Whether you believe that YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine or not, the fact remains that if you are looking for instructional videos on information technology, it’s the place you’re most likely to find them. If you can’t find the answers you want in text format via Google, then checking out YouTube is the next best thing. But does that make YouTube a trustworthy educational source for IT managed service providers (MSPs)?
Not necessarily. It’s a bit like Wikipedia in the old days, when anyone could upload information and it wasn’t easy to check its authenticity. Even today, most people wanting reliable information won’t use Wikipedia as the only source, taking the time to check out the background links before treating the information as trustworthy. Here’s another example. Just the other day, someone posted a picture of a 20 foot snake on Facebook, supposedly spotted somewhere in Florida. It turned out to be a real snake, but a fake story that had been making the rounds for a couple of years. You just can’t trust everything you see online. So how does an MSP find trustworthy educational videos?
It’s all about establishing credibility, something people have been concerned about since the start of the web. In fact, there are a couple of website credibility checklists floating around to help with the assessment of text-based web resources. Many of them have key points in common which could help MSPs work out the accuracy and credibility of online video resources. Here are some of the key questions they ask, with thoughts on how these might apply to assessing information technology instructional video resources.
1. Who is the author of the video? If you can’t tell or it’s a questionable username, then it might be best to ignore it. If it’s a known brand or person with expertise in the area, then that’s one positive mark.
2. What site or sites does the video link to as resources and are these trustworthy? Here you’re looking for .gov and .edu domains, which have a high trust factor, as well as links to branded sites belonging to the video creator (but not too many – see point 5).
3. Can you locate any author credentials that back up their suitability as a source of information – this could be a LinkedIn or social media profile, an about page on their website and testimonials from others.
4. What does the video intend to do? Most videos intend to inform, educate or entertain, sometimes marrying both. For your purposes an informative or educational video is the best type. If it also manages some humor then it’s a bonus.
5. Is it balanced or promotional? This is another way of assessing the content. If a video is bent on selling you a single solution, then it’s possible sign of bias. In contrast, if it focuses on a range of solutions then the trust factor is higher.
6. How have people responded to the video? Look for likes, shares, embeds, comments and reviews to assess the trust factor once again.
7. Is the information up to date – check for upload date or links on the profile to more current information. There’s no point in using a video that’s relying on dated information or software.
If the answers to those seven questions are positive, then it’s a good sign that the video resource can be trusted. Another way of looking at this is to use the CARS checklist, assessing credibility, accuracy, reasonableness and support.
Finally, don’t forget that even though YouTube might be the biggest source of online video, it’s not the only one. You might be able to find reliable information on one of the 24 alternatives listed here.