436Views61Replies

Author Options:

An open letter to the staff - Edited Answered

To whom it may concern:

Instructables has changed my life in many ways. It has changed the way I work, play, and view the world around me. I have very much enjoyed my time here, and I wish to warmly thank the staff for all the work that has made it all possible.

I have had a variety of reactions to the introduction of paid or "pro" accounts. I've gone back and forth in my own mind, and to a certain extent with my comments on the site, at times favoring them, at times not.

At all times, however, I have attempted to be reasonable, and not act rashly. I have quelled my stronger impulses and not spoken out against the arrangement very much in public.

However, I fear matters have come to a head.

Due to the current state of affairs - allsteps, secondary images, pdfs not universally available, talk of making users pay to submit instructables among many other things - I will not be posting instructables until these confusions are resolved in a way that doesn't go against the spirit and tradition of instructables.

Edit: since access to secondary images and all associated files has been retained, that being the pivotal issue, I'm back to posting my projects.

I realize I am not the most active poster of instructables. I realize I am just one user among hundreds of active ones.

This may not make an impact. In fact, nobody may notice this at all. This thread may lie dormant, unread, unreplied, a sad reminder of a failed attempt at reconciliation by an obscure member. But I have not been the first, and unless something is changed, I fear I won't be the last.

I think instructables is trying to figure out the best strategy to make money...and I fully agree with them. The staff deserves to enjoy the fruits of their labors, and it's hardly fair to expect them to keep it up when they're losing money. I enjoy their site, and would be sad if they couldn't afford to keep it going...but I don't think I can agree with the way they're going about it.

Not letting users who don't have a pro account see full instructables, with allsteps and all images, as well as access to pdfs in some format, feels wrong. This is something that users need in order to do projects. To take this away is to make this a subscription based site where all users need to pay to see content, and possibly post content. It changes the very ethos of the site entirely. It changes the eglitarian society Eric has worked so hard to develop into an outrightly segregated one with two classes - the haves and the have-nots, those able to freely share projects and ideas and those able only to gaze longingly at partial content, previews, and pro teasers. This is dangerous, as while many users have site loyalty to one degree or another, at a certain point, people simply leave for greener pastures. Nature abhors a vacuum, and with the sudden vacuum of features for free members without anything to replace it I think there's a very real danger of people leaving in disgust, and new ones not signing up at all. I would hate to see that happen.

I understand the need to make money, and instead of boycotting a site I love, I would really like to try to help it, so here are some suggestions I came up with, which I think would entice people to become pro members, rather than features that will force them to sign up to retain basic functionality:

  • Kiteman's excellent idea for PDFs - leave them free for all, but pro subscribers get ad-free pdfs and the ability to customize/edit them

Seemingly silly or trivial things that nonetheless add value without simply massive amounts of effort (like the user patches...which I think was a brilliant idea and has a great value-adding to effort ratio, by the way), such as:

  • The idea one member had for a paint-like application for your orangeboard - like a whiteboard! Fun! :D
  • An interactive chatterbot named Robot (ELIZA, anyone?)
  • The built in ability to change the colors, theme and feel of the site (without having to download third party work from excellent coders ;-) )
  • A collection of all official images of Robot ever made available for download for coloring books, t-shirt transfers, stickers, and the like.
  • Sending subscribers small things in the mail like patches and stickers (very highly prized by some), as well as one copy of any instructables book that comes out while they're pro
  • The idea another member had to make instructables available in eBook format of some kind
  • Bumpus' idea for "Instructables Mobile, so it can be accessed by anyone with internet on their mobile cellular device. Kind of like how Facebook Mobile works, for example. And include it into the Pro package. To generate income." As he says it'd be easier to just look up ibles on your phone rather than take piles of pdfs to work or the shop.
  • As much as I detest to say it, a pro-only contest for access by mail to the laser cutter at HQ for one project a year, to be no heavier than X lbs and fit in, say, a large enveope from the USPS. (So that they could laser-cut stickers, plastic, and the like - not really meant for humongous projects but just for the smaller ones like Ed and Sherrif Sarafan make that make the audiences ooooh and ahhh.) I realize you're not Ponoko but then again people are miiiiiiighty jealous of ya'll up there with your fancy-pants tools... ;) probably won't work but I'm throwing out everything I can think of.

Finally, I realize that allsteps is a very useful feature, and one that has the power to turn people to pro users as soon as they figure out exactly what it does. But in my view, a compromise seems best in this case. The users who have been on this site for the past few years or more have gotten very used to this simple feature, and use it biblically. To take it away seems like you're stealing our candy we really like (and I don't know about you but I will fight for my Jolly Ranchers to the bitter end). What if you let us keep it, like you are right now, and still required new users to go pro in order to receive this feature?

