Friends in high places
Following on from what Jessy has already said, I'd just like to weigh in with my own views on life at Instructables and the company's decisions to work in cahoots with Autodesk.
I've been an Artist in Residence at Instructables now for two weeks, and they've been an amazing two weeks. The atmosphere in the lab is the sort of laid-back but productive work environment you can only find among people who really love what they do. They work, they play, they somehow produce an awesome, widely-loved website. And now it looks like a big, grown-up company has decided that the site's awesome too.
As far as I can tell, that's a good thing.
Everyone at the Instructables lab seems genuinely, if cautiously, optimistic about what the new regime will mean for the company. A bigger company can provide more resources, taking some of the load of the team's shoulders so they can introduce new features and more extravagant contests.
At the lab, there haven't been any changes. Everyone's still doing the same jobs they were doing a week ago and, yes, yesterday afternoon we were still up on the same roof, shooting shaving cream at the same intern. All is as it should be.
Instructables is run by a small tightly-knit team of makers, so I think there were a few concerns about how Autodesk might try to warp the company to fit it into a standard, corporate mold. So far, Autodesk has been doing a good job of putting those concerns to rest.
The success of Instructables is deeply tied up with its staff being a flexible little troupe of amiable nutcases and the managers at Autodesk seem to appreciate that. They know as well as we all do that if they mess with the winning formula, they'll only screw things up. Instructables is built on its community (that's you, reading this) and the community won't put up with any changes that make the site a worse place to spend time. If they try to screw the site up, you lot will rebel. If they try to make us wear ties, Randy will rebel. Their plan seems to be to nurture and support the site with funds, people and expertise while interfering relatively little with how it actually runs.
We've been over to the local Autodesk offices to meet up with some of their employees and they seemed like a bunch of overenthusiastic, slightly geeky maker types. Which is to say, they seemed just like the rest of the gang here at Instructables and, as far as I can tell, just like much of the Instructables community. They're people who like to make things. A lot of them have been using Instructables for years. As a company to work alongside, they seem like a good fit.
It will be very interesting to see where the site goes from here, but my gut feeling is that it will keep on doing the same things it's always done, just more so. Hopefully that's something we can all look forward to.