The Drunken UX Podcast’s inaugural episode, in which we look at the blight that is autoplaying videos. Facebook, your local news sites YouTube – we’ll look at the different use cases, where it’s appropriate, and why you need to tell your are news providers to stop doing that crap.

Followup Resources

Transcript

Good afternoon, good morning, or good evening, whatever time you’re listening to us. This is the Drunken UX podcast. The Drunken UX podcast is brought to you by Gas Mark 8 at gasmark8.com. I am your host Michael Fienen. I am a web developer, analytics, and something else guy – I don’t know what – but for now let’s call me a host. And I have with me on the other side of this microphone-

Hi, this is Aaron Hill. I’m also a web developer and I have opinions and I am on my third drink tonight.

Only your third? Okay, I’ll catch up here in a second. So if you are tuning into Drunken UX for the first time you can follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/drunkenux or twitter.com/drunkenux. We kept it simple for you. This evening I can tell you that I am having a delicious and well-aged Aberfledy 12. I’m on… I don’t know I lost count, one two, two-and-a-half, three. I don’t know. After a while you keep adding to the glass even though it’s not really empty, so let’s see what happens. Aaron, Aaron, remind me what are we talking about tonight?

We’re talking about auto-playing videos and why we –

Jesus Christ whose idea was this and I don’t know and I mean either the episode or the videos themselves either one of them kind of pisses me off at this point

(talking over) The internet told us…

okay so and I’m gonna group something else in here cuz it’s it’s kind of a video kind of not but it goes to the root of the problem I think that I don’t torrent I don’t download things illegally I’m sure you don’t either

Nope! Absolutely not.

I’m sure none of our listeners do they have no idea what we’re talking about but my I’m told, I am told here, that one of the things that really annoys people is when they are visiting their favorite download site of some sort and they click on the latest episode of I don’t know what’s what’s popular these days is

Game of…

Teen Mom?

Game of Teen Mom

okay they click on the latest episode of Game of Teen Mom, season 11 episode 42, and as they are trying to download it they get this: (in falsetto, breathy, voice) “Hello! If you’re over 18 please click on, you know, parts of my body to play this game. I promise it’s a safe game – but if you click right, I’ll make some nice noises for you”

(mocking voice) “Our kingdom is in danger!”

“Our kingdom is in danger, please save us!” and of course you’ve got like 27 tabs open like we all do

Right

and you don’t know which ones making the noise you just want to download your TV show and all I can think about is my wife’s trying to sleep down the hallway right now what the fuck is up with that

But everybody thanks for watching porn

oh my god I don’t I don’t know what to do with these people anymore because, I don’t know, I’ve been using the website since the 90s and we haven’t had this problem until recently because video used to be a thing that like you you know you couldn’t do – we had .. what do we have … we had real video, right real videos the first in terms of

Oh my gob, yes! Dot-R-M!

That was how you got video to people and it was like “Do you have a 14.4k modem? Then here’s the one you get to see that is the size of a postage stamp! It was a a scarce resource right?

Yeah

It was something that you used for very special things, but anymore — no they just kind of stick that shit anywhere they can get away with it

sometimes multiple on the same site even. You know, if you go to — if you maybe — you don’t want to download it you just want to go and stream it on a website; a cartoon or something, and, and then like, well after you hit play and it’s playing and then all of a sudden there’s an advertisement aside that’s like, like (muffled voice) “You should buy this car, ’cause it’s great!”

Oh that’s — there we go, that’s the sound effect we needed.

You know I’ve ran into that with DirecTV. I use DirecTV now; I stream my TV now, because who wants to pay for cable but their service… not so mature yet… they’re still having a little bit of trouble with that and one thing that I have noticed with it is they have a habit of “double playing ads,” so an ad will be playing and a second ad will load like in the stream and they will over play on each other

I’ve heard that I don’t have DirecTV but I’ve heard that happen

It’s… it’s so weird and it’s it’s worth you know it’s a little different than you know the audio– autoplay issue but it is the audio thing and that’s where I think, I’m gonna end up coming back to a lot during this conversation – the video isn’t really the problem, right? It’s the audio, it’s that cognitive load, that it stresses a web user and and what they’re trying to accomplish

You can always look somewhere else on the screen but you can’t hear different channels and your ears

