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Surge in contests creating more / better instructables? Answered

Is it me, or does it seem that the recent surge in contests strongly correlates with the number and quality of instructables submitted? I feel so inferior, but happy to see such great projects being posted. I really am impressed.

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westfw
westfw

13 years ago

More yes. Better... I dunno. You still end up with a bell-shaped curve. In particular, there were a lot of pretty lame wallets in the wallet contest, and I'm not sure that I think that even the winning entries approached some of the wallet designs that pre-dated the contest. But you pretty much always have the bell shaped curve, and to get a lot of good projects, you have to have a lot of mediocre projects too. (and I'm doing my best to submit mediocre projects!)

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royalestel
royalestel

Reply 13 years ago

Yeah, I think I'm on the low end of the curve myself . . . the creativity of some of these awesome creators . . .

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westfw
westfw

Reply 13 years ago

Hmm. You bring up an interesting point. There are CREATIVE instructables, and there are INSTRUCTIONAL intstructables (the really good ones are both, but there are definitely people who are more frustrated teachers than frustrated artists.) To some extent, I think that the contests end up emphasizing the creative side of things. That's fine, except that I fall into the less creative category.

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ewilhelm
ewilhelm

Reply 13 years ago

That's a good point. How do you feel about the current burning questions? What do you think would make for a good instructional contest?

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Honus
Honus

Reply 13 years ago

I'd like to see something like a materials process contest. Something like: How to weld How to form sheetmetal How to work with fiberglass How to make rubber molds How to sculpt clay How to cast with resin How to work with foam How to paint, etc. That sort of thing- the idea would be to focus on the necessary processes using raw materials needed to create items, not the finished item itself. As for a normal instructable challenge, I think it would be cool to have a two liter soda bottle challenge. Create anything you want using two liter soda bottles as a major component. One liter and smaller bottles would also be eligible....it wouldn't matter if the bottles were left in their original form or only used as raw material.

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Honus
Honus

Reply 13 years ago

The same instructional idea could apply to cooking or even electronics: Cooking: How to cut a chicken How to scale a fish, etc. Electronics: How to etch printed circuit boards How to program a microcontroller, etc. I know some of these have been done before but this is just an idea.... You could also have a homemade tool contest. This is a bit out of the "instructional" realm but it could be a good contest- Something like: How to make a hot wire cutter How to make a bicycle work stand, etc. I think the focus with these instructables should be to provide people with the necessary tools and techniques of various disciplines.

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ewilhelm
ewilhelm

Reply 13 years ago

Good ideas! We'll definitely do the two liter soda bottle challenge!

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Kiteman
Kiteman

Reply 13 years ago

I like the 2l challenge idea. What about a couple of others for future plans: Pocket Challenge (I always carry a whistle, my phone and my knife - what would you make that would find a permanent home in somebody's pocket?) Hacking Time (use the guts of mechanical or electro-mechanical timepieces to do something interesting, either displaying the time in a novel way, or doing something on time. Or create a whole new time-piece from scratch.) "Be a Scientist" (create science intruments from household items).

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ewilhelm
ewilhelm

Reply 13 years ago

More good ideas! I particularly like the be a scientist. There's a lots of projects out there that would make great Science Fair projects and even better Instructables. Perhaps Instructables should host a virtual Science Fair?

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Kiteman
Kiteman

Reply 13 years ago

Ooh, a Science Fair!

We don't do those in the UK, so the only ones Ive seen have been on the Simpsons. They're a static display of a long-term project, aren't they?

Doing a virtual one would be quite cool.

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Kiteman
Kiteman

Reply 13 years ago

Oh-ho! (Furtles through part-written unpublished projects) Got it! Now, I just need to borrow my son's Viking helmet ...

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canida
canida

Reply 13 years ago

?

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Kiteman
Kiteman

Reply 13 years ago

Ah ... wait and see.

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jessyratfink
jessyratfink

Reply 13 years ago

SCIENCE FAIR!!! Best idea ever. I promise I won't make an electric chair Barbie this time!

