Do It Yourself Videos: Why do so many share so much?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Do It Yourself Videos

A Note from Dr. Wayne Baker: This week, please welcome back the popular OurValues columnist Terry Gallagher. Thanks, Terry!

Do It Yourself YouTube video on repairing a Toro lawn mowerA few weeks ago, when the grass was ankle-high, my lawnmower wouldn’t start.

It’s a hand-me-down, a gift from a neighbor who got a better hand-me-down when his folks moved into a condo. So it’s plenty old, and was becoming more balky every time I used it, before stopping altogether.

I’m not a particularly handy person, but I started poking around on the web, and found dozens of homemade videos showing how to de-gunk the carburetor on 1970s-era lawn mowers. After a half-hour on YouTube and another one in the driveway, and with $15 spent on an air filter and a spark plug, I’m back in business.

So while saying a silent thanks to the folks who made those videos, I started wondering about the impulse that leads people to create so much useful material and give it away to the whole world for free.

It’s a subject I’ve written about here before, including a post about Sheldon Brown, the creator of a comprehensive guide on how to maintain classic bicycles. Although the site eventually brought a lot of business into the shop where he worked, Brown created it as a labor of love, a gift he gave away without thought of profit.

The guys who made the videos I watched didn’t make a cent off of me, though I certainly saved a few bucks by taking their advice.

But you have to wonder: what’s in it for them?

What motivates people to share their expertise so widely, for free?

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