Right, right — your eyes are multi-channel, right? And your ears are not: everything that comes in, just comes in. So and when I think about cognitive load I come back to like… who was ah… Steve Krug, right?

mm-hmm! yeah

Everything that he talks about in Don’t Make Me Think, and when you stress users and add friction to any kind of experience

mhmm – It builds up, and you kind of… It creates a bad UX because every tiny little thing you know, like adds to on to it, and then it makes overall, the kind of the gestalt experience of the of the website you’re using, becomes kind of negative because of all these tiny little things: you know, the flashing text here, and the bright red background, and then your picture of your cat and… yeah

you know what’s wild about that as well at least to me is when we think about cognitive load and UX stress and friction and in interactions when you are Autoplaying something on a webpage you have that effect not only of pissing off the user that’s on your page but you’re pissing off users on other pages. If I’ve got 12 tabs open and I’m not on your tab and you distract me from the thing that I’m doing

Ughhh… I hate that!

So it’s not that I’m gonna blame them, but it’s definitely going to interrupt what I am doing on that site

(mocking falsetto) “Look at me! I’m a website!”

Yeah! It’s very much an attention whore kind of thing, right? When we think about how users perceive this, right? It gets into a lot of stuff about not just the cognitive load but the technical load of

Right

Yeah we start thinking about how pages load. I — Man how long have we spent talking about load times on web pages and making sure stuff happens as quickly as humanly possible

Yeah. A prime concern for any web developer

Right! This never happens when we start talking about video though. When video, when you have a video player, and especially if you’ve got one that is focused on Autoplaying something, I feel like all of that goes out the window.

Yeah, I mean, a lot of times you got a video that just starts playing, and it’s like, sucking down that data, and if the page hasn’t finished loading yet, you know, forget the rest of your bandwidth if you’re not on a high bandwidth connection

The funny part is you’ve got folks you’ve got two different types of folks aren’t the ones who are like YouTube, who if you embed a YouTube video, it generally doesn’t autoplay but it it does load all of the player data asynchronously so you got all the Chrome, you’ve got all of the stuff is loading in parallel which is fine

yeah

At least asynchronous doesn’t generally interrupt the flow… it does in some cases–

Well it’s an IFRAME so it’s not gonna stop the DOM from loading at least

Yeah with YouTube I’m thinking about stuff like, if you are running just, say, a general eCommerce site though, and you’ve got say a big autoplay video in your header…

yeah! (laughing)

I’ve got a site up that I work on, that is set up like that, that they wanted this video and they’re using a canned WordPress theme to pull it off. The WordPress theme that they’re using doesn’t have a fallback of any kind…

oh so it just has to load it??

Yeah! So while that video is loading, and the player is loading, you just sort of have this gray background

(mocking voice) “Our website is cool! I promise! I promise it’s cool!”

“Hang out! Wait a second; We’ll get there eventually, don’t worry”

“Don’t start the clock on your five seconds of attention”

And then we’ve got the assholes like CNN. Sorry, CNN, you guys piss me off

No. No, we’re not sorry.

Load their video asynchronously, so that you think you’re safe, but you’re not — you realize you’re not safe about ten seconds into the page, once you’ve already scrolled down — you’re scanning that content and now the audio hits you. Now you know something else is going on; that’s almost worse to me, in those instances.

I really — I read pretty fast and I like to scan, like I know a lot of web users do, and I really hate it when you make me consume your content through video at this like, pace where people are talking, and it’s like, “I don’t wanna! I just want to know the thing! You click-baited me into the article, just — I want to find out the thing I don’t want to watch your stupid video!”

Text overhead is literally bytes, at that point, and so when you’re you’ve got that, you’ve got it in front of you and you’re already engaged with that content; you know, how many years have we talked about this idea of “content being king,” right? Everything comes down to the text on the page, that’s what people come for and video was this great idea, and we started looking at putting it on a page… then we started Autoplaying, then we started using it for advertisements — it’s, it’s like you were saying earlier, that: when a video starts playing and then an ad starts playing…

mm-hmm!

What’s… I don’t know off the top of my head, the ad provider who does the little right corner pop-ups — it had the little videos in them?

Oh… AdChoice? I don’t remember who it is.

