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Contests Are Rewarding Unoriginality, Threatening Creativity


It is truly a shame that judgments in our contests have again been made which serve to promote rehash and discourage creativity. After having watched the Make It Fly! contest make this mistake last month, I could only shake my head as the DIY Summer Camp Challenge also fumbled the ball and awarded a prize to an unoriginal post. Once again, unoriginal projects have landed in the winners' circle while new creations have been left to flounder. On a site that prides itself on people doing things for themselves, this is cause for alarm. Posting someone else's creations under your own name is not doing it yourself. It's high time that that be acknowledged and it be discouraged.

Rewarding unoriginal projects is not an avenue to promoting new ideas, developments or breakthroughs. On the contrary, this approach provides an incentive and a compelling case to not pursue new ideas.  Instructables' successes are based on its being a center for new ideas, not old hat. Nevertheless, we are teetering dangerously toward that point with moves like this.

Rehashes' qualifications are questionable

The statements made in the commentary for the contests--the language of the competitions themselves--speak a resounding "no" against unoriginal content.

In the header for the DIY Summer Camp Challenge, it is asked:

"What interesting things can you do or make to keep the kids entertained this summer? [...] Share your games, activities, craft projects, and more."

In the header for the Make It Fly Contest 2016, the opportunity is given for:

"Three, two, one… ignition and lift off! The Make It Fly Contest has taken off and that gives you the perfect excuse to let your creativity take to the skies."

There is nothing indistinct about the terms. They clearly outline the project is to be your own, not someone else's. If you are reposting another person's creation, you are upholding neither the contests' specifications nor spirit.

In the standard contest terms for each contest, the judgment criteria is given:

"Judging. All entries that are in compliance with all terms and conditions of these Rules will be judged on the basis of the following criteria (the "Criteria"): clarity, ingenuity, creativity, quality of presentation, and execution of the Instructable."

Rehashed projects which contain contents from others' makings are neither ingenious nor creative. As a result, they ought to receive the minimum score in the sections of ingenuity and creativity if they are not barred from the competitions outright.

What this means for makers now:

Speaking in reference to how I had handled the contests myself, I spent several weeks perfecting several entries of my own. One of the projects, entered into only the DIY Summer Camp Challenge, was the result of many months' worth of development and refinement. The news that my efforts in those months were all for naught while similar themed but wholly unoriginal projects were selected as winners only served to tell me one thing: the time I spent developing and fine tuning the new projects was all for naught.

Currently, the appeal for a person to set their best DIY foot forward and actually do something for themselves has become troublingly shaky. There is now a track record of rehashed projects taking home prizes while other original projects have faced ignominous defeats. There is a precedent to unoriginal trumping original. With rehash supported and honored, it is now reasonable for users to conclude that creativity is neither valued nor worth its costs and that unoriginal copying is a better way of doing things.

This could ultimately promote a worsening spiral of disinterest in, apathy toward, and the stagnation of new developments in the numerous fields of endeavor makers strive to go forth in. The chances at falling into this trend draw increasingly close and they cannot be allowed to continue if we wish to see progress.

Where we need to go from here:

Creativeness must be shown to be valued by Instructables or makers are not likely to pursue it in future competitions. As I did a year ago, I recommend the Instructables staff and judges:
  • Judge unoriginal projects as such and give them the earned low marks for ingenuity and creativity based on their lacking in both regards (if they are even legally fit to continue on in the competition)
  • Not promote unoriginal designs by featuring them

Reposting old things is a slide to the past, not a ladder to the future. Makers must act today to make a better, more creative tomorrow and copying is no way to do that.

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Downunder35m10 months ago

I do not always agree with the selection of finalists, nor with the winning projects.
I have seen incomplete Ibles maiking it as well as those that IMHO totally failed the guidelines for the contest.
But as with so many things in life it often comes down to personal preferences, from those who vote and those who decide on a finalist.
Personally I see a contest as a chance to get more attention but not to actually win somethings, no matter how well presented it might be.

