How do you write really good instructions? Lego versus Meccano


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If you’ve read Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, you’ll know that one of the questions that Sophie receives during her mysterious philosophical journey is this:

  • “Why is Lego the most ingenious toy in the world?”

The writer didn’t ask why Meccano was the most ingenious toy.

And clearly, the answer has to do with the creativity that Lego inspires. But I also think part of the ingenuity of lego is to do with the instructions.

I should declare my biases up front. I’m 45 and I’ve been playing with Lego for a long time.

This includes for the last 17 years with three kids. Two girls and a boy. In this time I’ve tried a handful of Meccano projects compared with countless lego kits including Duplo.

Meccano, if you don’t know, predates Lego. My Dad grew up with Meccano before they invented Lego.

Think nuts and bolts and metal struts. Except now it’s plastic.

Meccano used to be the bomb. At least in 1950. Or something. But man… now Lego is the bomb. Lego rules over Meccano.

And not just in terms of versatility. I’m talking about how they write instructions.

Giving clear instructions is really hard. You’ll know this if you’ve ever had to follow anyone else’s.

First off though, you have to pitch your instructions at the right level. And that means you need to know who you’re writing to. The audience in other words.

Lego totally nails this. I have total confidence that if I buy a Lego kit that says for age 8 to 10 it will absolutely work for this age group.

The Meccano set my wife came home with the other day was for my son.

He’s just turned eight. Which seemed perfect because that’s what the kit said on the packet. For 8 years old.

Normally, he can concentrate for hours on stuff like Lego. And to give him credit, he persisted for a decent amount of time.

But eventually, he gave up in frustration. There were tears… there were raised voices… Crying etc.

So I gave it a go the other day. The outcome was basically the same.

Not only would I need four hands to complete the task, it was like I couldn’t understand the instructions and there seemed to be pieces missing or that didn’t match.

Comparatively speaking, there is no comparison. Granted, it’s not all about the instructions.

But if you want to learn how to write instructions, you need to go no further than the Lego best practice playbook which must read something like this:

  1. Understand the audience.
  2. Pitch the instructions at their level.
  3. Use colour, diagrams, images.
  4. Include all the resources the audience needs.
  5. Use words only when necessary.
  6. Love the product.

How Do You Save A YouTube Clip for training purposes?


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If you’re anything like me you would have wondered from time to time how to save a YouTube clip to your hard drive or to a USB drive so you can play it whenever you want.

Why not just stream it? Well… you might not have access to an internet connection when you need it.

Or, like me, you might be paranoid that the internet connection you’ve been promised will be patchy and fail at the crucial moment.

This paranoia is usually based on experience…

Here’s my solution:

  • Use free online youtube downloaders that convert the clips to MP4 files that I can save on my computer.

I’m not advocating any particular one, but you can generally find them by googling the following search terms or something similar:

  • “Free online youtube downloader covert to mp4”

Here’s an example website:

There are different file formats for video. I’m generally on a Mac and I like to use MP4 for video as it seems pretty universal.

Make sure that you understand any relevant copyright or fair use guidelines first.

If your organisation prohibits you from downloading youtube clips then this is for information purposes only.

You know… So you know how other people do it.

Enjoy…

 

Ray Dalio’s Principles For Success – Animated


Just watch. The link is for episode 1 of 8 episodes. Just under 4 minutes. I can’t tell if the other episodes will autoplay or not but you can always open in Youtube if not.

Total watching time for all 8 episodes is about 30 minutes. This is a masterclass in how you take a massive amount of information, e.g. Ray’s excellent book on principles for business and life, and then condense in a format that my kids can understand.