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Contests Are Rewarding Unoriginality, Threatening Creativity Answered


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.

42 Replies

user
Downunder35m (author)2016-07-22

I do not always agree with the selection of finalists, nor with the winning projects.
I have seen incomplete Ibles maiking it as well as those that IMHO totally failed the guidelines for the contest.
But as with so many things in life it often comes down to personal preferences, from those who vote and those who decide on a finalist.
Personally I see a contest as a chance to get more attention but not to actually win somethings, no matter how well presented it might be.

When it comes to copied Intructables, or those that have been posted by someone else on a different website just to end here as a 1:1 copy done by someone else I really don't like it.
Especially if people won't leave credit to the original author, disguising the "work" as their own creation.
Don't get me wrong, I have little to no objection if someone actually uses existing work to create an Instructable that is easier to follow, well documented and in some cases includes vital steps missing in the original.
Same goes for my work, if someone thinks he can make it better or tries a different approach they are free to use what they need.
All I ask for is a little credit somewhere for the idea itself.

We can discuss contests, finalists and everything around it for as long as we like but there will never be an agreement that suits all.
IMHO you can't exclude someone from entering because his Instructable is crappy, boring or even unrelated - you can play Lotto and just tick 4 boxes and noone cares...
The one thing I would really value is more info on what actually happened in a contest.
We see only the very most basic things and it could well be that a finalist is not even related to any votes at all...
Considering that there would not be too many people deciding on the finalists I think it would be great if some comment on it would be left by the judges.
Just a few words telling everyone what made this Instructable so special, eye catching or even a winner...
If the user votes are considered to be secure it would also be nice to see the number of votes once the contest is over - at least I would highly value such info.

Thing is this website makes money and only provides the basic tools we need to post our things.
So for obvious reasons quality control in terms of copied Instructables and such is of low priority.
Same for Instructables posted on other websites.
The author must pursue his creation, check if his images have been used elsewhere or if his entire work was taken.
I think we should be more grateful that despite all this we given so many contests and so much variety with them.
The sponsors get their attention and advertising, we the competition and new things we like so much.
As with a good forum this website is nothing without the users and there will always be some black sheep ;)
Some contests get hundreds of entries, even after ignoring the bad and copied this leaves a huge amount of really new things we all can create now.

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user

I would certainly approve of public
tallies of the votes (though members' names might not be included in
that). If they wanted to put in a section or something for judges'
comments, whether compulsory or not, that probably would not be an
issue.

As far as how Instructables deals with these things and
what priorities it places on them, they really ought to reconsider how
they look at it. New projects are what bring viewers, not old hat. If
you sacrifice the new at the altar of the old, you will get just that
and all of the associated consequences. People evidently do not see is
that if copies are tolerated under the auspices of clarity or some other
mitigating factor, the value of and appreciation for original projects is
reduced. Thereby, people will be less enthusiastic to make the efforts
necessary to succeed in pursuits of new advances. With new projects
fewer and further between, overall viewership and confidence will drop.
Not a pretty picture.

On YouTube, where there is no overarching
regulation dealing with content creators to speak of, the problem of
copied videos has become simply pandemic. If you upload something, it
will almost certainly be copied many times over with absolutely no
attribution given to the original creator. (I've seen one case where a
person who stole a video actually tried to file a copyright claim
against the original videomaker.) No improvements of any kind
are made to the video or its subject matter; the content will only be
used as a way to earn someone else something and nothing more. YouTube
has become a poorer place for content creators as a result of this.

Instructables does not need to nor should it follow YouTube's example in this regard.

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user

"New projects are what bring viewers, not old hat."

Then why does that tube project have such issues with have 84,000 views?

"People evidently do not see is that if copies are tolerated under the auspices of clarity or some other mitigating factor, the value of and appreciation for original projects is reduced."

How do you come to that conclusion? There's plenty of appreciation to go around. Just because I may choose to watch a Mary-Kate and Ashley movie doesn't mean I don't have a great respect for Citizen Kane. In fact, I would never recommend the guilty pleasure movie to anyone, but I would tell anyone who would listen about a great film. In fact, movies are a great example of how people love old hat. Most movies these days are remakes, reboots, and rehashes. If people didn't go to see them and spend their money, the production studios wouldn't make them. It just makes the original movies more special.

Instructables does not tolerate theft as you suggest YouTube does. If someone copies text or images directly (which is the only part of a project that is protected by copyright), it is dealt with. Ideas are not a protected resource and shouldn't be. If the inventor of the wheel was the only one allowed to make one, I don't want to think of how we'd be living. Even if an expression of an idea is patented, patents expire. They expire to allow others the opportunity to use an idea to innovate and provide competition.

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user

"Then why does that tube project have such issues with have 84,000 views?"

It was featured.

"How do you come to that conclusion?"

Experience. It's become very much apparent that with sufficient embellishment copies can overshadow newer, even more capable things. For no logical reason and despite the simple fact that it is not and cannot be true, people have the thought a great deal of the time that the projects have made equal strides and accomplishments in what endeavors they've pursued. Thus, the original things are neither appreciated as much and their
value in the eyes of the community is considered less for being in the
company of these copied things.

It's not difficult to see why many people decline go to the trouble of advancing things when there will be nothing seen for it.

"If the inventor of the wheel was the only one allowed to make one, I
don't want to think of how we'd be living. Even if an expression of an
idea is patented, patents expire. They expire to allow others the
opportunity to use an idea to innovate and provide competition."