When it comes to copied Intructables, or those that have been posted by someone else on a different website just to end here as a 1:1 copy done by someone else I really don't like it.
Especially if people won't leave credit to the original author, disguising the "work" as their own creation.
Don't get me wrong, I have little to no objection if someone actually uses existing work to create an Instructable that is easier to follow, well documented and in some cases includes vital steps missing in the original.
Same goes for my work, if someone thinks he can make it better or tries a different approach they are free to use what they need.
All I ask for is a little credit somewhere for the idea itself.

We can discuss contests, finalists and everything around it for as long as we like but there will never be an agreement that suits all.
IMHO you can't exclude someone from entering because his Instructable is crappy, boring or even unrelated - you can play Lotto and just tick 4 boxes and noone cares...
The one thing I would really value is more info on what actually happened in a contest.
We see only the very most basic things and it could well be that a finalist is not even related to any votes at all...
Considering that there would not be too many people deciding on the finalists I think it would be great if some comment on it would be left by the judges.
Just a few words telling everyone what made this Instructable so special, eye catching or even a winner...
If the user votes are considered to be secure it would also be nice to see the number of votes once the contest is over - at least I would highly value such info.

Thing is this website makes money and only provides the basic tools we need to post our things.
So for obvious reasons quality control in terms of copied Instructables and such is of low priority.
Same for Instructables posted on other websites.
The author must pursue his creation, check if his images have been used elsewhere or if his entire work was taken.
I think we should be more grateful that despite all this we given so many contests and so much variety with them.
The sponsors get their attention and advertising, we the competition and new things we like so much.
As with a good forum this website is nothing without the users and there will always be some black sheep ;)
Some contests get hundreds of entries, even after ignoring the bad and copied this leaves a huge amount of really new things we all can create now.

OrigamiAirEnforcer (author)  Downunder35m10 months ago

I would certainly approve of public
tallies of the votes (though members' names might not be included in
that). If they wanted to put in a section or something for judges'
comments, whether compulsory or not, that probably would not be an
issue.

As far as how Instructables deals with these things and
what priorities it places on them, they really ought to reconsider how
they look at it. New projects are what bring viewers, not old hat. If
you sacrifice the new at the altar of the old, you will get just that
and all of the associated consequences. People evidently do not see is
that if copies are tolerated under the auspices of clarity or some other
mitigating factor, the value of and appreciation for original projects is
reduced. Thereby, people will be less enthusiastic to make the efforts
necessary to succeed in pursuits of new advances. With new projects
fewer and further between, overall viewership and confidence will drop.
Not a pretty picture.

On YouTube, where there is no overarching
regulation dealing with content creators to speak of, the problem of
copied videos has become simply pandemic. If you upload something, it
will almost certainly be copied many times over with absolutely no
attribution given to the original creator. (I've seen one case where a
person who stole a video actually tried to file a copyright claim
against the original videomaker.) No improvements of any kind
are made to the video or its subject matter; the content will only be
used as a way to earn someone else something and nothing more. YouTube
has become a poorer place for content creators as a result of this.

Instructables does not need to nor should it follow YouTube's example in this regard.

"New projects are what bring viewers, not old hat."

Then why does that tube project have such issues with have 84,000 views?

"People evidently do not see is that if copies are tolerated under the auspices of clarity or some other mitigating factor, the value of and appreciation for original projects is reduced."

How do you come to that conclusion? There's plenty of appreciation to go around. Just because I may choose to watch a Mary-Kate and Ashley movie doesn't mean I don't have a great respect for Citizen Kane. In fact, I would never recommend the guilty pleasure movie to anyone, but I would tell anyone who would listen about a great film. In fact, movies are a great example of how people love old hat. Most movies these days are remakes, reboots, and rehashes. If people didn't go to see them and spend their money, the production studios wouldn't make them. It just makes the original movies more special.

