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Another reason why the Internet is so useful

As it appears to be fashionable these days for those in some quarters to denounce modern technology such as social media (ironically, usually doing so via social media, or the internet), let’s take some time out this holiday season to shower praise onto that platform, Youtube. It it is sometimes stated that the younger generation of adults knows little about DIY around the home, lacking the upbringing or training to do anything more challenging than change a light bulb. Sometimes factors such as the decline (in relative terms) of home ownership, or the supposed waning influence of DIY enthusiast Dads and the inadequacies of those much-maligned Millennials, are mentioned. While there is some truth in that, it is also worth noting that it has never been easier to find out ways to learn how to fix problems by firing up the internet and looking for demonstrations on how to solve an issue, such as sorting out a Kindle problem (which I did the other day and trouble-shot a problem), strip wood floors and revarninsh them (same) or clean old antique furniture with boiled linseed oil (ditto). When a gizmo goes wrong, chances are that a guy (it seems to be a man thing) has done a Youtube item about it, and shared it.

Here is an example from a person under the brand name of MrFixIt DIY.

22 comments to Another reason why the Internet is so useful

  • Fred Z

    I have for about 10 years employed full time an old fashioned ‘handyman’ type, self educated, not much formal schooling, intelligent and good with his hands. He went from being hostile to and fearful of the internet to being a wild enthusiast in about 3 minutes. He had to install some new something or other for me and the instructions were incomprehensible. I insisted we look it up before making the attempt.

    The internet is disintermediating everything, including, thank God, the education establishment.

  • John B

    The tiresome lament that ‘we’ are losing the skills of former generations overlooks the fact ‘we’ no longer need them because ‘we’ are a society of increasing specialisation and division of labour – and so much more wealthy ‘we’ can afford to hire someone to do things former generations could not afford.

    So the lamenters should add to litany: ‘we’ no longer know how to strip a car engine; hunt, kill, skin, butcher animals and preserve their meat; treat animal skin to make clothing; can no longer build a daub and wattle hovel; milk cows/goats or grow wheat and other crops; make flint axe heads and knives; make fire with two sticks; make clay pots… or know how to type DOS commands to search a computer directory or get it to print something. Well it’s a long list.

    It really is a wonderful life ‘we’ enjoy nowadays.

  • Stonyground

    Miss Stonyground, now 23, said, “I’ve realised that being an adult is mostly googling how to do stuff”.

  • Fraser Orr

    For many years now I have had a major character flaw: I was totally crap at wrapping presents. The disappointed looks, the quiet head-shakes, the social disapproval was more than I could handle this year. And so I found this web site called “youtube” that has all these videos on how to do stuff. And now I am an expert wrapper… I mean some of my gifts were wrapped so beautifully that my children paused to look at the wrapping for nearly half a second before disintegrating the paper to look at the goodies inside….

    Oh, and I also learned how to properly fold a tent.

    FWIW, my only complaint about YouTube is that it has a frightening lack of substantial competition, which makes it disturbingly powerful. There isn’t any reason why that should be, after all, if I run a youtube channel and I want my stuff on “we-dont-censor-tube.com” it would be simple enough to have a tool that you gave credentials on both systems and synced them up fully automatically. In a sense that is the whole power of the web. But nothing like that exists, I’m too busy to do it, and I don’t really know why nobody else does. It seems a small thing that could be done to enhance worldwide liberty.

  • Agammamon

    FWIW, my only complaint about YouTube is that it has a frightening lack of substantial competition,

    That’s only sort of true.

    Youtube certainly is a behemoth but there are multiple large competitors in several niches that YT service – for streaming you have Twitch (which is actually larger than YT in that segment) and Mixer. For short little videos we’ve seen multiple services come and go – Vines/TikTok/Vimeo are the current big names in this segment.

    Floatplane Club is a new service styling itself as a YT alternative with genuinely inclusive (ie, ‘if its not illegal we don’t care’). There’s Bitchute, which a lot of creators who are on the conservative side (or farther right or generally not ‘advertiser friendly’) have been going to because of YT’s sensitive, unfriendly, and inconsistent content policies.

    And finally, there’s Pornhub – which has a small but growing selection of non-pornographic (or even sexual) videos posted by people looking for a useful alternative to YT.

    I don’t really know why nobody else does

    Bitchute does, Floatplane Club will as more features roll out.

  • Stonyground

    Does anyone here watch the repair shop? There are a lot of traditional skills on display there. The New Yankee Workshop was also interesting.

  • Snorri Godhi

    For me, the web has been very helpful in expanding my cooking skills.
    For example, entrecote steak: not something that i grew up eating, let alone cooking.
    Also baking fish. Something that i used to do, but had forgotten how.