When people wish to come up with a solution, it can prove forthcoming even without the usage of others ideas rotely. I have encountered situations myself
where I have sought to meet an object with my own and have done just that by pursuing things in a very different matter. Such an approach is only impossible to the unimaginative.

-OAE

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user

"It was featured."

Your plane was featured too. The "old hat" brought views because it was engaging.

"It's not difficult to see why many people decline go to the trouble of advancing things when there will be nothing seen for it."

You're going to have to provide some evidence that innovators stop innovating because they don't feel they'll be appreciated. You claim to be creating original ways to approach paper airplanes and clearly don't feel as though your work is appreciated, but you continue to create new instructables. You yourself are evidence that this point of view is wrong. People who create must create.

"I have encountered situations myself where I have sought to meet an object with my own and have done just that by pursuing things in a very different matter."

Yes, if you're trying to split a piece of paper, there's hundreds of ways to go about it, but there's no reason to re-invent the wheel. In fact, using other's ideas is the cornerstone of innovation. It's a process of changing what already exists.

"with sufficient embellishment copies can overshadow newer, even more capable things"

You're absolutely right. So what if the newer and more capable things had the same embellishment? An original idea will always get the attention it deserves if it engages the community, and one way it can do that is with attractive images and words.

Now, we're officially going in circles. Engage the community and any idea, new or old, will get attention.

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user

"Your plane was featured too. The "old hat" brought views because it was engaging."

My plane--well, the Zeta, as far as recent history goes--was featured, but it was a different sort of featuring than the other to my airplane's loss. While it was positioned in the featured slot of the Instructables general page and play category, it never made it further than those sections and onto the homepage. That difference most likely sealed the deal on the massive difference in how the two fared and were received. In addition, the other had the advantage of being a simpler design which compromised performance for complexity.

"You're going to have to provide some evidence that innovators stop
innovating because they don't feel they'll be appreciated. You claim to
be creating original ways to approach paper airplanes and clearly don't
feel as though your work is appreciated..."

My viewpoint has been based on what I have seen amongst the paper airplane crowd at large, here and elsewhere (particularly YouTube). Given that there are other topics, a massive number of makers and the chances at a person stopping over resentment, I feel extrapolating that a fair number of makers could be effected by this sort of reaction is not unreasonable.

I tend to doubt that what I do is appreciated all that much when someone widely regarded as a major figure in the Ibles community tells me something I spent months refining and improving belonged to someone else strictly because my project had ties to a predecessor (which were ultimately quite limited). Just a few minutes before this comment came in I received others which elected to cast aspersions upon my work as "very confusing" but presented no rationale for this claim nor suggested solutions to what they find problematic. Similar comments come through on occasion but because they give no specifics and there is almost never a concurring opinion, I tend to believe the trouble had is with the specific viewer and not the post.

Neither one of these actions evidences an appreciative stance on my work--and the bigger issue with is that they are claimed baselessly. If there was a rationale given for these claims, then there might be a reason for them. There is not.

"But you continue to create new instructables. You yourself are evidence
that this point of view is wrong. People who create must create."

I think it might be optimistic that the assumption be made that all makers share in my tenacity. I'm not sure how many other Instructables users are approaching or have exceeded 400 instructables with no leaderboard by number of posts, but I can imagine the number is fairly limited and I'll wager further that my posts are probably the most homogeneous in nature. I am reluctant to say that others might make as many posts as I have.

"Yes, if you're trying to split a piece of paper, there's hundreds of
ways to go about it, but there's no reason to re-invent the wheel. In
fact, using other's ideas is the cornerstone of innovation. It's a
process of changing what already exists.
"

This is essentially why I stress that I approve of developments; derivatives are not a problem.

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BrittLiv (author)2016-07-22

I don’t think that Instructables is rewarding unoriginality; I think they are rewarding well documented projects, especially considering the imagery. Documenting something that is original and new is the cherry on top.

As someone who has won quite a few contests, I would say that most of my projects are original and haven’t been done before. There are a few exceptions like for example my Puzzle Alarm Clock, but I still think that is worthy of an instructable. Designing the electronics and programming took nearly a week and somebody who has no clue about either is now able to build their own version.

I think a huge factor in winning is having a good title image. I very often take 50+ images until I am happy with it, trying out different backdrops and lightning conditions.

Since nowadays everybody who becomes a finalist also wins a prize (which I think is a good thing) means that getting attention from your audience is more important than ever. If you think that a project is not getting the attention it deserves, get proactive and post it for example on Facebook, Instagram or send it to blog that might be interested and has featured your stuff before.

We had the discussion about “stealing” projects quite a few times before and I have always been told that as long as the text and the pictures are original there is no problem. I don’t quite agree with that since I think that credit should always be given, but that’s maybe just because of how I have been raised. In my opinion documenting something you’re building for the first time is way harder than just repeating what somebody else has done. On the other hand if you are passionate about a project and can’t wait to share it with the community, I am sure that you will find a way to get around that and like I said it in the beginning it is what sets you apart.

Like the others said, take a look at the projects that have won and learn from them. There may be times when you don’t agree with the judges decision, but as long as you love what you’ve made, it shouldn’t really matter. I use contest as a motivation to start making or to finish stuff I have sometimes though of years ago. Believe me in that case finishing the instructable and hitting “publish” is the best feeling ever.

