Cotton, Machines, People, Boxes, and You
December 1, 2013 8:16 AM   Subscribe

Directed by Wes Anderson. Not that I couldn't watch this all day.
posted by phaedon at 8:35 AM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

That was very well done.
posted by localroger at 8:38 AM on December 1, 2013

They are making some really interesting studies. This was fantastic. One thing that occurred to me was that in the constant search for ever cheaper labour, it seems to move around SE Asia and Latin America. Why haven't any of the African countries really leapt on this bandwagon? I have a few shirts made in Egypt, but nothing compared to the vast majority made elsewhere.
posted by arcticseal at 8:38 AM on December 1, 2013

Oh thank goodness they finally made the shirt! I've been listening to the podcast for over a year now, listening to old archives, and this shirt project goes back to at least May 2010. No criticism intended; it's ambitious journalism and making things turns out to be hard. Just a fascinating long story, it's fun to see it wrap up. Has anyone found a link to the entire t-shirt chronicles, not just this 2013 edition? I could have sworn there was a Kickstarter back in 2010. There's plenty of podcasts from back then and they're great.

As the linked site notes, the t-shirt idea was inspired by Pietra Rivoli's book The Travels of a T-shirt in a Global Economy. It's in the same vein as another great Planet Money series about Toxie, the crappy mortgage asset they bought in 2010 as a way to personally follow the banking crisis. Great reporting.
posted by Nelson at 8:46 AM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

arcticseal: I bet Africa will be next, particularly given that China, Vietnam, and Bangladesh have rising wages. What is missing right now is probably some combination of 1. infrastructure (good roads and a steady source of electricity) 2. stable government and/or rule of law to enforce contracts. 3. lack of better options (why waste time sewing when resource extraction is much more lucrative?).
posted by leotrotsky at 8:49 AM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Fascinating story.

They also provide the source code for their nicely designed website too in the credits:
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 8:50 AM on December 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

Well done, but it dances around the question that always gets danced around: Why Bangladesh and places like Bangladesh? It's wonderful that lives are improving there, but the poverty is the only reason the businesses are there in the first place. Not enough food, security, or shelter, but bajillions of dollars in machinery and corporate infrastructure. It's really just a happy coincidence that the workers' lives get better. It's a bug, not a feature. Businesses need to own that fact, at least.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:58 AM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

The kickstarter campaigns was in April through May of 2013.It may have seemed like a longer time period because the shirts were supposed to go out earlier this year. The stories coming out of this project have been and a few months late at the end of the day is not a big deal.

I really appreciate the link psoas provided here. As I've been listening the stories, I really wanted pictures - as in what did those machines look like? Or the families that were interviewed? This puts it all together.

If anyone is interested, the series on NPR is here.They are a bit more in depth so if the link piqued your interest, then you may enjoy the series.

One of the ones that made this issue come alive for me was the one that they recorded in Bangladesh (it is more in depth than the summary in the picture format). There is a part of the interview when one of a father talks about how useless he thinks girl offspring are because he needs to pay for them to get married and they bring no value to him. But one of his daughters actually gets so much money now from participating in the industry (more than the average wage) that she is saving for her own dowry and she talks about how her parents will not get a say in selecting her partner. She talks about her own dreams for her daughter, which is to be part of another industry.

The other one that was interesting was the of the families in Columbia, because as Planet Money was interviewing, a company pulled out the order for T-shirts and people were worried about their livelihoods.
posted by Wolfster at 9:02 AM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Why haven't any of the African countries really leapt on this bandwagon?

Africa, for the most part, is still a political basket-case with dodgy infrastructures. One thing that people tend to miss, though, is that China has been extremely active throughout Africa for decades, working on those very things, while building strong ties to political and business leaders. If Africa eventually booms, it will largely be the doing of China.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:16 AM on December 1, 2013 [7 favorites]

Nelson and Wolfster, thanks for the supplemental info! I was looking for contextual links to trace this project, but the iTunes archives only go back to mid-2011. The really fascinating part of this story for me (OK, one of the fascinating parts yet unmentioned) is the series of reports PM did following the Haitian industry rep who was trying to bring garment-making to the island following the earthquake. Same story as mentioned above in much of Africa: just a frustrating lack of infrastructure and a huge hill to climb to eke out any part of the market.
posted by psoas at 9:24 AM on December 1, 2013

My shirt came yesterday. Looking forward to catching up on all the Planet Money content surrounding it!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:31 AM on December 1, 2013

From the piece:
Indonesia has a few key things that are essential for keeping a high-tech factory humming: an educated workforce; cheap, reliable electricity; and a relatively stable government.