  • bobby b

    “So the lamenters should add to litany: ‘we’ no longer know how to strip a car engine; hunt, kill, skin, butcher animals and preserve their meat; treat animal skin to make clothing; can no longer build a daub and wattle hovel; milk cows/goats or grow wheat and other crops; make flint axe heads and knives; make fire with two sticks; make clay pots… or know how to type DOS commands to search a computer directory or get it to print something. Well it’s a long list.”

    Who’s “we”? 😛 (I can do them. My kids can do most of them. Many of my friends can do them. It’s culture.)

    There are still many people who value being able to do things more than they value being able to hire to get them done. Overspecialization makes for boring people. It’s undoubtedly a more efficient way to run a society, but the loss of pioneering – the loss of the habit of learning to do new things that need to be done – makes us meeker, and less useful individually.

    The internet has reintroduced a lot of that learning, and it’s great. Just working off of the nets yesterday, I replaced one of my guitar saddles, replaced a relay on my parents’ solar switchover, made some homemade Baileys IC, and found that Sounds of Silence is the only Disturbed song I like.

    I couldn’t have done those things if all I had to work with was libraries. For my money, the internet has been every bit as big as the industrial revolution. If it can help to return us to self-sufficiency even a bit, it’s wonderful.

  • Stonyground

    I could strip and rebuild a car engine but, unless I was a classic car enthusiast, I can’t think of a circumstance where I would have to. I once combined the parts of two broken MZ motor bikes to make one good one and used it to commute for several years. I fitted a new cam chain and two new valves to a 90s Triumph Daytona. I also recently fitted a new kitchen. But then I’m sixty one and could maybe be called a dying breed.

  • Stonyground

    I mentioned in conversation with relatives that I’m a generation or two removed from people who knew how to kill things and prepare them for cooking.

  • I know how to do lots of things – joining a historical re-creation group like the Society for Creative Anachronism practically guarantees it. Having been an experimental physicist adds a whole different layer. I’ll gladly grapple with wood, metal, cloth, and electricity. (I don’t do plumbing.) But I’ve also discovered/decided that I will only do these things if I cannot get the stuff commercially and affordably. It works. There are a lot of things you might want that you can’t get otherwise.

  • neonsnake

    I don’t know how to build a daub and wattle hovel, nor make flint axe heads and knives. I’ve not hunted, killed or skinned an animal, but I’ve butchered and preserved. I’ve done the rest (whether I’m rusty or not is another matter).

    I can strip a car that’s 40 years old. My capability with cars is on an inverse to their age, to the point that I’ve actually no idea if I could even change the headlamp in my daily driver. I certainly wouldn’t attempt to fix anything major, and I’m fairly sure it’s genuinely impossible without specialised equipment including propriety software.

    (Which is of course deliberate on the part of the manufacturers, and the relevant regulations that prop the bastards up!)

    Whilst over-specialisation can be more efficient (maybe – I’d venture that division of labour is often, although not always the efficiency, and that’s not quite the same), society needs to remain adaptable, and I’d venture that learning new skills teaches one to learn how to learn. So it gives one the confidence to try new stuff, and so I’d fancy my chances, with youtube next to me, of being able to skin a rabbit, say.

    An overly specialised worker in any given field of 30 years ago might struggle nowadays (I’m no coder, but I know a few of you are – would that statement hold up, or am I talking nonsense? Last time I coded something properly, it was probably on a ZX Spectrum).

    And in the list that we lament, I would venture that in most societies, on any given Tuesday, the hunter was not the person who skinned and cured the meat, nor preserved it; and that a different member of the tribe made the huts, and yet others grew the vegetables. Whether every member had a working knowledge or not, I’d venture that they mostly stuck to their speciality.

    If it can help to return us to self-sufficiency even a bit, it’s wonderful.

    Agreed. Increasingly, I’ve been doing a bit of “work” with a number of like-minded members of a loose local community, where we pool skills, and learn new ones, often from youtube and other sites, and trade stuff – nothing enormous, but things like mending shirts, shoes, cooking for each other, preserves; with the odd large project like re-upholstering someone’s sofa most recently. Oftentimes it’s because it’s cheaper, but it’s also for a bit of dignity (some of the people are disabled, and this gives them a way of working that outside of their actual “work” which can be quite demeaning, if they are even able to work) and at least an attempt at self-sufficiency for small communities. All of this is stuff that, whilst possible, would be much harder without the internet.

    I want to see about setting up or joining a fab-lab next.

  • Natalie Solent

    Even after a decade I remember with deep gratitude the plumbers’ forum where I not only found step by step instructions on how to unblock a lavatory, but was taken through them in real time by another kindly plumber (not the author of the instructions) who happened to answer my call for help. It was over a bank holiday and calling out a plumber would have cost a fortune we didn’t have.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is there seem to be a lot of helpful videos giving practical advice on things like cars and home repairs created by African Americans.

