Let's get to the point. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

Quote of the Day

“Water stored in the bathtub froze solid last night. That's how it's going in Dallas.”

—Brandon Friedman, a friend/colleague from years ago, who lives in Texas. He’s had rolling power outages and no water during the storm. (If you can see the photo from his tweet below, that dish is resting on ice, not floating on water.)

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Fast forward

You're busy, so I'll keep this short. We're all watching more video, and listening to more audio. Three hours a day watching scripted television alone, according to Ad Weekand that was pre-pandemic.

I started thinking about this because I’ve been watching a ton of video tutorials about publishing on on Amazon, via Kindle Direct Publishing. (This was supposed to be part of my 2020 goals, but I feel fortunate to be only 6-12 months behind.)

But who has 20 or more hours to devote to watching videos like that? Especially when a lot of it isn't exactly paced at racehorse speed. Well, the trick is not to let someone else set the pacing for you. Instead, if you can control the speed of your content, you can control your time.

I apologize if the tips I’m about to describe are already familiar to you. (Actually, it would be helpful for me to know if it’s all new to you or not, for future reference.) But, in my experience, probably 2/3 of people or more have no idea. So, let’s get through it all quickly.

1. YouTube speed controls

This is one of the easiest. Did you know that with a couple of quick clicks, you can pick up the pace of almost any YouTube video?

  1. Click the little gearbox icon that you'll see at the lower right corner of any video, often just to the right of the “CC” for closed captioning.

  2. This brings up the settings menu, including an option to adjust speed.

  3. Click that, and you'll get the option to play the video at normal speed, or more slowly—or most important, at 1.25x, 1.5x, or 2x the uploaded speed.

I find that you can almost always play at 1.5x without losing anything. Voila, you've just slashed your viewing time by at least 33 percent.

2. Chrome extension

Of course, YouTube is just a small part of the issue. We're watching videos on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Vimeo, among others—and there's no "control the speed" button built into many of these services.

(Actually, Netflix has a speed-up feature, but only for some platforms.)

Enter Video Speed Controller, a Chrome extension that allows you to pick up the pace on almost any HTML5 video out there.

Of course, this requires that you use the Chrome browser, and I’m always a bit leery of enabling random Chrome extensions. However, it’s been around a long time, and it has more than 1 million users. So at least you’re in good company.

3. Look for the same feature on podcasts and other media

Audiobooks, podcasts—almost every audio or video service has these speed features, either through the native apps or add-ons.

Start using them, and you'll find it's almost impossible to go back to watching video or consuming media the old, slow way again. It’s especially true for work-related things you’re consuming for information rather than entertainment.

There’s science behind all of this, in fact:

  • Broadcasters usually speak at about 160 words per minute.

  • But experiments have shown most people can listen to about 275 words per minute without affecting comprehension.

  • That’s just a bit slower than the silent reading speed of the average college student, suggesting compehrension is governed by the speed at which your brain can process words, not the speed at which you can listen to them.

Jeff Guo wrote about this for The Washington Post a while back, but it would be a biy ironic for me to go into immense detail about all the studies and theories in a newsletter where the subject line is literally “TL;DR” (too long; didn’t read).

Bottom line: TL;DR isn't just an abbreviation. It's now a way of life.

Oh, about Kindle Direct Publishing. I actually started thinking about this last year, after talking with a couple of Understandably readers. If there’s anyone among the readership that has experience on this platform, and wants to share some tips or tricks with me, I’d be grateful to hear. Just reply to me here and maybe we can set a time to talk briefly.

7 other things worth your time

  • My God, Texas! I feel for everyone there. Very low temperatures, homes with no heat, people taking shelter in their cars, unplowed roads, millions without power, and rolling or shared/structured blackouts. At least 21 people have died in Texas and other states because of the weather. And there’s still a winter storm warning in at least some parts of the state through Thursday. (CNN, Washington Post, Austin American Statesman)

  • Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are “dropping dramatically across the U.S., suggesting that measures to interrupt transmission are working, at least for now.” From the CDC: “Better, but not good enough … Don’t let your guard (or mask) down.” Still, we’re looking at “early June” before most Americans (aka “the general public”) will have access to the vaccine, according to Dr. Anthony Faucci. (Bloomberg, CDC, CNN)

  • Oprah Winfrey lands a 90-minute interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. This will be the first time they’ve done any kind of interview since their engagement; Oprah is quite a choice — not just because she’s Oprah, but also because she’s their neighbor in Montecito, California where they now live, and she was a guest at their wedding. (People)

  • President Biden did a CNN town hall, and responded to a question about whether he’d support a plan to wipe out $50,000 per borrower in student loan debt. Short answer: No. But maybe $10,000. (Forbes)

  • In Norway, there isn’t as much snow this year. Between that and the pandemic, city officials in Oslo have been trucking in manmade snow from the countryside, and creating groomed trails for skiing, snowboarding, and Norwegian normalcy. (Yahoo News)

  • “I like the look of that guy, let’s buy his company.” OK, Jeff Bezos did not actually say this, but check out how much the CEO of Selz, which Amazon bought last month, looks like him (here and here). Selz announced the deal in a blog post (oddly, Amazon never mentioned it). It’s being taken as a sign of how seriously Amazon takes Shopify.

  • The FBI is putting out a pretty aggressive social media campaign, trying to get people to identify and “capture the rest of the individuals who took part in the violence at the U.S. Capitol.” Besides these kinds of posts, they have hundreds of high-res photos on the website now. “We haven’t had an investigation to this scale and scope where we needed to identify this many individuals” before, an FBI spokesperson said. (FBI, HuffPost)

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