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Are you to blame?

OK, I know it's a deliberately attention-grabbing topic name. Sorry about that.

There was a post on the Bamboo bike frame, essentially saying "a disclaimer that this could be dangerous isn't enough; people aren't qualified to judge the strength of their homebuilt bike frames so might still get hurt even if they are careful", which attracted a lot of ire, but also a response from whiteoakart reframing the question, thus:

As a maker and writer of an Instructable, what is your responsibility to keep your readers safe? How far does your culpability extend?

This is obviously a knotty issue, and one that seems to have a range of attitudes across the board- some people say "pointy things are pointy, hot things are burny, don't hurt yourself" and leave it at that, some people list all the grievous injuries possible from their Instructable.

In my opinion, there are two major things to consider:

Is a person likely to do themselves harm even taking reasonable precautions?
  • An Instructable on how to weld, with clear advice on breathing protection, eye protection and not electrocuting yourself should be "safe"
  • An Instructable on free rock climbing, even with all the advice in the world about how to climb well, could easily get someone killed because free climbing is inherently dangerous

Is the intended audience capable of accurately assessing the risks? The risks of a table saw are obvious- put your hands in the wrong bit and it will cut them off- but the risks of high-voltage electrics are harder to judge with simple "common sense" because a seemingly minor fault could be lethal.

Both of these have an element of "reasonable" to them- if you make your instructions foolproof nature will give you a bigger fool, but there is a point at which it is reasonable to assume that a sensible person following your instructions with care and attention will not injure themselves.

More thoughts?

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Goodhart7 years ago
It would be very close to impossible to name and warn against every and all possible things that could go wrong with any build. I have to agree with some others here, there must be a line drawn in the sand saying, HEY, we warned you to go slow and take it carefully. If you hurt yourself, it is your responsibility, since you hurt yourself. All this blaming others for my own actions is so immature and so very much without any thought involved.
If a person can't take responsibility for their own actions, they shouldn't

DO

anything.
Period.
I totally agree with you. For me I personally think that line should, for the majority of 'ibles, be at "this is dangerous." other than that we begin to cater to the lowest common denominator and remove personal responsibility.

In addition, all these issues of what if a 10 year old reads it and tries it...WHERE ARE HIS PARENTS and why aren't they being responsible parents. with many of these 'ibles if i had tried them when i was 10 my parents would have killed me, there wouldn't have been any concern about me injuring myself and suing. I think we need to stop pandering and hold people to higher standards both as individuals and parents(if they are parents).

I am tired of being expected to live in fear with everything i do because someone might take offense or decide they need to sue me. I want my liberty and freedom back and with that the right to hurt myself if i am stupid.  if i did decide to sue and it was my stupidity, I want a justice system that will say just that and throw the case out right away and even better would be if my lawyer then got in trouble for bringing such stupidity into the court. this issue falls right in line with all the "political correctness" garbage out there and the issue of nanny states. I lived in a 3rd world country for 2 years and people there called things as they are, if you're stupid, they'd tell you; if you were white, they'd say white not caucasian; if you were begging, they'd tell you to get a job; if you hurt yourself, you were to blame. it was so refreshing. it is sad that things aren't like that here anymore.
ll.137 years ago
Most regulars have seen it all before, but with all the non-regulars making one off instructables they'll never go away. I say be responsible for what your own grubby paws do.
I was drawn to see this Instructable when I got my email showing the featured projects as I knew my brother in law would be the kind of dude to attempt to make a bike from bamboo. When I read the disclaimer I did not feel like it was something that was too flip or not taking more responsibility for what people decide to do with the information he provides in this tutorial. Also, the author is not the first person to create this kind of project, there are other ways to build a bamboo bike. Which brings me to the reason I stayed and read the discussion for this Instructable. Even though for myself, I would not be into doing this kind of project, I really got into the discussion among the members about the science of the design, how to calculate the amount of stress the bike could handle on certain pressure points, the use of adhesives and alternate materials to improve his project so it would not break in certain places, I got a little education there. That interested me a lot. There are tutorials about making wine and beer. Does that mean the authors of those tutorials would be responsible for someone who creates their own brew, drinks it all in one sitting and gets alcohol poisoning? No matter what kind of disclaimer you put, you always have someone who for whatever reason, doesn't want to be careful, doesn't take safety precautions, doesn't use common sense, and they end up on the 11 o clock news with a pole up their rectum or something ridiculous...I make wire jewelry, and I poke myself all the time with the ends of wires needles, tools, and I have a lot of little red pindots on my thumbs and forefingers from working on my projects. Am not going to sue the wire company for not telling me on the label that manipulating craft wire could cause punctures on human skin. I just had a look at my iron. It says on the bottom, "CAUTION: Do Not Immerse In Any Liquid." It doesn't say why. So if I do that, then I can sue the manufacturer because they should have put "..in Any Liquid because it can ELECTROCUTE YOU." I think for the most part the folks on Instructables have common sense to not do the most blatantly stupid things with found objects and end up hurting themselves. If I am going to build a bike out of paper cups, I should have the common sense to know there is a possibility it may not hold me up.
Bags making the paper cup bike!
Come on, you've had three days now - is it finished yet?
I'm filling every one with coffee and drinking it before setting it aside for the bike. So far I'm half way there, I don't feel quite the same for some reason...
crapflinger7 years ago
""For rock climbing, you shouldn't need to warn that falling off is dangerous"" actually...falling isn't dangerous at all...it's that quick stop at the bottom that does the damage a sense of self responsibility is something that's being bred out of our children these days....everyone has a cop out for anything they do... didn't do well in school? oh well i must have ADD, it's not my fault got in an accident in your car? oh well it must have been the manufacturer of the road surface, it's not my fault murdered your whole family? my dad beat me as a kid...it's not my fault lather rinse repeat from a legal standpoint i wonder how the nature of what's done here is actually handled...i mean no one is purchasing the instructions or being forced to follow them. does that remove culpability from the person posting the instructions? in any case shouldn't a simple "i'm not responsible for anything that goes wrong (or goes right) and causes harm" be enough here?...as far as strict CYA
PKM (author)  crapflinger7 years ago
Well, legally I suspect posting information on how to make pipe bombs or cook meth freely available online is frowned upon and might get you into some trouble.

Presumably the law has its own criteria for what information is considered dangerous of itself, I'd guess the ethical equivalent of that distinction is part of what I'm looking for.

I think there are also some things you can't disclaim responsibility for- a zoo with no fences and a sign saying "beware of the leopard", or a public building full of rusty nails sticking out of the floor with a sign saying "please mind your step" isn't going to cut it. If you posted the pipe bomb instructions online, some kid found your instructions, built one and blew himself up, you are responsible even if you disclaimed responsibility. In that case the responsible thing to do would be not post at all.

Many Instructable writers take the sensible standpoint of saying "I disclaim responsibility for what happens to you; if you disagree, don't build it", which is effective, but only so far as you consider those disclaimers to be binding. When's the last time you read every word of a EULA you then clicked "I Agree" on? IIRC there is a legal precedent that EULAs aren't legally binding because it's an established fact that no-one reads them, even if you do have to scroll all the way to the bottom to unlock the Agree button.
crapflinger PKM7 years ago
EULA's are actually legally binding...as are any other license agreements that require you to accept them...whether you read them or not is irrelevant. when you press "ok" or "i accept" you have accepted the license and stated that you've read it...so you can't come back later in court and say you didn't read it...because when you click ok you said you read it...so you can't very well go back and say you didn't read it at that point and be taken seriously
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