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.