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user

The reaction to reposted projects is probably one of the more vexing things simply because it assumes that development is not a process that requires much. It assumes that it's merely another stage in the process when it is usually the most elaborate by far.

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user

You still seen to think that those of us who value a "reposted" instructable are interested in the time or effort an instructable takes to produce. To be clear, I don't care if someone spent years or minutes producing something. I care if it's interesting and well presented. A life hack for example usually takes very little time. Often they are the result of a"light bulb" moment and one picture is enough to get the point across. One good life hack is worth a lot to the average person, despite how long it took to produce or conceive. Please stop equating effort with value.

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user

I do not dispute that some things come together in short periods of time while others can take longer.

What
I do say is that people ought to take note that their reactions to
things can change whether or not more things are proceeded with. If a person
spends months working on something only to be met with apathy, it's
likely they will not persevere--and with that progress and advancement
in that direction are delayed or lost.

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Brooklyntonia (author)2016-07-20

First, your hard work in creating something and sharing your
process is only “all for naught” if you let it be. When I create, I do it for
the fun, for a personal need, or specifically to share with others. If the only
reason you’re making something is to win a contest, I recommend reconsidering
your priorities. Winning a contest is never a sure thing, so it’s much more
enjoyable if you’re making for yourself.

You’re also assuming that the only reason to be creative and
make something new and innovative is to win a contest. There are plenty of
amazing projects on Instructables that aren’t even entered in a contest. The
makers of these projects have a vested interest in innovation and simply want
to share. Creativity will never be threatened by contest rules.

I personally, am guilty of copying. In fact, I did it in
response to the Instructables Remix contest. I found this old photo only instructable and made it myself with step-by-step instructions. I didn’t add anything to the project. It was copied exactly. However, I added something to
the community by showing others how to make it, and subsequently won the grand
prize in the Zip it Good contest. Bringing attention to a good idea that likely
hadn’t been seen by many and presenting it in a way that it could be enjoyed
and followed by others was the value of that instructable. An innovative idea
is no good if no one sees or has access to it. Innovation in 3-D printing didn't explode until it
became widespread and everyone had access to the technology.

When it comes to contests, appealing to the community is
paramount, because ultimately contests are by and for the community. I can
understand why you might be upset to see unoriginal projects winning, but it
won because it was something the community saw value in and was happy to
see. If a project doesn’t win, it’s because it didn’t appeal to the people.
Instructables’ staff cannot judge whether something is original enough to be
entered into a contest. It’s an impossible task. Therefore, they’ve left it up
to voting members to determine if it’s good enough for a win.

I recommend you redirect your disappointment. Instead of directing
anger towards Instructables and contest rules, encourage the community to be
more selective about how they vote and judge.

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user

The design of the Zeta was not made strictly for the mentioned contests, though its competitive bids in the one that it was entered into did go nowhere. Moving beyond that disappointment, there is still hope for some further work but only time will tell whether or not its derivatives will pass testing. The bigger point is that if someone did make something special to woo contest judges and judging viewers it could very well do nothing for them despite an overwhelmingly larger amount of effort.

After nearly 400 instructables, I understand that many people are like myself and post new projects each time, every time. I can't even recall the last time I specifically made anything for a contest myself.

The Zeta itself is a good embodiment of what I think people ought to do if they want to work with an existing design: assess what you like about it and build upon that. Improve it where you can and eliminate as many weaknesses as you are able to. The aircraft is not 100% original--but it does contain substantial differences which set it apart from its basis. Make your mark and advance the cause if you must work off of something existent.

Regarding the contests and how the results go the way that they do due to voting, I've done some calculations:

If only 1 in 5 people who viewed the Tube Plane's instructable voted for it, it would still end up with 4177 votes. If a staggering, unrealistic 100% of the 3671 people who viewed the Zeta's instructable voted for it, it'd only manage 3671 votes--and that's 13% short of what it'd need to tie the vote.

With the system as it is, simple viewership can have a very dramatic effect on voting. A 20% approval rating (approval being a vote of support) for a more popular post can snow under the 100% approval rating of a less popular post. At a certain point limited support can eclipse widespread support, even all the way to the ballot box.

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user

Your calculations prove my point that contests are about engaging with the community. If your work isn't doing that, change your approach instead of trying to change the rules.

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user

The community should care more about content than clickbait.

As I mentioned before in my post above, "engaging with the community" can quite easily be a futile gesture if the number disparity is anything like it is in the calculations:

"If only 1 in 5 people who viewed the Tube Plane's instructable voted for
it, it would still end up with 4177 votes. If a staggering, unrealistic
100% of the 3671 people who viewed the Zeta's instructable voted for
it, it'd only manage 3671 votes--and that's 13% short of what it'd need
to tie the vote."

In the calculation here, the limitations of just trying to rally the troops are apparent. It is simply not possible for the Zeta to win the vote given these conditions. To merely tie the vote it'd need 113% of voters. No amount of engagement would or could sway the unattainable 13% of voters over because you cannot sway those who do not exist.

-OAE

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user

"The community should care more about content than clickbait."

But they don't, and that is something you're going to have to live with. Even those of us that do care about content get put off by a poor opening image that looks very similar to a hundred others from the same author. Have you ever visited a bookshop? Picture the way you browsed the shelves, and then think; would you buy a book by an author you didn't recognise, with a plain cover, nondescript title and no descriptive blurb on the back?

