Article excerpt



Tikitu De Jager, a coder living in Greece, wanted to learn to program in iOS. So, like a lot of us do when we want to pick up a new skill, he started watching lessons online. At the outset everything was new, so he'd watch carefully and take notes. But as De Jager's knowledge grew, he wanted to zip past familiar material. That's when he started speeding up the videos.

Now De Jager races along at 2X speed, slowing down only when he hits challenging stuff. "You go, 'OK, OK, OK, I get the point'--until something new comes along," he says.

Power consumers of podcasts already know that 1.5X speed is their friend. About half the people who use podcast app Overcast listen on Smart Speed, which gooses the audio by eliminating moments of silence. Ten percent of Audible listeners crank up the speed dial. And as online videos become an increasingly important platform for acquiring new skills, speedup behavior is edging into the mainstream. Nearly 10 percent of people watching Khan Academy videos view them faster than normal.

Sure, we could bemoan this trend as another bleak marker of our hypermetabolized world: We're racing through life, grimly optimizing every waking moment! (Overcast actually tells you how many hours of your life it has saved you.) But me, I'm in favor of overclocking video and audio. It's a clever adaptation. In an age where more and more information arrives as multimedia, we're reinventing the noble art of skimming.

Skimming, after all, was how people dealt with the original info boom, the Gutenberg press. It produced such a flood of books and pamphlets that readers learned to vary their reading speed--sometimes zipping through pages, sometimes lingering to absorb. ("Some books should be tasted, others swallowed," noted 16th-century intellectual Francis Bacon.)

I can feel my mind trying the same trick with video. If I'm learning a new coding technique on Lynda. …

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