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dan
dan

Reply 13 years ago

dont leave us hanging! how many volts did it take?

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jessyratfink
jessyratfink

Reply 13 years ago

Hahaha, sadly, it was mostly just for show. We really did want to electrocute her, but had limited knowledge of the subject. At the time (this was middle school) we just ended up attaching her to wires and batteries, and then explaining how it would work if she wasn't plastic. ;) I'm sure we could have melted her if we had more time, though! It was really nice to completely horrify most of the teachers and students. It looked really well done. We made a little striped outfit for her and everything. :D

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canida
canida

Reply 13 years ago

I promise I won't make an electric chair Barbie this time!

You mean you don't want to win?!? Electric Chair Barbie would probably do very well.

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canida
canida

Reply 13 years ago

It's always just like on the Simpsons!

Keep talking- I'm adding these to my list.

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fungus amungus
fungus amungus

Reply 13 years ago

I'd like to second the 2-liter bottle idea. Sounds good.

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mikesty
mikesty

Reply 13 years ago

3rded, and I like the other ones too!!!

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zieak
zieak

Reply 13 years ago

I have done a bunch of things lately that would be great to have compiled in one place: How to put up chain link fencing How to build steps for a deck or porch How to build a dugout (for a baseball field) How to install an on-demand electric hot water heater How to finish sheetrock How to seal an asphalt driveway How to replace a window (house? car?) I always go to instructables first and then end up collecting information from other sites in order to get the job done. I really could have benefited from a How to cut and install crown molding tutorial a few weeks ago - i just could not figure out how to do it by myself!

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zieak
zieak

Reply 13 years ago

If they were on the list it would spur me to write some of them up. But i thought the point of the burning questions was to address a need. I'm kind of learning to keep my projects under wraps in hopes that they might qualify for a future contest since previous entries are ineligible. I like having that carrot dangled!

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jeffreyf
jeffreyf

Reply 13 years ago

The goal of Burning Questions is to find out what the community wants to know, and to get that same community to give back to each other; to share what they know to help others. If these are things you wanted to know how to do, I'd bet money other people do too. If you came here and didn't find the answer, then it was an unmet need, and should be added to the list, whether you write up said answer or not. I won't add them if you don't want me to, however. It's your site; I'm just a caretaker.

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Honus
Honus

Reply 13 years ago

Sure! I know how to do these things but I'm sure there are others that don't- I think they'd all make for good instructables. Ultimately I think it might work better as a seperate contest, but in the end all that matters is that the information gets posted.

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jeffreyf
jeffreyf

Reply 13 years ago

How to weld is in progress, and how to paint was already on the list, but I've added the rest.

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dan
dan

Reply 13 years ago

in my opinion these types of tasks should be added to the current 'answer burning questions' section, they seem a lot more relevant than some of the current 'burning questions' of the interpersonal/social type.

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02gsxr600
02gsxr600

Reply 13 years ago

Let me know what you'd like and I'll come up with it for you... I do custom stereo / car molds all the time (fiberglass, CF, kevlar, plexi, lexan, painting, etc etc) I could probably work on a few projects on making molds and reverse molds, maybe another forming plexi/lexan.

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westfw
westfw

Reply 13 years ago

Ok, I have an idea. Some of the best instructables essentially apply technology to art. I'd like to see "science" applied to "craft", in the sense of encouraging experimentation and the publishing of results of experimentation. "The effect of Brown Sugar proportion on Toll House Cookies." "Evaluation of the stretchability of 5 popular crochet stitches." "Alternate Mordants in Modern Tie-Dye." "Evaluation of Composite Materials (paper mache to carbon/kevlar) on a Strength per Cost Basis." That sort of thing. None of it has to be HARD, though frequently it can be a bit tedious. Probably some good science fair projects there too, for those of you still in school.

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ewilhelm
ewilhelm

Reply 13 years ago

I like it! I've been trying to convince canida to do a "How to smell when cookies are done" Instructable that sets up a controlled environment and has you smell the cookies at regular intervals until you can learn to detect the moment when the sugars react and the cookies are done. When people come over for dinner, they are constantly amazed that she never puts a timer on for any baking - it's all done by smell.

