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Friday Forum: Ask an Editor (Contest Edition) Answered

Hey everybody! On Friday, May 30th from 1-4 PST, I'll be answering your contest questions! (Though feel free to keep asking me after. I'm always around. :D )

Here's a link to our current contest FAQ (frequently asked questions).

You guys might know me, but just in case: I'm Jessy, and I'm the contest manager here at Instructables. I've been officially working for Instructables for a few years now, but before that I posted instructables obsessively, spent all my time on the site and entered a TON of contests here between 2006-2011. :D

I'll have support from Carleyy (she's responsible for nearly all of the fancy sponsors we get!) and audreyobscura (she works with the sales team at Autodesk and huge sponsors like Home Depot and Radioshack) on this Friday Forum too, so if you post a question I'm not 100% sure about, we'll see if they know!

YAY! Excited to talk to you guys soon.

P.S. You can also ask me not-contest-things if you want, too. Especially if it's about my cats. ASK ME ABOUT ME CATS!!1



4 years ago

Hi Jessy, I'm submitting my first ible for a contest but the more I work on it, the more I'm realizing I could submit it to multiple. Are there any negative effects for submitting the same ible to more than one contest?

Also, do Big Dee and Luna Tuna always hang out together?

It is very rare that submitting it to multiple contests causes any problems. You can put one project in up to three contests, so if you hit the criteria for three, why not? Sometimes being in multiple contests can be helpful because you can get a few more views. :D

Most of the time they do! They're really good at plotting and getting into trouble together. Normally if I hear a crash coming from another part of the house, they're both hauling butt from that direction. :P

Hi Jessy I'll ask about your cats how many do you have?

Also im almost ready to publish another ible but there is something going on with the main image, the red kart is the first image in the intro step but when I view the draft thumb nail I get the yellow kart. I seen a few post on how to change but I haven't had any luck. any Ideas?

Oh and which photo do you like the best Kart, or robots and kart?


Screenshot from 2014-05-24 19:15:52.pngScreenshot from 2014-05-24 19:16:23.pngScreenshot from 2014-05-24 19:27:02.png

I've got two! Big Dee (right) and Luna Tuna. (left) :D This picture is super old though - they're all grown up here:


As far as editing the thumbnail, you can only do it once you publish! I've tried to edit it before I publish and it just doesn't stick. :(

Once you publish, give it a go, and if you can't get it to work, PM me and I can go in and poke around. We'll get it looking fancy!


Ok that's cropped the first image in the wrong place, you might have to click on the image to see it properly

Could not resist, how old are your babies? I hope these discussions will continue for a little while because I know the answers will be beneficial to everyone. I think as it catches on there will be more people who will contribute. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Have a super weekend.


Big Dee is 7 and Luna is 3. :D

I'm also really excited about these and hope they catch on, too! I know sometimes it can be hard to find info on the site so I hope making this front-and-center will be helpful!

This information is valuable to me. Mike recently shared his un-published instructables. I thought it was great! I think it would be great to share some real deal instructables that have been published but not featured and give members a chance to see good instructables do not get featured and why they didn't.

I have had so many questions for a long time and hesitate to post for modest reasons. I know it can be disappointing not to get featured, make finalist, or win a contest. But . . . I am always thrilled if I do get featured, make finalist or even win last prize because I feel it is an achievement.

After all . . . I am competing with all the great artist and DIY enthusiast WORLD WIDE here at instructables. It just makes me dig a little deeper within myself to see if I can create something different.


What I mean by good is the written and photo part of an instructable was good but perhaps the instructable was not unique, timing off or content was not very popular.

Why are all the big contests tech-centric? I
know they say "open to everything" but in practice, you're not going to
win a laser cutter for publishing a cupcake recipe. Is this just a function of
the type of sponsors you attract?

Yup, that is mostly a sponsor/budget problem! Until recently, I've been having to run all our un-sponsored contests on 10k per quarter (it needs to be divided between 15-20 contests sometimes), which essentially meant it was impossible to run those big-ticket contests when a company didn't give us an awesome prize.

Normally, the most we can put into a big 8-12 week contest we run in house (Things like the recent Woodworking Contest, and the current Metalworking one) is $1,500-3000. Otherwise I'd be spending the majority of our budget in one place and can't run a great variety of contests to make everyone happy.

