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?

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: You can read more than 100 of Terry Gallagher’s past columns by clicking on this link. And Please, we always invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-“f” icons).

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Do It Yourself Videos: Want to whistle with your fingers? Fillet a pike?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Do It Yourself Videos

You Tube video how to whistle with your fingersA Note from Dr. Wayne Baker: This week, please welcome back the popular OurValues columnist Terry Gallagher. Thanks, Terry!

After I was able to get my ancient lawnmower running again, thanks to some free advice I picked up watching how-to videos on the web, I could hardly contain myself, bragging to anybody who would listen.

The next day, I was boasting to a mechanic at my local service station; after working on my cars for years, he would be especially surprised to hear that I got a stalled motor running again.

He gave me a funny look, and said the thing happened to him. No, not a clogged carburetor, but a snapping turtle he had caught inadvertently while fishing.

Just as I did, he turned to YouTube, where he found a video of a couple of “good old boys” showing how to clean and cook a turtle. The next day, he was eating turtle soup.

Since then, everyone I’ve run into tells me about learning to tackle a new skill after watching how-to videos on YouTube.

Two different people told me they learned to fillet a Northern pike.

Another friend says he learned how to do the fingers-in-the-mouth whistle.

Last winter, I replaced burned-out bulbs in a 1970s-vintage stereo receiver, and reattached a wheel on my snow-thrower.

All of this user-generated instructional material on the web must have some economic value. At some level, people are saving money, mastering new skills, fixing old things and putting them back into service.

But what’s in it for the people who create this stuff? Is it an ego trip? Or simple generosity?

Have you ever made a video like this? If so, please tell us about it.

HOW TO WHISTLE WITH YOUR FINGERS

HOW TO FILLET A PIKE

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: You can read more than 100 of Terry Gallagher’s past columns by clicking on this link. And Please, we always invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-“f” icons).

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DIY Videos: Might there be a new life for TV French Chef Julia Child?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Do It Yourself Videos

A Note from Dr. Wayne Baker: This week, welcome back columnist Terry Gallagher.

TV French Chef Julia ChildOnce you start looking at the range of home-made how-to videos out there, there are definitely some surprises.

One friend told me he’s signed up to receive updates whenever a retired shop teacher named Mr. Pete posts new videos on YouTube, offering instruction in how to use such tools as “the ever- popular Craftsman Atlas 12-inch lathe and the ubiquitous Bridgeport j-head milling machine.”

“He’s great,” my friend reports, “especially if you have no idea how a machine shop works, that is, how to make a wheel, a screw, a nail or a bearing.”

While I’m pretty sure that most of us are never going to make our own nails, a lot of us enjoy watching other people cook on television. That’s true even among those of us who don’t know an escargot from escarole.

Julia Child, for example, has been a mainstay of popular entertainment since her 1963 television debut preparing her recipe for boeuf bourguignon, continuing in reruns even after her death a decade ago.

The rising popularity of cooking programs and online videos proves that an activity many people consider drudgery has become a popular spectator sport, best-selling author Michael Pollan writes in his most recent book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. Pollan points out that Americans now spend an average of 27 minutes per day preparing meals, less time than it takes to watch most cooking programs. “There are now millions of people who spend more time watching food being cooked on television than they spend actually cooking it themselves.”

JULIA CHILDS MAKES BOEUF BOURGUIGNON


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DIY Videos: Want an oven? ‘Simple Nick’ simply shares his wisdom

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Do It Yourself Videos

A Note from Dr. Wayne Baker: This week, welcome back columnist Terry Gallagher.

DIY Videos Simple Nick shows how to make a tandoor ovenDespite the basic production values and far-out subject matter, homemade how-to videos are not only entertaining, but often very useful.

One reader of this week’s series mentioned to me that he learned to make a tandoori oven from clay pots via YouTube videos.

I’m not sure which one he relied on—there are lots out there—but this one by “Simple Nick” seems typical. Nick seems genuinely interested in offering backyard cooks an inexpensive way to make special meals involving just a few minutes work. And, Nick appears to have made this helpful video with no other ulterior motive.

A lot of the how-to videos you find on the web are not made with such altruistic motives. Online segments from the PBS series This Old House, for example, subject viewers to scads of ads and product pitches all over the screen. And other creators of the how-to videos can take advantage of the YouTube Partner Program, which “allows creators to monetize content on YouTube through a variety of ways including advertisements, paid subscriptions, and merchandise,” according to their site.

It does seem, though, that many of helpful videos are created out of simple generosity, the desire to share something useful with other people.

One of my classically educated friends says this desire to share what you know with people in the dark is the same impulse that led the Greek god Prometheus to steal fire from Mt. Olympus and bring it to shivering humans.

Stealing fire makes sense when you think of Simple Nick and his home-made tandoori oven.

SIMPLE NICK: MAKING A TANDOOR OVEN

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What are the best DIY tips for making the best DIY videos?

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

Dawn Wells potato peeling videoA Note from Dr. Wayne Baker: This week, welcome back columnist Terry Gallagher.

Yesterday morning, I was talking with a friend about how easy it is to find useful how-to videos on the web. She mentioned a favorite, showing the perfect way to peel boiled potatoes for salad. It took me a few seconds to find this fun one, featuring (surprise!) Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island.

What if I wanted to make my own how-to video? Well, first, I’d search for advice showing me how. And as you might expect, I’d be in luck; there are dozens of YouTube videos out there, plus listicles offering tips on how to make better videos.

I’m intrigued by the 10 tips (and dozens of sub-tips) provided by Videomaker, the website created by Matt York who has been teaching people how to make better independent films since the days of Super-8! One of Matt’s online editors, Jennifer O’Rourke, wrote this list of DIY tips, including: use a script and avoid rambling, make it as short as possible, remember to use closeups on important steps in a process and even consider making money on your productions.

Of course, many of the people creating and sharing these videos don’t seem to be interested in profiting from them.

Their real motives might be related to one of the ten core American values that Wayne Baker has written about here and in his book, United America: self-reliance. These videos clearly encourage us to be more self-reliant, to fix our own appliances and our own meals.

But self-reliance isn’t an absolute value, Baker says. “Our strength as a nation comes from the balance of individualism and community.”

Don’t the best of these home-made videos seem like the kind of advice you’d get from a clever and helpful neighbor over the back fence? Aren’t many of the people who create these videos just like that neighbor, making their own generous contribution to building a stronger community, all over the world?

DAWN WELLS POTATO PEELING VIDEO

REALLY INTO DIY VIDEOS? WATCH THIS!

The Videomaker column I recommended (above) goes over general tips for anyone planning to make a DIY video. This next 8-minute video digs into the range of equipment you might want to consider if you’re wanting to do some serious DIY videomaking.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: You can read more than 100 of Terry Gallagher’s past columns by clicking on this link. And Please, we always invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-“f” icons).

 

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