The economy is in trouble and we're all cutting back on spending, unsure of what the future might hold. We're also starting to realize that maybe doing things ourselves instead of hiring outside help is a great idea.
But if you're someone like me, building a deck in the back yard or, heck, painting vaulted ceilings, just isn't something you're proficient at. But luckily for us, there are a slew of sites across the Web that provide articles and videos that can help us complete any project.
5min.com I like 5min because I can learn about almost anything in, well, 5 minutes or less.
5min features videos from users who are experts on a particular subject. Sometimes, their expertise is buying an electric shaver. Other times, it's installing weatherstripping. Either way, you can find anything from the simple to the complex on 5min.
Although the videos are great, my favorite feature on 5min is the company's video player. Unlike some players that only let you play, stop, rewind, and fast-forward a clip, 5min's video player lets you zoom in, proceed frame-by-frame, and run the video in slow motion so you don't miss any steps. That feature comes in especially handy when you watch a video on a complex topic and the expert is moving too fast in their instruction.
eHoweHow is a fantastic how-to site that includes both videos and articles. And although there aren't nearly as many videos on the site as other services like 5min, eHow still provides a fine alternative for learning how to get things done.
eHow enlists the help of professionals to create the more than 300,000 articles on the site. From learning how to tie a tie, to how to caulk, the site has it all. That said, if you're looking for video, you're not going to find much on eHow--it's designed to provide step-by-step text instructions. Sometimes, especially when I need to figure out how to build something like a deck, that's ideal. But for simple topics like learning how to throw a baseball, a video works much better. In those cases, I tend to use sites like 5min or Expert Village instead.
You will be forced to sit through commercials on the company's videos, but that's not a big deal--they're only 15 seconds long and run before the clip. I should also note that the site's video player doesn't offer all the extras like those that you'll find with 5min, so you'll probably find yourself moving the slider back quite often to figure out how to do something.
But video isn't what eHow is all about. The site is ideal when you want to bring instructions with you wherever you need to complete a task. Unlike 5min or Expert Village, I don't need to sit in front of my computer to see how to sand wood flooring when I use eHow; I can print out the instructions and read them. And on complex projects, having that option is ideal.
Expert Village is a little different from a service like 5min, which allows users to upload videos to display their expertise. Expert Village employs experts who work in fields ranging from music to home improvement who research particular topics and create short videos--usually no longer than five minutes--detailing how to perform a particular task.
The value of Expert Village's use of experts is seen almost immediately. Sure, you can find a really informative video on 5min and it might provide the same quality as something on Expert Village, but generally, that's the exception, not the norm.
According to Expert Village's internal figures, the site features over 131,000 videos that have been viewed more than 292 million times. And given the wide range of topics those videos cover, Expert Village is an ideal source for help.
One especially nice offering that shouldn't be overlooked is Expert Village's series. Unlike 5min or even eHow, some Expert Village experts stay on one topic and create a series of videos to walk you through a process.