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You too can YouTube

If you thought YouTube was all about stupid home-made cat videos, idiots proving Darwinism, and the corporate network being clogged up with downloads and forwarded videos, you would be correct. But it can also be a lot more meaningful, as a new Dummies Guide reveals. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK gives it a read.

YouTube seems so obvious. Type in the address in your browser bar (or click on the link you’ve embedded in the menu), explore all those cat, dog and idiot videos, and forward the best ones to your friends.

For the average user, that’s where it begins and ends. But sooner of later you begin to wonder why they want you to register, log-in and let them know who you are and what you want out of YouTube. And sure, if you follow the instructions and guidelines, you can get so much more out of it. In fact, you may even ask: what’s the point of a printed manual, when it’s all online anyway?

Here’s the point: for the YouTube beginner who wants to go a little further, the online instructions are aimed at the finding and viewing experience, and not at creation and broadcasting ambitions.

Take this section from YouTube’s Help files, under “How do I edit my video?””:

“”Most computers come with some sort of video editing application already installed, such as Apple iMovie or Microsoft Movie Maker. Using these programs, you can easily edit your videos, add soundtracks, change the file type, compress the file size, etc.

“”There are also more advanced editing programs available for purchase or download online. We encourage you to look around and find the editing software that’s right for you.””

YouTube for Dummies goes a few steps further, taking users step-by-step through the software they are most likely to use. For PC users, it tells them how to find and use Movie Maker, which comes with Windows XP and Vista, and Mac users are led into iMovie, which is included with current versions of the Mac operating system.

For those YouTube users who are content with remaining at the bottom of the video food chain, i.e. consumers rather than manufacturers, the guide also comes into its own. The advice on searching sorting, and subscribing is designed to make for a richer and more efficient YouTube experience, rather than just digging up a larger volume of random nonsense.

As with most Dummies guides, this one assumes nothing, and starts off explaining YouTube in a way that makes sense even if you’ve never visit the site, giving a context for its origin and original purpose. It might not help you to use it, but it sure does help explain some of the excesses of the site, its users and its content creators.

Even when it moves into advanced advice and usage, it never gets overly technical, indicating a clear understanding that the non-geek will never ‚get‚ or even want to ‚get‚ the arcane technicalities.

But for the experienced content creators, who may look down on Dummies guides as just too basic for their elevated knowledge, many hidden gems await. For example, you may know exactly how to build a killer video, but you may not have as good a sense of how to get it known and viewed out there. Or you may be at the cutting edge of creating as well as publicising your video clips, but you can still learn a thing or thirteen about branding yourself, your production company, or your sense of humour.

The best indication of the objective nature of YouTube for Dummies is its guide to hacking YouTube. Google, who own the site, don’t want you downloading the videos you view there, as it could get them into a copyright tangle with the makers or owners of the videos. As a result, they have designed the site to stream the videos rather than allow them to be downloaded. But once you have learned about ‚.flv‚ files, you will never need to depend on the consistency of your broadband signal to revisit your favourite videos. And you can even convert them for iPod viewing. If some of that sounds like Flemish to you, YouTube for Dummies will take you where you really want to be, even if you didn’t know it.

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