---------------------------------

As I type, this topic has had responses from 5 people, none of whom agree with you. In the time since you published, the site as a whole has had around 1.5 million new viewers.

You like doing the maths - do you think this forum topic is going to change the way the community works?

Your issue isn't actually with the Instructables community - I've just looked at your twitter feed. In two years of posting the same images you use here, you have had one like and no re-tweets.

------------------------------------

You have three-and-a-half real choices;

1) Keep moaning, achieving nothing but wasted bandwidth, personal frustration and a reduced motivation to create.

2) Get over it, carry on as you are, producing very similar-looking instructables and gaining a steady trickle of views (you currently average 3,800 views per project).

3) Swallow your pride, learn the lessons of the more popular projects - carry on producing instructables, but work on your presentation skills to manipulate SEO and draw more views (and, hence, votes) to your projects.

3.5) Try something new - post an [original] instructable that is *not* a flying object, learn the lessons of the more popular projects - carry on producing
instructables, but work on your presentation skills to manipulate SEO
and draw more views (and, hence, votes) to your projects.

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user

"Have you ever visited a bookshop? Picture the way you browsed the shelves, and then think; would you buy a book by an author you didn't recognise, with a plain cover, nondescript title and no descriptive blurb on the back?"
Being surrounded by roughly 4,000 books as a matter of course, a walk to the refrigerator is what a walk through a bookstore is like to most people. There are many books with many covers of many styles. A great many are quite utilitarian while some others have some cover art of some sort. A very limited few possess elaborate covers.

To answer your question: it would not be unheard of at all for me purchase a spartanly clad book. I value books by their content, not by their outward visual appeal. A cover's appearance is of little worth if the contents it encircles are of no value.
----------
"As I type, this topic has had responses from 5 people, none of whom agree with you.
You like doing the maths - do you think this forum topic is going to change the way the community works?"

Unpopularity is not indicative of being mistaken. Copernicus wasn't very well received but he wasn't wrong either.

The fact is I have no illusions that this bid for change will succeed. It was worth suggesting things be changed--but it is not going to be successful.

"Your issue isn't actually with the Instructables community - I've just looked at your twitter feed. In two years of posting the same images you use here, you have had one like and no re-tweets."
Given that a friend of mine with a considerably larger following of thousands and a different approach has fared similarly despite all of that, I don't think there is much of a relationship between picture format and activity. I'd say it's more likely just what Twitter tends to do in the absence of massive popularity and many like minds.
--------------------
I most likely will have to explore new strategies to sway viewers since I can't expect performance to be enough. Nevertheless, I have no intentions of following others in simply lying to prospective viewers for the sake of viewership.

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user

Um... that friend has a following of 60. He's tweeted ten or eleven times as much as you, but only has five more likes, and his videos have fewer views than your instructables. His account really supports what we are saying about needing to engage your audience.

Falling back on the Galileo Gambit doesn't really help your argument.

You have a very fixed idea of how the world should work, but I am afraid that the rest of the world doesn't think the way you do, and until you acknowledge that you will continue to be frustrated.

Anyway, you've convinced yourself that you know best, and it's clear that nothing we say will convince you otherwise, so I don't think there's much use in continuing with this discussion.

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user

On Twitter he has sixty followers and on
Instructables he has fewer internal views than myself. What I was
alluding to was his showing on Twitter in spite of his 60,000
subscribers on YouTube. Like myself, his Twitter feed is used for the
occasional promo/update regarding ongoing projects. That is how I've
used Twitter to engage thus far given that no one has asked questions or
anything like that via that platform as of yet.

As far as the
rest of this goes, I would agree that there is little point to
discussing this further. Change is simply not coming.

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user

Unpopularity doesn't necessarily mean you're wrong, but when you have to rely on others to get what you want, you have to be able to rally the troops. Yes, if the average person is looking for a book on a specific topic, they don't much care what it looks like, but when the average person walks through the bookstore and finds lots of books on that topic or they just feel like reading something new, the ability of a particular book's cover to stand out from the crowd becomes pivotal to the average person buying it. That's what we're really talking about here, the average person. You clearly aren't average, so you need to get into their mind and think about what they're looking for when making your next ible. A more attractive cover image is a great place to start and is in no way lying to anyone.

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user

You're forgetting that if the Zeta was more engaging, it would garner more views. I'm not suggesting everyone copy what's popular. I'm suggesting you need to make your original work as enticing as click bait.

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user

Given that the Zeta outperformed its competition in flight performance, I cannot imagine what more the viewers could possibly want from it.

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user

I would have no idea that it would fly far unless I clicked on it. Your images don't even indicate that it can fly. From the primary image, I might think it was just for display. In order to share your ideas, you have to get people to listen. In order to get people to listen, you have to make it interesting and exciting.

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user

I've figured "airplane" should be outward indication enough given that its definition literally presumes that the airplane is a flying vehicle.

I do know what you mean though--those static folded origami trinkets. Unfortunately their usage of the term "airplane" is a red herring and misnomer when they are not actually capable of flight.

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Yonatan24 (author)Brooklyntonia2016-07-20

I agree. If you make Instructables only because you want the contest prizes, you're wasting your time. If you make them because you love sharing, prizes are a big bonus.

