There’s nothing more dangerous than someone who can’t admit that they don’t know what they’re doing, which is why it’s not a bad idea to follow Socrates example and start by knowing you know nothing. Sometimes it takes more than the right screwdriver and the best intentions to succeed at anything.
It’s all about preparation. That’s why the best artists have taken a few art classes, the best musicians have taken music lessons, and the best athletes still show up for practice. Creativity, enthusiasm and instinct are powerful forces, but without structure and discipline we tend to get nowhere fast.
For example, I hate taping before painting a room when I know I can just use a cutting brush to get close to the edges of things… wrongly assuming I’ll have the patience to go as slow as that takes to cut the edges properly. As a result I go over the line, get paint where I shouldn’t, and spend far more time repainting than I would have taping.
If you think that’s pathetic, you should see me fix my bike.
Luckily the Internet has a wealth of instructional websites on a huge range of topics. I’ve mentioned a few in previous articles over the years, including HowTo.com about a hundred times, but I recently found a list of teaching sites at www.readwriteweb.com that will help me out a lot.
Instructables — www.instructables.com — This site bills itself as the “World’s Biggest Show & Tell”, and includes thousands of videos and illustrated instructions on how to do an amazing number of things. The main topics are Art, Craft, Food, Games, Home, Life, Offbeat, Ride and Tech — the latter of which includes a gigantic list of do-it-yourself modifications for popular technology. The Ride section should be of particular interest to Whistler residents, with a full range of bike mods and repair advice, as well as a video on how to make a hovercraft in 15 minutes. The Home section also has a lot of useful information and ideas for home projects.
SuTree — www.sutree.com — Their motto is “Watch & Learn”, and the archive is entirely video based. It includes a lot of the same categories as Instructables, such as Gaming, Home and Garden, and Wheels, but also offers a lot of different content under Brain Games, Business and Career, College and University, Computers, Electronics, Everyday Advice, Family and Parenting, Fashion and Personal Care, Food and Drink, Fun and Tricks, Health, Hobbies, Kids Stuff (a must for any parent on a rainy day), Languages, Money and Finance, Pets and Animals, Religion and Spirituality, School and High School, Sound and Music, Sports and Travel. The current list of user videos featured includes a guide to stock market math by CNN.com, a guide to how to replace your own iPod hard drive, some common Italian phrases, advice on how to choose a Christmas tree, and 10 ways to get a baby to sleep. They get videos from about 250 sources, and have over 11,000 videos in their archives.
TrickLife — www.tricklife.com — TrickLife has a lot of similar topics to the previous two help sites with the notable addition of Entertainment and Romance/Sex advice. However, TrickLife’s real strength is in computers, with dozens of tutorials that will help you get more out of your hardware and software. Some recently posted advice includes advice on how to put a PayPal account on your webpage, how to program your own text strategy game, and how to freeze your Hotmail account. Interestingly, there’s also a tutorial on how to unlock your car using a cell phone.
VideoJug — www.videojug.com — VideoJug has similar content to other instruction sites, but more of it. They have about 15,000 video tutorials at this point from a huge variety of sources. Videos also include text to make things easier to understand.
Expert Village — www.expertvillage.com — This is supposedly the biggest site of its kind on the web with close to 50,000 videos, all made by pre-approved experts in various fields. You can learn everything from guitar to eyebrow waxing to baking bread to checking your car battery for corrosion.
eHow — www.ehow.com — is a popular tutorial site, with most of their videos made by their own editorial team and a few user submitted videos that met their standards. This is probably one of the most highbrow of the instructional sites, and is definitely one of the most popular. Most of the content is text and graphics, although the video library is growing.
The list is too long for a single column, but other good mentions include About.com (do a how-to search on any topic and About.com is usually front and centre), Household Hacker, the Make: Podcast, 5min, ViewDo, Sclipo, TeacherTube, Koonji, and Squidoo. Bookmark them all, and use them as a reference before you start any project.