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Ask HN: Have you found it difficult to get quality technical content on YouTube?
71 points by wizardofmysore 10 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 53 comments
These days I only see videos about cracking the coding interview on YouTube; after a point it seems to get boring. Have you felt the same way? That is good content on software development isn't present?

Most content creators on YT want to grow their channel which is mostly at odds with covering complex topics in depth too much. Some channels, like Veritasium, do a decent job of taking complex subjects and presenting them to a wider audience - although many mathematicians and physicists do take issue sometimes.

A pattern you'll often find on YT is similar to how Intel and other manufacturing companies do the "Tick" and "Tock" pattern. They'll release a difficult to research, complex and time consuming video, followed by a few easier to produce videos with a lower cost of entry knowledge wise to pay the bills.

Tom7 is an interesting exception to this rule. He puts out about one video per year, but they're all very very well done. But, they're also tongue-in-cheek and he's not _really_ trying to teach you anything - but you'll probably learn something in the process!

This is a huge problem with the wider web today, which is overrun by content creators who are motivated to make money over providing deep value content. The consequence of this is that those who are not in it for money, are marginalised.

It is well understood, and psychologists will likely say the same, that the outcomes from people when they are intrinsically motivated generally surpasses that from extrinsic motivations. We have taken the web away from the former and handed it to the latter and in doing so we deprive ourselves of wonderful things many people have to offer. The web doesn't need paid content creators to survive. There are a huge number of people who are interested in participating for epistemic or community reasons and we need to safeguard these interests. I don't think it can be done in the web as it stands today. I think we really need to go radical and carve out a separate space for such interests. We need a new web.

But there's something I don't get about that way of thinking, like, who's stopping those who provide "deep value content" from making such content?

It's not like Youtube makes you pay for hosted videos if they don't get monetized properly. So in a way those who are properly monetizing Youtube are helping to pay for a free platform, no?

You may argue that such "deep value content" won't be boosted by the algorithms, and I don't see the problem of that either since it's such a niche content that wouldn't even make sense to be considered popular by the algorithm standards. Now you even have the "Bell Notifications" to get notified about new videos, so if that niche content finds true fans why can't they simply just do that?

You have plenty of channels like that, and they still grow.

Maybe the problem is the motivation for those who make such niche content that don't get the proper monetization, but that it's mostly a problem of the audience (not all niches are worth the same, because people have different behaviors and spending habits, and that's fine). That's why the "finances" niche is more valuable then "programmers" niche (or at least was some time ago, now I don't know).

Or am I thinking about this in the wrong way?

I believe the thinking is(someone else please chime in if this is incorrect):

When the deep value creators are fighting for attention/views against "view efficiency optimizers", the deep value loses out, making it harder for them to make a living.

Same reason quality journalism is on decline. It's a hard problem to solve as it occurs naturally in a competitive environment.

>When the deep value creators are fighting for attention/views against "view efficiency optimizers", the deep value loses out, making it harder for them to make a living.

I understand that, and like you said, it's a hard problem to solve - and it's not a new problem. TV networks experienced the same thing, and that's why part of their models are successfully replicated by Youtubers.

Edutainment is a good example of it, where you could engage the audience into learning while they have fun. So it seems like there's a mid term where education and entertainment feed off each other and pleases a wider audience - and back then the only algorithm was zapping.

Because for the vast majority, probably, deep value is "boring", and that might even be amplified by the motivation behind using Youtube (which I dare to say is mostly for entertainment).

Even for those who find entertainment and extreme value from "deep value creators", they might need to set a bit of time to be engaged to consume that content, and in the end if their "CPM" is not as valuable as other audiences "CPM" (because they engage less with ads, use adblockers, spend less money after engaging with ads, etc), the creator will get less value from those views... and that's just one of those things: it is what it is.

You can't "blame" the audience, or the content creator, or even Youtube.

In the end this revolves around value transactions. Maybe a solution is for the content creator to try to harvest the value from his "deep value created" directly from the audience since Youtube might not be getting that value out of them.

> It's not like Youtube makes you pay for hosted videos if they don't get monetized properly. So in a way those who are properly monetizing Youtube are helping to pay for a free platform, no?

A monetized YouTube buries quality under orders of magnitude more shit than a non-monetized one does. Without the ads, you'd get a thousand good videos among ten thousand crap ones; now you get ten thousand good ones among ninety billion crap ones.

A small minority of us are moving over to the new peer to peer decentralised web because it feels much like the internet was before big tech destroyed all individuality:


In my personal experience, producing long highly technical videos is a losing proposition. The YT algorithm is focused on keeping eyeballs on the platform.

If your video does not retain the viewer, they drop off, this signals to the algorithm not to suggest the video to others.

So for content creators, you spend quite a bit of production time making a long well made video. You get discouraged when you put in quite a bit of effort and it does not do well on the YT platform.

