How not to do a how to video

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My son needed a science fair project. So we searched the web. We didn’t actually know what we were searching for, we were just searching. But I remembered that a cool site existed that I always admired simply because it would be cool to create things like a solar powered hot water heater.

That’s when I rediscovered Instructables.com. It’s a great DIY website with videos or instructions on how to build just about anything. Even carve cool pumpkins!

So my son and I settled on building a levitation device out of magnets, which sounded really easy. We watched the video a dozen time, even though it seemed unbelievably easy. Once we got all the necessary parts we started putting it together.

Well it didn’t work.

So we continued to tinker and tinker and tinker and realized we actually started to learn about magnets and polarity, etc. That was good news for my son, bad news for the frustrated dad. But the video wasn’t for science fair projects or teaching you anything–it was to show you how to build something. If this were a chair you’d have to realize that nails were important on your own.

So you can understand what that the video left out some important things. One example is that the magnets polarity aren’t going to be the same as his. He put his in sideways–that wouldn’t work for us. He never told us how to keep our magnets on the stick without shoot towards each other and constantly locking up. Nor did he mention how the magnets are anchored because they end up pulling the magnets in the styrofoam out of the styrofoam.

Moral of the story: if you want someone to learn how to do something–you better teach them. Leaving things ambiguous is not a move in the right direction. The same goes for wacky commercials that never tell you about the product or why you should care. The one commercial that comes to mind during the Super Bowl was the Hulu.com commercial.

I love Hulu.com. I watch television shows on there all the time. That ad didn’t convince me that its nearly as cool of a website as it is. Sell the features not Alec Baldwin goofing off as Jack Donaghy. And thanks to the bad commercial many viewers don’t even know who Jack Donaghy is or that they can watch him on “30 Rock” anytime they want. Oops.

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