The Folksy Power of YouTube

Alexis Madrigal had to relight the pilot on his gas water heater, so he turned to YouTube:

What I love about this kind of knowledge transfer is that it’s so human. The video is shot from a first-person point-of-view, the narrator talks directly to you, and there are no cuts. The lack of production value is a feature, not a bug. When MrOzcar82 struggles for a few seconds getting the flame lit, I think that’s useful information. If you too struggle, as I did, to get the flame lit, you realize, “Hey, no big deal, just try again.” And I’m clearly not the only one who finds his videos useful: his two tutorials one pilot lighting (one water heater, one furnace) have received something like 300,000 views.

If you start to search around on YouTube for various household fix-ups, you find all kinds of people posting similar how-tos. Some of them have higher production values than this one. Others are created by companies trying to capitalize on how-to videos. But mostly it’s just helpful people who decided to record a video and post it to YouTube for some reason.

At a time when it’s easy to get jaded about changes enabled by Internet technology, I find myself coming back to YouTube — and this kind of video — to be reminded of the mundane wonders of this network. The Internet is not all trolls writing about pop culture; there are a lot of MrOzcar82s out there just adding a little more to the world for no good reason.

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