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dan
dan

Reply 13 years ago

how to tell if is going to be yummy before buying it at the supermarket.

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westfw
westfw

Reply 13 years ago

A less philosophically interesting idea might be to see if you can get SW vendors to offer up a full version of their package for the best Instructable on how to do something interesting with (say) a demo version. Alibre's 3D CAD, Cadsoft's EAGLE, and Google SketchUP are examples of SW packages that have freeware versions, Instructables about them, and "pro" versions that cost $$...

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fungus amungus
fungus amungus

Reply 13 years ago

The burning questions are great, but there's one problem: people seem to think that once an instructable has been written, it's done for good. Someone else can totally think of a better way to explain something and that just improves the knowledge base. I'd love to see people with some graphic design skills create images to accurately explain stuff. With photos it can be too easy to focus on extraneous stuff, like the crap in the background. A clean, designed image can get the idea across in seconds.

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ewilhelm
ewilhelm

Reply 13 years ago

The hand-drawn schematics in Honus's latest Green Lantern ring were awesome. We definitely need to encourage people either to collaborate or create their own version of everything. There's multiple right ways to do something!

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fungus amungus
fungus amungus

Reply 13 years ago

Yeah, a drawing is also excellent for getting the idea across. Dug those that Honus did as well.

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mikesty
mikesty

Reply 13 years ago

I completely agree, and I think that some of the better instructables i've seen are better versions of something posted already. Don't be shy to post something someone else has if it's a real upgrade. Props to those that have.

As for graphic design stuff ... does this do it?

https://www.instructables.com/id/E1FON0MF2CRK8KL/

Done by a close personal friend of mine. More can come if you like...

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fungus amungus
fungus amungus

Reply 13 years ago

Nicely done. More like that would be great.

An example of one image doing the whole thing: stencil bag

A nice intro photo is great, too. Doctor Popular has done a couple of these: here and here.

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westfw
westfw

Reply 13 years ago

Hmm. I think the trouble with the "burning questions" is that a lot of them aren't really well suited to the Instructables format (not to mention that they've been done, ad nauseum in other format that are at worst adequate ("how to cook"?!)), a lot of them aren't anything you're likely to learn from any sort of printed instruction (with or without pictures) anyway ("how to surf"?) (on the other hand, some the discussion accompanying the burning question Instructables has been pretty interesting, as alternate hints and techniques are exposed. So it's not like they're pointless, either.) Note that I don't have any objections to emphasizing the "creative style" instructable in contests; I'm more interested in reading that sort of thing, probably (some of that is being, you know, OLD, so that many of the purely instructional things are things I've already figured out, or decided are things I'm not interested in doing anyway.)

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royalestel
royalestel

Reply 13 years ago

Yep. I envy ye 'ole creative types. I have an art degree, but I've the brain of an programmer. . . I just hate programming.

You know, I do try and keep the quality of my instructables very high, and while I may not have the best projects, sometimes I am able to come up with a creative presentation (for fun).

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Brennn10
Brennn10

13 years ago

It is simple. If the Instructable is bad, they wont win. Also, the speed-contests bring out new topics of Instructables that have never been explored yet. I think that it is great with the surge.

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royalestel
royalestel

13 years ago

You know, whether or not they spur more/better instructables, I think it's a fact that sites with regular contests help keep the site alive. sijun forum, for example.

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technoplastique
technoplastique

13 years ago

I've had photos of projects that I intended to do instructables for sitting in my computer for months, but the contests are getting me to actually finish them up (though, at the moment, they're not quite posted, just nearly complete.) I can't guarantee that what I'm posting is BETTER, but it is some things that haven't already been covered on here.

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Kiteman
Kiteman

13 years ago

I don't know about more, but it's made me churn them out more quickly - three this last week, and a growing to-do list.

Maybe we're seeing a surge in productivity that will be followed by a lull as peoples' creativity wells dry up slightly?

I don't think so - I've only been a member for a few months, and in that time over 1500 Instructables have been added to the site.