If you credit the original source (something that's extremely rare) AND make BETTER instructions, I wouldn't call that copying.

I always do my best to post Instructables that have never been seen before on the internet before, but many times people have beat me to it. :)

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Brooklyntonia (author)Yonatan242016-07-20

Winning an Instructables contest isn't about innovation across the whole internet. It's about engaging the Instructables community and those you connect with. There's as much value in that as there is in being original. When people connect with content here, they are encouraged to come back and create their own content.

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user

Worthy as an ambition as spreading innovation is, that isn't a stated parameter to the contests. It is stated that the things posted belong to you as the individual poster--"your creative ideas," "what you make," etc. While you hold that a person's own photography and statements are enough to make something original enough to be labelled as such, I cannot help but disagree.

If there is truly as much value in these spun things as there is in something that has not been existent, then the efforts in making the two are presumed to be equal. This is not necessarily the case (and likely isn't more often than not). Why go to that trouble if your reception is to be the same regardless of what manner you pursue it in?

Having kept an eye on YouTube, I've noticed similar makers have been all too willing to embrace the posting of identical things over and over with no changes whatsoever--no differences in the object of the video, no differences in the video itself. Nothing but the same thing over and over. I cannot understand why people on Instructables seem to think it's a good idea to tread similar straits as those.

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user

The blurb at the top of each contest is not part of the official rules. The official rules state:

Entries are judged on the basis of the following criteria: clarity, ingenuity, creativity, quality of presentation, and execution of the Instructable.

Clarity, quality, and execution all involve making an instructable that someone else can follow. That's 3 out of the 5 criteria.

You keep going back to effort. Effort has nothing to do with it. It's not a criteria for judging and can in no way be assessed by a judge. A kindergartener may spend months practicing everyday after school to write their name, but that effort, while valuable to the student, doesn't mean that writing their name deserves a prize over their classmate that could write their name on the first day of school and has moved on to writing sentences. Effort should be commended but not necessarily rewarded.

Expend your effort on something that will engage people, and you'll be rewarded. I heard a story that when Tesla showed a room full of people that he had gotten electricity to jump across the room like lightning, they asked what they were supposed to do with it. They saw no value in it though it was important and never before accomplished. I'm not saying that innovation shouldn't be sought after. I'm just trying to say that it isn't always rewarded. The core of Instructables is creating step-by-step instructions that others can follow. Traffic to the site is driven by what people are excited to see, and contests are part of that. Yes, we all want to believe that creativity is paramount, but despite his contributions to technology, Tesla died poor.

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user

Apathy towards advancement seems fairly common throughout history.

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user

I am not concerned with any person's motivations for posting something so long as they advance the development and progress of what they are doing. When they do that, they are contributing to forward progress. If not, they're just stretching out the developmental plateau.

As far as remakes of other things go, I'm still at a loss for why people believe reposted stuff is of equal value to new developments. That is not how the world as we have it today came to be. If the status quo was always the point settled at, we'd all still be using computers the size of garages...except we wouldn't even have made it to that point either--we'd be too busy banging rocks together and sleeping in caves!

The status quo isn't something to settle for. You should always be looking for something better. If you settle for less, you are surely getting just that.

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Uhh! One of my links doesn't work. This is my copied instructable.

https://www.instructables.com/id/Zip-Up-Laces/

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Kiteman (author)2016-07-21

You say...

It is truly a shame that judgments in our contests have again been made which serve to promote rehash and discourage creativity.

and

Posting someone else's creations under your own name is not doing it yourself.

Yet, in the first two lines of the entry you highlight, I read...

The Omniwing Zeta (or simply Zeta) is a refined variant of the popular Advanced Omniwing flying wing paper airplane by menamiketrx of YouTube,

To my mind, your "refined variant" invalidates your complaints about unoriginal entries.

Then you say the Zeta is ...

...entered into only the DIY Summer Camp Challenge...

...so perhaps, then, you would like the admins to remove the Zeta from the "Outside" contest, in which it is also entered?

You have also recommended that staff...

Not promote unoriginal designs by featuring them

Does that mean you would like me to unfeature the Zeta?

Or maybe you would just like to re-think the nature of your complaint?

---------------

If you were complaining about plagiarised projects winning prizes, I would understand your chagrin, but (speaking personally), what I am hearing here is sour grapes because you feel that projects that took less effort than your own achieved greater success than your own.

Complaints in the forums are very unlikely to influence a vote - most finalists are selected by the votes of members who have neither the time nor inclination to research the provenance of a project before deciding whether to click the "vote" button, and when projects get through to the final judging, "originality" is only one of a number of criteria that must be considered. More important are the quality of the text and images, and the story they tell together.

-------------

As others have said, the financial reward of a contest win is low on the list of priorities of a true Maker.

However, if you are determined to measure your own worth in this way, then, rather than griping about past contests, you would be better off learning lessons from the winners. Work out what it takes to garner significant numbers of votes, then apply that to your own future projects.

If you need help, check out the Feature guidelines or pop into the Clinic for advice from other authors.

Alternatively, if you want a more in-depth view of the process you are criticising, why not take part in the judging process yourself?

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user

"To my mind, your "refined variant" invalidates your complaints about unoriginal entries."
If the Zeta were menamiketrx's design, this might have some basis to it. What you are proposing is that developments with substantial differences still belong solely to the entity that developed the original. This is not so, nor what I argued against. My argument was that straight copies are a problem--which they are.
The Zeta is neither a straight copy nor menamiketx's. The aircraft it was developed from belonged to him, the Zeta is a design based on his aircraft.

