App of the week: Snapguide

Do-it-yourself dream: A tool that makes producing how-to guides insanely easy

By Andrew Leonard

Published April 7, 2013 6:30PM (EDT)

                  (<a href=''>silver tiger</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>/Salon)
(silver tiger via Shutterstock/Salon)

Of this there can be little doubt: The Internet has been essential to the explosion of the do-it-yourself movement. We got our first inklings of this truth in the very earliest days, when we realized that the Internet was the obvious best place to find help solving computer problems. Computer geeks had created the greatest resource for becoming a computer geek one could ever imagine. It did not take long for non-geeks to join the party, and recognize the utility of this infinite online encyclopedia for getting us up to speed on every domain of human existence.

The generation weaned after the Web considers this their birthright: If you want to figure out how to do something, chances are very high there is a YouTube video containing all the relevant details waiting patiently for your attention.

But I've always personally felt a little guilty about my parasitic relationship to these amazing resources. I consume far more than I produce; I learn much more than I contribute. Googling a how-to video is easy, but making one of my own usually seemed like too much trouble. Lame, but true.

So my ears perked up when the CEO of Snapguide, Dan Raffel, alerted me to an app "that lets people create and browse how-to guides." A how-to for creating how-tos! I had to try it out.

I chose a task that I have been perfecting for nigh on 20 years now: cooking oily scallion cakes, a staple of Chinese cuisine and the best fried crispy goodness I know. I first encountered them when living in Taiwan in the 1980s, and after much disappointment in the local San Francisco Bay Area restaurant offerings, I finally learned how to make my own from Mrs. Chiang's Szechwan Cookbook.

I searched Snapguide to see if someone had already uploaded a guide to cooking scallion cakes. Sure enough, I'd been beaten to the punch. But the existing how-to had flaws. It didn't include lard, for starters! It also skipped the key jelly-roll step that contributes to classic oily scallion cake multilayered flakiness. I felt the universe crying out for my expertise.

You can find my guide here. Making it was simplicity itself. Snapguide's step-by-step process facilitates the easy integration of pictures, video and text. The interface is intuitive and uncomplicated. The whole procedure is a really fun way to use your phone.

Snapguide also integrates a social component. After finishing my scallion cake guide, I was offered the opportunity to share it on both Facebook and Twitter. Within moments of publishing it, complete strangers were "liking" it on Snapguide. I suddenly feel like an upstanding member of the community, helping to spread the gospel of fried utopia. A tiny (albeit high-calorie) piece of my karmic debt to the Internet has been repaid.

For iOS

No Android version.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

App Of The Week Editor's Picks Howto Oily Scallion Cakes Scallion Pancakes Snapguide