So, yeah, most of Africa is wanting in at least two out of three of those qualifications. Another thing that SE Asia has going is access to massive manufacturing apparatus and infrastructure. Not just roads and transport: Being near a factory that makes spare parts for your multi-million dollar factory is really important; being able to get those parts quickly across borders and into your factory when they're needed is key.

I actually visited a textile factory in Kenya about a year ago. It was originally a vanity project of Moi, the old dictator, and has been reopened with a bunch of new machines by the new Vice Chancellor of Moi University. I got the sense that it has no hope of REALLY competing on the global market any time soon, precisely because of these infrastructure issues. But they use it as a training program for their undergraduates, and in that it stands to really help build up manufacturing in Kenya in the long run. As people learn what's necessary, they can push a bit for the right infrastructure to be put into place.
posted by kaibutsu at 9:36 AM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wish I could get one of the shirts. I tend to save up podcasts for listening to en masse on lengthy drives, and by the time I heard the go-buy-them-here podcast the ordering window was a few days closed.
posted by c0nsumer at 9:37 AM on December 1, 2013

posted by bizwank at 9:49 AM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

What an amazing piece of multimedia journalism. Thanks for pointing it out.
posted by photoslob at 9:58 AM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Why haven't any of the African countries really leapt on this bandwagon?

There are already garment factories in Lesotho, as well as an existing wool textile industry (making high quality blankets). I have a couple of cheap t-shirts that I bought in a Marks & Spencers in Cape Town that I notice are made in Lesotho. I imagine that the scale of the sweatshop industry there is only big enough for the South African market, for now at least.
posted by Flashman at 10:57 AM on December 1, 2013

I would be in love with this piece even if it hadn't been made, in part, by a bunch of my absolute favorite people at NPR. Kainaz is amazing, Gilkey is amazing, Claire is amazing, Aly is amazing, Brian Boyer is amazing ... it's just a fantastic group. And for those of you who like great stories about rad young weirdos who find their tribes, the great Adam Cole, now firmly in the clutches of HQ, worked on that piece.

And that's not even counting Planet Money. I mean.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:23 AM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well done, but it dances around the question that always gets danced around: Why Bangladesh and places like Bangladesh?

I'm not sure if it directly addresses all your questions, but their most recent podcast focused on how Bangladesh came into the mix in terms of textile production. It was actually far more complicated than just cheap labor -- it was a pretty fascinating story about some proactive businessmen in Bangladesh partnering with Daewoo in South Korea in order to get around this complex international textile agreement set up in the 1970s to protect U.S. interests.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 12:09 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I almost didn't watch this, but I'm glad that I did. I haven't finished yet as I write this, but I'm gonna write my impressions as I go. By the time I get to the end of the comment I'll have watched it all. Apologies if this is a bit stream-of-consciousness.

First off, wow! Great presentation! The site is perfectly made, simple and easy to use. The video frame fills my window exactly. There's no clutter on the screen, it's wonderful. So refreshing!

OK, first chapter: Cotton. Pretty impressive operation there on that farm, interesting to see how robotic agriculture has become. I didn't realize that the US was still the world's biggest cotton exporter, or that 90% of cotton was GMO. I appreciate the balanced way that the video is reporting the issue; they seem mostly to be just reporting the facts, acknowledging controversies while not really taking a side. They're telling a story here, and they're trying to do it in a way that does justice to the complexity of it without making this into an advocacy piece. I appreciate that. Still, I expect that I'm going to come away with some opinions – but hopefully those opinions will be informed mostly by facts and less by the slant of the presentation.

Hey now, I like the way they drop me straight into the infographics from the end of the chapter. I had noticed that they had a text accompaniment but I wasn't planning to bother reading it. On a glance though it looks pretty interesting, and it provides some nice info about the US cotton industry. The clean, content-focused presentation continues here and that's great. Of particular interest to me is just how huge a role the government plays in this industry. I knew that subsidies were huge, but I didn't realize how the system worked. The combination of insurance and revenue subsidies to reduce the economic uncertainty of agriculture combined with the rigorous and apparently effective grading system for product really strikes me as a neat bit of politico-economic engineering. Looks like something out of a well-run planned economy, to be honest – not exactly Free Market Capitalism as we hear it evangelized in most media, but it looks like a system that does what it is supposed to do very well. I note that it's all purely economic in focus though; I didn't hear anything about trying to ensure that the social or environmental outcomes of cotton farming were as positive as the economic ones.