"...so perhaps, then, you would like the admins to remove the Zeta from the "Outside" contest, in which it is also entered?"

If they did that It'd be about the third time that it happened. The Zeta was turned down from that contest twice by the time of the writing of the original post, as were the other projects of mine now entered into it. It was only after I sent an email to the staff citing the paradoxical presence of comparable projects that they approved.
"You have also recommended that staff...
Not promote unoriginal designs by featuring them
Does that mean you would like me to unfeature the Zeta?
Or maybe you would just like to re-think the nature of your complaint?"

Given that the Zeta is not an unoriginal design, I don't believe there'd be any logic behind such a removal.
--------------------------
"If you were complaining about plagiarised projects winning prizes, I would understand your chagrin, but (speaking personally), what I am hearing here is sour grapes because you feel that projects that took less effort than your own achieved greater success than your own."

One of the victors was very forthright in mentioning that the design was someone else's. Given that plagarism is defined as "the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own" and that this entry was someone else's work being put forward in a contest and passed off as an entry by a person who did not originally create the work, I'd say the description of it as being plagiarized is a pretty solid fit.

Some around here appear to feel that the originality of the photography and associated text entitle the whole package to be called original. Given such labeling would enable the copying of anything and everything ad infinitum, I cannot agree with them.
--------------------
"Complaints in the forums are very unlikely to influence a vote"

I don't expect this complaint to influence any votes or overturn any results, nor have I ever. My goal, as stated, is to encourage makers to pursue a system that fosters new things rather than recycling old hat in the future to avoid these sorts of results.

"Most finalists are selected by the votes of members who have neither the time nor inclination to research the provenance of a project before deciding whether to click the "vote" button,"

Uninformed decisions are not known to be the wisest nor best.

"when projects get through to the final judging, "originality" is only one of a number of criteria that must be considered."

As above, all I can say to the judgment process at that step is: "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."
------------------------------
"As others have said, the financial reward of a contest win is low on the list of priorities of a true Maker."

This overlooks the small detail of what those prizes were, who they'd have gone to in the event that I won and what might have happened if that happened. As most people are aware, I make paper airplanes. Lots of them. With prizes like those offered in the contests, I may have been able to make something more for the community with those prizes in the event of a win. With that eventuality dead, any related projects that might have come to community as a result of it are also dead.

After having offered up the single largest cache of original paper airplane designs on the web, new examples every week for over five years and never demanded a penny, I'd say I'm a pretty sure fit for "Maker." If I didn't fit the description for Maker with that record I'm not sure who would.
-----------------------
"However, if you are determined to measure your own worth in this way"
The results are saddening not because my entry was proven to be inferior to a victor--quite the contrary:

As a matter of course, I make and analyze any foreign paper airplane I run across for testing; the Tube was no different. The Zeta proved be faster, more stable and capable of flying considerably further. The only advantage the Tube possessed over the Zeta was sheer simplicity. Yet for all of these superior capabilities, the Zeta was deemed unworthy and tossed aside as an unoriginal copy floated on to the winners' circle.
-------------------
"Rather than griping about past contests, you would be better off learning lessons from the winners. Work out what it takes to garner significant numbers of votes, then apply that to your own future projects."

This result came to be like this from roughly these events occurring:
1. An existent design was reposted with new photographs and text
2. It titled with an adjective to woo potential viewers over its abilities
3. It was featured
4. A large number of viewers flocked to it
5. A significant enough number of voters supported it, propelled it to a winning position

As I mentioned in another comment here, the voting process as it is does not really leave less popular projects meaningful chances at success:

"If only 1 in 5 people who viewed the Tube Plane's instructable voted for it, it would still end up with 4177 votes. If a staggering, unrealistic 100% of the 3671 people who viewed the Zeta's instructable voted for it, it'd only manage 3671 votes--and that's 13% short of what it'd need to tie the vote.

With the system as it is, simple viewership can have a very dramatic effect on voting. A 20% approval rating (approval being a vote of support) for a more popular post can snow under the 100% approval rating of a less popular post. At a certain point limited support can eclipse widespread support, even all the way to the ballot box. "
-----------------------------------------
As before, I've already mentioned what I have to say as far as how others ought to go about their efforts:

"The Zeta itself is a good embodiment of what I think people ought to do if they want to work with an existing design: assess what you like about it and build upon that. Improve it where you can and eliminate as many weaknesses as you are able to. [...] Make your mark and advance the cause if you must work off of something existent."

Development is a very different thing than copying and too many people conflate the two as identical, underestimating just how different things can be.

I oppose copies, not developments.

-OAE

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user
"To my mind, your "refined variant" invalidates your complaints about unoriginal entries."
If
the Zeta were menamiketrx's design, this might have some basis to it.
What you are proposing is that developments with substantial differences
still belong solely to the entity that developed the original. This is
not so, nor what I argued against. My argument was that straight copies
are a problem--which they are.

No, your original argument was about "unoriginality". The Zeta is not yours, it is menamiketrx's design - you did not create the design yourself, from scratch, therefore it is not original.

You have been told before that the staff of this site cannot be expected to police originality - that would require them to search every web page and every physical library on the planet, in every language, for every one of the almost 200,000 projects here. Therefore we define "original" as "the images and text were created by the author". Plagiarism is not tolerated, and plagiarised projects are always removed when discovered.

