Vernacular learning and teaching on the internet.

Around the nooks and crannies of the deep web (i.e. old-fashioned forums, DIY communities, Q&A platforms, less popular personal blogs) there exist vast numbers of tinkerers, ambitious hackers, hobby enthusiasts and makers.

There the tutorial reigns. Posts along posts; tasklists; hastily made notes; other people’s comments. Fleeting content in its essence. Software setups are notorious for breaking after a couple of years. Mechanical parts and tools are not that short-lived but most often their exact specifications are missing. Too much is assumed to be known already.

YouTube now, has pulled most of these crowds into producing screencasts and consuming how-to ’s in an unprecedented scale. Yet YouTube is video, and video is still not easy to search for. Unless the content creator actually bothered to transcribe or use keywords for it. Searchable keywords or phrases are at the heart of the tutorial culture.

I know for certain that you have benefited much from others. Yes you, that takes pride at googling good. Next time you come up a solution for something that had been troubling you for a while, consider replying to that forum or StackExchange thread you copied bits and pieces from. Make a longer post for something that cannot fit in these formats and post it on a blog. You will eventually make some people happier by giving back.

Unlimited access to educational resources was one of the biggest promises of the early internet. I’m very fond of the Hacker’s Manifesto, because of its passionate attitude towards knowledge and the commons:

You bet your ass we’re all alike… we’ve been spoon-fed baby food at school when we hungered for steak… the bits of meat that you did let slip through were pre-chewed and tasteless. We’ve been dominated by sadists, or ignored by the apathetic. The few that had something to teach found us will- ing pupils, but those few are like drops of water in the desert.

It’s a text often described with a condescenting nostalgia of what the Web 2.0 should have been; as opposed to what it turned up to be. But there’s hope, as long as people make things and write about it.