I genuinely don’t know off the top of my head with that… I know that they are awful human beings for making me put up with that and that idea that okay you’ve got a video on your website that I’m looking at… I think, I may be wrong, I think it’s C-NET that does this, that uses both services. They have Auto playing video, but then they have this little video ad pop-up; Neither of them are muted, mind you!

Right.

So now you’re you’re trying to give me genuine video content, but you also have an ad on your page that is audio, and not muted.

yeah so got two ears, that’s one for each video, right? Isn’t that how that works?

I can trust nothing anybody is giving me at this point because I don’t know who is, what’s the ad, what’s the content, what’s the point. I get angry. And then I get over it. But the reality is that that’s what’s happening, right? We’re pissing people off.

And then it happens again, and then that you know the whole point of like, our job, as web developers, is to make sites that are, like we’re trying to provide either a service, or content, or something of value to our users because we’re supposed to ostensibly care about what our users, you know, like what they’re visiting us for and it seems like when you’re doing things to piss your users off, whether it’s Autoplaying videos or whatever, you’re kind of disrespecting your users, or just like taking them for granted that like, they won’t go somewhere else. If there’s a video thing, like if I click through your thing, and I want to know something and it’s a video and there’s no transcript, I will straight click right out of that I do not care enough. Don’t care if it’s NPR or whoever. NPR does that. They don’t always do transcripts like I do not want to listen to your stupid audio.

It makes me think, there was a tweet that went out a little while back, Sarah L Jaffe; I hope I’m saying her name right the quote that she gave on that I think sums it up she says:

I mean, where are the tweets that say: “Holy shit news site, I am so glad that I clicked on that link and you started that video for me the second I landed on it. I am so thrilled that I consumed your content that much faster.” Nobody says that.

If you’re looking at it from a metric standpoint though they have a hundred percent pays, right? One hundred percent of users are playing their videos. They may not be getting past 3 or 5 seconds, but they’re all playing them.

You know, that goes back to the heart of it, right? That’s why this has become such a big deal – because you have managers who care about view numbers and you have advertisers that care about eyeballs, and they don’t care if they piss people off because they’re pretty confident that those same people will come back at some other time. They won’t not consume that information. I would argue that that’s not true though.

Facebook’s been trying to court users to start using their video platform instead of YouTube by saying how many more views their videos are getting, but the thing is, if you look at the metrics – and I don’t remember the website where I saw this, but I swear I read it – that they’re only looking at the first… I think was John or Hank green actually, one of them. But they’re looking at the first, I think, ten seconds of video or ten or thirty seconds and using that counting as one view, whereas YouTube kind of looks at it more like a holistic- how much time people spend consuming our video content.

Hey, and if there’s one guy I’m gonna trust about video views it’s John and Hank Green. Nerdfighteria for life man. This is episode number one in case anybody didn’t catch, and I have no doubt that John and Hank green will be tuning in for this episode. I’m glad you decided to tune in to us three years after we became famous. Now if that happens three years after we’ve been doing this and we’re famous that’s gonna be really prescient. Okay, thinking about pissing people off, because I like this thread. Okay, I work from home – it’s not as great as people think it is. I do get to listen to a lot of music. I listen to a ton of music. What if I’m trying to do that, I’m focused I’m coding, and you interrupt me with autoplay video. You don’t know what I’m doing. You’re polluting my audio environment, you know, we talk about audio is one channel. Whatever you pump into my audiosphere I’m having to take in and you are polluting my experience.

Yeah, or like we’re video conferencing right now, and what if you’re video conferencing with a co-worker and they’re like, read this article or something or-

If you want to leave this game and you’re over 18, please click on my chest right now.

You’re really bored during an online meeting and decide to go find the latest episode of Game of Teen Mom.

To bring it down a little bit though, what if I’ve got a disability? What if I’m somebody who has motor control issues and you’ve decided to autoplay that video and now I have to go through whatever system I’m using – whether it’s joystick, keyboard controls, whatever the case may be, mouth controls, and now I have to navigate back to your video controls to turn off the video that I didn’t want playing in the first place.

Do screen readers like jaws or any of those even get to flash video controls? Is that even possible?

Flash video? I’m pretty sure that’s a no, because I’m hoping they don’t even parse flash at all to begin with.

