Frequently Asked Questions of ShowMeDo

What's your primary purpose?

To create a repository of peer-produced video tutorials and documentation focused on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) and a community of learners and teachers.

Tutorials and documentation tend to be the ugly stepchild of the open source movement but are as important a part of the process as the programming if the goal is to increase the number of people using and benefiting from the software. They are also fundamental to the process of countering the huge amount of soft and hard advocacy that proprietary software enjoys. In short, the existence of good documentation and tutorials is vital to the growth of FOSS.

There are many honorable exceptions but we know, from experience, of wonderful software that has involved an arduous slog through scant documentation and old or unfinished tutorials before the benefits are realized. Now we're technically minded types and will stick with things; we've many years experience and will usually find a way through.

However - many of the less adept will never make the journey and that's a great pity because users are the lifeblood of FOSS and that means newbies, people taking those first tentative steps away from proprietary lock-in, people who really need a helping hand or will otherwise turn away discouraged. We want to push the message that a good tutorial is a significant achievement and deserves recognition and the kudos that positive feedback provides.

Why screencasts?

We think that being talked though something while seeing it done is a particularly effective way to learn. The growth of web-video represents an opportunity to exploit this rich educational resource. For many situations we think screencasts are a more effective way to learn than textual guides, particularly those, such as manipulating a GUI, where the sparse nature of textual information is problematic.

Screencasts provide the reassurance that the learner hasn't missed some vital detail and that is vary valuable, particularly to beginners. We also believe that once one has acquired the skill screencasts are quicker and easier to produce than comparable documents. An important remit for the site is to help people make screencasts and get better at it. We have a growing community of screencasters swapping tips and tricks (see the Authors Forum).

What's with the Flash screencasts?

With its embrace by You-tube, Flash has become the de facto web video standard. By using Flash we can be fairly confident that a beginner, non-techy coming to the site will be able to play the videos without being sent on an often frustrating codec, driver or plugin hunt. While non-proprietary video forms are still immature and their reach limited, we see Flash as a necessary, pragmatic compromise. We are keeping our ear to the ground and following the development of open-source variants and hope, as we grow, to provide alternatives to Flash.

Adobe's Flash plugin (from v7 about 2 years ago) works fine across all platforms. The open-source Gnash player doesn't yet support the video player we use (jeroen's) but Miro plays the videos just fine. Offline you can view the videos using VLC, MPlayer and other open-source players.

So you only do Linux, right?

Not at all. Maybe too much emphasis is placed on operating systems rather than the software we spend most of our time using. Windows is a fact of life and for some a necessary choice, but most of the open-source projects have versions for Linux, Windows and OSX, among others.

Configuration details aside, tutorials for this software are applicable across the OS platforms. Of course, given the goals of the site, we want to see the open-source operating systems prosper. For the record, at ShowMeDo we find ourselves using OpenSuse, Ubuntu, Mac OSX and Windows XP (for IE debugging).

Can anyone post a screencast?

Yes and No - anyone can submit a screencast but all new videos are previewed by us before publishing. Only educational, useful material will be published (you won't find any ha-ha-granny-fell-off-a-log videos here!).

Most AVI/MOV/OGG videos are ok, some WMV (not the latest WMV9) are ok, SWFs are not ok. Learn more about adding a video to ShowMeDo.

How do I get my questions answered?

You can post a Comment on each video and the author of the video may get back to you (it all depends on how interesting your question is and how frequently they check their email!). You're better off asking questions in one of our forums:

Can I see a list of all your videos?

Sure, just follow this link to see all the video-series we have. It may take a while to load the page.

Showmedo is a peer-produced video-tutorials and screencasts site for free and open-source software (FOSS)- with the exception of some club videos, the large majority are free to watch and download.

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Educating the Open-source Community With Showmedo

Although as important as the software it supports, education and documentation are relatively neglected in the Open-source world. Coders love to code, and explaining how best to use or improve the software tends to be deferred or even sidelined.

At Showmedo we believe the community can play a vital role here and also say thanks for the tools and software that make our lives easier. If you have a piece of software you love or a programming langugage you are enthusiastic about, why not make a screencast showing others how to use it? All the stuff you wish you'd been told, the tips, tricks, insights that would have saved you time and frustration.

Screencasting is easier than you think, and we're happy to help you. You can emailus for advice or just use some of the how-to screencasts on the site. This screencasting learning-pathis a good place to start.

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Feedback

Showmedo's development is fairly rapid and bugs will inevitably creep in. If you have any problems please drop us a line using the contact address below. Likewise, any suggestions for improvements to the site are gratefully received.

feedback@showmedo.com