As new users wouldn't know the benefit, and haven't ever used it, I can see how this can be used to entice a person to go pro. But taking it away from me, and saying I can have it back only if I give you money just seems a little cheap and wrong. You've already created a divided system where users who were here before pro got implemented retain their allsteps feature, all I ask is to take this from a three month temporary feature to something permanent.

Some of these may be harder to implement than others, but they're at least ideas to get us started.

I would like to call on everyone else who enjoys using this site to help me out and lend a hand to instructables and see if we can't suggest some ideas that would not only make the site a lot better, but would make people want to donate to their cause. (I realize this is already being done, but it seems to devolve into arguments, and the discussion is not centralized in any one place as far as I can tell.)

Oh. Cameron: quibbles, quibbles, quibbles. ;)

50 Replies

user
lemonie (author)2009-07-18

Who is acting badly?
Do you have a good reason for these things to be given to you for free, or are you just unhappy that they cost money?

L

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
A good name (author)lemonie2009-07-18

They should be given freely because they are user generated. Do you think anyone here is making money off instructables? You can say whatever you want, but when it comes down to it, if we have to pay just to use a site that we submit content to, we're essentially just giving and giving. (Don't counter with "We also read instructables," because hosting requires much, much less effort than writing.)

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
lemonie (author)A good name2009-07-18

You would be of the opinion that your contribution (2 instructables) makes you a shareholder? A not unreasonable position, but you would have to establish that your content generates enough revenue to cover the running costs associated with your content & usage. If you view the site as a publishing service - you don't have to pay for your own web-site - you're getting something for the money. I'm fairly sure that the site hasn't made any money ever, which is why the business model has changed - time to break-even or go under. L

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
A good name (author)lemonie2009-07-18

1: I said we, not I. I only have one good instructable, the other one is locked in a contest, so I can't remove it (I've tried) 2: It wouldn't make me a shareholder if I made a 100 awesome instructables. It would just mean that I had generated more content that someone, and therefore been a significant contributor to Instructables. 3: I don't view the site as a publishing service. There are various other ad-free sites (blogger. Not preferable, but available) that I could be using to publish my content or look at content. I use instructables for ease of use, but now that they're removing the PDFs I'll have to copy and paste (no, I couldn't go to a friends house either. No one around here knows about instructables) 4: The site has made money. All websites make money through ad revenue. .com is short for "commercial" meaning it's a business. If Eric were pouring his money in here to keep it alive before, it would have been a .org. (if that concept makes any sense whatsoever...)

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
A good name (author)2009-07-18

Finally, I realize that allsteps is a very useful feature, and one that has the power to turn people to pro users as soon as they figure out exactly what it does. But in my view, a compromise seems best in this case. The users who have been on this site for the past few years or more have gotten very used to this simple feature, and use it biblically. To take it away seems like you're stealing our candy we really like (and I don't know about you but I will fight for my Jolly Ranchers to the bitter end). What if you let us keep it, like you are right now, and still required new users to go pro in order to receive this feature? - I don't mind that. It's just the damn PDF's that I'm going to miss.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
lemonie (author)A good name2009-07-18

If you believe that you are owed something (for free) make a case for why you deserve it. Otherwise you're not likely to change anything. L

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
chrispaccord (author)2009-07-13

Forgive me if these ideas have already been posted, I tried to read through all of the comments, but there's just too many of them to read in my allotted time.. These aren't options to negate paying for Pro services, but it may help to supplement revenue and make it more affordable to go Pro: Move the Ads on the pages to a more visible spot(centered under the title?). I honestly have never clicked on one, as I've never noticed them until now. Instructibles has done a great job of blending them into the page, but maybe they should be more prominent.. Some sites use a google search bar, which helps generate revenue. I open a new tab and search google almost every time I am here. There's always something I want more information about, and I can't be the only person who would use a it to search the web for more info on something I found in an instructible.(provided it opens in a new window or tab.. Navigating away from the page I'm on turns me away from using those ones) How about selling car decals? Small, easily made decals can be sold for a good profit(I know, I make them), and I'm sure there are many supporters who would buy them to show support. Heck, I'd buy one, and I can make them myself. These are all small things to do to help the site make money, but they should not be discounted because of that. a few small changes can help in a big way. I would also like to say that this site is one of my absolute favorite sites, and the "see all steps " is something I can not do without. Unfortunately, I cannot afford to pay for a Pro account. (I make things from this site that I could not afford otherwise) I will support in any other way that I can, though, even if it means clicking on ads all day long.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
kelseymh (author)chrispaccord2009-07-14

You wrote, "Some sites use a google search bar, which helps generate revenue. I open a new tab and search google almost every time I am here. There's always something I want more information about, and I can't be the only person who would use a it to search the web for more info on something I found in an instructible.(provided it opens in a new window or tab.. Navigating away from the page I'm on turns me away from using those ones)"

(sarcasm alert) You must be one of the few, judging by the immense number of questions that could be answered with such a search :-/ (end sarcasm)

Seriously, this seems like an excellent, and presumably easy to deploy, idea. I don't know whether Google takes a fee from companies using the search bar, or if it could be easily integrated (replacing?!?) the current in-house search.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
DJ Radio (author)2009-07-10
user
Lithium Rain (author)DJ Radio2009-07-11

Thanks! A very generous anonymous user gave it to me (thanks, anonymous!) !