Good luck hearing what jaws is telling you as you’re scanning through all the headings and everything while there’s a video playing it’s fucking advertisements or newscast or whatever.

Or the real threat here is let’s say I’m a deaf user, right, and then something starts playing. I don’t know. Students right now, we’re coming up on the end of the year. Actually, we’re recording this at the end of the year, you’ll be hearing it just after. If I’m a deaf student, I’m studying for finals, I’m sitting in my nice quiet library, I’ve got my laptop open – I don’t know that it’s not muted necessarily – and I click a link to see something and I hear, “If you’re over the age of 18 please click wherever you want to.” Right? Now, he’s just trying to read an article, man, and the whole library thinks he’s a pervert.

And if it’s open in a new tab, they may not even be aware that it’s that it’s playing at all.

The little speaker icon in Chrome, while nice and a great step, is absolutely not enough.

Right, you need like a screen flash or something.

And to the web developers that let this happen, to you guys that aren’t standing up their managers, that aren’t willing to fight this fight, let me be very clear that it is an accessibility spec. It’s like under five seconds, you can play like up to five seconds or something like that. Beyond that you you’re in violation of accessibility standards to begin with and you’re putting yourselves on the hook for that if I’m somebody who is having trouble with that as a disabled person. If I file a lawsuit against you, guess what? You have no excuse you have no way out of that.

Yeah, they don’t care.

Shrug emoji.

I don’t want to derail with getting into how much I hate ads.

But yeah, I I think there’s one more disability and that’s just being a web developer. Where you have like 57 tabs open at once – because I’ve got 20 tabs open on reCAPTCHA documentation, I’ve got 14 GitHub pages open, and now one of these pages is is making sound. It’s Where’s Waldo. It’s a Where’s Waldo of annoying audio

I don’t know, people who aren’t compulsive tab openers like us may not know this, but when you get to enough tabs in Chrome it kind of looks like a saw. Like it looks like the top of a saw. You don’t even see the names and you don’t see the speaker icon, so good luck trying to figure out which one suddenly started making noise. Especially if it was a page that has a rotating ad thing. I’ve seen this happen, silent ad, you know just a little banner in the corner for five, ten minutes, and then all of a sudden, “Super Rad! Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!” and it’s just deafening and you’re like where the hell this is coming from?

That’s a great thing too, when you combine that with the previous example of the audio conferencing. I have sat in on more video calls and I can even count where we’re in the middle of having a conversation and somebody shared a link to a blog. Somebody has tried to say, “Hey look at this article.” Something. And somebody has clicked on it, you know, while we’re in the conference, because any number of us are just sitting at home at the time, just trying to multitask. And you hear over that video conference that audio. And so not only are they embarrassed, they’re distracted, but now everybody is distracted that’s in that meeting as well, because now we’re trying to figure out whose audio is bleeding through on top of it.

Why aren’t you using headphones!

I feel bad because I don’t use headphones, but I’d like to think that my microphone is set up in a way that doesn’t have that problem. But we complain about auto-playing videos, and the videos really aren’t the problem – it’s the audio. It’s the audio that makes all the difference there in terms of what makes it okay and not okay.

Yeah. Oh, going back to your point about the multi tabs and everything, there was a Nielsen-Norman group article about multi-tab. They call it page parking or parallel browsing, and it’s ever since the browser started having the new tab feature instead of just windows, people have developed this habit of kind of opening up multiple pages at once as kind of a buffer or like a queue of stuff they want to look through. I do it a lot when I hit YouTube, I look at my subs page and I’m like oh, these five of fifty look interesting. So I just open them up in new tabs, but if you have autoplay video content happening there are either ads or main content all of a sudden you’ve got like loud noises happening in one or more tabs. YouTube thankfully doesn’t do that they were smart but not everybody does that.

YouTube’s done it right I think. They are part of the exception that defies the rule, so-to-speak, you know, if I’m using Twitter, if I’m using Facebook, and I click on a link, links are not contextual. The link tells me nothing about what I’m going to except the title, and because I’ve been using the web for as long as I have, maybe this will change in 10 or 20 years, but right now when I click on a link I expect a page with text, or photos, or something. When I click on YouTube I expect video, if I click on Vimeo I expect video. So I know contextually that their links are going to present me with something else that is different. If I click on W-K-R-P-S or whatever-

The oh come on, if it’s a local news site you know it’s gonna have video!