Chapter 2: Machines. We're in the developing world now, turning baled cotton into fabric. Looks to be even more automated than the farming. Where is all the value produced in this process going? Not to laborers. Factory owners, presumably, and process and industrial engineers. I would be interested to follow that money and see where it ends up, what it gets used for. I have a suspicion that it's probably not doing a lot of good for the people who live in the cities and towns where these factories reside. That was a short chapter.

Infographic time. Mostly we're reading about yarn itself. It's interesting to learn a bit about the different grades of yarn and about how important consistency is in the yarn-making process, though I'm not terribly surprised by any of it. Still, the presentation is nice and it's always neat to see some attention paid to something so common and seemingly mundane as cotton fabric, which is nevertheless the product of an entire multi-billion-dollar, fully modernized industry of complex machines and techniques. There's a mention at the end that this industry, following its profit motive, seeks out countries where labor is cheap and yet infrastructure and education are strong enough to make the factories reliable. A bit exploitative, that. I would like to be seeing more attention paid to the workers involved, few though they are.

Chapter 3: People. Looks like I might get my wish now, we're in Bangladesh and Colombia watching the women (looks like they're all women) who actually sew the shirts. Seems like there's some professional pride among the workers, always nice to see. Jasmine, in Bangladesh, is working six full days a week and making $80 a month (of which she sends $70 home) extremely low wages. She lives in a small rooming house with basically no infrastructure. There are four million other workers like her. It looks like conditions for her are actually better in factory life, in some ways, than they were in her village. Safe, and actually a bit less poor than in the village. The misogyny of a culture in which women are seen as a burden and dowries can push families into deep debt, consigning daughters to a life of permanent exploitation, seems to play a huge role here. Conditions in Jasmine's factory are better than most I guess, but it looks like in some places it gets shockingly bad.

In Colombia, things are a bit better. Doris makes about $320 a month and feels like she has some opportunities to get out of the industry, which she wants to do – she wants to own her own small business, and is already taking steps in that direction. She is able to support herself and some family members. She seems less desperate, more proud, more relaxed.

Now we're talking (and reading) about what could be done, and what is being done, to improve things in Bangladesh. The focus among labor activists seems to be on improving conditions for workers, rather than ousting the garment industry completely. The industry is not a bad thing per se, it has already improved conditions for some people (though I wonder how they compare to the way things were before the current imperialist regime of economic globalization) but it is clear that if it's going to actually work for the workers there needs to be serious reform. It is pointed out that this has been a story in textiles that goes back to the first garment factories during the Industrial Revolution in England. Factories spring up, huge workforces (almost all women) become employed in them as they seek improvement from the impoverished conditions in the countryside (often further impoverished by the creation of the very factories they are moving to, a point not made in this documentary) and then have to fight to improve conditions in those factories so that they can actually have reasonably fair employment. When successful, these battles lead to improved conditions for women throughout society as economic self-sufficiency leads to social and cultural empowerment. Still, conditions at the start are brutal, dangerous, and exploitative. Wages in Bangladesh are rising (and safety standards too, I hope) but the global industry will probably roll on and find some other even poorer country (Where? Africa, perhaps?) where they can begin the cycle anew. There's no global agency enforcing minimum standards for worker treatment, so manufacturers are free to start at the very bottom in each new market and force workers to fight their way up again and again. Also, Bangladesh in particular doesn't have a plan for how to diversify out of textiles. They need to educate their workforce, develop their infrastructure, and find ways to bring in more technical, better paying, less exploitative industries. Whether that will happen remains an open question.

