In my recent research for videos to curate for the new Dawn Productions site I looked in myriad places to find cool stuff. In the end most of what I selected and embedded came from YouTube and Vimeo – but that doesn’t mean that search and discovery on either site was all that it could be. In this posting I detail the good and the bad of search and discovery on a number of the main sites I used. Please let me know if there are favorites of yours I’ve omitted.

eGuiders is a little known jewel that I like a lot.  Their tag line is “We Search. You Watch”. The e-Guiders are a diverse assortment of industry insiders who post what they see as the most engaging original videos. A few new videos go up every day, organized into broad categories. The site is optimized for browsing rather than search, and most of the videos come from YouTube or Vimeo.

Vimeo is not optimized for search, though browsing is pretty easy. The videos are organized into categories and subcategories, and the result pages can be sorted in a number of helpful ways including most played, newest, most commented, most liked. There are also featured channels. Vimeo has a wealth of high quality original content and a fair amount of true HD. Many independent filmmakers and producers use it as their online home. Once you click on a link and get to the watch page you find descriptions which are often far from descriptive. Sometimes there isn’t anything at all.  Other times you get a technical brief of the cameras and process. Vimeo has an engaged audience, and the comments are often informative. And unlike on YouTube, the number of ‘likes’ seems to track with the quality of the video. Another way to browse Vimeo is to go to the ‘Staff Picks’ and browse through the videos the Vimeo team “likes the bestest.” There’s no organization here at all; the videos are in the order they were ‘picked’; you need to click on the thumbnail to get any info beyond the title and even then you only get the number of likes and comments. Since only a few videos are picked each week it’s easy to check out the choices. Vimeo is a great resource.

YouTube search brings back results. Plenty of them. It’s a true child of Google.  Problem is that while the results can be sorted by a number of criteria including view count, relevance, and duration the listing are still overwhelming even though the rating, number of views, and a description brief are displayed. The number of views and ratings are a starting point, but I found that these often are not reflective of the quality of the video (at least in my eyes), and the descriptions are often either non-existent or useless. If there are playlists with the search term, they are displayed too, though I haven’t been able to figure out the organizing logic here at all.  Once you’ve gotten a results page you basically start to browse. What’s particularly problematic to me is that the YouTube categories are very broad, so you have to refine your original query into a word or words that’s in the title; you can’t browse a wider selection of videos. When it comes to what videos are displayed as ‘Related’ I have no idea what the organizing algorithm is. When it comes to Channels there are a few more categories, but still no subcategories to help refine the search. And when you go to a specific channel there appears to be absolutely no way to sort the videos; the only choices are ‘all,’ ‘uploads,’ and ‘favorites. Recently YouTube made significant changes to their video watch pages. The new design features a cleaner, simpler look for the video page, a new commenting system that highlights top-rated comments and a new ‘next video to watch’ sidebar which they say is ‘smarter’. Still doesn’t seem too smart to me. Nonetheless YouTube is an awesome resource in terms of the sheer volume of videos. is a model of browsing excellence, with extremely creative buckets, including: rated jaw-dropping, persuasive, inspiring, funny, informative, newest, most emailed this week, most comments this week. You can also sort talks by categories such as technology, design, business, science, global issues. TED’s search itself uses a semantics-based approach to come up with more meaningful results. The site is awesome in every way.  Navigation, display, UI, content.

On Hulu you can search for a particular show if you know its name and see all the episodes on Hulu sorted by most popular, air date, and rating. You can also browse by channels (categories) and subcategories sorted by the same criteria, and further refine the selection by episodes and clips. It’s adequate, but a lot of work if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Along with the popular shows one might associate with Hulu there are some first-rate niche videos.

Babelgum is organized into a number of main channels, each of which has its own categories. It has some interesting exclusive content along with many videos available elsewhere. It’s pretty hard to sort through though, and the site search is mediocre. The channel pages are a way too packed with content to make me want to look carefully at them; the UI is sub-optimal and it’s hard to see what’s most important or featured. The videos in the channels and categories can be ordered by most viewed, most recent, or top rated. There are “New” and “Top Picks” labels on some of the videos on the home page, but no way to organize the videos by these selections. There’s also a selection of ‘Weekly Picks’ which are shows, not individual videos. Clicking on one of these takes you to another dense landing page.

Brain Pickings tag line is “curating eclectic interestingness from culture’s creative brain.” It’s not strictly a video site, though there’s a lot of video here. And it’s more a site for exploration than search. But’s it’s fun and a great place to find eclectic videos – and Maria Popova, the site’s curator, puts it all in context, with intriguing discussions and links to related materials.

Motherboard is a site that I just discovered recently; it mainly features original content. It describes itself as “an online video network and community focused on the exploration of the nature and culture of technology, as viewed through the lenses of curated editorial content, community, and dialogue.” The video mostly seems to be high quality user generated content. It’s a site for browsing only; there’s no search functionality and no real way to know what you’re looking at beyond the title and the big thumbnail. The videos are identified by a small video icon. It’s a fun, quite unique collection and worth checking in on from time to time.

The Best Videos – Where Are They? And How Do You Find Them. Scouring the Web

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