In my opinion, technical content is best presented in document form. Easier for the user to search, easier for the producer to create, easier for aggregators to index, faster to consume/skim over irrelevant parts, and it loads much quicker than a video does.

I generally agree with one exception: for UI heavy tools, screencasts are much better than docs. Rather than reading docs and trying to match content to the UI, it's faster for someone to just show me how it's done. I had to learn C# on Visual Studio a few years ago, and watching Pluralsight videos got me up to speed in 2 weeks vs. me struggling through the (rather dense) Microsoft docs and O'Reilly books. (this is partly due to the fact that Visual Studio is just that -- visual. A huge percentage of tasks are accomplished via mouse clicks.)

Even for something like Azure Devops I managed to learn much more quickly through YouTube than by reading the docs.

It's a akin to the difference between a book and a painting or a piece of music. A book -- or more generally the written word -- is really good until it isn't. Sometimes knowledge just flows more easily through other media.

I find that documentation that has relevant screenshots or diagrams or even GIFs can explain the topic well enough without forcing people to watch an hour-long video.

Though I do agree that GUI-heavy processes like AWS are better presented in video so you can find exactly what to click on and what happens next.

Creating screenshots and GIFs add to the production time. I pretty much never watch screencasts either (too long), but I understand why everybody makes them.

Cost of production is close to zero. Sit in front of a computer and talk while you work. No edits required, upload as soon as you're done.

  - Primer: mainly about simulations and genetic algorithms - https://www.youtube.com/c/PrimerLearning
  - Reducible: about computer science and algorithms in general - https://www.youtube.com/c/Reducible
  - The Chermo: about game dev in C++ - https://www.youtube.com/c/TheChernoProject
  - Sebastian Lague: about game dev/simulations with Unity - https://www.youtube.com/user/Cercopithecan
That's about it for me. Most of them don't publish often though.

Thanks, going to take a look

Software Engineering by Hussein Nasser is good.

Channel link: https://www.youtube.com/c/HusseinNasser-software-engineering

Seconded. Nick Chapsas is another great backend engineering channel, but mostly sticks to .NET development.


I wouldn't bother with most creators, they often create content for beginners as that is the best way to rake in many views.

IMHO the best strategy to get high-quality content for specific topics is to look for conferences that post their talks. Personally I enjoy e.g. the CppCon and RustCon channels, as well as the PyCon one. There are some other sites like media.ccc.de where you'll find a ton of technical videos as well.

InfoQ is pretty good - https://youtube.com/nctv

The channel covers a ton of topics but the viewership is low and there's no clear trend in video popularity. Therefore you don't know if a video is any good until you get a few minutes in, but some are very good. And they do deliver on the technical quality front.

YouTube's algorithm and payment model doesn't reward in-depth coding content. Other services pay authors a lot more for in-depth niche content, so that's where all the content ends up.

YouTube's whole deal is that (1) they will promote you only if lots of people consume your content immediately and rabidly and (2) they will pay you a tiny bit for each view, so you need a lot of views to make anything.

This makes it nearly impossible for an author to make in-depth content on niche topics while making a profit. The audience is (1) too small for YouTube to care and (2) often only needs your niche educational content once, so they don't become rabid, multi-year subscribers. The lack of continued engagement snowballs to make YouTube promote your content less and less, so you never get views. Even worse, every niche video will cause YouTube's algo to actively make each future video on your channel get less and less views - a depressing downward spiral for your channel.

You might say that someone might make in-depth coding content for free (and a few do, like Coding Secrets), but the kind of people who can communicate well and also program well are in huge demand and probably too busy making real money to spend hundreds of hours to make $3 on YouTube when much better options exist.

On the other hand, this is way you see so many YouTube ads for 3rd party paid online course services. These services (LinkedIn Learning, SkillShare, etc.) pay authors more reasonably for their niche content and are built around promoting content for audiences who want to learn. The other strategy that works well is for the author to make very general content on YouTube and then advertise their own course or book to their biggest fans. Both models can sustain someone's full-time income or author's who build an audience and then self-publish their own content can often make 6 figures+.

A way to find good content is videos uploaded by good conferences. These can go back years and have hundreds of videos each.

There are also great meetups that share their video online.

Consider searching for talks from conferences you wish you could have attended. This likely represents hundreds of hours of content you would enjoy.

You might also consider some of the free courses on YouTube. I've found Harvard's and Yale's courses to be optimized well for video, MIT's less so (it depends on the course though).

I don't really follow a lot of the higher level abstraction channels like "Computerphile." Although I do generally enjoy those videos when I see them.

I'm more likely to search for the topic that I want to learn about and then skip around many videos until I find the one with the production quality, tone, volume, etc that is most clear and enjoyable to me. Often, you do have to settle for badly made videos on obscure topics (but no complaints! Better than nothing.)