Well I do now! They have punished me into knowing.

If you don’t know yet you’re gonna learn soon.

But when you click any virtually anywhere else you don’t expect that. That’s really part of this problem. YouTube gets away with it because you have the expectation and you have control. You have full control on that page over what’s going on, down to whether it auto plays another video after you’re done. Maybe the only time that becomes maybe a bit of an exception, right, is maybe if you you’re an audio user of YouTube and that’s all that you’re doing on there. But even then, right? You’ve you’ve asked for it, you’re requesting that. You know what you’re getting.

I think it was Nielsen-Norman that coined the term “a link is a promise,” and that link and that promise is that when you present a user with a link to something, the user is expecting you to have given them the information they need to know about what’s going to happen when they click on that link. Is it going to open up in like a new window or the same tab? Is it gonna go to video, is gonna be a downloadable file? What’s what’s gonna happen? They shouldn’t have to look at the status bar at the bottom of the browser window to kind of decode their expectation.

If I send you an Amazon link that says “Blue Yeti Model USB 100” and you click on that Amazon link, what do you expect to get?

I don’t expect to have an autoplay video.

Right. I don’t expect to land on there and have- a lot of Amazon, especially big products, have like video information on them now. But they don’t assault you with that. They say, here it is in the little panel. You can click on that if you want it. But you expect to get a product page that it’s just waiting for you to engage with it. I come back to CNN on this, and any news site really, but when I click on a news article, I’m thinking at least in my brain I’m gonna read a story. I know that’s not true, I know somewhere in my brain, yeah they’re gonna throw a stupid frickin’ video at me. CNN’s problem though is that they’re really inconsistent about it. And this is where YouTube has an expectation set, they’ve made that promise – “We are a video website. You click on our link you get a video.” CNN has not promised me that. CNN only has promised me that they will give me news. The format that news takes I have no way of predicting.

It’s very mixed.

It’s sometimes a video, but sometimes not. Sometimes it’s a photo gallery. Sometimes they send me off to their sports site, which is a totally different site entirely, even though it still uses a CNN link. What about local news though? Local news is what I think ultimately drives me up the wall because I pay attention to a lot of local news.

You think that they would prioritize- I mean, if they’re putting their content up on the web you’d think that they’d prioritize putting the resources into doing this correctly. You know, okay, I gotta say that the thing that bugs me the most: NPR does this a lot and I’m really surprised because you would think that a progressive news organization organization like this would have better use of transcripts. But oh my god, like every single time you go, it’s like you have to listen to it, like, they’ll break it up into sections. It’s like articles or like segments that would have ads between them. You don’t have to listen to the ads thankfully, but there’s no transcripts and I really hate that.

The reverse of that is what I’ve seen a lot of least here with our local news. It’s all transcript. The articles themselves are literally word-for-word transcripts of what’s in the video. Good for accessibility. Why are you auto playing my video then? By the time your video has finished loading and the news anchor has made the introduction, I’ve already scanned the text content.

The only way I would want an autoplay video to read me the article I’m reading is if it’s Samuel Jackson. “Read the fuck outta this article.”

I am 100% on board with Morgan Freeman as well.

Oh yeah, that would be all right.

I would be alright with that.

Or Stephen Fry.

I don’t think the local guys here can afford them. Local news has that problem that… you know… they don’t care, right? That’s really… you can tell, there is no love, there is no heart in any of that content. They’re putting it up there because they have a website, and they don’t care about putting enough money into it to make it interesting or different or otherwise make since.

Is that a conglomeration issue though?

Oh, I have no doubt. When a news organization owns 20 stations, they buy one CMS and they all share that platform

Right, yeah, like a Gannett does with newspapers.

It’s so indicative of what happens when you let the tools dictate the behavior. It’s very, very indicative, I think, of that. They’re like, here’s this platform, here’s how we use it.

Gotta put a video up there.

