October 4 2022 9:28 AM E-paper Subscribe Sign in My Account Sign out

YouTube, Google search and Bernoulli’s law of large numbers

Jean Claude Elias
Jean-Claude Elias is a computer engineer and a classically trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts for more than 30 years.(Photo: Jordan News)
Besides belonging to the same parent group of companies Alphabet Inc., YouTube and Google search have in common the gigantic numbers they deal with, they show us and let us interact with every day.اضافة اعلان

Examples. According to quora.com, there are now some 14 billion hours of video on YouTube. About 3 million videos are uploaded every day that passes. Searching the words “singer Adele” on Google’s engine returns 116 million results (in 0.8 seconds!).

Apart from being impressive, what do these large numbers really tell us?

If I were to compare the number of the really helpful, interesting, pleasant and good YouTube videos to the number of what I call “time-wasters”, the ratio would be 1 to 50. This is an opinion, based on personal experience.

I frequently use both platforms and web tools. Like all of us, I do it for personal reasons, for pleasure as well as for my work. I cannot count the times when a YouTube tutorial helped me understand a subject, learn new ways of doing things, or has simply shown me “how to…”. Not to mention listening to music or watching videos, of course.

However, the number of instance where it wasted my time with videos that were poorly done or completely wrong is significantly greater. The range of flaws and imperfections is wide and includes poor sound and/or image, sloppy form and design, irrelevant contents, unintelligible speech or language accent, etc.

If I were to compare the number of the really helpful, interesting, pleasant and good YouTube videos to the number of what I call “time-wasters”, the ratio would be 1 to 50. This is an opinion, based on personal experience.

Time is particularly wasted on videos that take two or three minutes to watch before you realize that this is not what you want.

The patterns, and the frustration, are somewhat similar to those Google search, though there are important differences between them. Because the search engine starts by returning text results and not videos, it is easier and faster to filter out what is unwanted, what is irrelevant. For example, I always skip results that quite fairly start with the letters AD in bold (advertising), and I just have to read the first couple of lines to have an idea if the result is worth clicking and exploring deeper or not.

In YouTube, I have learnt to play videos at double speed (a nice feature offered by the platform) first, to save time, until I decide that it is indeed what I was looking for.

Jakob Bernoulli (1655-1705) was a Swiss mathematician who is known, among others, for his Law of Large Numbers (LLN). It states that “as a sample size grows, its mean gets closer to the average of the whole population”.

Translated and applied to YouTube and Google search engine, it is easy to understand what the quality of the “average” YouTube video or Google search result may be.

For instance, the most watched YouTube video to date is “Baby Shark”, with a flabbergasting 10 billion views, whereas the adagio part of the “Concerto de Aranjuez” by Joaquin Rodrigo gets 30 million. In theaters all over the world, the concerto is the most played classical composition of the twentieth century, along with Bizet’s opera Carmen.
Time is particularly wasted on videos that take two or three minutes to watch before you realize that this is not what you want.

With a little experience, that most of us have acquired by now, it is possible to optimize the results and to avoid to a certain extent the useless, the unrelated and the unpleasant, be it on YouTube or when doing a Google search. In a way it is like looking at an email and understanding quickly that it is spam; the brain and the eye get trained to determine what messages are legitimate and what are not.

Would the above deter me from using YouTube and Google search? Not at all, of course. Life without them would not be the same. There is no going back. Even if I must browse through 50 videos to find the one that I want and need, it is still worth the trouble in the end. Besides, the negative aspect of Bernoulli’s LLN can be felt in countless other fields today. The music industry itself is producing and releasing a large quantity of new songs every day and only a very small percentage – perhaps as little as one percent – becomes successful and can be called good music. Again, just an opinion.

The Writer is a computer engineer and a classically trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts for more than 30 years.


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