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Derin (author)Lithium Rain2009-07-14

I wish somebody would donate one to me too.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
ewilhelm (author)2009-07-02

If Instructables has changed your life, why not get a pro account? If changing your life isn't high enough value for you to pay for something directly, I don't see what more we can offer. Thanks for the suggestions. The problem is that developing features is the most expensive thing we do, because it takes our time. I note that in a deeper comment thread here, this cost is dismissed, but in a business, time is directly equivalent to money. If we spend time developing a feature that doesn't increase revenue, traffic, or goodwill in relation to how much it costs to build, we've missed the opportunity to develop some other feature that will. Because we're still around, I think I've made ok choices in this particular balancing act. Ideas are really easy to have; executing on them and making them reality is the hard work. We are flooded, internally and externally, with ideas for making money, yet no one -- besides zachninme -- has been submitting code to take those ideas to working features. So, I make the calls as to what features we develop (and I take the blame). This leads to frustration among those who think we just need some "good ideas" for making money, and get upset that we're not building those particular ideas. I'll note that the overwhelming majority of ideas involve either charging for features no one uses -- especially the idea submitter --, or asking for donations, which again is tantamount to saying "charge someone else." No one has said, "I use this feature all the time and find it valuable, you should charge for it." This doesn't mean you shouldn't suggest ideas! You just have to realize that those ideas are worth exactly what it cost you to have them. In another thread, there's a discussion of how the balance of value has shifted without us giving anything up. Let me correct this: For four years -- with a couple of exceptional quarters when our advertising revenue was just awesome -- Instructables has been a very efficient machine at taking our investors' cash and distributing it to the users in the form of a really nice site, and the team in the form of salaries. This is not a sustainable situation. So, I run the numbers, figure out what features are actually valued, and we're now asking people to pay directly for the value they receive. Yes, no one likes a price increase, but just because something was free doesn't mean it should always remain free. Part of what Warren Buffett considers to be a fundamental of a good business is the ability to raise prices (along with inflation, increased costs, or whatever). I am trying to run a good business, one that will be around for a long time, not a machine to distribute investors' cash. The internet already has enough cash-redistribution engines. As you astutely note, we have created a divided system with new users paying to access features old user are getting for free. This makes me uncomfortable, but it helps us to refine the pro account offering and to add things that will make it even more enticing. We are giving users who registered for an account prior to the launch of pro accounts at least 3 months of free access to the features we've turned pro. Depending on how many pro subscriptions we have, that time frame may be extended (with or without notice), but I will not hamstring our ability to generate revenue by saying we'll never ask old users to go pro. Finally, I'm flattered that you and others care so much for the site. The fact that I'm being second-guessed, yelled at, and criticized means that we've done something right in the past, and that people care that we keep doing so in the future. Thanks for that!

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
skunkbait (author)ewilhelm2009-07-10

Eric, For me, the pro membership was just a way to contribute to a site that has meant a lot to myself and my family. Really, Instructables has helped me with various household and mechanical projects. We've also sued it as a "semi-subject" while homeschooling our kids. I've even mentioned it at two different churches (we have a lot of church members who are farmers, pilots, mechanics, alternative fuel enthusiasts, tinkerers and a couple of inventors). I know it's been a struggle to make Ibles financially viable. I hope this route works out for you. I just worry that the site will stagnate (with fewer new members), and that only the die-hards and long time Iblers may not be enough to sustain it. But hey, you've got the numbers in hand. I'll certainly trust your judgement to do what is best for the site. Thanks for all you do!!

