For people outside of North Korea, China or Germany Youtube has become - and should be used - as the perfect unity of late night public access TV and a public library.
The amount of information burried in this immense cloud never fails to put me into something akin to awe, while at the same time the amount of crap that is available never fails to make me cringe.
Youtube is so huge that it by now has different subcultures of content creators that have been discussed by smarter people at great length, and it even produces its own idioms and pronunciations. So I won't go into details about that.
What Youtube is to me is a huge library and database. There is a howto on effectively any subject, from how to clean your laptop fan to how to fix your sweater, but also high quality lectures, debates, courses and introductions. I would bet that there is little that you can not learn from at least one of the millions of users. Having studied at the university of Vienna, the difference between watching a video that a camera in a hall recorded to sitting in that hall myself is negligible.
But I don't always have access to the internet at home since I cancelled my subscription last Fall, and watching lectures that are often 2 hours long is tedious enough by itself, but doing it in a café with all the distractions that includes would be impossible for my squirrelesque attention sp
So my life - through my ability to learn from and use Youtube - has improved greatly the day that I discovered youtube-dl. This little command line tool is the perfect downloader for videos from youtube. I can download them when I have ample bandwidth and watch them at home or from my cell phone - it allows me to download and sort the files in the quality I deem optimal (360p) and could even poll and work off an external list of Youtube links. This is amazing. I can tell this thing to download this playlist, and an hour later I have hours of lectures on my laptop to watch at home or while doing the dishes or kneading bread.
I use less bandwidth overall, because I only download what I actually want to watch, and should I feel guilted into it, I could also have it download the advertisements Youtube includes to watch them with penitence. I so far chose not to.
There is of course the matter of how to pay for this content. As always, I mistrust organised distribution of that sort, and prefer to pay directly, e.g. through donations, to the content creators. I still hold that advertisements, especially in their gangrenous online form, should be avoided as they are a bubble and, in general, hold our society back by imposing often not even profitable ideas against truth and the common good.
If you are not familiar with command line tools, youtube-dl can be a bit overwhelming, but it works insanely perfect and most of the options it has are only required for special cases. For me, I use this configuration, maybe it helps you as well, at least to understand what the tool does and how.
youtube-dl YOUTUBELINKS -r 0.75M -i -f 18 -o "/FOLDER/%(playlist_title)s/%(upload_date)s-%(title)s-%(id)s.%(ext)s"
This translate to:
"Dear program youtube-dl,
please download the video/playlist at this address,
don't use more than 0.75 Mbit of my bandwidth,
if you can't download a video from a playlist for any reason, just skip it,
please download the 360p quality,
and please save the file at the following address: /FOLDER/"Folder with the name of the playlist that you download from"/"Upload date of the video"-"Title of the Video"-"Youtube-ID of the video".mp4. Thank you!"
You can find youtube-dl in the Ubuntu repositories and all the other options in the readme file. Enjoy, and don't forget to support the people who create the content you care about - as well those who create the tools you use! :)
(The picture today is Kiki out cold after a 12 mile walk)
Update: just stumbled upon this link on the harm that ads do and thought I'd add it here.