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The Community Over the Years Answered

In the seven years I've been on Instructables, one thing I know to be true is that the community has changed. A lot.

It is amusing to look over the "How to Steal An Instructable" post made years ago, which satirized the theft of projects.

Looking back on things as old as this proves funny but also depressing though; the community has changed so dramatically in the years that have transpired that copied projects are now no longer the objects of satire or chiding but the recipients of praise and prizes.

A few months ago, when I again broached the topic of copies on Instructables and the problems they cause, I was met with responses indicating that to overcome copycats all one needed to do was work a little harder. That is, those who have already put forward the effort of actually developing something new and of their own design should now work even harder to succeed. Curiously absent was any suggestion that copycats exert themselves and actually do something say--original.

By chance, I ran into a thread I had not seen in years while writing this: the thread on the "Instructables laws," guiding principles users ought to observe. There are four, with some accompanying notes to all. The first entry, the Zeroth Law, is the one relevant to projects and their content.

It states that:
"if an Instructable exactly like yours has not already been posted, then you shall post your Instructable."

An addendum is made to it, stating:

"If your Instructable has an identical goal to a pre-existing Instructable, but achieves that goal by a different or improved route, or in a different style, then you shall also post your Instructable."

The legitimacy of simplicity is also noted in an accompanying corollary.

None of the above ideas are wrong. On the contrary, it is people ignoring this thinking which has caused serious issues. Nowadays, people know other projects have been published with identical instructions (and even superior quality), yet they proceed on and repost it themselves anyway. Furthermore, their copying usually violates the copyright restrictions laid out by the original creator.

When the Instructables laws were written down, it is clear that original content was valued highly and respected. Nowadays, the dedication of the community toward these ideals is questionable to say the least. Today the community displays a disconcerting apathy toward makers and what they do. Just a few weeks ago, I was told the community is not interested in anything but the results--that the makers and their efforts are completely irrelevant. I'd rather not believe that is how the community at large believes things ought to be (especially given that it's a particularly unimpressive pitch to attract new makers and new ideas), but it seems like it may in fact be just that.

With that in mind, things have obviously changed--for better or for worse is in the eyes of the beholder; I have already reached my own personal conclusion.

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user
Kiteman (author)2016-09-12

"Just a few weeks ago, I was told...that the makers and their efforts are completely irrelevant."

No, you weren't.

You were told that projects did not get praised, viewed or rewarded based on the effort taken to make the project, but on the effort put into helping other members recreate it - ultimately, the quality of presentation.

You are very keen to complain about the lack of originality of other instructablers, yet I turn to your most recent projects, and I see:

> The SkyGrasshopper based on the Grasshopper.

> The StratoScout based on the Super SkyScout, which was, in turn, based on the SkyScout, which was based on the Super Scout, which was based on the StarDragon

> The Swift Vulcan, based on the MetaVulcan, based on the Vulcan Warrior, which was not your design.

> The Simple Cirrus, based on the Cirrus, based on the Trekker, based on the Traveller.

...and that's just your four most recent planes, all published since you last complained about the lack of originality on the site.

Now, I am not suggesting you stop posting paper planes, but I am saying that you are not winning any friends, or gaining any influence, by complaining about other people when you are doing exactly what you complain about. There's a word for that.

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

If you see a project using somebody else's images, or copying somebody else's text, then, yes, that is unacceptable, and members can contact HQ or a member of the Community Team to get it sorted.

(I would be interested in finding out, out of approaching 200,000 projects, in your seven years as a member, how many blatant copies you have found and reported?)

But, just because somebody has seen a cool thing and decided to try and make one themselves, that is not a reason to criticise them or complain about them. As Brooklyntonia says, a new member who reproduces somebody else's work is encountered, they should not be attacked, but welcomed and encouraged towards their own creations; new authors are fragile things - the majority do not go on to create a second or third instructable, often because the first feedback they get is negative.

If all you contribute outside of your own projects is negativity, you are incredibly unlikely to force the rest of the community to see things your own way, especially since the vast majority of those you consider "guilty" do not actually read the forums (half a million new hits to the site every day, but look how many views this, or any other topic has had).

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

"Furthermore, their copying usually violates the copyright restrictions laid out by the original creator."

Only if the copy actually is a copy, and uses the original's text or images. The default licence encourages sharing, reproduction and development by others.

You've been here long enough that you should know that the "Laws" are not an official site policy. I wrote them, and, as their author, I am quite familiar with what they mean, what they stand for, and what they are meant to encourage.

They are there to say...

YES, you can publish your project.

NO, we don't care that it looks similar to somebody else's.

Now GO, post, learn, and post again. Welcome to the family!

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

In closing, since you decided to bring up the Laws, I draw your attention to the Third Law, and I move on.

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user

"You were told that projects did not get praised, viewed or rewarded based on the effort taken to make the project, but on the effort put into helping other members recreate it - ultimately, the quality of presentation."

Indeed I was; how it was told to me was that the result was what mattered. The project is desired, the maker is the means to it and that is all there is to it. I believe it--as I did when writing this topic post. I don't believe that it's a good thing, but I believe it.

With my own projects I've gone to some lengths to maintain a quality such that assistance is not necessary and to assist those seeking help when that is still not enough. In turn, this led me to make a topic pointing out the wrong way to voice a problem (that being overly vague and not telling the author what parts you are finding difficulties with). Unfortunately, all too often I think people choose to give up rather than simply clarifying what problems they are having and allowing help to move to assist them.

"You are very keen to complain about the lack of originality of other instructablers, yet I turn to your most recent projects, and I see:
> The SkyGrasshopper based on the Grasshopper.
> The StratoScout based on the Super SkyScout, which was, in turn, based on the SkyScout, which was based on the Super Scout, which was based on the StarDragon
> The Swift Vulcan, based on the MetaVulcan, based on the Vulcan Warrior, which was not your design.
> The Simple Cirrus, based on the Cirrus, based on the Trekker, based on the Traveller.
...and that's just your four most recent planes, all published since you last complained about the lack of originality on the site.
"

Each of the aircraft cited were new aircraft of their own right; none were identical to any others existent. While many of those aircraft cited shared parts and/or bore similar names, their designs were new upon release.

While the Vulcan Warrior was not one of my own, it was a development of one of my aircraft (the Turbo Vulcan). The Vulcan Warrior was modified substantially by myself and, per the terms of the license all of my aircraft are under, I cited all involved when posting the MetaVulcan. As with the others, the MetaVulcan's original example was the fruit of my work in 2014.

As before, I have never advocated for restrictions on developments. If you make something into a form that has never been done before, it is original. If you simply replicate something existent, the same cannot be said.

"Now, I am not suggesting you stop posting paper planes, but I am saying that you are not winning any friends, or gaining any influence, by complaining about other people when you are doing exactly what you complain about. There's a word for that."

Though no one has prodded me to leave, I have given thought to it; thus far I've declined. Even so, if I do choose to leave at some point I do plan on removing all content to ensure that there will be no discontent over what would then be content without support.

As for the suggestion of hypocrisy, that's simply not the case. I have upheld originality and never posted the same airplane twice. I have no intentions of doing so because there is no point of trotting over grounds already explored. There is no reason to post the same thing twice. Development of new designs and techniques is a far better use of energy, expertise and time.

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

"If you see a project using somebody else's images, or copying somebody else's text, then, yes, that is unacceptable, and members can contact HQ or a member of the Community Team to get it sorted.
(I would be interested in finding out, out of approaching 200,000 projects, in your seven years as a member, how many blatant copies you have found and reported?)"

To those exact specifications? About a dozen, though that is a dated number. I stopped bothering in 2013 after some of the responses given at that time. If the original photograph/text waiver wasn't about, that number would skyrocket to at least 100 to 150 of the ~1250 projects existent I'd say (~10% of the category; my own stake composes ~31%).

"But, just because somebody has seen a cool thing and decided to try and make one themselves, that is not a reason to criticise them or complain about them. As Brooklyntonia says, a new member who reproduces somebody else's work is encountered, they should not be attacked, but welcomed and encouraged towards their own creations; new authors are fragile things - the majority do not go on to create a second or third instructable, often because the first feedback they get is negative."

I take no pleasure in crushing newcomers' hopes, but they are not the only people who offer things up to the community.

Had I been awarded the relevant prizes, I'd have been doing work on the RC controlled paper airplanes I had anticipated working with by now--regarding how a person could make and operate an aircraft with those engines. As is known, things did not go that way. At this point, I am quite certain the community will never see those prizes be integrated into any projects by the winners and that the involvement with the community those prizes had is now over. More could have been made with them but isn't.

Usage in further instructables would have been a better deal for all involved.

-OAE

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user

As always, you have brought your argument back to what I suspect is the real reason you have issues with these kinds of projects. They are winning contests and you aren't. Not winning a contest is not stopping you from working with RC paper planes and I find it sad that you do. You cannot control what others do, but you can control your own actions. Stop dwelling on the negative, and figure out what you can do to achieve what you want.

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user

"As always, you have brought your argument back to what I suspect is the
real reason you have issues with these kinds of projects. They are
winning contests and you aren't."

People may believe what they wish; my reactions and positions are as they are for the reasons already stated.

"Not winning a contest is not stopping you from working with RC paper planes and I find it sad that you do."

Without the RC parts, there is no way I can proceed further. I have the expertise but not the equipment. Others have the reverse situation.

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user

There are more ways to gain access to the equipment you need than winning a contest.

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user

True, I'll probably explore them at some point. The contest was an opportunity but not one that went my way.

I still hope to see how (or rather if) those items are used and rematerialize on the site.

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user

What type of special (expensive) equipment do you need for making a paper airplane? What does equipment have to do with a contest win? I think you'd be more likely to win if you made something really difficult with basic tools...

To me (someone who isn't interested in paper airplanes, and someone who was never able to make even the simplest type), all of your Instructables are the same, and I'm sure that there are members that look at my Instructables and think they're pretty much the same... However, you have over 1000 members who are interested in your Instructables, and are probably waiting for your next invention.

Even though there have been contest wins at under ~1K views, A quick look at your most recent I'bles shows that many don't pass that, which doesn't help becoming a finalist, as you probably know...

It does look like you spend a lot of time making your Instructables, but you should ask yourself if it's worth your time.

I don't think keeping a schedule for Instructables is that important (unlike YouTube), since your followers don't get an email immediately. I like to post whenever I have time, and whenever I feel like it. I don't want to make myself feel like I'm being forced to publish an I'ble, when there's no reason to do that. There are weeks that I don't post, and weeks that I post several I'bles...

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user

"What type of special (expensive) equipment do you need for making a paper airplane? What does equipment have to do with a contest win?"

What you need to make one paper airplane is very cheap: a ruler, tape, paper and pencil. Most of these things will be around already or will ameliorate their cost over a long time if you must go out and purchase them. For the most part, one paper airplane costs a few pennies at the most. That situation changes radically when you introduce RC equipment into the equation.

When making an RC paper airplane, the cost skyrockets to several hundred times that of a regular paper airplane. The cost of the equipment related to the contest ranged from $50 to $167, depending on which of the two systems being looked at. A previous contest here offered these two systems as prizes.

"I think you'd be more likely to win if you made something really difficult with basic tools..."

I made this advanced plane a while back; it was a contender in several contests. Though advanced, it would go together fairly easily for anyone that followed the instructions. It crashed and burned thrice, being eliminated without qualifying as even a finalist once.

Based on that experience and others, I'm not entirely sure what to do anymore. No matter what I try to do there is always a complaint out of someone over something.

If I try to make something simple, people want better performance.

If I try to make something highly capable, people complain about complexity.

If I try to make something capable but straightforward people gripe about having to make measurements.

There is always some complaint over something, and it is extremely rare for the slightest suggestion to come in indicating what ideas they have toward a solution.

"To me (someone who isn't interested in paper airplanes, and someone
who was never able to make even the simplest type), all of your
Instructables [look] the same, and I'm sure that there are members that
look at my Instructables and think they're pretty much the same...
However, you have over 1000 members who are interested in your
Instructables, and are probably waiting for your next invention.

Even
though there have been contest wins at under ~1K views, A quick look at
your most recent I'bles shows that many don't pass that, which doesn't
help becoming a finalist, as you probably know...
"

It is very uncommon for my viewers to interact with me. Although I have mentioned that viewers can message me for anything from advice on how to troubleshoot to making requests, I very seldom have takers. There are a lot who follow my work, but I am not sure how many are retained and at what rate.

"It does look like you spend a lot of time making your Instructables, but you should ask yourself if it's worth your time."

At the moment, I think it is worth the time to make projects. Specifically tailoring projects for contests in hopes of winning them? Probably not.

"I don't think keeping a schedule for Instructables is that important
(unlike YouTube), since your followers don't get an email immediately. I
like to post whenever I have time, and whenever I feel like it. I don't
want to make myself feel like I'm being forced to publish an I'ble,
when there's no reason to do that. There are weeks that I don't post,
and weeks that I post several I'bles...
"

The primary reason I continue to post weekly is I am probably the only major paper airplane maker that can honestly claim to do that on a continual basis--every Friday since 2011. The two big YouTubers have more varied schedules with one varying between days and weeks between posts and the other going months between videos some times. It's one thing I can cite demonstrating my loyalty to my viewers--I don't abandon them.

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user

"There is always some complaint over something, and it is extremely rare for the slightest suggestion to come in indicating what ideas they have toward a solution."

I have previously suggested that you simply make your primary images more engaging a.k.a. pretty. A paper airplane on a cutting mat doesn't scream click and vote.

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user

That part was not in reference to contests actually--(I am looking into how to handle images and have made some modifications in my last few half dozen or so as an interim solution. I haven't decided how I'm going to approach alternate staging of images or where they'll be shot.)

The aspect I was talking about in that bit was the reactions I get over the performance and complexity as a normal matter, outside of contests. To the others to whom these things matter, getting the mix right has proven a perpetually difficult thing.

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user

I'm happy to hear you're thinking about presentation more and look forward to seeing what you come up with. When it comes to complexity, you aren't going to please everyone. Since you post regularly, perhaps you could flip flop each week between various types of performance.

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Yonatan24 (author)Brooklyntonia2016-09-20

"A paper airplane on a cutting mat doesn't scream click and vote." Exactly.

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user

Complaints? People love complaining.

When someone sees your Instructable, they have NO IDEA how much time it took to make it. It seems really obvious to many people: You took some pictures, and wrote a bit to go with it. If they knew how much time it takes to make an good Instructable,

Do you know how mad I was when my first homemade vise didn't win in the Hand-tools only contest? Do you know that I spent several dozen hours making that Instructable? To this day, I still can't find a reason for it not to win...

I used to spend tons of hours making an Instructables, and now I don't. The first 75% takes 40% percent of the time. The last 25% takes 60% of the time.

Since I'm someone that posts quite often, making Instructables pretty much "wasted" all of my time. I've now decided that less can be more...

I don't recall people EVER complaining about the fact that my I'bles are: "If I try to make something simple, people want better performance. If I try to make something highly capable, people complain about complexity."

If Instructables didn't have any contests, would you post Instructables?

After posting an Instructable, what do you feel that you earned?

What motivates you, and makes you want to post an I'ble?

You're posting it on a weekly basis because you CAN? Why don't you do it because you WANT and enjoy doing it?

Who are "the two big YouTubers"? Pewdiepie and ...?

By the way, I do think your pictures might need a bit of improvement. I can help you with that if you want.

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user
Yonatan24 (author)Yonatan242016-09-19
user

I said; I move on.

I've tried being reasonable, I've tried explained the situation as it is.

I can't respond to your complaining any more without breaking the Be Nice policy.

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iceng (author)2017-01-31

When I want to make a copy of an ible, I ask the original author for permission and give credit as in the https://www.instructables.com/id/MAGIC-ROLLING-STE...

originally invented by Phil B

https://www.instructables.com/member/Phil%20B/

Eventually I do not follow exactly and some differences arise because my skills, tools and materials are not the same.

BTW, joined 2006 and I have yet to win or honorable mention in a contest...

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OrigamiAirEnforcer (author)iceng2017-02-02

Sounds more in line with being a development, which is not an issue.

Problems do not arise from developments, they arise from straight copies.

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Yonatan24 (author)2016-09-05

What I don't understand is what makes a person want to make an Instructable about something they've seen before. Especially when they don't even document it well.

On YouTube it's obvious: They copy the exact same thing, but make a clickbait title, because they know that people wouldn't watch the exact same thing again... Money...

