Friday, February 27, 2009

How to fix YouTube

Please raise your hand if you are alive. Thank you! Ok, now keep your hands up if you have heard of YouTube. (All hand remain up)
YouTube is excellent! No, it stinks! No, it is excellent! YouTube is a tool. YouTube is like hundreds thousands 10,0000 other sites, ony it isn't. Every tool in the world can be used for harm or good. We have heard it when people ask if fire is evil, are guns evil, is power, or electricity, or giant destructo disintegrator beams? Ok, maybe that last one really is evil.

YouTube is a site where you can get millions of clips. Some are good some are bad. We don't need to fight YouTube, we need to fix it. We need to fix it for educators. We need to fix it for schools. The trend has been: Some of the things on the site may be offensive to some of our community therefore we should block all of the site for all users. This has been the case with all internet filtering. It is potentially a very good policy. I don't believe in tramplinng on the views of any group. That includes the majority. If the majority don't find it offensive and do find it useful why is the tail wagging the dog?

What YouTube needs consists of 2 things:
  • Strict Safe Search
  • Community content rating
Ok, the first one. Google images has a great strict safe search option. I have even been brave enough to search "Online Teens" with it on and the only thing I got up on the first page was a A girl in a bathing suit. No offensive stuff. I got the image that I needed for my Internet Safety course and ammunition I needed for this post. Why doesn't YouTube have this option? Why can't I get results that have been tagged as 'clean'? That leads us to the second thing needed to fix YouTube.

Community Content Rating is the idea that the members of the community rate the different videos based on the content. YouTube already has flagging. I can flag any video as 'grown-up' or innapropriate. I don't say 'adult' because that term has come to mean pornographic. YouTube actually already has and enforces well a no nudity policy. I applaud that! But inappropriate can mean so many things. Is it potty humor? Is it violent? Is it girls in bikinis? Is it men without shirts? What is inappropriate about it? The other thing is when a video is flagged as inappropriate it isn't removed you just have to be signed in to see it. What we really need to make it work is a pattern like This site rates movies with three scores. One each for :
  • Sex & Nudity
  • Violence & Gore
  • Profanity
Friday the 13th gets a 9.9.10. While Wall-E gets a 1.2.1

I love this pattern and use the site all the time to make choices about movies with my kids. If YouTube did this I would suggest a 4th category. Drugs & Alcohol. So now, instead of flagging videos as 'inappropriate ' We as community could flag them for each area of potential controversy. Then when we enter our searches we could also request only videos at or below a certain rating. In fact, it would be ideal if the related videos, promoted videos and advertising were also kept at the content level we request.

Do we need to ban YouTube? No. But it does need to be fixed.

BTW here's one cool video so it's not all bad!

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