An open letter to the staff - Edited
Instructables has changed my life in many ways. It has changed the way I work, play, and view the world around me. I have very much enjoyed my time here, and I wish to warmly thank the staff for all the work that has made it all possible.
I have had a variety of reactions to the introduction of paid or "pro" accounts. I've gone back and forth in my own mind, and to a certain extent with my comments on the site, at times favoring them, at times not.
At all times, however, I have attempted to be reasonable, and not act rashly. I have quelled my stronger impulses and not spoken out against the arrangement very much in public.
However, I fear matters have come to a head.
Edit: since access to secondary images and all associated files has been retained, that being the pivotal issue, I'm back to posting my projects.
I realize I am not the most active poster of instructables. I realize I am just one user among hundreds of active ones.
This may not make an impact. In fact, nobody may notice this at all. This thread may lie dormant, unread, unreplied, a sad reminder of a failed attempt at reconciliation by an obscure member. But I have not been the first, and unless something is changed, I fear I won't be the last.
I think instructables is trying to figure out the best strategy to make money...and I fully agree with them. The staff deserves to enjoy the fruits of their labors, and it's hardly fair to expect them to keep it up when they're losing money. I enjoy their site, and would be sad if they couldn't afford to keep it going...but I don't think I can agree with the way they're going about it.
Not letting users who don't have a pro account see full instructables, with allsteps and all images, as well as access to pdfs in some format, feels wrong. This is something that users need in order to do projects. To take this away is to make this a subscription based site where all users need to pay to see content, and possibly post content. It changes the very ethos of the site entirely. It changes the eglitarian society Eric has worked so hard to develop into an outrightly segregated one with two classes - the haves and the have-nots, those able to freely share projects and ideas and those able only to gaze longingly at partial content, previews, and pro teasers. This is dangerous, as while many users have site loyalty to one degree or another, at a certain point, people simply leave for greener pastures. Nature abhors a vacuum, and with the sudden vacuum of features for free members without anything to replace it I think there's a very real danger of people leaving in disgust, and new ones not signing up at all. I would hate to see that happen.
I understand the need to make money, and instead of boycotting a site I love, I would really like to try to help it, so here are some suggestions I came up with, which I think would entice people to become pro members, rather than features that will force them to sign up to retain basic functionality:
- Kiteman's excellent idea for PDFs - leave them free for all, but pro subscribers get ad-free pdfs and the ability to customize/edit them
- The idea one member had for a paint-like application for your orangeboard - like a whiteboard! Fun! :D
- An interactive chatterbot named Robot (ELIZA, anyone?)
- The built in ability to change the colors, theme and feel of the site (without having to download third party work from excellent coders ;-) )
- A collection of all official images of Robot ever made available for download for coloring books, t-shirt transfers, stickers, and the like.
- Sending subscribers small things in the mail like patches and stickers (very highly prized by some), as well as one copy of any instructables book that comes out while they're pro
- The idea another member had to make instructables available in eBook format of some kind
- Bumpus' idea for "Instructables Mobile, so it can be accessed by anyone with internet on their mobile cellular device. Kind of like how Facebook Mobile works, for example. And include it into the Pro package. To generate income." As he says it'd be easier to just look up ibles on your phone rather than take piles of pdfs to work or the shop.
- As much as I detest to say it, a pro-only contest for access by mail to the laser cutter at HQ for one project a year, to be no heavier than X lbs and fit in, say, a large enveope from the USPS. (So that they could laser-cut stickers, plastic, and the like - not really meant for humongous projects but just for the smaller ones like Ed and Sherrif Sarafan make that make the audiences ooooh and ahhh.) I realize you're not Ponoko but then again people are miiiiiiighty jealous of ya'll up there with your fancy-pants tools... ;) probably won't work but I'm throwing out everything I can think of.
As new users wouldn't know the benefit, and haven't ever used it, I can see how this can be used to entice a person to go pro. But taking it away from me, and saying I can have it back only if I give you money just seems a little cheap and wrong. You've already created a divided system where users who were here before pro got implemented retain their allsteps feature, all I ask is to take this from a three month temporary feature to something permanent.
Some of these may be harder to implement than others, but they're at least ideas to get us started.
I would like to call on everyone else who enjoys using this site to help me out and lend a hand to instructables and see if we can't suggest some ideas that would not only make the site a lot better, but would make people want to donate to their cause. (I realize this is already being done, but it seems to devolve into arguments, and the discussion is not centralized in any one place as far as I can tell.)
Oh. Cameron: quibbles, quibbles, quibbles. ;)