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
ewilhelm (author)skunkbait2009-07-11

Thanks for your support! I'll give it my best.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Rotten194 (author)ewilhelm2009-07-10

That was beautiful. I cried :). At first I was absolutely against Pro. But I've come to realize that, like Lithium, Instructables has changed my life so much from the short time I've been here that paying $40- heck, even $80 is totally worth it. I've spent a lot of time wondering what would happen if Instructables was taken down. I've met so many amazing, smart, nice, and totally insane people on this site, as well as thousands of completely unique projects that being without it is unthinkable. Its been an amazing experience to be part of Instructables. After attempting to create a website several times, even on a small scale, I realize hosting isn't cheap. Another forum I go on, which has about 15,000 members, is hosted on the Webmaster's dedicated server, and while he has other sites on it as well, it costs him a lot of money, each month. This site is orders of magnitude larger, and I feel that Instructables paying this out of their pockets is unthinkable. I've thought out some ideas, such as running an online store like the Maker Store, but selling Instructables-related merchandise, could work. Also, offering store "slots" with a few-dollar set-up fee as well as a 5% of every sale for Instructablers to sell kits, items, etc. in would be a great money maker as well, and be darn cool to boot. Sort of like Etsy and the Instructables store thrown in a blender on steroids. (P.s) I'm hoping to get Pro soon, my Mom forgot her PayPal password. D:

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user

I don't mean to be contrary, but there are huge problems with selling things. There is currently a store for instructables items, and it's not popular enough to warrant expansion. Allowing other users to set up their own stores creates the dilemma that not everyone will necessarily send the products they're "selling," and instructables can't be held responsible. Ebay is able to do it because they're devoted to that entirely, but running something similar would likely cost much more than it would raise.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user

Oh, you dream-crusher >:C Yeah, I guess you have some good points. I still think that adding more stuff to the store is a good idea, like expanding beyond shirts. I'm sure tons of people would love to spend money on an Instructables Leatherman, for instance.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user

Yeah, It's definitely not worth closing down or anything, but Eric has made it clear that the store can't support them, and I didn't want to make him reiterate.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Lithium Rain (author)ewilhelm2009-07-03

Eric, first of all I'd like to thank you – firstly for taking the time to read this, and secondly for taking the time to respond in such detail. I very much appreciate it. :)

I would very much like to buy a pro account. Unfortunately, for a couple of reasons, that isn't possible right now. However, please believe me when I say that when pro accounts were first rolled out (and I was there...I figured at the time that was why the site was intermittently down that night...) I wished mightily that I could be the first one to sign up, and that even with my current misgivings about the specific implementation of them, I would have purchased one by now if I could have, due specifically to the benefits I've received. It is not ingratitude or a lack of perceived value that prevents me. ;)

I also wish I could submit code to implement some of these features on the site. Unfortunately, I'm not yet sufficiently proficient to do that for a lot of the suggestions I and others have made. Aside from smaller projects like the header-changer, I don't know that I'd be able to even attempt them (I do realize you're not speaking about me only). Having said that, there are a few things I'd like to at least give a go, (and I'm learning) – if users would submit code for the site to use, you would look at it? This was honestly something I – and I suspect other members - hadn't considered/known before. (Don't suppose you'd let us peek at the real guts of the site...?)

I've submitted ideas because it was the only way I knew to help the site – I can't contribute money or (huge chunks of) code, so ideas are about all I have left (No, I know what you are thinking and I will not sell a kidney. :-D ). But I now realize that it's not particularly helpful to just keep spitting out ideas and nothing else. So...sorry about that. :-\

Oh, well, if it's suggestions on what current features to charge for you'd like...why didn't you ask? :D Erm, it may just be more ideas...but since you kind of asked... Features that I have used extensively and found useful, and would suggest charging for (some of these may already be pro-only), include favorites (I really miss those...bookmarks just aren't the same!), subscriptions, even collaborations and the ability to make new groups. Or...(somebody hand me a bullet to bite >_< ) the lack of captchas is one very nice feature that might be an incentive to go pro. Perhaps the ability to see all the information about an instructable (views, referrals, etc), or even to rate it. Unlimited pms and the orangeboards add a ton of value. The ability to change your avatar. To set an “about”, and interests. To customize the links you see up at the upper right hand corner. The ability to request a username change. Email alerts. The newsletter. Even, as much as I don't like to suggest it for self-serving reasons, the ability to post to any of the forums at all. Basically anything save the core – the actual functionality, access and publishing of instructables and comments to instructables.

As to the question of balance, I'm not sure I stated it as clearly as I should have – I think we are actually in agreement. Instructables most definitely gave (and continues to give!) an excellent documentation system and access to a great community, while users reciprocated with content and impressions. Formerly, these benefits to users came with a certain set of features. Some of these features were cut off for free users, while free users continued to upload the same content (same instructables, slideshows, etc) that they always had – that's what I meant by instructables not giving anything up after the change. Free users gave up features while instructables didn't “give up” anything it was already receiving. Instructables “giving up things” and giving things to the users aren't the same thing, in my description – I think I was too unclear with my wording there. I was not saying that instructables (either now or at any point in the past) only takes and doesn't give anything to users. Just that for the free users under the plan as it is now, it's less give to go along with the take, as compared to formerly.

I definitely understand that instructables isn't a non-profit, and you're trying to run a business. My objections to certain aspects of the plan really haven't been due to greediness or not wanting to lose features (okay, aside from wanting to keep my allsteps ;-D ), but rather a desire to see that business continue for a long, long time.

I don't think it's in the least realistic to expect the site to keep going on advertising alone given the financial situation. I don't hold with those who are really angry about the change, angry that the staff might like to actually turn a profit on this deal, angry about everything, pulling down all their old instructables and demanding that instructables keep operating as it always has no matter what. I'd like to be clear that I totally support the concept of pro accounts for instructables and will defend the switch to pro from all critics. My concern has been with certain aspects of the current pro account.

As Kelsey says, I do hope you don't feel yelled at by everyone...I've tried hard not to strike a similar tone as some posts I've seen, and to be as constructive, reasonable and measured as possible, rather than all whiny and ranty.

(Oh and sorry for writing a book to wade through, I didn't intend to...)

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
ewilhelm (author)Lithium Rain2009-07-10

Some of your ideas for current features that we might be able to charge for are already in place, in the works, or more expansive versions are being developed. Pro members don't get a captcha to send PMs, for example. We're working to integrate the Google Analytics API so pro members can have mounds of data about their Instructables. Finally, here's a question where you can be really helpful: What, if anything, have you bought online, and how did you buy it? Direct entry of credit card? Google check out? Amazon check out? Purchase made on your phone bill?

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Lithium Rain (author)ewilhelm2009-07-10

Well...I've never directly bought anything online. I once bought a book I couldn't find in the bookstore off of ebay through a friend who had paypal, and paid her back in cash. So, I guess if you count that, paypal is the closest thing I've used, and if I were to buy anything online I think I would definitely use that method.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user

I've bought all kinds of stuff online. If it's a website I don't entirely trust, I much prefer to use paypal. I've also used amazon with great success. Let's see, a few of my more recent purchases: Buckles via paypal utilikey via amazon sleeping bags on woot through direct entry glasses from optical4less.com (I found them thanks to you) via their weird bank.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Rotten194 (author)ewilhelm2009-07-10

I pay my Mom in cash and she uses her credit card.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Kiteman (author)ewilhelm2009-07-10
In the last 90 days on ebay, I / Kitewife have bought;

  • 2 Creative Zen mp3 players, plus cases (from 4 different sellers)]
  • DMC embroidery threads
  • A DVD of Apollo images
  • 100 Magic: The Gathering cards (for the boys)
  • 4 pink sheriff badges
  • 1 McArthur-pattern microscope.

All through PayPal

Elsewhere, we have bought two raincoats and a wind-up mosquito repeller, and we occasionally do our supermarket shopping online.

Oh, and I'm waiting for a copy of Crows and Jays: A Guide to the Crows, Jays and Magpies of the World by Steve Madge that I bought from Amazon with my debit card.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
kelseymh (author)ewilhelm2009-07-02

You wrote, "Finally, I'm flattered that you and others care so much for the site. The fact that I'm being second-guessed, yelled at, and criticized means that we've done something right in the past, and that people care that we keep doing so in the future. Thanks for that!"

Hopefully, you don't feel that we're all yelling at you :-) Thanks very much for this response to Lithium's letter. The dialogue and participation is part of what makes the community on this site so enjoyable.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
=SMART= (author)2009-06-27
Very well written Lith :P

Unfortunately most of your suggestions for the pro account features cost more money, either costs in posting items or simply work-hours setting up and maintaining these features.

Although they are very good ideas, the cost of implementing them would most likely outweigh the money made from the pro accounts.

ATM I think the Pro accounts pricing Is fair, and increasing it to add more features would deter new members.

Sending a instructables book out to all new members would be extremely expensive but having the instructables book in an eBook format and available free to Pro members would be a good alternative.

Personally i have never ever downloaded a pdf for a project so having/not having this feature dosent bother me.

Having all the robot pictures for download is a good idea.

Do you see where i'm going ? Its not economically viable to start sending Pro members free things in the post, but implementing simple online features would make sense and make money.

MY IDEAS:
  • Have a competition to design new instructables stickers, then sell them on the website for a few £/$, As far as i know you cant buy stickers, but a comp would drum up interest and sales too.
  • Be able to buy more patches (i believe this is coming)
  • Instructables could have a shopping section with referral links to tools/materials websites and they would earn a commission when we bought our tools.

I agree that the pro accounts should not restrict content or ease of viewing just add features that were not previously available.

