294Views21Replies

Author Options:

Underlying goal/purpose of having contests Answered

What is the fundamental purpose of having Instructables Contests?

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

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

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

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

Let's get some friendly debate going! woo.

21 Replies

user
Lithium Rain (author)2009-02-09

I disagree that contests are bad. They're awesome! (And that's coming from someone who almost never wins.) The experience of submitting an instructable (and possibly entering it into a contest) is always a positive one for me, whether or not I win. Sure, it's slightly disappointing to not get a prize, but it's very gratifying when weeks or months later I get comments thanking me for an instructable or showing how someone replicated it. The way I see it, contests are good for at least 4 reasons: 1) They give everyone a deadline. They give you a kick in the pants and a definite date you need to have your project completed by if you wish to participate. 2) They encourage new users to browse and join. As I recall, a contest was one of the things that drew me to the site. (That and the earbud hacks. ;) ) 3) They inspire new projects long after the contest is over. Example: the bottle contest is now closed, but I'm saving every bottle I can find and trying to come up with new and awesome ways to reuse them anyway, because the contest opened my eyes to something simple I can use to recycle and make cool things. 4) They recognize excellent projects as defined by the judges. Yes, I know there's bound to be contention in every contest, at least a few users who think it's not fair, and the judging was rigged, and Eric hates them, and the world stinks, etc. But I think it's a very good thing that outstanding projects are rewarded when entered in contests. Because who doesn't like free stuff and recognition? It only encourages new content. A little positive reinforcement goes a long way, and can motivate others even if they didn't receive it in a particular instance. 5) They show you that you, too, can make awesome instructables. When I first joined, I never dreamed I'd be able to write an instructable on anything, ever. But the contests motivate me to try new things and post projects I just hadn't thought to post.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
BeanGolem (author)Lithium Rain2009-02-09

gah... the problem with your arguments is that it makes me think harder for a counterargument... heh :D

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Goodhart (author)BeanGolem2009-04-10

As Lemonie wrote: there is nothing keeping you from issuing challenges, if you feel that to be beneficial ;-)

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
ewilhelm (author)2009-04-01

We run contests to inspire people to post amazing Instructables. Big contests bring in fantastic projects in a way that cannot be duplicated. Without a deadline, the reason to post now goes away, and people tend to post never. So, a contest or a challenge without a deadline is a non-starter. I disagree strongly with your sentiment that there are losers. Being a loser indicates that you've lost something -- time, money, reputation, what-have-you... If someone views our contests as transactional and feels that they have wasted effort building a project because that project didn't win one of our contests, then they have missed the point of DIY entirely.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Goodhart (author)ewilhelm2009-04-10

I have to agree 100%. And if someone is inspired to create something because of the contest, even if they didn't win in the contest, they have created something cool, and have thereby grown (not to mention the published ible that can now be viewed and benefit others).

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
MechEngineerMike (author)2009-04-09

As a passionate mechanical engineering student, i love accepting a challenge! The rubberband contest inspired me to think about out-of-the-box uses for r-bands. You should check out my work, i posted three cool ibles based on r-bands. And i dont think there really any losers, like Edison said, something to the effect of "When inventing the lightbulb, i never faild once, i did however, succeed in discovering 999 ways Not to make a lightbulb.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
PKM (author)2009-04-01

I'm not overly fussed about winning things in competitions- I was over the moon to get my Monkeylectric bike light and the "20 things" book, but for me the point of contests is to get you thinking in a slightly different way. Once you've thought and thought and thought about what you can make out of a plastic bottle that would be cool, you will have all those ideas stashed away in your head for a long time.

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

What do you mean "I'm bumping an ancient topic?"

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Kiteman (author)2009-02-10

I think the contests are part of the character of the site.

The contests have grown along with the site.

To me, the contests serve several purposes:

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

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

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

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

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

Which is all a long-winded way of saying "contests good".

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Kiteman (author)Kiteman2009-02-15

Another thought - I had the beach skates idea years ago, before I joined Instructables.

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

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
caitlinsdad (author)2009-02-09

You have failed to capture the true spirit of Christmas. The Commercialism. Unfortunately to survive as a viable website, you need to draw in new viewers and capitalize on "free" contributions. There is the time-tested method of holding contests to motivate people to join and create for bragging rights, exposure, prizes, whatever. In the end it's all fun for me but it offers some a creative outlet to express themselves to a "niche" community. Yeah, contests have their dark side, people gaming the system and wondering what gets to be picked but so far the sponsors have upheld and run the contests in a fair and impartial way as possible. Of course, somebody's feelings will get hurt. You just have to try again.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user

I concur. I'll also add that since I'm going to post my projects anyways, the chance of free schwag is nice. And I get a good lol out of the occasional sore loser.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user

I think that the I'ble community is probably less sore-loser-prone than many other demographics. I'm sure most of us have plenty of "failures" under our belt from just trying everything over the years. It comes with the territory of DIY.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user

There's a difference between failing and losing. ;-) I still recall with humor one users completely out of proportion response to not making the finalists in the original laser cutter contest. Nope, not gonna say who.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user

It's good to get schwagged every once in a while.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
BeanGolem (author)caitlinsdad2009-02-09

I thought about mentioning the commercialism. I refrained.