So for instance, at least here, and I don’t know off the top of my head who owns the local news stations here, they have a CMS of some kind. It’s garbage to begin with, but we’ll let that slide. But the video content they have uses playlist functionality, so if you go to a news site – and I don’t mind sometimes letting it autoplay, because I do have an interest in watching the newscasts and I don’t sit down at 5 o’clock or 6 o’clock and watch them sometimes – what I do have a problem with is they then go into playlist mode where after I have watched the latest episode of the intersection that they’re tearing up and when to avoid that part of town, they then jump into a donation that was given to the local hospital.

Right, because that’s what you really came to hear.

What does that have to do with anything that I’m interested in.

I think that’s going back to that whole thing that some people expect that their user’s just gonna hang out on their website, like, oh let’s put a chat function on there, and maybe we’ll put the weather, and then even though we’re a local government website or a higher ed or whatever we’ll put we’ll put the links to Hotmail in there, why not?

Facebook has it right. I think Facebook’s doing a good job.

They do that thing where it jumps the video when you scroll down. It jumps the video to the top left corner, right? Isn’t that what they do now?

If you’ve interacted with it, a) they keep the video in view, that’s interesting.

That was weird the first time that happened.

I think Facebook… it’s still weird. It’s still like, in my head I think when I’m scrolling I’ve keyed into the audio and I don’t think about the the video portion of it at that point. So when it pops to the side, it definitely is jarring a little bit. And Facebook itself has a number of issues layout-wise that I think we could do a whole episode on. But I think at least they’re muting their videos. They autoplay everything now, I mean any video you see is autoplay, but they at least are muting them and saying, we know that a the bandwidth isn’t that much – not for desktops anymore. On the mobile app it doesn’t do that it, doesn’t autoplay them on the mobile app. But the other thing, and this is sort of a weird side effect, but it’s something I’ve seen a lot more and I love it and I hate it, but videos are burning captions in because they know that people are home muting them.

It’s not how YouTube does it with the closed caption like layer?

No, like if you think about the Now This or the BuzzFeed videos and a lot of the humor videos and stuff or all these Tasty or cooking videos – they are hard captioning the videos that come up. Because they know… and I’m assuming Facebook gives maybe some kind of analytics on mute and unmute, maybe they don’t I don’t know I don’t post video on Facebook so I don’t know. As a result, it’s a much better experience for me. My hearing is great, I have no hearing problems, but I don’t want to hear your video. But I don’t mind scrolling past and seeing the text, and I have watched a lot of videos because of that. I think. It has enticed me. The reason I think I don’t like it is because I just personally don’t like burnt in captions. I would rather see it captioned the right way.

Yeah I’ve noticed a lot of YouTube videos too, especially like music ones where there’s singing or rapping or whatever, they’ll have the the words appear on the screen with the thing. I kind of like that because you can’t always understand what people are saying. But it is weird though, not having it as a closed caption thing.

It’s a step in the right direction though, because if you’re writing the captions to burn them in, it’s a very short step to getting those captions available to any platform as an accessibility compliance type thing. You know it’s a short step, I think, to that point. I wish and I’m like 98% sure that the Facebook videos do actually support captioning, but that’s not getting used. People aren’t in, you know, utilizing that piece of it if that’s the case, as far as I know. That’s something I should, but now I’m about four drinks into this so give me a break. If this is the first episode you’ve listened to, if it’s the 12th episode you’ve listened to, guys, this is what it’s about.

We’re sorry, John and Hank Green.

I’m very sorry to the Green brothers. This is how I stay awesome, so you’re gonna have to just accept that.

Oh, there’s an article and the link will be in the doobly-doo. It’s called We Hate Autoplay Too: 3 Experts on Landing Page Video Best Practices, and its really good and what they did was they actually do auto-playing, but they did research of their users to find out exactly what’s the best way they can deliver this to the users in the kindest way possible from their web developers. It’s really awesome. They did A/B testing and all the decisions were data informed and it resulted in users consuming 30 minutes beyond the average, which I think was already 30 minutes. So roughly like an hour total I think since they started doing autoplay. Check it out, it’s a good article

To me anyway, I think what part of the exception to the rule we’ve talked about, you know the news sites, we’ve talked about media, Facebook, YouTube, but the one that stands out as sort of a a weird outlier is Netflix, right? Netflix has Auto playing video. They do this little video promo like if you’re sitting on the Browse page and you go to… why?

If you’re on- this as a recent thing, right? Like they just recently started doing this.