Instructables does not tolerate theft as you suggest YouTube does. If someone copies text or images directly (which is the only part of a project that is protected by copyright), it is dealt with. Ideas are not a protected resource and shouldn't be. If the inventor of the wheel was the only one allowed to make one, I don't want to think of how we'd be living. Even if an expression of an idea is patented, patents expire. They expire to allow others the opportunity to use an idea to innovate and provide competition.

OrigamiAirEnforcer (author)  Brooklyntonia10 months ago

"Then why does that tube project have such issues with have 84,000 views?"

It was featured.

"How do you come to that conclusion?"

Experience. It's become very much apparent that with sufficient embellishment copies can overshadow newer, even more capable things. For no logical reason and despite the simple fact that it is not and cannot be true, people have the thought a great deal of the time that the projects have made equal strides and accomplishments in what endeavors they've pursued. Thus, the original things are neither appreciated as much and their
value in the eyes of the community is considered less for being in the
company of these copied things.

It's not difficult to see why many people decline go to the trouble of advancing things when there will be nothing seen for it.

"If the inventor of the wheel was the only one allowed to make one, I
don't want to think of how we'd be living. Even if an expression of an
idea is patented, patents expire. They expire to allow others the
opportunity to use an idea to innovate and provide competition."

When people wish to come up with a solution, it can prove forthcoming even without the usage of others ideas rotely. I have encountered situations myself
where I have sought to meet an object with my own and have done just that by pursuing things in a very different matter. Such an approach is only impossible to the unimaginative.

-OAE

"It was featured."

Your plane was featured too. The "old hat" brought views because it was engaging.

"It's not difficult to see why many people decline go to the trouble of advancing things when there will be nothing seen for it."

You're going to have to provide some evidence that innovators stop innovating because they don't feel they'll be appreciated. You claim to be creating original ways to approach paper airplanes and clearly don't feel as though your work is appreciated, but you continue to create new instructables. You yourself are evidence that this point of view is wrong. People who create must create.

"I have encountered situations myself where I have sought to meet an object with my own and have done just that by pursuing things in a very different matter."

Yes, if you're trying to split a piece of paper, there's hundreds of ways to go about it, but there's no reason to re-invent the wheel. In fact, using other's ideas is the cornerstone of innovation. It's a process of changing what already exists.

"with sufficient embellishment copies can overshadow newer, even more capable things"

You're absolutely right. So what if the newer and more capable things had the same embellishment? An original idea will always get the attention it deserves if it engages the community, and one way it can do that is with attractive images and words.

Now, we're officially going in circles. Engage the community and any idea, new or old, will get attention.

OrigamiAirEnforcer (author)  Brooklyntonia10 months ago

"Your plane was featured too. The "old hat" brought views because it was engaging."

My plane--well, the Zeta, as far as recent history goes--was featured, but it was a different sort of featuring than the other to my airplane's loss. While it was positioned in the featured slot of the Instructables general page and play category, it never made it further than those sections and onto the homepage. That difference most likely sealed the deal on the massive difference in how the two fared and were received. In addition, the other had the advantage of being a simpler design which compromised performance for complexity.

"You're going to have to provide some evidence that innovators stop
innovating because they don't feel they'll be appreciated. You claim to
be creating original ways to approach paper airplanes and clearly don't
feel as though your work is appreciated..."

My viewpoint has been based on what I have seen amongst the paper airplane crowd at large, here and elsewhere (particularly YouTube). Given that there are other topics, a massive number of makers and the chances at a person stopping over resentment, I feel extrapolating that a fair number of makers could be effected by this sort of reaction is not unreasonable.