Is there really no possible way to create something economically stable (profitable) without pitting the users against each other? I didn't join the site so that I could enter contests. I joined so that I can teach and learn. Just because a few people won some Craftsman stuff doesn't mean that all the losers are going to go buy Craftsman stuff. What do bragging rights do? Make other people feel bad.

You agree that contests have their dark side, but I would go so far as to say that this "dark side" far outweighs the good side. I'm sure there are those that don't like losing, yet 90%+ of the people in a contest lose. Sure you can try again, but even if you win, there are still 90% of the people that didn't.

By just challenging people to create projects of certain types, it is still possible to draw users to a page with a sponsors product. If Eneloop sponsors a Contest, where the grand prize is a "starter set" and they get to expose their product to the Contest participants/browsers, they receive a certain amount of advertising value. But how much "less" would they get by just changing it from a Contest (which ends and nobody really looks at after a while) to a Challenge that is eternal and has more re-browse potential.

Is the Instructables community that much more drawn to a page that says Contest than to one that says Challenge? In the long run, I think a Challenge page would get more hits because I would keep checking back to see if anyone has posted a really cool project that meets the challenge. Once a contest is over, I'm done, moved on. Why would I look at a Contest that's closed and I have no chance of winning, let alone entering?

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
lemonie (author)BeanGolem2009-02-09

I don't see much difference between "challenge" and "contest" in real terms. Both are there to be participated in or not. In both cases you would expect a competitive element and some form of recognition of achievement. You seem to be coming from a perspective not dissimilar to the people who ended up in the worst positions in school sports? Losing only matters if winning matters, if you're not joining the contest, you can't lose. Like contests, challenges need to be refreshed, people will still move on after the initial inertia has dissipated. Contests don't offend me, and I like challenges. But don't lose sight of how our society works - people like prizes... L

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
BeanGolem (author)lemonie2009-02-09

You're right. There is little difference between a challenge and a contest. I would not expect a competitive element in the Challenge, though, and that's the point. There is no formal recognition of achievement. Formal recognition is an extrinsic motivator (read: ineffective). If I seem like I am coming from a perspective similar to those that were not good at sports, maybe that says something about sports... but this isn't about sports. You say losing only matters if winning matters. If this is true, then Instructables is supporting the idea that 90% of the people that actually care about winning or losing will be losers. Those that don't care don't enter contests. I think that Challenges would need less refreshment than Contests. It's hard to say without empirical evidence. I wouldn't say that I've lost sight of how our society works; I would say I'm all too aware of it. But does that mean that Instructables wants to support the status quo? Doesn't seem like it from what I've seen. People only like prizes because that's how they've been trained to be motivated to do anything.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
caitlinsdad (author)BeanGolem2009-02-09

A lot of people are driven by reward, monetary or by recognition. Maybe in high academia, my perception, where achievement is fulfilling the thirst for knowledge is reward itself and the challenge too is one of the few places where you do not need a competitive contest. But is is not wrong to issue a challenge, i.e. X-prize to get a spaceship venture off the ground as a contest. You learn something along the way and would get more people attempting to find the solution. It does not mean that those that do not enter the contest or cannot enter the contest are not on the sidelines caring or thinking about it.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
lemonie (author)BeanGolem2009-02-09

Well yes.

Challenges do produce informal recognition, consider that many people count page hits and online friends as a measure of their worth / internet presence.

Looking at the site today, I'd say that for a free service it needs a revenue stream and therefore must have a commercial, capitalist aspect. Would you be inclined to pay money to enter an advertisement-free, no-prizes challenge?

You can find challenges without them being formally issued, e.g responses to existing posts. I did one once wax and of course the KNEX community have been quite competitive and taken on challenges without the need for prizes.

Prizes motivate some people, but we're both aware that this doesn't always produce good work. Challenges (as your perspective) wouldn't attract the material-gain-motivated and be more worthwhile for all.

There's nothing to stop you from issuing your own challenges in a forum topic - what are you thinking of?

L

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
gmjhowe (author)2009-02-10

Personally, i agree with what others have said, that although there are many losers, i feel there are very few sore losers. Alot of people who enter the competition do so knowing full well they might not win, anyone who enters assuming that their project is the best, deserve to loose... Everything you say about working together exists in these forums, if some one wants an idea making, or wishs to share ideas its done through topics, the chatroom has spawned many a great collaboration ible. The website caters for everyone, we shouldn't remove items, we should keep adding more.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer