It's not a poetic reflection on one of the first chilly, dark nights of Autumn, it's a fact: we spend our days far more isolated from other people than our parents or grandparents did. As someone who works online many hours of every day, I can vouch for that. Sometimes I stumble out of my office and down the hallway to chat with Marge or Roberta because I am, as a childhood friend's Mother used to say, "Starving for adult conversation."
One side effect of this social isolation can be a lack of good sources for help and advice. Living relatively alone for the last 9+ years, there have been so many times I could have used a sounding board for how to fix something in the house or the car (my parents, while lovely, intelligent people, would be the first to tell you they are not very "handy" people). Turns out, the same World Wide Web I work on for so many hours daily is a great source for helpful "how to" advice. I've used the Web to find out how to disconnect a washing machine and how to mix a martini in all its varieties. Of course Web sites are super handy for driving directions. Along with being a librarian, I'm a professional singer, and the Web helps me find song lyrics or tunes to download when I need to learn something fast. It may not be the same as leaning over the backyard fence, getting advice from a neighbor, or as snazzy as a GPS system in the car, but it's better than being left to your own devices! In these tough economic times, more of us are going to be tempted to attempt household and auto repairs on our own, so it's good to know where to find help.
Here are a few worthwhile places to look online for "how to" instructions, advice and ideas. But, "Caveat Websurfer," or something like that: remember that most of the advice on these sites has been posted by well-meaning, supposedly knowledgeable experts. I find it's best to get a second or third opinion, too, (often available on the same site) and see if all the sets of instructions jive with each other before jumping into my task.
Bloggers can be excellent sources of advice and instruction - you can browse by topic at a site like Bloglines.com, find blogs that deal specifically in advice, like The Wisdom Journal, or just do a Google search: blog how to change a tire.
eHow - How To Do Just About Everything
Lowe's Home Improvement How To Library
Yahoo Answers - Get answers from real people, browse for information
For automobile repair help, visit our own Automotive Subject Guide.
How Stuff Works - more of a learning site, with some "how to" thrown in
How To Videos - from About.com
Expert Village - how to videos, topics from playing the bass guitar to plucking your eyebrows
Are you an expert on a topic? Many of these sites will let you contribute your expertise as well.
Do you have a favorite "how to" or advice site online? Share it with us in the Comments section.