Chapter 4: Boxes. We're talking shipping now, one of the most incredibly efficient industries in the world. Shipping containers, with the standardization that they allow, are a keystone of the global economy. Container ships are another giant, mostly-automated industry. You can make the ship as big as you want and it still takes about the same small number of people to crew it. Similar economies of scale pay off for loading, unloading, and trains. Shipping from the factory to the warehouse is actually the smallest component of the cost of making and delivering a shirt. The last leg of the journey (next chapter) is implied to be the biggest component. As a personal aside I feel it's worth pointing out (though the documentary doesn't discuss it) that these economies of scale also have benefits in terms of natural resources and environmental impact. This kind of transportation is so efficient now that on a per-item basis the resources consumed are practically negligible. The environmental impact of the industry as a whole is still huge, but that's because the industry itself is even huger. This kind of efficiency comes at a cost though – far fewer people are employed than used to be, and that means that longshoremen have been forced to find other jobs over the last several decades, with varying success. The economic upheaval of globalization causes disruption like this all the time, with ripples that can take generations to fully settle. The modern shipping industry is a perfect example of this, especially because without it there would simply be no global economy as we know it today. Also of interest is the fact that nobody will tell Planet Money exactly what it actually cost to make their shirt. I have a suspicion that it's so complex, so divorced from humanity, that nobody actually knows. We're in the realm of statistical approximations here.

Chapter 5: You. Getting the finished and shipped shirt to the consumer. What do the people who make these shirts think of the consumers? We don't actually find out. This chapter is mostly a bunch of biographical tidbits about the lives of the people who are involved in the various stages of production – from the Monsanto geneticists who design the cotton seeds up to the longshoremen who load and unload the container ships. Interesting, and humanizing, but not really informative in the same way as the previous chapters. The infographic portion is a similar bunch of biographical tidbits about the people who funded the Kickstarter program to make the shirts and the documentary. In my opinion the weakest chapter by far, a disappointing ending to what was otherwise a strong documentary series.

All in all, I really liked this. The last chapter was pretty weak and I wish there had been more detail in general about some of the economic and social ramifications of all of this. At some point an editorial decision was made which seems to have put the documentary in an uneasy place between "How It's Made"-style deadpan manufacturing porn and more activist documentaries about the social impact of large industries. And I wish they had talked at all about environmental issues. Nevertheless, there's a lot of good stuff in here and it's very nicely put together and presented. Thanks very much for the FPP.
posted by Scientist at 12:30 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

That was a nice series, and left me a little hope about this whole global economy thing...though the nagging question, of course, is what happens when things are so automated that you only need 4,000 workers in Bangladesh, not 4,000,000?

I wonder if the Randians and other "government is bad" nutjobs note that the only reason US cotton is "king" is that our government both subsidizes the technology behind it and, more importantly, provides a guarantee about the quality of the product to overseas buyers.
posted by maxwelton at 12:34 PM on December 1, 2013

Yeah maxwelton, that was one of the most interesting parts of the whole documentary to me. I wonder if there aren't lessons from that program that could be applied to the rest of the US's stagnant manufacturing industry. Identify industries that are willing to pay a premium for exacting quality and consistency in their feedstocks (or their tools, or machines, or what have you) and institute a government program that allows manufacturers of those feedstocks to submit their product to a rigorous, trusted, impartial testing program while also employing subsidies that reduce economic risk by smoothing out some of the fluctuation in the market. It works for cotton, maybe it could work for other industries like steel or lumber.

Of course, I would like to see those programs putting an emphasis on social and environmental outcomes as well as purely economic ones.
posted by Scientist at 12:42 PM on December 1, 2013

(Also agree the final chapter was very disappointing. I wanted to learn a bit more about that final step, and why it costs so much compared to the rest of the production, and how the shirt gets from wherever they're stored in the US to the retail buyers. I suspect we'd discover another under- or unpaid worker or two in the form of interns, but I could be wrong.)
posted by maxwelton at 12:43 PM on December 1, 2013

Benny Andajetz: "It's really just a happy coincidence that the workers' lives get better. It's a bug, not a feature. Businesses need to own that fact, at least"

No, this is a well understood feature of markets, going all the way back to Adam Smith's concept of "universal opulance."
posted by pwnguin at 1:07 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thank you, This_Will_Be_Good. Great link. Of course, things are always more complicated than I intimated. But the profit motive always comes first. The workers are just a means to an end; they are last (and the slowest) to benefit.

As to Adam Smith: Yes, he understood the concept of rising conditions. But he was only aware of, and championing, local business. The "invisible hand" that Smith mentions - only once, BTW- explains that self-interest on the part of the business owner helps him because his customers and workers are also his neighbors. I sincerely doubt he would be supportive of cutting the feet out from under the burgeoning local workers in favor of less-expensive workers on the other side of the world.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:23 PM on December 1, 2013

Benny Andajetz: "Yes, he understood the concept of rising conditions. But he was only aware of, and championing, local business....
I sincerely doubt he would be supportive of cutting the feet out from under the burgeoning local workers in favor of less-expensive workers on the other side of the world.

Fair enough; I thought universal opulence covered migrant factories, but it seems to mainly refer to an urbanizing nation becoming more productive and richer. Still, it's not an unheard of concept in economic thought. I'm pretty sure I saw it referenced in a Veblen text, and it likely goes back further. Ricardian comparative advantage, perhaps?

But since you mentioned, obliquely, protectionist policies, I'll share a Planet Money podcast on their tshirt project covering a topic not mentioned in the webmentary(?): Nixon era protectionist policies spurred Korean textile manufacturers to set up factories to get around the Multi-Fiber Arrangement, which ended up dividing developing countries into two groups: those with export quotas, and the poorest developing nations, which had no quota. Korea and Bangladesh, being on opposite sides of that fence, were natural partners.

So that kind of answers your question, in a round about way: Europe and America, by trying to protect domestic textile factories, accidentally fostered a network of international partnerships to work around it.
posted by pwnguin at 2:32 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Well understood" in the sense that it makes sense that it might happen, and that a lot of people (especially with vested interests in defending their exploitative business practices) want it to be true, and that one can point out case studies and anecdotes in which it appears to have happened, perhaps.

That doesn't mean it's some kind of fundamental truth of the way market economies work, though. There are many forces – economic, cultural, political – that can interfere with the process, and even when it does work it tends to happen as a result of protracted and often dangerous (to laborers) conflict between labor and capital in which labor eventually wins the day and forces capital to give it more humane working conditions.

It doesn't just magically happen. Garment manufacturers would have been happy to continue paying workers in Bangladesh the $30 a month that they were giving them before their unsafe factories killed 1,000 workers and sparked a mass labor movement, rather than the $80 a month that they are paying them now. Slave owners in the American South tried very hard to preserve their "right" to own other human beings and pay them nothing to pick their cotton fields for them (while providing the barest minimum of shelter and food, making it actually illegal for them to become educated, and using rape and physical violence to enforce obedience) and were only stopped after a long and bloody civil war forced the issue.

Economics as a "science" is shot through with fantasy and wouldn't-it-be-nice theories that seem plausible on the surface but have little basis in historical reality. Improving workers' lives is not something that businesses historically have had any interest in doing except in the relatively few cases where they've been canny and long-sighted enough to see that they might benefit from new markets composed of newly-enriched workers. Usually it requires a combination of strictly-enforced legislation and organized labor activism, and it frequently requires a lot of bloodshed as well.
posted by Scientist at 2:35 PM on December 1, 2013

I was an assistant buyer for a large-ish company in the 80's/90's.
When I first started, the person who bought gloves (*every* catalog must have gloves at Christmas!) sourced them from a couple of different companies in New England - possibly even from eponymously-named Gloversville, NY.
At the dawn of the 90's the race to the bottom for manufacturing began, factories closed, and either shipped or sold their machines overseas.
In the mid to late-80's, I was buying Christmas gloves for three years.
One particular type, leather, with some hand-finishing, we had sourced from the same company for years with no problems.
One year, the gloves were late - they were being manufactured in the Philippines that year. I got excuse after excuse, but in reality, it was a near-coup in the country that brought their shipping/manufacturing to a standstill. No gloves of that style that year.

The next year, Pakistan - where military/civilian unrest meant the gloves didn't ship - again!

The following year, the gloves were source in Haiti - and were late again, because of - wait for it - a military coup.

It made me realize that places with the 'cheapest' labor might also be unstable, and don't really represent 'savings'; but of course, to a manufacturer looking to optimize every cost, it didn't matter much.
posted by dbmcd at 3:45 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Manufacturers "should" be trying to optimize profits, not costs ... In which case countries' stability is an important constraint to be considered and, if possible, hedged.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:25 PM on December 1, 2013

Well, as the documentary itself says once or twice, what manufacturers are looking for is a combination of low wages, sufficient infrastructure, and a stable government. For the more technical jobs they're also looking for an educated workforce. I imagine that businesses may not have realized how important the "stable government" part of the equation was back in the '80s and '90s when this offshoring thing was less well-established, but in any case it sounds like they've now realized that it's a pretty essential part of the formula.

