Web site for sharing how-to knowledge


By Larry Magid / San Jose Mercury News
10/01/2007 01:50:21 AM PDT

we’ve seen a lot of video sharing sites trying to imitate YouTube and
plenty of new social networking companies whose founders hope to
someday be rich like the guys who started MySpace and Facebook. I wish
them luck, but that’s not enough. They need to do something both
different yet useful in its own unique way. Being different for its own
sake won’t help because there’s a reason why leading companies evolve
as they do – the sites also have to serve a real and so far largely
unmet need. has
caught my interest because it offers a compelling solution to a real
problem. And it’s playing in the learning and training arena where
people and companies spend lots of money.

Think of Graspr as a
YouTube for learning. Like YouTube, users can easily watch or post
videos. But unlike that free-for-all network, where you’re likely to
find almost anything that can be captured by a camera, Graspr welcomes
only videos that "make knowledge more accessible."

In addition to posting or watching videos, members of the free service
can make text annotations or notes on a video for their own use or to
share with other community members. It’s also possible for members to
exchange messages with others, including those who post instructional
videos. The site, which went into its public beta last week, currently
hosts more than 10,000 videos from 1,100 producers. Subject matter
categories include computers, crafts, food and drink, music, sports and
recreation, health and fitness, home and garden and, of course, pets.

Graspr was founded by former Yahoo Vice President Teresa Phillips, who
said she was inspired to start the service from her experience caring
for a child born three months premature.

"We wanted to learn from people to help make us smarter," Phillips
said, adding that the goal of Graspr is "to help make us smarter by
making knowledge more accessible and affordable."

I already have plans to use the site. Like a lot of people, I could
benefit from some strength training. I’ve been working out on machines
at the Y but I’d like to also learn a bit about using free weights from
home. It’s easy to find written advice but when it comes to doing
something physical that could hurt me if done improperly, I want to see
how an expert does it. Video is the next best thing to hiring a
personal trainer. Graspr has just the videos I need and I don’t have to
pay for a DVD or wait for it to come in the mail.

If you’ve ever tried to fix a flat on a bicycle tire you probably know
there are some tricks that can be hard to explain. I searched "fix a
bike tire" on Graspr and immediately found a helpful video.

Cooking is a popular category on Graspr. My wife and I sometimes watch
cooking shows on the Food Channel but what are the odds they’re going
to be cooking something you want to make that night? With online access
to lots of cooking demonstrations there’s a good chance you’ll find one
on whatever dish you’re craving.

Contributors aren’t paid for their videos but they can use them to
promote their own Web sites or products. The few Graspr videos I
watched did that subtly and in context without over-the-top
self-promotion. I hope the community feedback mechanisms on Graspr
prevent others from using the site to post infomercials.

In an overview document, Graspr quotes data research firms predicting
that "the online video market will grow to $15.6 billion by 2012 and
that ad revenues from online video will grow from $216 million in 2006
to $965 million in 2011." Those numbers are interesting but not nearly
as impressive as the amount of money spent on instructional training
outside of the educational system, which is nearly $49 billion a year,
according to Phillips. She said her company has long-term plans to
offer paid premium content.

Graspr isn’t the only online video site dedicated to instructional video. and
are also in this space. But by combining solid information and
community interaction, Graspr seems to have a good grasp on how people
actually learn.

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