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Time to fix the Community Answered

I often discuss Instructables.

I never discuss Instructables on Instructables.

I'm not the only one.

Why?

Because this "Community" is broken.


If you're a long-time member, you'll remember when the Community was all there, in one place, for everybody to take part in. There was chat. There was activity. There were people you could rely on being around with a bit of useful advice or for a bit of banter. Many projects were born in the Community. Friendships, even semi-formal events started in the Community section. How many people reading this even remember that the site has an actual Community Team, made up of the more active members of the site, volunteers willing to spend their time in the Community, helping members, building the Community

Now...?

The Community is splintered. You have to go to a sub-section of the site (Workshop, Circuits...) to even see there is a community, and then you feel an artificial restriction on what you discuss (there isn't even an appropriate section to post this topic in, since they're all tied to categories). Topics go without comment for days, weeks, even when they're at the top of the list, even when members of staff are involved in the replies.

In a working Community, a topic about the members would not have only three replies after two months:

https://www.instructables.com/workshop/community/A...

So, can we have a working community back?

Can we have it all in one place? Can that one place have a prominent link on the home page and in the top bar alongside the categories, not hiding behind them?

Can we have topics that are Community based, not tied to a category of projects?

Can we have threading, and staff being properly involved?

Can we have it promoted in emails & social media, as well the sponsored content?

Please?

Discussions

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randofo

2 months ago

Hello.

We are not ignoring this, we have been discussing this internally and debating how to respond. I apologize it has taken a few days, but I was away for the weekend and wanted the response to come from me as a long-standing Community Manager here.

The reality is that participation in the forums has been steadily dropping since 2008. This has nothing to do with interface changes, staff participation or promotion. As we all know, the internet has changed a lot since 2008. In 2008 there was not really dominant social media sites or reddit to contend with.

A lot of the conversation that happened here in 2008 is still happening today in 2019 on places like Twitter. I mean, I can see there is literally a more active version of this conversation currently happening on Twitter with the same people who used to be active here. These forums will never compete with Twitter or reddit for these purposes.

While these forums are - as some may say - dead, our Instagram and Twitter presence is alive and well. We are trying to meet the community where they are rather than wait for them to come here. We did try posting links on social media to drive traffic back to this part of the website, but we still were not getting participation. Besides, if we are going to use social media to drive traffic back to this website, we rather that traffic go the Instructables themselves and benefit authors.

While we can point fingers at lots of different things, or different people, the reality is that things change. That is okay. The forums in 2019 will never be what they were in 2008 or even 2015. We can put it in a lot of time and effort trying to revive them, but I do not think we will ever be able to bring them back to the good old days. We cannot force people to show up here and have fun and interesting conversations.

Also, I want to address something that has been bugging me for some time... I have been a member of this site since 2006 and working for the site since 2007. I have met a number of members of the CM team in person. As some of you know, I'm just a guy trying to create the best website I can with the resources that I have available. The rest of my team are no different.

We are not part of some evil conspiracy to make your lives bad or break this website. We are just trying to keep the site running and keep everyone happy. If there is ever a concern you have, just email me (or any of us) directly. If you don't have my email, I can give it to you. You will get a response much faster than posting something here. I would be happy to jump on a video call with anyone to discuss this further (individually or as a group). Really, we are not trying to do wrong by anyone.

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Kitemanrandofo

Reply 2 months ago

Thanks for the reply, Randy, really, but this is an issue we've been bringing up for a long time now, and we've made our feelings clear by different channels many times, and generally been ignored or reassured that the changes are good. "You" (whoever's is making the decisions these days) clearly think an active community is a good selling point, else why paste it in big letters on the front page?

May I suggest a happy medium?

Put all the forum categories back together into one central place, with a clear and obvious link from somewhere logical. Either that, or scrap the forums entirely. They're an embarrassment compared to the rest of the site, so start using social media to build AND INTERACT WITH a community. I look at the FB page, it's entirely made of Instagram posts. No discussion, no chat from members. Instagram & Twitter aren't right for building a community, not when you have to hunt for hashtags amongst the noise.

We're not asking for a leap back ten years, we're not asking for a cash investment, we're asking The Powers That Be to remember that their entire income rises on the back of members putting the effort into becoming authors, the best (and cheapest) way to keep authors publishing is to make them feel like they belong to something, and the best way to do that is to have an active community.