Note that "stable government" does not necessarily mean "civil liberties" or "strong labor laws", in fact just the opposite is often preferable. If your totalitarian autocracy is able to keep wages and worker rights down and successfully suppress civil unrest through fear and brutality, that's fine. If anything, it means that businesses can just deal with a handful of oligarchs (who can be easily won over with fairly trivial bribes) and then have free rein to run things however they like after that and even call on the oligarchy to bring in the police or military if their workers give them any shit.

This kind of brutal calculus is simply the natural result of a system that treats financial profit as the only real measure of worth, rather than other values like human welfare or environmental sustainability. It the inevitable result of buying into the idea that the only duty of a business is to generate money, and that free market economics is the best way to run a global society.
posted by Scientist at 5:32 PM on December 1, 2013

Great stuff to dig into - I hope my T-shirt shows up soon!
posted by RedOrGreen at 5:42 PM on December 1, 2013

I'm part of this supply chain. Can I add my story?

I'm a night shift engineer at the plant that makes those Deere cotton pickers. I watch over the machine shops that crank out the internals of the header that actually removes the cotton from the plant. The header mechanism is so complex that there are only two factories in the world that can make them; after purchasing the other one when it was in a dire financial situation, we own them both. We are extremely proud of the machines, which have revolutionized the harvesting of cotton by baling the cotton instead of ejecting it loosely into a compressor truck at the end of the field.

I started there almost 10 years ago as union employee, picking up cigarette butts in the parking lot. I passed the machining tests, became an operator, and after half a decade rose to a lead machinist position in a plant that still operates on hard union seniority rules. A year of successful projects later, I was offered a salary engineering job and a company-paid engineering degree....12 years after I failed out of journalism school because of untreated ADHD. Today, I'm managing the disability well and earning about a 3.6 GPA.
posted by TrialByMedia at 5:55 PM on December 1, 2013 [11 favorites]

Wow, I really enjoyed these videos--thanks for posting them!
posted by blueberry at 6:29 PM on December 1, 2013

The writer for Mother Jones didn't have as positive an experience with her story.

I liked the Planet Money podcasts very much, but I recently and belatedly realized that NPR's buddying up to Jockey just might (cough cough) have given Jockey the ability to spin these stories in favor of the industry.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:12 PM on December 1, 2013

Sounds like it was great, but I didn't watch it. I get tired of streaming video/audio instead of text online. I read very quickly and I get frustrated with a lot of video/audio only content like that. Here's a thought. You guys wrote a script. How about you give me access to that script with timestamps if needs must? Then I can read at my pace, and jump to the video if I have to. That way you get me to consume your content, and, as wallet permits, perhaps give cash for more as opposed to the "meh, don't have the time/interest" you got this time through.
posted by Samizdata at 9:27 PM on December 1, 2013

The videos are pretty short, like 2-3 minutes, and they're really there to show off things that are best conveyed by the visual / cinematic method. In between videos is the text and infographics you so desire. I found I spent way more time digesting the text than the videos, and I'm the kind of guy who speeds up podcasts 20 percent during my daily commute.
posted by pwnguin at 9:52 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

pwnguin: "The videos are pretty short, like 2-3 minutes, and they're really there to show off things that are best conveyed by the visual / cinematic method. In between videos is the text and infographics you so desire. I found I spent way more time digesting the text than the videos, and I'm the kind of guy who speeds up podcasts 20 percent during my daily commute."

I will give it another shot then.
posted by Samizdata at 10:09 PM on December 1, 2013

Ahhh!, it always freaks me out to see NPR people after mis-picturing them in my head for years. Terri Gross looks like she's supposed to, thank goodness, but Alex Bloomberg is supposed to have a roundish bald head with plastic-frame glasses.
posted by lauranesson at 9:46 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Totally with you on the not being able to be bothered with watching videos thing, Samizdata. I nearly skipped over this one for exactly that reason, but when I decided in a fit of boredom to give it a shot I found that it was not only totally worth it, but that the video is actually presented and broken up in such a way that it was not at all troublesome to watch. The whole site in general is really a shining model of the right way to do multimedia presentation on the web.

Do give it a shot, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
posted by Scientist at 4:46 PM on December 2, 2013

lauranesson: "Alex Bloomberg is supposed to have a roundish bald head with plastic-frame glasses."

Or a faux hawk. And like 30 years younger.
posted by pwnguin at 8:10 PM on December 2, 2013

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