This list of web-based resources will point you toward web sites that will help you learn how to do new things, stay on top of current events, and learn about topics where your current knowledge may be lacking. And these resources will do all that in under 10 minutes each day. Do you know of any other sites where people can absorb quality, new information in under 10 minutes? Add them in the comments!
5min bills itself as a “life videopedia,” which essentially means that it aggregates and hosts instructional and DIY how-to videos from sites all over the web. The site hosts tens of thousands of videos on everything from cooking to ethics, from fighting the common cold to living with cancer, from parenting to playing the guitar. Though the 5min moniker is a bit misleading — many videos on the site are longer than 5 minutes — most of the content is under 10 minutes long, meaning you can easily absorb educational nuggets of information during your lunch break.
MonkeySee is another instructional video sharing site that invites experts to share both amateur and professionally created how-to and advice videos. Though many of the videos are over 10 minutes in length, they’re broken up into short 3-4 minute segments, allowing you to view them in chunks whenever you have spare time. The site is also unique in that videos come with printable transcripts, can be downloaded to mobile devices for on-the-go viewing, and include biographical information about the expert to help you determine if this is someone you’d like to trust to teach you something new.
You may not immediately think of YouTube as a place to go to learn, and certainly the site is filled with more than its share of silly, brain-cell-erasing videos. But buried beneath all the fluff is a treasure trove of great how-to and educational content, and because of the site’s 10 minute time limit on most videos, you can learn new things in no time flat. Start at the YouTube EDU section, which aggregates content from colleges and universities, then branch off and search the site for how-to clips on any topic you want to learn about.
The just-launched iMinds publishes original, short audio podcasts about liberal arts topics (such as history, economics, current events, and business) that are approximately eight minutes in length each. The idea is to allow people to learn new things, from a credible source while on the go. The tracks are available via iTunes and Audible.com for 99 cents each, while longer, multi-track lessons are sold for $3.99 (6 tracks) up to $24.99 (72 tracks).
The iMinds concept of delivering short, high quality audio books is sound, and we think they offer an interesting way for busy people to absorb new information. The Australian-based company is adding one to two new tracks per week and plans to have several hundred audio books on a variety of topics available by the end of 2010.
5. The Week
The Week is a printed current events magazine delivered, rather predictably, once per week. The magazine summarizes the news of the previous week by drawing on a variety of sources to present a short, but balanced, overview of issues. A recent summary of US President Barack Obama’s shifting policies relating to Afghanistan, for example, drew on information from articles and editorials in the Washington Post, Slate, Politico, and from the blog Hot Air.
On their web site, The Week does the same thing but without the 7-day delay, providing a great way for busy readers to learn about current events — with links original sources in order to dig deeper if they have the time.
HowStuffWorks, which is now owned by the same company that owns The Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, is a great information site that endeavors to clearly explain how things work in layman’s terms. Articles are paginated, illustrated, and written in a format that makes reading and digesting them quickly very doable. Many articles are accompanied by videos that make understanding abstract or unfamiliar concepts even easier.
The site has a huge team of well-credentialed writers that produce the content.
Instructables is a huge community of do-it-yourselfers who actively engage in creating and sharing well-illustrated, step-by-step how-to articles on everything from building robots to repairing torn clothing to creating 3D anamorphic sidewalk art (really). The guides are written by the extremely vibrant community, and all follow the same, step-by-step illustrated format that make comprehending the information quickly a snap.
Each guide can also be downloaded as a PDF file for easy offline viewing and printing.
The ten-year-old eHow is one of the largest how-to sites on the Internet, with over 160,000 videos and a whopping 600,000 articles. The majority of the articles, which are often presented in a clear and concise step-by-step format, can be consumed in under 10 minutes, as can their how-to videos. Of course, the things they teach you how to do might take up more than 10 minutes of your day.
wikiHow is the last “how-to” site on our list. It’s built using the familiar Wikpedia model: anyone can contribute a how-to article and anyone else can edit it and make it better by refining the steps, adding photos, or correcting mistakes. The site has over 61,000 articles and all of them are free and Creative Commons licensed.
The oddly named Shvoong is a user generated summary site on which users submit summaries (and short reviews) of everything — from books to blogs to movies to news articles. For those who are in a hurry, but still want to be in the know so they can participate in water cooler discussions at work, Shvoong might be the site for you. Because the summaries are user submitted, they are of varying quality, but they’re all short enough to be read in under 10 minutes and the better ones are certainly edifying.
For those who prefer more professionally produced summaries, check out SparkNotes. The site, which was founded in 1998 by a group of Harvard students, offers hundreds of free summarized versions of books, textbooks, and entire subject overviews for a wide range of topics. The notes on the site are written by students or recent graduates at top-tier universities.
Image courtesy of iStockphoto, ARTappler