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randofoKiteman

Reply 2 months ago

We have an active community. We do not have an active forum. I think there is a tendency to conflate the community of makers with the forums themselves (since they used to be so active). However, these forums have not been central to this site for some time.

The idea behind subdividing the forums was that if we broke it into interest areas we might focus the conversation and perhaps increase participation in at least a few of the areas. Since the changes, the amount of activity in the forums has neither increased nor decreased. From a numbers standpoint we neither fixed the problem nor made it worse. Granted, we do not want to discount how it makes people feel. We are currently taking into consideration everyone's feedback and are figuring out what to do next.

You can still see all the forum topics at once here:
https://www.instructables.com/community

Also, for all-intents-and-purposes, I am amongst "The Powers That Be." There is only one person at Instructables above me and he has been working here as long as I have. There is no vast conspiracy here to speak of.

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Kitemanrandofo

Reply 2 months ago

I was trying not to make this personal, Randy.

That link is good to have, but it is far from useful hiding out here in a forum topic. That's the sort of thing that needs to be somewhere obvious and logical.

Anyhoo, three points to be moving on with.

> Do you have some sort of timeline on "next"?

> Can you please make sure you talk to others whilst "figuring out". For your your first call, talk to the old Community Team. We're all still out there on a single email.

(In my mind, there are specific questions that need addressed: Does Instructables want an Instructables Community to actually exist as an entity? "Where" should that community exist? What should the community be about? Who do you want to "own" or "guide" the community?)

> Remember how I used to nag everybody from Eric down to spend just a few minutes each day on the forums? And how the forums were a much more positive place when staff remembered to do that? Yeh, that.


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depotdevoid

2 months ago

Thanks KM, this is something I've been thinking about for a while. I really miss the community part of Instructables, and I'm not at all sure how we kick start it!

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Kitemandepotdevoid

Reply 2 months ago

A little engagement from staff would be nice, but, three days, and not a peep...

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Ninzerbean

2 months ago

Kiteman, I think you are kicking a dead horse here.

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KitemanNinzerbean

Reply 2 months ago

With no response from staff, I fear you may be right...

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Kiteman

2 months ago

Sad to see that others agree with me...

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PKM

2 months ago

Remember when it looked like this https://www.instructables.com/community/New-Instructables-Community-Section/? When every section would have the same avatar next to it meaning someone (looking at you, Kiteman, but also maybe bumpus or killerjackalope or someone like that) had been active in every section within the last hour or so? I just looked through the sections and it appears that apart from stickies there's been one comment made in the last two days (although I also don't see this post on https://www.instructables.com/workshop/community/, sorting by active or recent, so maybe there's ghosts in the machine).

I stand by my initial assessment of the community section - that visually it's extremely sparse and far from appealing (there's no avatars, no topic images, no icons, barely even any colour) which seems out of keeping for a site that's so image-focused and visual elsewhere (https://www.instructables.com/contest/).

Overall it feels "tacked on" and disjointed - even the fact that from one subsection's community page, you can't get to another without going through the section homepage. For a site which was made what it is almost entirely by its community, this feels like a sad state of being.

It sounds like the purpose of this was to try to focus discussion to single areas of interest, but one of the great things about Instructables (both the "All recent" feed and the community front page) was getting to see a variety of content that isn't just areas I'm already interested in - if I wanted "you liked X, here's a hundred more X" I'd go to YouTube. In a time when we're all being exhorted to fight the invisible algorithms which sort us into tiny bubbles, a mishmash of different content feels like something radical.

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andrea biffi

2 months ago

I remember that few years ago every project became a central topic for many members. Although staff was very active, I think that biggest part was made by the community itself, I feel that I myself reduced my involvement in community, and I try only to answer with decent time to comments on my ibles. But I know that it's not enough and I would like to extend this appeal to all community members (not to you who never stopped to be very participant and active).
I built a pair of great friendship thanks to instructables community, and I know it has a good potential to connect makers and people across the world, but everyone of us has to work on that, and of course staff should provide a solid structure on the website which will help a lot. I promise that I will try to help as I could, starting with showing a picture of Aeon Junophor and myself discussing about how to rebuild instructables community ;-)

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emilyvanleemput

2 months ago

I couldn’t agree more - thank you for typing this all out