  • neonsnake

    Another thing I’ve noticed is there seem to be a lot of helpful videos giving practical advice on things like cars and home repairs created by African Americans.

    Ok.
    Why don’t we highlight that?

  • Zerren Yeoville

    It seems that pretty much anything you want to do, no matter how obscure, someone will have filmed a short tutorial on exactly how to do it and uploaded it to YouTube.

    When my car was serviced a little while ago, the battery was disconnected and replaced, with the result that the radio required a security code to be keyed in before it would work again. I had the necessary code, written inside the cover of the car manual by the previous owner, but the manual was unhelpfully devoid of instructions on how to key it in, as was the screen display of the radio itself, which just kept flashing ‘CODE IN’.

    Two minutes on YouTube, and I had the answer I needed complete with a visual demonstration of which buttons to press and in which order. Sorted.

  • Boobah

    …and found that Sounds of Silence is the only Disturbed song I like.

    Probably because it’s not a Disturbed song, it’s a Simon & Garfunkel song covered by Disturbed. Semantics, maybe, but since it both explains why it’s different and where to find similar music, it’s a useful distinction.

  • neonsnake

    Another thing I’ve noticed is there seem to be a lot of helpful videos giving practical advice on things like cars and home repairs created by African Americans.

    This was tugging at my mind overnight, so I reviewed my more recent how-to guides, and I think there’s something in this. Anything specific to classic cars is very much Old White Guy territory, but outside of that, it’s disproportionately not. In my case, it’s not necessarily African Americans, but it’s very much not Old White Guy. I don’t really know why, but it’s piqued my curiosity.

    There’s something vaguely hinting at a “absent of do-gooders trying to control their narrative” story here. Or maybe I’m reading more into it than it warrants.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . it’s a Simon & Garfunkel song covered by Disturbed.”

    Yeah, I said it wrong. Old S&G fan here. But Draiman really did make it his own.

    “In my case, it’s not necessarily African Americans, but it’s very much not Old White Guy.”

    My take on it: our current social ethic revolves around money. People with lots of it revel in how they can hire out what they want done. Such people do not sully their hands with tradespeople crap (unless it’s a fun gentleman’s hobby.) The lack of DIY knowledge has become a positive financial/social signifier in itself. Gentlemen don’t do plumbing.

    It’s the people who need to watch their dollars who end up learning to do things themselves if they want them done. Blacks are disproportionately clustered into this group. Some blacks see great value in passing down what they’ve learned, partially because it’s of great value to their own groups, who disproportionately cannot afford to pay someone else.

    Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him to diagnose and replace a faulty TPS, and he can drive to work for months, and fix it again when it breaks. Makes a bigger difference to people who can’t just run out and pick up a new car.

  • neonsnake

    It’s the people who need to watch their dollars who end up learning to do things themselves if they want them done.

    Definitely passes the smell test. As does the bit about passing down what they’ve learned.

    I wonder as well if those people (or any disadvantaged group) are simply more likely to look for and form communities of their own – thinking of the disabled group that I know, that feels right, in terms of creating Facebook groups for people with “XX” illness or condition. And they’re definitely very keen on helping and looking after each other.

    For all of the moans about technology and Facebook and whatnot, for some people I’d say it’s been an (almost literal) life-saver.

    I think it’s a great example of what people can do when (largely) left to self-organise, especially and particularly for the less fortunate. Definitely worth highlighting more, for me.

    Good thread, this. Really nice to see people talking positively about the benefits of “less meddling and more letting people get on with it”.

  • Natalie (December 30, 2019 at 6:09 pm), a strong tradition of black craftsmen dates back to the antebellum years when the same plantation owners who were not overeager to teach their slaves to read were very eager to train them as blacksmiths, carpenters and the like. Besides the advantage to a largely-self-sufficient plantation of having such skills on hand, the value-enhancing effect of such training on the slave’s value accrued to the owner rather than if the trained and experienced slave had been able to resign and seek new work.

    After the civil war, the low unionisation of the south meant that now-freed blacks were able to go on using and profiting (more) from these skills even as blacks in the north were often shut out from working as skilled craftsmen by the restrictive practices of unions. (Unions raise members’ wages by restricting the supply of workers – no prizes for guessing which racial group tended to lose out wherever unions were strong enough to do this.)

    I agree with bobby b (December 31, 2019 at 9:52 am) that people who must conserve money have motive to learn these skills. However it may be that some of the old traditions survived the PC assault on the cohesion of poor black communities and resisted the urge to adopt victim status.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Niall and bobby,

    Excellent comments. *does not faint w/ surprise*

  • neonsnake

    Happy new year, peeps!

    I’m utterly twatted. Hope you are too!

    Here’s to a new decade! (Do one with yer well actually 2011 is the actual new decade shite)

    Here’s to a decade of living our own best lives!

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