One of my most recent acquisitions is the fascinating book “Dick’s Encyclopedia of Practical Receipts and Processes or How They Did it in the 1870’s.” Its a reprint of a book that was a guide to, well, everything. Making dyes, controlling insects, creating food, various measurements and so on. It’s basically a catalog of practical knowledge from the 19th century that people would need – and in a time where you lacked easy access to specialists and stores we take for granted.
It’s out of print sadly, but you can find used copies around the internet (I got mine at Amazon), or even find it online at Archive.org.
The value isn’t just in historical curiosity, though there’s plenty here. There’s real, practical advice here for all sorts of things that you can use if you’re a DIY type, a Maker, a cook, or a Cosplayer. Admittedly there’s also stuff that can kill you if you’re not careful, but I’m going to assume you’ll be cautious if you decide to start playing with acid or something.
So yeah, go buy this book. Try and get it reprinted. I’m already planning to use copies as a gift.
But more than that all this, it got me thinking. We all know that’s dangerous.
We here in the Geekosphere are active folks, doing all sorts of things. We cosplay, we write, we do websites, we make games, we run conventions. There’s a bunch of things we just do and do enthusiastically – even if we don’t do it well, we do it, and probably do it until we are good enough at it.
Now if you’ve ever wanted to find out how to “do a thing” you know how tough it is. Maybe it’s learning a given piece of code, or getting the LEDs into your costume, running a convention, or using a cooking hack. Sure there are directions online or in books, but you have to find them, sort them out, and figure out what works – and that’s also between the ads, the comments, and the need to be on the internet.
And it’s hard to share.
So I’m thinking we need to become a whole lot of Dicks.
Your Encyclopedia Of Practical Receipts
So let me get my idea out of my head here.
I think you and your fellow fans should band together around your subject of expertise and both record your knowledge and get other contributions to make your own Encyclopedia of Practical Stuff. Curate it, edit it, then you publish it in some appropriate format and share it with the world. I’d encourage at least one format to be physical
Oh, and promote the heck out of it, get it into the hands of clubs and libraries, and share the knowledge.
Why? Because of the following reasons:
- Yes, online knowledge is useful, but it’s also uncurated in many cases, requires a device to access, and may be scattered about.
- The act of curation results in quality information (if you do it right). The act of curation also helps you find and fill gaps.
- It allows for a non-electronic record of knowledge that can be gifted, shared, disseminated, and stored. Always a good thing.
- It gets other people to do it!
Imagine if you will the following:
- A guide to Cosplay Tricks for making common things like gems, wings, etc. A handbook for your club or group.
- A guide to running a convention. A constant complaint I hear from people running conventions is “there has to be a handbook and there isn’t.” OK gang, write one.
- Bite-sized publicity guides for authors and artists. Trust me, I wish I had one (hey . . .)
- Cooking Hacks on ways to replace common unhealthy ingredients, store things, and so on. Hey, I can replace the taste of meat with things like soy sauce, mushrooms, and red wine . . .
The sky’s the limit. So get with it already!
Need more encouragement?
The Personal Benefits
There’s other personal benefits you should consider. Sure it may be a labor of love, but maybe a look at what you’ll get out if it may encourage you to unquestionably follow my directives!
First, you’re assembling a book. The benefits from that alone are:
- You learn to put a book together. Now if you’re like me this is no big shakes. But still it’s educational.
- You’ll learn to edit a book – or get someone to edit for you. Very educational.
- You’ll learn how to electronic publish. Again you may already know. If not, it’s very educational.
- You’ll learn how to physically publish. That’s another world. Trust me.
My book publishing experience was invaluable to me – and I haven’t really done anything like the Encyclopedia (not that I’m not considering it). It was an entirely different world, and I gained a lot of skills in formatting, layouts, and not bashing my head against the desk due to a cover misalignment.
However, you’re probably working with a team or have to talk to and interview people:
- You’ll make friends and meet new people.
- You can then connect people to each other – introducing people you meet.
- You’ll learn to work with people – some of whom will be quite difficult.
- You’ll probably learn to interview people.
- You may learn how to lead a team.
When I did my books on Cosplay and Fanart careers, I had to interview a lot of people, and it was amazing. I made friends, I made contacts, I had my eyes opened on everything from chain mail to gender issues to politics. I almost miss it and want to do an “interview book” just for the thrill of talking to people.
Imagine giving yourself six months to try this. Give it a try and see how it goes.
Some Miscellaneous Advice
OK, if I’ve convinced you to try this, here’s a few more things to think about.
- Try doing this as part of a website, club, or convention to rally resources, have a platform, and maybe promote your other work.
- Remember these books make great gifts, prizes, and more.
- Putting a book together with a team means you can act as professional references for each other in some cases.
- Doing this encourages others to do it. Maybe they even think your version sucks and want to do their own – good, rise to the challenge!
- Write up your experience so others can put it to use.
Now, you have the idea – Make It So!
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.