It’s maybe, what, two or three months I think they’ve started doing this. I’m sensitive to it because I use a home theater PC, so when I watch Netflix I’m not using a Fire Stick or Chromecast or anything like that. I’m literally using a computer on my TV and so it’s Chrome. It just thinks it’s a web page, and we’ll pull up Netflix and start scrolling down that page and that promo will start playing for Bright or Easy or whatever show is currently popular they’re trying to plug. For some reason, I don’t know why, like if you would ask me objectively is that something that would annoy me, I would say no. But having experienced it, I find that it’s actually incredibly annoying.

I have the app, I have a Samsung smart – whatever that means – TV, and I have the Netflix app on it, and when you click into a show, like if you go to either a movie or a television show while you’re reading the info to decide whether or not you want to watch it’ll just start playing the first episode. It’s like, “Uh, you’ve looked at that 5 or 10 seconds, you’re probably just gonna start watching.” It’s like, hey man, like I don’t know, I don’t know if we’re ready to get married to the show just yet.

So here’s where the opposite, like Netflix employs a completely inverse rule to this, which I find just ironic in this case, which is, I don’t mind that they autoplay episodes. If I’m watching one episode, let me watch the next one. Once you’ve watched, what is it, three episodes, then they stop you. Then they don’t autoplay anymore. And I totally get why, I understand why they do that, but I do find it humorous.

If you’re committed to binge watching, them suddenly asking you are you sure still watching?

Sorry, are you still there? Are you really that sad and lonely? Yes, I am, thank you!

Was it on Twitter where they asked who watched, what movie was it, the Christmas Prince or something? Who watched it 367 or how many times?

It was a lot. It was to me. I’m sorry, I don’t know who watches it, I’m sorry it was too many. I don’t know, to bring this home a little bit, I think about what people can do and how we address this as web developers and, you know, we can’t rely on Chrome to do our fighting for us. Chrome is releasing now the update, in fact I think it just rolled out if I remember my news right, where they started by notifying you, right? That audio was playing on a tab, they gave you the little icon. Now they’re gonna just stop it entirely, they’re not gonna allow auto-playing videos. Apple’s been doing this for a while in Safari and on mobile devices, they’ve just said you know what, no. If you have video that’s gonna start playing, we’re gonna programmatically stop it. But we can’t rely on that, right? That’s the wrong answer, I feel like. HTML5 has a spec in it for autoplay, and the design is that you can go into your browser then and say I am okay with allowing people to do that or I’m not okay with allowing people to do that. I’m a big fan of opting in, at the same time I feel like that’s easily abused because, I don’t know, I haven’t seen a good implementation of it yet at the browser level that says: I want to allow HTML5 autoplay videos on this site.

Yeah, like whitelisting it. It’ll be alright.

Like whitelisting it. Because I feel like if I whitelist it on CNET, and the little corner pop-up comes up, does that count as on site if it’s reading it in from the third party? I don’t know. As a user I don’t know and as a developer I haven’t tested it.

I feel a little weird about the browser sort of preemptively breaking that contract with developers as far as what is going to be expected and how it’s going to behave. I mean developers shouldn’t be abusing their users in that way anyways, but for a browser to sort of step in and kind of break that expectation it doesn’t pass good smell for me.

I have a huge worry here of getting that dreaded call from like Manager X that says “I’m visiting that page and that video isn’t playing” and spending four hours of my life trying to figure out why the video was broken for her only to find out that she had the setting in her browser changed. The code was right, the settings were right, you know? Everything I did was right, but because she had disallowed it and didn’t realize that, because you know it’s gonna happen. You know that that is something that people do. It’s like zoom, right? Allowing somebody to zoom a page. I have thought that so many times where people have said well this doesn’t look right. If you have pixel pusher type developer or designers. But then they zoom something in.

It looks like I’m zoomed out on the page! Why does your page look like I’m zoomed in?

I can’t deal with that. I don’t know what the answer is outside of just encouraging people to say no a lot.

Don’t give them the the site time. Like, if you see a site that’s auto playing video you don’t have to suffer through it. You could probably get that information elsewhere, so just bounce. Get the heck out of that site.

