In an age when we’re drowning in things to watch and read, the Wadsworth Constant provides skippable certainty.
“Brevity is the soul of wit,” Shakespeare said.
“If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out,” wrote George Orwell.
“For every YouTube video, I always open the video and then immediately punch the slider bar to about 30 percent,” wrote Wadsworth on the social news site Reddit Sunday.
Another Reddit user quickly dubbed skipping the first third of videos the “Wadsworth Constant.” And this principle of exegesis via ellipsis is setting off a frenzy on Reddit.
“I really have been punching the slider bar on videos to 30 percent for years now,” Wadsworth told the Daily Dot.
It started innocuously. Wadsworth, a redditor for five and a half years, was commenting on a thread about how to fold fitted sheets. Octal9 had linked to this instructional video:
The first 39 seconds simply show the host explaining that she’s about to show how to fold fitted sheets before she actually does it. Enter Wadsworth: “in this video, it should have just started at :40. Everything before :40 was a waste. This holds true for nearly every video in the universe.”
Redditor Redebo recognized Wadsworth’s find, and responded. “Perhaps this should be known as the Wadsworth Constant.”
NotSoFatThrowAway noted that this same principle of cutting the first 30 percent could also apply to comments, and did that to Redebo’s, curtailing it to “be known as the Wadsworth Constant.” Soon a screengrab of that conversation made Reddit’s front page.
Users are breathlessly exploring the possibilities. ThunderingNuisance made a browser script for YouTube, so that every video on the site starts with 30 percent of the time elapsed. Orta made a bookmarklet that cuts the first 30 percent of every Reddit comment. And flappyface is testing the theory with his Wadsworth Calculator, where users can type in any text, then see the beginnings of the text rounded off by percentages of ten, to see if 30 percent is really the best marker of intro filler. zjbarden applied the Constant to the first chapter of Moby Dick, with impressive success.
And, of course, there’s already a Wadsworth subreddit, or section, devoted to the constant.
Of course, some have found holes in the theory. It would be nonsensical to apply the Constant to Yoda’s inverted speech, noted HerbieVerstinks. “Wadsworth Constant does not apply to Carl Sagan videos,” said FusionX, asserting that Sagan’s teachings are structured enough that his beginnings are still important.
So how well does the Constant perform when applied to the viral YouTube videos recently highlighted by the Daily Dot?
“Webcam 101 for Seniors” would start at 54 seconds. This skips the video’s cold open, when Bruce gapes his mouth, then starts singing Hello! Ma Baby. That’s a vital segment, so the Constant does not apply.
Chuck Testa’s commercial would begin 19 seconds in, when he establishes his company’s name and phone number. Then it jumps straight to the “Nope! Chuck Testa!” skits. As good as the entirety of the commercial is, Wadsworth’s Constant applies here.
In the “I love cats” Eharmony video, the Constant dictates viewers begin 45 seconds in, which is precisely when its subject starts tearing up about cats. It’s almost uncanny.
Of our three-video sample size, Wadsworth’s Constant applies well to the latter two videos. If one applied the Constant to this study, there’s a clear takeaway: it works with complete accuracy.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the creator of the Wadsworth Calculator as ReachingHorizons. The Calculator was created by flappyface.
Photo by espensorvik