Okay... Fine. You just wanted to show your finished result of the project. But give the original author credit!

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user

The monetary aspect is here too, when contests are involved and the reasons are obvious: taking something with all R&D finished and the kinks worked out of it is simple. It is usually more difficult to actually do things for oneself. As far as crediting the original author goes and how well that option goes to defusing the situation, well...there can be numerous issues (protections put over the project by that original author being chief among them).

As far as how it shoehorns into this topic more directly, it's quite astonishing to see the margin of change that has blown in in under a decade. As I mentioned, copying went from something satirized to something supported by scads of the community. Based on how similar trends have gone with sites like YouTube, I am apprehensive of where this sort of trend will take things.

-OAE

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user

You're absolutely right about the changes to the general opinion on this subject. The internet has changed the way many think about their intellectual property and has bred new generations that have known no different. The advent of the creative commons license is a great example of that shift. Many people posting their ideas on the internet not only acknowledge that their ideas, documentation, and writing may be used by others but encourage it, because they understand that they are not all knowing and others can contribute to their ideas. We have also come to understand that like putting all your best belongings on your lawn, your best ideas on the internet are likely to be taken. The difference is that you do not own your ideas. Unless you get a patent, you only own the pictures and writing associated with your idea.

I personally grew as the internet grew. I was in high school when the dial-up internet became commonplace. I did not always have these opinions but have changed my thinking as these shifts have happened, and I am happier for them. If I was constantly worrying about whether someone took my idea, I'd go crazy and likely wouldn't send what I make into the world.

As an art teacher, I deal with both sides of this argument everyday. Many of my students feel they can't make anything at all, others only want to copy what they see, and most of those who don't, struggle to come up with a good idea. These are three phases of growing as a maker that all need to be supported. They first must feel confident in their ability to make something (usually a copy), then they must be encouraged to find their own voice (branching out and putting their own spin on it), and finally learn to come up with their own original ideas.

While it may not seem like as much effort to "copy" another person's project, it often is for those who do it, and there are benefits to those copies existing. Whether it's bolstering someone's confidence, providing different perspectives, or spreading ideas, it would be sad if everyone thought they had to come up with something original in order to share what they make.

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user

"If I was constantly worrying about whether someone took my idea, I'd go
crazy and likely wouldn't send what I make into the world.
"

As many people wish to see their efforts met with at least some acknowledgement, I suspect as these things become more well known innovators will be more reluctant to share the fruits of their labor than they have been.

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user

"Copyrights protect expression and patents protects inventions, and neither protect ideas." -link

Yes, licenses protect your expression of your idea. Photos and text are the most commonly used expressions in instructables. Nothing protects ideas and nothing should. Just because you came up with it, doesn't mean you can do it best.

Obviously, you weren't listening as I have suggested that perspectives on sharing ideas has shifted. The existence of the CC license is proof of that. It represents people wanting to share not only their ideas with others but also the expression of those ideas.

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user

My comment did not dispute the notion that there is a movement which seeks to make the exchange of ideas freer--quite the contrary.

What I said was that: while many people seek a freer exchange of ideas, this line of handling is one which runs a very serious risk of scaring off others who do not share that vision and may not disclose their work for fear of others.

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user

What I'm trying to say is that there are far more people who are happy to share their ideas these days and far fewer people who are worried about their ideas being "stolen." So, while there may be some people out there who share your concern, they are in the minority. People have come to understand that it isn't just about the idea anymore. It's about how the idea is executed that matters and sets a maker or artisan apart.

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user

It's certainly a foreign way of thinking versus what I am used to. Where I am from, individualistic thinking is the name of the game. I prefer this way myself because of how it values the people behind the work for their efforts--they have something they can point to as their own. In addition, because contact and collaboration are limited or not occurring, similar works are also often redundant--providing a safeguard against failures should something encounter problems.

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user

I'm not disputing the value of individualistic thinking, but innovation can be applied at various stages of a project. There's innovation and value in all the ideas that go into a project. While many aspects of the project itself may have been done before, the way it's presented is never the same and thus it isn't any different than the way you make a small adjustment to the wing of one of your planes or change up someone else's designs.