Given the extremely large spectrum of "technical content" available for someone to focus on, can you provide more detailed examples of what would be higher quality technical content in your opinion?

BTW, I'm not disagreeing with you at all as I too agree. I'm just wondering what things you also see as missing.

I find most user content is focused on the introductory level, which makes sense if you are attempting to appeal to the largest audiences for income (so not faulting anyone). I often see content on data engineering but most just define "data engineering" and at most talk about things high level Hadoop, Spark, etc. and do not provide any examples/patterns of working with data that is even close to representative to what I do in my day job. The same is true many other technical disciplines too. With a couple notable exceptions on some security topics (such as demonstrating certain exploits), and some hardware topics -- such as Ben Eater's great work (https://eater.net/)

Oh, one other exception as others already pointed out, conference talks are also very good. Though I think they miss the heart of your question (I could be wrong).

Yes. YouTube tends to encourage sensationalized content, as it often leads to increased watch time. So education channels usually aren't as lucrative. This being said, there are quite a few hidden gems: https://youtube.com/c/Reducible https://youtube.com/c/VCubingX https://youtube.com/channel/UCG2IoSJBUhrGL8fb5stMCWw https://youtube.com/channel/UCEwhtpXrg5MmwlH04ANpL8A https://youtube.com/c/CodeParade https://youtube.com/c/YannicKilcher https://youtube.com/c/SebastianLague

and of course my channel!: https://youtube.com/channel/UCuHB_2AOt8vjuvZZp6tSoxg

Youtube values consistency. New channels that want to break through the noise need to upload regularly, similar content that drives engagement and watch time.

Lengthy, in-depth technical content doesn't match those criteria.

So if you want to produce that kind of videos, you end-up with only 2 options:

- Channels that are not motivated by revenue, that will post a series of videos then slumber or get abandoned.

- Channels that are sponsored by companies that will try to sell you their language, framework, SaaS, etc... masquerading as technical content

I have found quite a few good creators on youtube.

Devops: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdngmbVKX1Tgre699-XLlUA Infosec: https://www.youtube.com/c/LiveOverflow

IDK, I think this might be better listed as an "awesome-x" list

Subscribed! They do seem like good channels.

As others said, TY doesn’t seem aligned with the model of technical content. Obviously there’s exceptions like conferences and a handful of individuals.

Paid is really the way to go. O’Reilly has a lot of great technical content in video form. They also have live learning sessions.


I second this. The video courses are pretty good. For me though, the killer feature is having the vast O'Reilly library as a reference while learning. It's often nice to pause a video and dig deeper in a book on a particular subject. Additionally, each subject is usually covered by multiple resources so you can find different ways to approach and absorb the content.

Quite the opposite, I find it difficult to get technical content not on YouTube.

I'm not a fan of videos for learning anything technical. I'd prefer write ups, illustrations and photographs. Videos can be useful sometimes, but what it usually winds up doing for me is slowing down my pace.

Beginners are probably the target audience for most YT content, across every topic, because it is easy to show people how to do beginner level things. The larger issue with tech content is as soon as a software technology is eclipsed by a new version with breaking features, the older videos are mostly useless to beginners. Experienced software engineers know that there are many solutions to common problems and answers can often have an "it depends" type of answer.

A lot of the difficult problems at work are specific to the constraints we have so I would assume the same case for nearly everyone else. Most of these problems have nothing to do with the tech stack or specific language features. In software development the actual programming is the easy part, integrating systems and dealing with scale are the harder parts of the problem.

That's a question that's really hard to answer in the general case.

There are actually some really good YouTubers on some really niche topics. For instance I've found Rahul Nath's videos on Azure Pipelines to be exceptionally helpful: https://www.youtube.com/user/rahulnathp

Have you tried searching for content specific to the niche you're interested in? Chances are if it's a topic that's popular on StackOverflow and that's also visual in nature, there's a good Youtube video explaining it. If it's not visual in nature, the probability of your finding a good video decreases because video is likely not the best medium for conveying that information, which decreases the view potential and the incentive to monetize.

My problem with informational videos on YouTube is that the majority of what I see in search results is ten minutes or less, often like two-three minutes. So if I want somewhat more information than ‘I wonder what is that thing anyway’, I pretty much can't get that on YouTube. Like, I'd expect thirty minutes to an hour to be a reasonable length for explaining a topic superficially but in more depth than a dictionary entry.

Compare that to the three-part introduction to sound synthesis from the 80s where the dude twiddles knobs for three hours and explains what each of them is doing. Just dialing in one sound takes him ten minutes. It's the best educational video I've seen on YT: https://youtu.be/atvtBE6t48M

It is difficult. The youtube video recommendation algo works in a way where most views videos get are from first time viewers so content creators adjust to make their videos first time viewer friendly. So it has to be up to the channel to deal with that if they want to make "deep" content - e.g. make it a hidden video that is shared in the description of another video.