The example you give of a plagiarised project is *not* plagiarised, because he created his own images, wrote his own text and gave clear and open credit to the source of the idea. If you were to ban projects inspired by others, then this site would be reduced to maybe a dozen projects, and a readership in double figures.

--------------------

As for the tube plane, I really cannot see any legitimate complaint - yes, it got a lot of views. That is because it was popular - people liked it and shared it. For reasons outside this discussion, they did not do that with yours. Both were featured. Maybe the title had something to do with it, but so what? What's stopping you using adjectives?

This had probably better be my last word on this: stop moaning about other projects being more successful than yours. Use their success as a lesson to gain your own successes. Dragging down other people does not raise you up.

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user

The Zeta is original--regardless of menamiketrx's preceding ancestor designs, no Zeta was ever made prior to my own. It's precise layout is unique; as the first of its kind, it's therefore original.

As for the rest of this, I can only say that it's sad that people on this site are so willing to curse its base to defend those who choose not to aid the cause.

The titling of all of my projects is done exactly as it says on the tin. What you read is what you get. I do not use embellishment or exaggeration to convince viewers. I shoot straight and I tell them exactly what the subject is. That quite possibly that led to the results had.

When unjust things happen, people tend to get flustered.

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user

“My goal, as stated, is to encourage makers to pursue a system that fosters new things rather than recycling old hat in the future to avoid these sorts of results.“

Your goal in your original post had more to do with policy than encouraging members’ practices. You proposed staff stop featuring “unoriginal” ibles and stop allowing them into contests.

“Given that plagarism is defined as "the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own" and that this entry was someone else's work being put forward in a contest and passed off as an entry by a person who did not originally create the work, I'd say the description of it as being plagiarized is a pretty solid fit.”

She did not plagerize. She cited her source, did not pass it off as her own, and therefore has done nothing wrong.

“Some around here appear to feel that the originality of the photography and associated text entitle the whole package to be called original. Given such labeling would enable the copying of anything and everything ad infinitum, I cannot agree with them.”

I would not suggest that new photos or text make it equally original. The new photos or text may allow it to be seen by more people and/or be more engaging (see my Zip Up Laces).

“The Zeta proved be faster, more stable and capable of flying considerably further. The only advantage the Tube possessed over the Zeta was sheer simplicity. Yet for all of these superior capabilities, the Zeta was deemed unworthy and tossed aside as an unoriginal copy floated on to the winners' circle.”

Since you insist on comparing your Zeta directly to the Tube. I’ll present my comparison. The contest was about summer camp. Most summer camp attendees are young and would not be able to construct the Zeta, but could construct the Tube. Not everyone cares about how fast, stable, or capable a paper plane is. We just want it to fly and be fun. The Tube presents itself in a fun way. It looks fun. The Zeta looks like a lot of work. Even in your introduction, you discuss all the work you put into it. This serves to make me think it’s all work and no play right from the beginning. Comparing the two intro photos strengthens this point. The Tube is photographed outdoors as it’s about to be flown. The Zeta is on a cutting mat. Ultimately, the Tube is more engaging to more people because we all feel we could make it and have fun with it. The zeta appears to be made for die-hard paper airplane enthusiasts, and there don’t appear to be many out there. Lastly, because the Tube had been recreated for Instructables, I found out about a new type of paper plane. I had never seen it before. I hadn’t necessarily seen the Zeta either, but I have seen lots of gliders.

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Kiteman (author)Brooklyntonia2016-07-21

+1

It's about the spirit of the contest, not the letter of the rules.

(Never heard of it?? I posted a version nine years ago, almost to the day...)

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user

"Your goal in your original post had more to do with policy than encouraging members’ practices. You proposed staff stop featuring “unoriginal” ibles and stop allowing them into contests."

They're not mutually exclusive things. If there were more qualifications to meet, interested people trying to enter would give it there all to meet the new specifications while those others no so dedicated would chose not to. Advancement could be strengthened and encouraged by this.

"The contest was about summer camp. Most summer camp attendees are young and would not be able to construct the Zeta, but could construct the Tube."

As it happened, the Zeta's design (which was established by the time this contest's specifications were released) was accommodating of the summer camp theme: it naturally integrated the teamwork spirit into it by enabling production to be like that of an assembly line. Groups of children could work together on individual parts to make one team aircraft composed of parts provided by all of them. With concurrent work, the time spent would not be too much--perhaps 20 minutes or so.

"Not everyone cares about how fast, stable, or capable a paper plane is. We just want it to fly and be fun. The Tube presents itself in a fun way. It looks fun. The Zeta looks like a lot of work."

That may be your perception, and while I disagree with it, you are entitled to your opinion and so is everyone else.

"The Zeta looks like a lot of work. Even in your introduction, you discuss all the work you put into it. This serves to make me think it’s all work and no play right from the beginning."

The integrated history is how I convey the story of the project to my viewers. (Telling a story with the project having been something I've been advised to do now and beforehand). While the design work is mentioned, also placarded in that section are numerous mentions of how from the outset and during development construction was made simpler and simpler.

The photography choices I made had as much to do with my belief that the first line of the introduction was sufficient to confirm to the audience that it did fly as the difficulties with trying to hold an object about 2 feet in width out far enough to keep in from whilst gripping and triggering a camera. To manage even the standard mat picture was trickier than usual in that I later had to add letterboxing to get the entire aircraft into frame in spite of its width.