I tend to doubt that what I do is appreciated all that much when someone widely regarded as a major figure in the Ibles community tells me something I spent months refining and improving belonged to someone else strictly because my project had ties to a predecessor (which were ultimately quite limited). Just a few minutes before this comment came in I received others which elected to cast aspersions upon my work as "very confusing" but presented no rationale for this claim nor suggested solutions to what they find problematic. Similar comments come through on occasion but because they give no specifics and there is almost never a concurring opinion, I tend to believe the trouble had is with the specific viewer and not the post.

Neither one of these actions evidences an appreciative stance on my work--and the bigger issue with is that they are claimed baselessly. If there was a rationale given for these claims, then there might be a reason for them. There is not.

"But you continue to create new instructables. You yourself are evidence
that this point of view is wrong. People who create must create."

I think it might be optimistic that the assumption be made that all makers share in my tenacity. I'm not sure how many other Instructables users are approaching or have exceeded 400 instructables with no leaderboard by number of posts, but I can imagine the number is fairly limited and I'll wager further that my posts are probably the most homogeneous in nature. I am reluctant to say that others might make as many posts as I have.

"Yes, if you're trying to split a piece of paper, there's hundreds of
ways to go about it, but there's no reason to re-invent the wheel. In
fact, using other's ideas is the cornerstone of innovation. It's a
process of changing what already exists.
"

This is essentially why I stress that I approve of developments; derivatives are not a problem.

BrittLiv10 months ago

I don’t think that Instructables is rewarding unoriginality; I think they are rewarding well documented projects, especially considering the imagery. Documenting something that is original and new is the cherry on top.

As someone who has won quite a few contests, I would say that most of my projects are original and haven’t been done before. There are a few exceptions like for example my Puzzle Alarm Clock, but I still think that is worthy of an instructable. Designing the electronics and programming took nearly a week and somebody who has no clue about either is now able to build their own version.

I think a huge factor in winning is having a good title image. I very often take 50+ images until I am happy with it, trying out different backdrops and lightning conditions.

Since nowadays everybody who becomes a finalist also wins a prize (which I think is a good thing) means that getting attention from your audience is more important than ever. If you think that a project is not getting the attention it deserves, get proactive and post it for example on Facebook, Instagram or send it to blog that might be interested and has featured your stuff before.

We had the discussion about “stealing” projects quite a few times before and I have always been told that as long as the text and the pictures are original there is no problem. I don’t quite agree with that since I think that credit should always be given, but that’s maybe just because of how I have been raised. In my opinion documenting something you’re building for the first time is way harder than just repeating what somebody else has done. On the other hand if you are passionate about a project and can’t wait to share it with the community, I am sure that you will find a way to get around that and like I said it in the beginning it is what sets you apart.

Like the others said, take a look at the projects that have won and learn from them. There may be times when you don’t agree with the judges decision, but as long as you love what you’ve made, it shouldn’t really matter. I use contest as a motivation to start making or to finish stuff I have sometimes though of years ago. Believe me in that case finishing the instructable and hitting “publish” is the best feeling ever.

OrigamiAirEnforcer (author)  BrittLiv10 months ago
The reaction to reposted projects is probably one of the more vexing things simply because it assumes that development is not a process that requires much. It assumes that it's merely another stage in the process when it is usually the most elaborate by far.

You still seen to think that those of us who value a "reposted" instructable are interested in the time or effort an instructable takes to produce. To be clear, I don't care if someone spent years or minutes producing something. I care if it's interesting and well presented. A life hack for example usually takes very little time. Often they are the result of a"light bulb" moment and one picture is enough to get the point across. One good life hack is worth a lot to the average person, despite how long it took to produce or conceive. Please stop equating effort with value.

OrigamiAirEnforcer (author)  Brooklyntonia10 months ago

I do not dispute that some things come together in short periods of time while others can take longer.

What
I do say is that people ought to take note that their reactions to
things can change whether or not more things are proceeded with. If a person
spends months working on something only to be met with apathy, it's
likely they will not persevere--and with that progress and advancement
in that direction are delayed or lost.

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