I know that there are reasons a lot of these companies have auto playing video. I get it. Well they think they have reasons, let me put it that way. They have reasons they think are true. And I know that web developers sometimes get brought into fights that it’s a hill they don’t want to die on,

they gotta pick their battles

because it’s the difference between their paycheck or not at that point. But I feel like there is at least some requirement to sit down and say: Okay, I I’m not gonna say no, but I’m gonna show you that people hate this, or I am gonna say no but I’m gonna track how people use this and I’m not gonna tell you I’m doing that.

I think that that’s… I’ve been a big fan of that like when when you present the counter case to your supervisor whomever you need to like “I don’t think this is a good idea you know I’m making my case as a responsible web developer you know you can tell me to do whatever and I have to do it etc.,” but I am a big fan of providing data or analytics to sort of support or to learn from that and be like “oh I guess I was wrong.” I don’t think that would be the case with this.

But it goes back to the example you gave, earlier right? The the company that was doing the video website that discovered that by auto-playing videos they got a huge jump in the attention span people had, you know… everybody’s circumstances are gonna be very different on this stuff and you owe it to yourselves not necessarily to say no blindly; Say no where it makes sense, but also it’s one of those “trust but verify” situations and don’t be afraid to sit down and say “if I’m gonna play this video, let’s record the data for that and see: what does our bounce rate look like–

(talking over) and how does it compare to prior to doing autoplay

One of the things, and here’s something, and I think about I come back to CNN because I do read seeing in a lot… I don’t… I know people bitch about how it’s a liberal whatever source of… “fake news,” okay whatever — I’m reading about SpaceX. I don’t think there’s much of a liberal agenda applied for the SpaceX story. But I think about when I go there and I have this problem of listening to or reading a story, and then hearing a video playing the angle there that I would take as a developer is: I want to measure scroll depth as it applies to the exit rate

YEAH.

Think about that for a second; Especially because they put the video at the top of the page; it’s the first thing that’s there and I have to scroll past it to get into the text anyways. So if I know that 80% of my users are halfway down my page before the video starts playing, doesn’t that give you something really useful to use?

Maybe they weren’t expecting the video to play. It’s annoying when you go to like the new site, I don’t know if CNN does this or not, but I think HuffPo does where, like, it loads and you think, you think, you hope with your heart of hearts, that it’s not going to autoplay, and it doesn’t appear to, but then you’re halfway down the article and then all of a sudden you hear the people talk, and gorramit, scroll back up the page and hit pause so I don’t have to hear the dumb people talking. I CAN READ MYSELF.

I think that’s the best advice, and I think that’s gonna be advice people hear a lot is: “Trust Your Data,” and don’t be afraid to get data that disagrees with you but, you know, yeah at least look for it. And don’t go in biased, you know, don’t set up your data to fail; don’t not track something because you’re worried that it might conflict with what–

You want to serve your users as best you can and, you know, browsing habits change over time and and we have to be open to accepting that things may be different, even if we don’t like them or we think they’re stupid.

Right now, you know, people scan well. We hit a page full of text, we can burn down that page of text, pull out the important chunks, and scan it, and be out of that page in 15 seconds. I’m not gonna sit there watch a three-minute video.

I had a thing come up recently at work where, it was discussion about wanting to keep people on the site as long as possible, and I was like “Why do we want to keep them on the site as long as possible? You don’t need them to hang out here, you know, like, they’re gonna come in with a task, or like some kind of objective they have, we want to get them to them as quick as possible” If I go to a site I can get my answer in 10 seconds and get out of there I am a happy user, and I will consider that site to be a good resource.

If somebody stays on your site longer and doesn’t convert in a meaningful way: that’s failure. That means they’ve spent — they really wanted to do something and they tried really hard to do it and if you don’t have a conversion number for that person, you failed them.

That’s a tab they forgot to close

So that’s the message folks. I think, I think it’s clear from we hate auto-playing videos; I think it’s clear from you, that you hate auto-playing videos

Sarah Jaffe definitely hates them

I hope that, I think that, at the end of the day, we can do something about them

(muttering) kill them with fire

We can be better. At the end of the day, we can be better. Or encourage each other to be better.

You can encourage their stats to be better by not using video using sites that do this.

This episode of The Drunken UX Podcast brought to you by Gas Mark 8.

Gas Mark 8

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