We're making changes, though, and it looks like I'm going to have a bigger budget to work with soon! We're also going to have slightly different contests in Fall - several large contests instead of lots of little small ones, so I hope our Food/Living/Play/Workshop authors will get their share of fancy prizes for a change!

what about a boat contest please?

what do your cats look like?

Ohhh, I'll have to do some research and see if can enough entries for something like that! We've had water contests and we do a Great Outdoors contest every year where we gladly accept boats of any sort. The Great Outdoors Contest is starting on Monday - I'd love to see you enter a boat there!

This year we're actually giving away an Oru Kayak for the grand prize, which I'm really excited about :D

Hi from Cancun, Jessy.

Why are the contests restricted against Mexico, and in fact every country south of Rio Grande, except Colombia?

I might have only tried to participate on two contests before, but ever since the contest closed to Latin America, I have seen at least a half dozen fly by without me on board.

Never mind: I just found your official answer.


Once the lawyers feel comfortable switching us to internationally inclusive legalese, we'll include most countries around the world. We'll make a huge deal out of it when it happens, and we're as close as we've ever been to running truly international AND legal contests.

The editorial team spends about 5 hours a month answering this question in various formats, and this is the final bit to clear up after being acquired by Autodesk a few years ago. We're probably as excited as you are to offer wider contest access. Maybe even more so.

Yep! Though we're looking at big changes coming for international entries soon - I can't say anything officially, but later this year we'll be making a REALLY nice announcement. :D

Can you give us some behind the scenes of the selection process? After the general votes are in, how are the finalists selected. After the judges votes are in, how are the winners selected? How involved are the sponsors?


Finalist selection happens in a ton of different ways depending on the size of the contest and if we've got a sponsor.

Sometimes a sponsor chooses both finalists and winners - this is especially the case with our larger sold contests. :D In most cases, a sponsor will give us a few picks for projects they'd like to see the in the finalists and we'll choose the rest. The most common way a sponsor get involved is by judging and submitting an official ballot.

Finalist selection is pretty tricky, but as a general rule we choose about half of the finalists based on their total votes, and half of them just based on how much we like the project. I like to sort the contest in multiple ways and go through each and every entry so I don't miss anything.

Finalist selection typically takes up a good chunk of my week, starting Tuesday night and sometimes going through Friday morning. (Jewelry, for example - I'm still working on that one right now. SO HARD.) I do much of the initial choosing and then have others on staff weight in and add additional picks or give opinions on what we've got in the list.

For really large contests like Epilog or Halloween, tons more people get involved so we can talk through the picks and make decisions. Sometimes we'll even do pre-finalist voting here in the office to narrow down the entries if we're having a tough time!

I create spreadsheets for each contest where I add in the top entries by votes. Below that we put in our other picks. We narrow down the finalists on several things, including taking multiple entries from the same author into consideration and choosing the best, putting projects up against each other to choose the best of that type (for example, in a survival contest, we might have 50 Altoids tin survival kits, but we'll only choose to pick only the top 1-2 to guarantee finalist variety), checking out to see if any entry has a better chance being a finalist in another contest and moving something else in to take that entry's place.

Sometimes entries that get in by votes can get bumped out of the running if there are entries that came in (last minute awesome entries, especially!) that we think are more representative of the contest and better documented, or if we found out there was vote cheating. Sometimes they also get bumped because they're a type of project we've seen tons of time and/or a similar project won in the contest last year.

After finalists are picked and judging begins, I just let the process run itself! We only mess with the standings for Judges' Prizes (we make the call on those!) or if a sponsor wants to pick - otherwise the standings and determined entirely by community and staff votes and math! :)

Lately we've had between 15-20 judges for each contest - I always like to have more than 10 so it's as fair as possible.

Phew. Sorry, that was a brain dump. :D

Let me know if you have any other questions!!

I want to do this soooooo bad. The internet loves cats! Maybe end of this year or next we could give it a go. We just had a Pet Contest so we'll have to wait a bit, but I'd love to do specific ones for both cats and dogs. :D

What exactly happens when a person has entered multiple instructables in a contest?

It normally doesn't change anything unless they've posted awesome things and it looks like they're going into the finalists!

At that point, I look at all the entries they've put in the contest, and try to choose the one that I think will do best in judging. Sometimes I'll do this by choosing the entry that has that accumulated the most votes, or sometimes I'll choose the one with the prettiest photos.

This is always a problem when choosing finalists in our food/living contests and tends to take up lots of discussion time when choosing finalsts. But more entries is always better than less, so I can't complain!! :D