Underlying goal/purpose of having contests

What is the fundamental purpose of having Instructables Contests?

To me, the idea of having contests in the arena of DIY is a tad odd. One of the biggest reasons I like to make things and do my own projects is that it is purely creative, and it is not in the least bit competitive. We all get to put in our two cents and help each other out and grow our collective knowledge. No matter how you spin it, for every 3 winners in a contest there are still dozens (hundreds) of losers. Of course, that's not saying that the losers have bad projects, but they still lost. Game over.

One possible reason to have contests is to prompt more Instructables to be made in a certain category. Thus we have Burning Questions. But who says that the best "how to add" Instructable is submitted during the contest. The "best" one during the competition will win, but that's entirely relative to the competition. Now we have a WINNER "how to add" Instructable, which looks quite a bit more appealing to click on than any other similar submission, even if the others contain little snippets of awesomeness here and there that are above and beyond what is in the "winner." Now you have failed to capture and direct people to the best source of help on "how to add."

There are many other reasons not to have competitions, but I'll leave it at this for now so that I don't write a book.

Instead, why don't we try "Challenges" that have no deadline. Instructables can challenge the Instructables community to do projects in a certain category (just like contests) to push their agenda (reusing bottles, answering common questions, etc.). If you leave the "vote" feature active, you can then see them ranked by user preference, while never closing the field to new submissions.

Let's get some friendly debate going! woo.

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I disagree that contests are bad. They're awesome! (And that's coming from someone who almost never wins.) The experience of submitting an instructable (and possibly entering it into a contest) is always a positive one for me, whether or not I win. Sure, it's slightly disappointing to not get a prize, but it's very gratifying when weeks or months later I get comments thanking me for an instructable or showing how someone replicated it. The way I see it, contests are good for at least 4 reasons: 1) They give everyone a deadline. They give you a kick in the pants and a definite date you need to have your project completed by if you wish to participate. 2) They encourage new users to browse and join. As I recall, a contest was one of the things that drew me to the site. (That and the earbud hacks. ;) ) 3) They inspire new projects long after the contest is over. Example: the bottle contest is now closed, but I'm saving every bottle I can find and trying to come up with new and awesome ways to reuse them anyway, because the contest opened my eyes to something simple I can use to recycle and make cool things. 4) They recognize excellent projects as defined by the judges. Yes, I know there's bound to be contention in every contest, at least a few users who think it's not fair, and the judging was rigged, and Eric hates them, and the world stinks, etc. But I think it's a very good thing that outstanding projects are rewarded when entered in contests. Because who doesn't like free stuff and recognition? It only encourages new content. A little positive reinforcement goes a long way, and can motivate others even if they didn't receive it in a particular instance. 5) They show you that you, too, can make awesome instructables. When I first joined, I never dreamed I'd be able to write an instructable on anything, ever. But the contests motivate me to try new things and post projects I just hadn't thought to post.
BeanGolem (author)  Lithium Rain8 years ago
gah... the problem with your arguments is that it makes me think harder for a counterargument... heh :D
As Lemonie wrote: there is nothing keeping you from issuing challenges, if you feel that to be beneficial ;-)
Lol. :D
ewilhelm8 years ago
We run contests to inspire people to post amazing Instructables. Big contests bring in fantastic projects in a way that cannot be duplicated. Without a deadline, the reason to post now goes away, and people tend to post never. So, a contest or a challenge without a deadline is a non-starter. I disagree strongly with your sentiment that there are losers. Being a loser indicates that you've lost something -- time, money, reputation, what-have-you... If someone views our contests as transactional and feels that they have wasted effort building a project because that project didn't win one of our contests, then they have missed the point of DIY entirely.
I have to agree 100%. And if someone is inspired to create something because of the contest, even if they didn't win in the contest, they have created something cool, and have thereby grown (not to mention the published ible that can now be viewed and benefit others).
As a passionate mechanical engineering student, i love accepting a challenge! The rubberband contest inspired me to think about out-of-the-box uses for r-bands. You should check out my work, i posted three cool ibles based on r-bands. And i dont think there really any losers, like Edison said, something to the effect of "When inventing the lightbulb, i never faild once, i did however, succeed in discovering 999 ways Not to make a lightbulb.
PKM8 years ago
I'm not overly fussed about winning things in competitions- I was over the moon to get my Monkeylectric bike light and the "20 things" book, but for me the point of contests is to get you thinking in a slightly different way. Once you've thought and thought and thought about what you can make out of a plastic bottle that would be cool, you will have all those ideas stashed away in your head for a long time.

Ditto that for altoids tins, light bulbs, pocket-sized-things, rubber bands etc... and you will have an arsenal of ways to repurpose your common junk and will eventually become a massive pack rat and never throw anything away because you might be able to make something cool out of it. What, just me? OK then.

What do you mean "I'm bumping an ancient topic?"
Kiteman8 years ago
I think the contests are part of the character of the site.

The contests have grown along with the site.

To me, the contests serve several purposes:

The most self-serving contest is the Burning Questions - designed specifically to provide content that matches what visitors have most often searched for. If the answers are here, the searches will be more likely to stay and contribute themselves (or, at least, provide more potential income through advertising).

Other contests bring out the spirit of the makers - rising to a challenge, achieving something with quite limited resources in a creative way for, often, little more than the plaudits of strangers.

I do not enter every contest, but I look forward to them all - the sheer skill and imagination displayed by our members is outstanding. I know from experience that the act of selecting a winner is very hard, simply because so many entries are so good.

And I know that, when I do enter a contest, my entries will be judged purely on their merits, not because I currently hold a position of some slight popularity. On the odd occasions that I have been a finalist, even won prizes, I have felt immense pride and gratitude at being selected by a group of people whom I, on the whole, admire greatly, and whose skills I am jealous of.

I have not profited particularly, except emotionally. My knife, which I won just over two years ago has barely left my side since then. I carry it like a badge of honour.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying "contests good".
Kiteman Kiteman8 years ago
Another thought - I had the beach skates idea years ago, before I joined Instructables.

If the plastic bottle contest hadn't reminded me, I would probably never have posted it.
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