The Applied Science channel is a bright counter example, but these are quite rare.

> These days I only see videos about cracking the coding interview

Maybe that's because of how many companies have stopped caring if candidates are actually good software developers and just do leetcode tests and call it a day.

i have learned to not expect quality content from Youtube. Most channels pump out videos to grow their channel so they all have to play games(clickbait titles, flashy thumbnails, fluff videos to a certain length to please YT algorithm) and now that YT is trying to compete with tiktok, they also encourage channels to have shorter videos, and you cannot explain anything mildly complex in that short period of time.

Imo text should be the main source, then use YT videos as supplemental material

> "Imo text should be the main source, then use YT videos as supplemental material "

Text has its own corresponding set of unique "platform" problems.

But really, the thing spanning both is the concept of "spam". Quantity over quality seems to be winning out, and the algorithms are not doing their job of sorting the best content to the top. They do to an extent, but then they "spread" out the rest over the entire stack of quality so that it's not a winner takes it all kind of sorting.

I observe there's a lot of good/great technical content from conferences that are not discoverable due to their title/tagging. Rails/Django/JS/etcConf have a lot of technical and non-technical values. Sometimes the most interesting is the ones that isn't directly "on-topic" for the conference. Like James Long talk on CRDT on JSConf. The conference keynotes are also great.

This channel host a lots of different coding conference talks but most of them are hand selected and are of good quality: https://www.youtube.com/c/CodingTech

This channel maybe the best in terms of quality about low level design. If you are a programmer make sure to checkout his low level design playlist: https://www.youtube.com/c/anomaly2104

This is a quality channel to get an intuition for algorithmic thinking: https://www.youtube.com/c/vantonspraul

This is a pretty advanced Rust channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/JonGjengset

If you are a Frontend developer and you want to understand the primitive stuff, how things work from inside do checkout this channel, contains lots of problems and solution including implementation of vDOM, polyfills for Promise, Async Await and various JS stuff: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0qiieVBpjA6YODgIFf6Afg

These two are nice intro channels to get into rust: https://www.youtube.com/c/timClicks https://www.youtube.com/c/RyanLevicksVideos

If you like maths, do checkout this channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/zachstar

This channel also uploads rarely but the quality of videos is very high, it contains general news and stuff related to Science(Physics, Chemistry, Bilog: https://www.youtube.com/c/QuantamagazineOrgNews

If you want to understand modern web layout give this channel a try: https://www.youtube.com/c/LayoutLand

If you are any how involved in Crypto, this is a must to subscribe: https://www.youtube.com/c/Finematics

I see I have posted tons of channels but I think these are really good, in terms of quality of content.

Also most of the time when I am trying anything new related to computer science, I just search hacker news with few varying keywords related to that topic. Most of the time the results are pretty good.

Also you can combine the keyword + reddit the results are also good in terms of quality. Often time you find few discussion which provide good learning points.

I generally dislike consuming computer content in video form, but there is plenty of interesting content out there. Lots of conferences video tape sessions. Plenty of noise but some good things too.

E.g. one of my faves: https://youtu.be/ajGX7odA87k

You should subscribe to more conference youtube channels. Definitely a lot less beginner content.

Lots of conferences have gone online. Looking first at more quality sources like schools and conferences then at YouTube suggestions later can help teach the YouTube suggestion generator more about what you like.

I try to make in depth, no BS content on my channel about Vue.js: https://www.youtube.com/c/lachlanmiller

You can check Awesome lists on github, you can find good content there.

e.g. https://github.com/vityavv/awesome-youtube

I am making my own content but it’s for my kids. I could not find anything I liked.

You know you could just talk to them in-person?

I do, but I have also contributed the lessons to my daughter's school.

I noticed that for tech content I mostly watch videos from tech conferences.

I find PyCon videos great.

But I think you are right, that videos about programming made explicitly for YouTube just aren’t that great.

Numberphile is great. Computerphile is … sometimes good. Which makes me think there is just something about YouTube that doesn’t lend itself well to programming.

You have to really find that content, because if you have a specific topic in mind you can definitely find a recent informative video on it.

For example currently leading a big technical project where all the tech is new to me. Just went on youtube and searched for "$the_tech_I_want_to_learn 2021" and found playlists of quality videos (like an hour long) where the presenter goes very deep into these topics.

Some videos I've found are also by authors of popular books of $the_tech_I_want_to_learn, so that's also awesome to get their insights outside of text.

Just avoid "big channels" because just like anything else at a large scale they compromise on many things. Find the channels that are focused on sharing technical information, not milking the monetization system.

You’d be better served paying the $13 for the relevant Udemy course.


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