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How-to 2.0: Nerf gun battles get an instruction manual

Static instruction manuals are so 2010. A startup called Dozuki, an offspring of iFixit, has developed a digital formula to create how-to manuals that are actually useful.

Dozuki aims to revolutionize how-to manuals.

Digital self-publishing is evolving rapidly but instruction manuals have been left behind. Ask any parent who has had to assemble childrens' items and you'll likely get an earful. It's about time a company attacked this mess. So here is Dozuki, which is turning its digital-manual power to the people.

Dozuki launched today, making it possible for individuals, manufacturers, and even factories to help others fix things. The startup's goal is to hold people's hands through the process of creating how-to manuals. This is for the gal who knows how to fix rare motorcycles or the manufacturer who needs to create a better manual (PDF's are lame). Dozuki manuals are easy to update, interactive, and downright useful. Dozuki is how-to 2.0.

"Documentation is just as integral as the function of the product," says iFixit CEO and founder Kyle Wiens. "The world needs living manuals that improve over time. They need rich multimedia to convey technical instruction and are just as mobile as people are."

Dozuki is a startup within iFixit, which has the ambitious goal of creating a free repair manual for everything. iFixit has a team that builds manuals that can be edited by anyone who has the knowledge to make the manual better. Dozuki uses iFixit software to make anyone a manual maker. The manuals live on personal home pages and can be updated by the author.

For iFixit's part, it's aiming for a new revenue stream. To use the manual-creating service, businesses pay from $99 to $499 a month, depending on the business. There's also a free plan for individuals.

Currently, the bulk of iFixit's revenue comes from using its how-to manuals to generate sales of hard goods. For example, iFixit says its Installing iPhone 4 Display Assembly guide has more than 1 million views, thanks in part to a top ranking in Google. That tutorial then sends people to an iFixit page that sells the replacement display itself.

Wiens, who has set his company up in San Louis Obispo, Calif., says Dozuki manuals can be read on mobile devices, printed if necessary, and unlike paper manuals can be constantly updated.

To create a Dozuki manual, you first customize a Web site. Don't panic, your hand is held through this process. After all, iFixit knows how to instruct people. Once the site is created, you can start adding content like photos, slideshows, and step-by-step instructions. To see it in action, there's a great example of how to start an office Nerf gun war.

Hipster gun fights aside, there is real potential behind these Dozuki manuals. Even larger brands could benefit from this new take on how-to.

"iFixit shows people there is marketing power in something as mundane as creating manuals," says Eric Craig Doster, market development manager of iFixit. "Manufacturers see manuals as a necessary evil but it can be a revenue generator. Manuals can also help connect brands with users. There's something powerful about working with a customer to create something that helps other people."

Need some ideas for manuals? CEO Wiens says his office's often-broken pinball machine could use a manual. Also, consider manuals bigger companies may want to buy. Hey, it could happen if you do it right.

"My grandfather worked at Caterpiller as a bulldozer designer," says Wiens. "When new designers came in they asked for his blueprints. He said he didn't have any. They were all in his head. There's a lot of that tribal knowledge out there that needs to be documented."