I know this is a hard time for the staff and some difficult decisions are being made and i thank them for the work they are doing :D

But in the meantime whilst the details of the accounts are being sorted, The Pro accounts are cheap and as gmj so aptly put it "support the site you love" by upgrading if at all possible and continue to most projects and content,

This isn't the time to desert instructables.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
bylerfamily (author)=SMART=2009-07-06

I agree.The pro pricing is fair.I have never downloaded a pdf so that don't bother me either.I do agree that instead of taking away features that used to be free and making people pay for them is not a good idea.They should add more features for paying people only.What really bothers me is that they have taken away allsteps.It used to be a free feature.Now they say to non-pro members,alright,if you want allsteps you are gonna have to pay for it.I don't mind to much else.But taking away allsteps is a big grievance.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Lithium Rain (author)=SMART=2009-06-27

I understand that it would be somewhat more expensive to send things to members. However, the online features take little to no money to implement (aside from man-hours and what space they take on the servers). I'm simply attempting to come up with as many ideas as possible, as more "traditional" ones either won't work or aren't up for consideration for various reasons. I'm not completely deserting the site, however, I am suspending publication of new content pending the outcome of all of this. I cannot agree to publish my ideas in a medium that is so very restricted. I have very strong reservations about the direction the site is going as it is. I did not comment on pricing, but on features provided to pro as to free. I support instructables, but I cannot blindly ignore what I see without speaking.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
=SMART= (author)Lithium Rain2009-06-27

I understand you are wary about the pro features, but instructables is still the same, sure the accounts are changing but they need to so that instructables can survive. The staff will try as hard as they can to make it fair, but people need a reason to upgrade to pro, and this may mean taking certain features away form the free accounts. Instructables isnt trying to force a regime down upon us, they just need to make more money ! Any why would you withhold projects ? The page views and advert revenue that could be generated is vital to instructables survival ! Maybe that money could enable the free accounts to have more features. For all you know your instructable could be a hit and get tens of thousands views ! Right now we need more content, more site visitors and more support but this situation has arisen solely due to instructables,

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Weissensteinburg (author)2009-06-26

I would just like to point out that you won't be charged to post an instructable, you would just pay if you'd like to remove the ads from your instructable when others view it, allow all steps, etc. Their first (free) tier would leave instructables how they are now.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user

Well, Eric has made some comments that have left me unclear on this.

This one, for instance, seems to imply a scenario without the tiers, where you would be charged to post an instructable in any form. I am glad if this is not the case (although I would still have serious, serious doubts about the tier plan as I understand it now), but I think further clarification is needed.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user

I believe he was referring to the, "pay to be able to post if my audience wasn't restricted in what parts of my instructable they could see," part.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
gmjhowe (author)Weissensteinburg2009-06-27

As we have been discussing, essentially, this is a big thing, and communicating it over will take a lot of work. I know that pretty much half your problems and worries, are already sorted, some never existed, and pretty much the rest are being discussed. I guess its a matter of time, underpaid overworked people will struggle to actually give any more.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Lithium Rain (author)gmjhowe2009-06-27

Care to elaborate which ones are already sorted, which never existed, and which are being discussed? Frankly, there's a dearth of information. The rumors are flying like mad.

One purpose of this thread is to discuss new solutions. Surely you agree it is productive for us chickens to weigh in? If not, I would be worried...

I don't think it's quite as dire as you make out. I'm sure they are underpaid and overworked - I've made statements to that effect - but I don't think it's beyond their capacity to give great new features to pro without entirely cutting out free members from pretty much all usefulness. The entire point of the site is to provide value, as Eric has said - if they're already spreading themselves too thin, then frankly, something is wrong.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user

Eric has discussed some of what they're doing with the feature team, but unfortunately they've asked us not to share any information on here, as it could skew the results of their tests.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user

Fine, but then I don't see why he's objecting to discussion about it - even if they are "already sorted" - if he won't even tell us what's fixed and what's not.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
trebuchet03 (author)Lithium Rain2009-06-27

I wouldn't say things are sorted out such that it's ready to push public. The feature team knows general ideas (proposed by all sides) - but what/how and obviously when things are implemented is reserved for the core staff.

Having an idea on a viable solution is, unfortunately, far from implementing.

but then I don't see why he's objecting to discussion about it
I don't think anyone's objected - if you brought up the right subject, a discussion would likely ensure. But right now, viability is what's being studied and the core team has their fingers on the company's pulse (collecting data and such). We're all antsy waiting to receive the data :) So because these studies are underway, the subject of what is being studied is not public (yet) as not to taint results ;)

If no one has said it yet, your posts (and others) have been brought up in discussion. Not in a bad way, of course ;)


Back to an earlier post
...where you would be charged to post an instructable in any form.

