Instructables

Instructables in the New York Times - How to Improve it? Ask Those Who Use It

Instructables was mentioned in the New York Times article "How to Improve It? Ask Those Who Use It" about user-innovation. I know this might cause a stir, but specifically mentioned are the K'Nex guns.

Here's the section of the article that mentions us directly:

Even some of Mr. von Hippel's acolytes remain cautious. "A lot of this is still in the category of, , 'You could imagine this working out really well,' " says Saul T. Griffith, who as an M.I.T. engineering student was part of a group of kite-surfers who developed products for their sport that have since become commercialized. Mr. von Hippel wrote about Mr. Griffith in his 2005 book, "Democratizing Innovation."

Still, Mr. Griffith can cite a long tradition of user design. One of his favorite examples comes from the title article in Tom Wolfe's 1965 book, "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby," which chronicled car customizers whose innovations -- tailfins, double headlights, low-slung bodies -- were later adopted by Detroit. Mr. Griffith says that even now, millions of people modify their cars, far more people than the world's automakers could ever employ in research and development.

There is currently no effective way for companies to harness the ideas of those millions. But the Web -- itself created by Tim Berners-Lee, an Internet user looking to do something new -- seems to offer an excellent potential idea-gatherer. Mr. Griffith's industrial design firm, Squid Labs, last year spun off a do-it-yourself community site on the Web called the Instructables, which features items as diverse as the Minty Boost iPod power source, dachshund wheelchairs and guns made entirely of K'nex toys, along with detailed instructions on how to build them. The Instructables intends to offer software to companies that want to build communities of citizen product developers.

Mr. von Hippel, who has spent 30 years waiting for his ideas to take hold, says that as user communities like the Instructables spread, they will dominate innovation. He calls them "the dark matter of innovation."

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