Talk Curation

FindLectures.com is a curated list of collections of video and audio selections. Entries in a collection go through automated checks which eliminates or lower the rank of the talk.

Now that the collection have grown, more people have been asking what “curated” means. When I started FindLectures.com, I used videos selected for Wingspan’s lunch and learn program. Most came from larger collections - talks at specific conferences, unversity lecture series, book atuhors, or lectures by renowned speakers. For this site, I’ve expanded the last category to include anyone of historical significance, as these are often quite interesting, and this technique avoids me having to distinguish between truth and alternative facts.

While not all conferences are organized the same, they tend to include speakers that are a draw for attendees, or that at least allow the conference organizers to enter the social networks of respected people in their chosen field.

For universities, good commencement speakers get the institution in the news, and lecture series are a way to showcase the research of staff. In some cases, a generous alumnus will set aside money to pay for a lecture series. From what I have seen, the “vetting” of speakers for these tends to be based on seniority, but this often allows an experienced professor explore a topic of interest.

I typically use the presence of a wikipedia page as crude indication of influence. Having written a book for a recognized publisher is also a positive signal, although some publishers clearly do much better vetting of their author.

There are two common types of presentation that don’t map well to this method of curation: youtube stars, and people paid to hold a specific opinion (e.g. lobbyists, some activist organizations, politicians). Both types tend to be prolific, which risks starving out better content, so when these are included, they get significant ranking penalties.

Length tends to be a good quality filter - most universities youtube channels include dozens of short interviews with students, so by filtering to topics over the 5-10 minute range, you get a significantly better experience. FindLectures.com is often used by people on their lunch break, so talks in the 20-40 minute range get a ranking boost. Similarly, for historic videos, newer videos are not ranked as highly.

Social media sites can be good sources of recommended videos, but come with some issues. Reddit tends to have a lot of bootlegged videos, for instance. If a video is recommended by multiple sources (e.g. a Hacker News link to a tech conference video), it gets a ranking boost.

Finally, videos may be removed entirely if the audio is unintelligible (Youtube does not do this), or ranked lower for significant issues (clipping, lots of ums, and so on).