For greater success I probably could have pursued the least common denominator and gone from there, soliciting the attention of those very new to the topic. I have not tended to do this as a matter of course because I have been told by viewers that my simplified designs tend to sacrifice too much of their performance for what complexities they dispense with.

A new direction to ponder and considerations to weight...

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seamster (author)2016-07-19

I agree with your basic sentiment, and appreciate your passion for originality. I personally have much love for anyone that branches off into new creative territory, and strives to make new and original things.

However, I refer you to the various responses on your post from a year ago:

https://www.instructables.com/community/Instructables-Contests-and-Copying/

To reiterate, the copying of ideascannot feasibly be policed by the staff of this site, and there is no attempt to do so. If there was, whoever would be charged with that task would be required to be familiar with all the things that have ever been thought of or created.

And then we'd have to ban just about every possible submission to the site, since truly original ideas are pretty rare. We wouldn't have much of a community if the sole focus of the site and contests was strict 100% originality of ideas.

The basic standard for posting instructables and entering contests is, in the simplest terms, that the photos and text be created by the author.

If someone out there holds legal protections over their work and it is infringed upon, there are means for them to protect their work and proper channels for them to follow to do so.

Very often, a less-than-original idea is presented in an instructable, and it strikes a chord with visitors of the site as well as with staff and contest judges, and it wins a prize. This will always happen, and it's not a bad thing.

Most of the fun of creating and sharing instructables is in trying to capture the attention and imagination of the audience. There are lots of avenues to try to do this, both with brand new ideas, and with new presentations of old ones.

All are welcome.

Sam

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As far as the definition of "original ideas" goes, I do not mean overly broad things like "airplane of paper" as a whole based solely on that very vague specification, I mean very specific things like "airplane of paper with these very specific features, measurements, quirks, etc." I am notasking for people to come up with wholly new ideas for things out of thin air. But I am asking that there actually be differences to things. If Jane posts something that is very specific in its nature and form, I do not see why another person would feel entitled to label an identical remake of Jane's creation as original simply due to a different set of accompanying pictures or writings. It wasn't your creation, therefore it is not original.

As I stress in the original post above, I think Instructables is approaching a turning point. If something doesn't change soon, I suspect that people will not explore new paths and ways of doing things--especially when it comes to competing in contests. When contests are being won by things that are wholly existent, what reason is there to bother with creating something new?

As I mentioned in response to another inquiry here, this post managed to not only be featured but also win 2 contests, netting ~$109 in prizes. It came into these successes despite its very outward mention of being someone else's creation right on its introductory page.

"Very often, a less-than-original idea is presented in an instructable, and it strikes a chord with visitors of the site as well as with staff and contest judges, and it wins a prize. This will always happen, and it's not a bad thing."

I cannot help but disagree with this last point vehemently. Whether or not the staff and judges fully realize the originality of a post, if they reward something that is not original they are putting down something that has been developed from the ground up. They may not mean to do it--they probably don't--but that's what it does as a consequence and that action has the potential to discourage the creation. That obviously has serious ramifications.

Old ideas tend to already have their kinks ironed out and most (if not all) of their development already done. Rarely do remade tutorials change things in very substantial ways. The amounts of time and resources expended in making these sorts of productions tend to pale in comparison to something which is made entirely new. This can make remakes advantageous to pursue if freshness is not a consideration.

Recently, I finished a project about seven months in the making, my recent Omniwing Zeta. A great deal of time was spent perfecting that design, ensuring all was well with it. It missed the deadline for the Make It Fly contest because its new design and the associated limitations of nascent things. When the Zeta was ready, it was published and entered into the DIY Summer Camp Contest. For all the effort expended, it fared so poorly that it did not even qualify as a finalist while something openly lifted and took a few days (perhaps mere hours) to mimic secured a great deal of accolades and goodies. It's hardly a compelling argument for people like myself to pursue such costly development efforts in the future.

"The basic standard for posting instructables and entering contests is, in the simplest terms, that the photos and text be created by the author."

This would appear to confirm that the charm and looks of the instructable are all that matters for them. With no specifications for originality of any sort here, it would appear my assessment that originality is generally irrelevant is incorrect. If I am reading into this correctly, this is quite disheartening. It is confirmation that the community is settling for less than it ought to. Rather than encouraging its members to strive for new reaches it is offering enabling toward stagnation. I can only say that I disapprove of that.

"Most of the fun of creating and sharing instructables is in trying to capture the attention and imagination of the audience. There are lots of avenues to try to do this, both with brand new ideas, and with new presentations of old ones."

While I would not have made as many posts as I have if I did not wish to, I cannot help but think that people are not appreciating the differences in effort when comparing something entirely new to something remade. More often than not there is a big difference and equating the two is not due.

If anyone disbelieves the idea that a person would not repost identical things (of their own) over and over again, I can assure that this does happen and could potentially become the future. On YouTube I commonly see makers posting identical content over and over to double dip on viewership without having to exert all that much effort in actually making new things. That could be here...do we really want that?

-OAE

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bravoechonovember1 (author)2016-07-19

which ones were unoriginal?

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This project wasn't terribly original nor did it try to conceal that fact given that it stated it was someone else's on its front page.

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