No, to my knowledge, this has never been considered. In context of Eric's post:
I would happily pay to be able to post if my audience wasn't restricted in what parts of my instructable they could see
Although subtle, Eric's response was speaking to offer the option to pay. At least, that has been my interpretation of the conversations I've been involved in ;)


And considering the nature of my post... I just want to be clear that I don't speak for instructables, the company or the management and etc. This is just my observation, opinion and explanation ;)

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Lithium Rain (author)trebuchet032009-06-27

Fair enough. Thanks for your reply. I certainly hope you and W are correct, and my impression of the plan to pay for any/all instructables is in error. As it's not determined whether the tier system itself will even be used I won't speak to that, yet. I posted this because the options that I am aware of are, in my opinion, not viable. While I don't have hard numbers, I do know, a little bit, about human nature - how people might react to things. Basically instructables is about people, user driven, and I hope they don't start losing them - but I fear they might, at the rate they are going. I truly do believe some of these plans will end badly for ibles if implemented as described. I realize my view on this is not universally popular, (and perhaps isn't the best way to win friends and influence people ;) but that is why I felt it necessary to add my two cents worth, even if it upsets others or is ignored.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
trebuchet03 (author)Lithium Rain2009-06-27

I posted this because the options that I am aware of are, in my opinion, not viable.

Completely understandable ;) But, it's opinion. If Eric is anything, he's a man of metrics. A few years ago, I asked him what site data he wanted - he said "all of it." This data is used to turn hunches/opinion into evidence that is actionable in an effort to make all graphs point rightwards and upwards.

If that was unclear (which it might have been) - I have never seen the instructables company make decisions without supporting evidence - similarly, I've never seen them hold to a decision that isn't working.

I realize my view on this is not universally popular, (and perhaps isn't the best way to win friends and influence people ;)
Nice reference ;)

but that is why I felt it necessary to add my two cents worth, even if it upsets others or is ignored.
I don't think it has been ignored ;)

Basically instructables is about people, user driven, and I hope they don't start losing them

Remember that without people, instructables wouldn't exist. But without funding, instructables wouldn't exist. If this were down to two parameters, it would be a problem (mathematically speaking) of maximizing people and funding. Inevitably, you will lose some funding and some people, but there will be balance.

Some authors were knee jerk and pulled their project content down. After sleeping on it, and after some contact, some of them put their content back up :p If an exodus were to occur, it would be visible to the staff before we noticed it, and no doubt, changes would be made ;)

Maybe it doesn't need to be said, but I will anyway :p At the top end of things, Eric, Christy, et. al. have jobs that rely on user generated content. It's in their best interest (to keep their jobs :p) to make sure the people and funding equations are balanced :) Will they fail? Well, they have over three year's of success on the site that says no - now it's just a matter of weathering the current situation.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Lithium Rain (author)trebuchet032009-06-27

But, it's opinion.

Of course. And mine is, obviously, worth as much as you paid for it. ;)

If Eric is anything, he's a man of metrics.

I think (opinion again! :D ) that this may not be about numbers, per se, but about human nature - what will people ultimately pay for? What will they not pay for? When will they get angry and leave/not sign up? A lot of people are just plain cheap. The answers do have to do with numbers, but perhaps they can be found as well as by analyzing community reactions to certain aspects of the plan as by analyzing pure statistics...or at least by combining the two methods of study. Numbers, after all, are emotionless. They cannot fully predict the future.

Remember that without people, instructables wouldn't exist. But without funding, instructables wouldn't exist. If this were down to two parameters, it would be a problem (mathematically speaking) of maximizing people and funding. Inevitably, you will lose some funding and some people, but there will be balance.

Your point about balance is precisely how I have thought about this all along. Except the problem appears to be a lack of balance.

Before, instructables provided a great documentation system with many features and a vibrant community to everyone, who in turn provided pageviews and impressions for ads and content to keep it all running. Now, that balance has shifted. Now that features are taken away from free members without the site replacing them or giving up something themselves, the balance is out of whack.

Perhaps the site can survive solely on revenue from pro users. Perhaps it won't have to care what the free users are doing/not doing at all. For the sake of the site and all the staff, it is my sincere hope that they can. But if it does that, it is losing something more than numbers. Something that can't be quantified, or measured, or plotted on a data graph. It loses its soul. Its essence. Forgive me if I seem naive or overly sentimental, but I've always felt instructables was more than the sum of its parts, and it would be a shame to lose that sense of one big happy family.

I'm not attempting to be Chicken Little here, but I think you can see what I mean...

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
kelseymh (author)Lithium Rain2009-07-01

Jumping in a couple of days late, as this finally got noticed and pulled out of the filters (I really don't think that was deliberate, just a high-volume, low-staff-time failure).

You wrote, "I think (opinion again! :D ) that this may not be about numbers, per se, but about human nature - what will people ultimately pay for? What will they not pay for?"

That is an opinion :-) Trebuchet's point is that Eric deals with quantitative data, objective evidence, that either supports or refutes that opinion. The site has many ways to collect that objective evidence.

