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Books are better than YouTube videos

Saturday August 12, 2023

I recently found a public land preserve that contains some of the only old growth forest in my state. Problem is though, it’s undeveloped. The state bought the land to protect the woods and then did nothing with it for the last 100 years. In order to get to it I have to bushwhack a quarter mile off trail. Once there it’s surrounded on 3 sides by private property. As much as love wandering in the woods, I don’t love wandering into peoples back yards. With no smartphone to guide me I decided to brush up on my orienteering skills.

Like anything online nowadays, the only useful search results are YouTube videos. I watched a few and of course got sucked down the rabbit hole. I can’t fault them for being unhelpful, in fact the problem with YouTube is quite the opposite. Every video on orienteering is 30 - 45 minutes long and explains every detail with demonstrations. It’s theoretically a great way to learn, but sometimes you don’t need to know everything.

Books (especially old books) don’t hold your hand. One of my favorite textbooks, “Practical Descriptive Geometry” by William Griswold Smith, published in the early 1900s, wastes no time getting to the point. It defines some first principles and then jumps straight into solving complex geometry problems. On top of having no filler content, there’s a page at the beginning that tells me exactly where the information I want is so I don’t have to look through a bunch of less imminently useful material to learn how to draft intersections of curved surfaces. On a video you have to click around at pseudo-random points hoping to jump over the b-roll and not anything important.

I spent at least two hours today watching YouTube videos and I can summarize everything I learned in about 35 seconds of reading.

Here it is:

(I actually timed it; it was about 50 seconds while simultaneously proof reading.)

I was thinking about writing another article on how self help videos are the worst thing ever but this seems like a good place to cram it in. There’s probably 20 identical “self-help” videos talking about how YouTube is a time sink and they’re all between 12 and 18 minutes long with a midroll ad. A lot of the ideas espoused in these videos are decent, but do they really need to be said?

Before I started painting I designed the perfect pochade box for plein air based on all of my needs. When I took it out I realized all of my “needs” were either unnecessary or easily addressed in a much better (simpler) way. All of the features I worked into this pochade box got in the way and made it obnoxious to use. Self-help videos are what happens when you try to do that with life itself. People (me) are so afraid of doing something sub-optimal that they’d rather never do anything at all. But optimization is impossible before something actually works. Once you’ve got it going then you can ask “How can I improve this?” and it should be obvious what and how.

We need a based.cooking for other useful skills. Is outside.wiki taken?

Tags: technology , lifestyle