Think about it like art. I can give a room full of students the exact same instructions for a painting, but they will all come out different because everyone has their own skills and perspectives. Unless someone lifts the text or images exactly as they were previously published, a new way of doing it has been expressed no matter how small that change may be.

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user

Giving credit isn't that hard... Look how I gave Chitlang credit in the intro of this Instructable. Barely anyone does anything close to that...

If there weren't any contests, I think it would lower the "bad" Instructables by a huge amount, and would reduce the amount of really good Instructables by a tiny bit, since many people spend more time on an Instructable if they know it has a better chance of winning in a contest...

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Brooklyntonia (author)Yonatan242016-09-13

I'd say at least half of my instructables wouldn't exist if it weren't for contests. In fact, none would exist, because the contests were what got me into Instructables in the first place. In the grand scheme of things, 100 or so ibles isn't much, but I'm sure there are other makers like me. It's not that I wouldn't post if I couldn't win a prize, though that's sometimes the case. Primarily though, the contests give me ideas and remind me of things I've been putting off. I have literally made boxes of things that I don't use because a contest gave me an idea and it seemed like fun at the time. I think dropping contests would have an effect on good instructables far more than you would think.

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Yonatan24 (author)Brooklyntonia2016-09-13

Less than half...

I'm not saying contests are a bad thing-- Not at all!

If there weren't any contests, I think I might publish even more, since I have projects that I don't want to start making before I see that the contest opens (Like my wooden vise for the woodworking contest, my upcoming CNC machine for the CNC contest)....

Many times I think of a project that would definitely win, and then later realize that it would be a waste of time and money, since it only sounds cool. I don't need it, and the prizes aren't something that I want...

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user

I think contests exacerbate it, but the core problem is a lack of values among those who do not respect the original authors or their creations.

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Kiteman (author)Yonatan242016-09-12

Because they like it, and want to have a go themselves.

My first instructable ten years ago, could be seen as a copy - I came across a lesson-plan detailing how to make sherbet, and I decided to turn it into an article on the BBC website, and then into an instructable. It was bad, not even any pictures, but it was welcomed by the other authors then on the site, and I was encouraged to be more creative.

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Brooklyntonia (author)2016-09-12

Often a copier is a new or young maker. They made something they thought was cool and want to share their version because they're excited to have accomplished it. Yes, they should be encouraged to document their sources, but encouragement is the issue isn't it? We should be encouraging new/young makers to publish their work. We want them to get comfortable with the publishing process and grow confident enough to branch out on their own. Instead of encouraging them, they're being reprimanded and shamed. Let this be a call to anyone reading this that when you see a "copy" don't get angry, get supportive. Ask questions that might spur new ideas in the authors and encourage them to make something original.

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Yonatan24 (author)Brooklyntonia2016-09-13

I accidentally closed the window, resulting in losing what I wrote. This is what I remember from the reply:

Agreed. Well, not really.

Most times people don't think that they need to give credit. They just don't think about it, and when I tell them that they should give credit, they do it, and write that they didn't even think about it... I have absolutely NO problem with these people.

What I can't stand is: Well... Read the fisrt part of my reply to Kiteman

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Brooklyntonia (author)Yonatan242016-09-13

Truthfully, they don't need to give credit. It's courteous, but if they didn't take any images or text directly, there's no rule or law that says they have to give credit. Ideas are not protected unless a patent is granted.

The reason they didn't think about it is likely that they think of what they find on the internet in a different way than those of us who are old enough to remember a time before the internet. See my crazy long post to OAE.

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user

"Truthfully, they don't need to give credit. It's
courteous, but if they didn't take any images or text directly, there's
no rule or law that says they have to give credit
."

According to this, the licenses used around here are sufficient grounds for someone to be compelled to do what the relevant license specified.

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user
Yonatan24 (author)Kiteman2016-09-14

Your other one. Click next at the bottom...

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yokozuna (author)2016-09-05

When I created that instructable, what irritated me the most was the fact that not only was my instructable duplicated, but the duplicate had incorrect information added in to make it seem better. I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing that it's still relevant nearly a decade later.

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user

It's still relevant and I'd say it's message holds true today.

Unfortunately, too few are actually appreciating that message and refraining from stealing.

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