Remember a few months ago when the "PDF" icon started having a little popup telling you that it would cost money to access? Every time it popped up, the money amount was a different, randomly generated value. If the user actually clicked through, they still got the PDF for free. But I'bles got one piece of data saying, "one user is willing to pay X for a PDF." If the popup was generated but the user didn't click through, Ible's got one bit of data saying, "one user is NOT willing to pay Y for a PDF." Now consider the thousands of such data points they would get in, say, a week of running. That gives Eric actual objective evidence on which to base a pricing (or even charge vs. no charge) decision.

During this calendar year, the staff has set up many such "experiments," and the data from those experiments are being used by Eric, with adivce and input from the Feature Team, to decide how to adjust the whole Pro Account fiasco.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Lithium Rain (author)kelseymh2009-07-01

No, I don't think it was deliberate, either - if I thought I was dealing with a site that would actively censor this type of thing, again, I wouldn't bother posting.

That's of course the sensible way to run a business. I've eagerly anticipated the results of these experiments...it would be interesting to see the data, if it's ever released.

The point of posting the topic publicly wasn't really so much to tout my own opinion as to generate ideas, but I did let it wander from that in my conversation with Trebuchet, absent hard evidence to cite. (If, of course, that you and Trebuchet are attempting to gently tell me is that Eric doesn't really give a durn what I/we think/suggest on all of this, that's reasonable enough, and I do understand. :-) ) Point taken. :)

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
kelseymh (author)Lithium Rain2009-07-02

You wrote, "If, of course, that you and Trebuchet are attempting to gently tell me is that Eric doesn't really give a durn what I/we think/suggest on all of this,"

And I think my and Trebuchet's responses to this have been supported. See Eric's thoughtful response this afternoon. The fact that you and he aren't in agreement isn't relevant -- it's clear that the dialogue itself is important, most especially when it is as thoughtful and considered as yours.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Lithium Rain (author)kelseymh2009-07-03

I think they definitely have. I'm very glad that this is the case, and I really appreciate him (and ya'll) taking the time to read and respond to my concerns.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
trebuchet03 (author)Lithium Rain2009-07-01

If, of course, that you and Trebuchet are attempting to gently tell me is that Eric doesn't really give a durn what I/we think/suggest on all of this, that's reasonable enough, and I do understand. :-)

I think I've been fairly explicit that this is not the case ;)

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
kelseymh (author)Lithium Rain2009-07-01

You wrote, "If, of course, that you and Trebuchet are attempting to gently tell me is that Eric doesn't really give a durn what I/we think/suggest on all of this, that's reasonable enough, and I do understand. :-) ) Point taken. :)"

Absolutely not! Eric does care about this discussion, and has said so publicly. He has directly responded to several of the postings in the manifold discussions underway, and always without being defensive or inflamatory. He's also corrected some of the more egregiously wrong statements and accusations people has made, again without being inflamatory.

I am not sure that it is ever appropriate to publicly release internal data used for making business decisions. What Eric can (has in the past, and hopefully will) do is post his conclusions along with something to the effect that, "our experiments show that...".

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
trebuchet03 (author)Lithium Rain2009-06-29

The answers do have to do with numbers, but perhaps they can be found as well as by analyzing community reactions to certain aspects of the plan as by analyzing pure statistics...

I think that is the case ;) But I, for one, am a firm believer that discontent is measurable ;)

Your point about balance is precisely how I have thought about this all along. Except the problem appears to be a lack of balance.

Before, instructables provided a great documentation system with many features and a vibrant community to everyone, who in turn provided pageviews and impressions for ads and content to keep it all running. Now, that balance has shifted. Now that features are taken away from free members without the site replacing them or giving up something themselves, the balance is out of whack.

I'm not attempting to be Chicken Little here, but I think you can see what I mean...

I see what you mean, but as you can tell I'm probing further to get a bigger picture :)

What if, even with Pro accounts as they currently are, page views, impressions and uniques remained status quo? I can't say this is the case, just pure speculation. But if that's what balance is, and if things remained the same - would you then go on to say "balance achieved?"

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Lithium Rain (author)trebuchet032009-06-29

The way I see it, if the documentation system is crippled so severely as to force us to make extra steps for every image, then it's still unbalanced. We still have to use workarounds (and really, in a community of makers and hackers, how many features do you think will go unhacked in some manner? :P ) to overcome limitations to get the functionality we used to get - while still publishing the same content. We're still giving the same things we always have, but the site has taken away from us without compensating. But setting that issue aside, assuming it's resolved in some way, then if traffic to our content remained the same (that's what you're saying, I didn't misunderstand, right?), then I would say yes, that would be balanced.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer