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should I give up on entering contests/posting detailed unique ideas? Answered

Disheartened by contest results, I really feel like pulling some of my instructables and not publishing any further ones (I am taking some time right now to work on another project I was documenting for instructables but I feel like there isn't a point to the extra time involved in pausing to take pictures of every little thing).  It probably seems silly, but I did end up shoving a whole bunch of my priorities aside to make sure it was in before the deadline. My original idea was not among the top 5%, some of which were things I could buy derivatives of in a store or have definitely seen before.  I guess I am just looking for affirmation that this is a pretty commonplace occurrence, and as a first time contest entrant that eventually something will pan out and I'll wind up with a tshirt (I mean that's pretty much all I want out of the deal, the prizes are nice but the tshirts are cooler. not that anyone would really ask about them, but maybe when I visit geek-saturated areas...) if I keep trying.  
Perhaps I was too confident and it takes way more than 50 hours to make a winning instructable (through all my trials and errors, it might have been more than 50)

You could tell me that my pictures or use of language were not as good as the others, but I am pretty sure I have a decent command of the English language and most of my photos were ok, with the exception of having a few from a cellphone, in the dimly lit space I had to work in.  Granted, those steps were so self-explanatory others would've just added them as a sentence i.e. "Cut the chain".  I also went through the other entries, also from last year, and was pretty certain I'd place.

Could ascribing it as "NoDerivs" possibly have anything to do with how the sponsor judged it?  I just don't want someone using their modified idea for an NGO without considering consulting me, I am only partially employed and am looking for that kind of employment, even being consulted without pay would be a CV boost at this point.  I could care less how many people make it for themselves or other groups in their backyards, as long as they aren't selling the idea or trying to one-up me.  Perhaps I should consider a different license attribute and just write in plain text what I mean by it?

How does everyone else network to get people to vote for their entries?

When your instructable is complicated, how do you shorten it enough to make sure people of all levels can understand?  
Do a few cellphone pictures in an instructable of many photos ruin it (I don't always have a camera on hand and until super recently I didn't have an SLR as mine was stolen in Peru - I had to borrow one for some of my photos)?  Not as many people seem to like my most complicated instructable, so I wonder if length or complexity factors in...

Do you think length factors into contest decisions?  Because my next project is also long, as unique ideas often are.  And I don't want to skip describing details and just say "put the capacitor in" or "build a rectifier circuit" when, since I started building circuits this Fall (partially thanks to instructables), I would have wanted to know details like to bend legs of a capacitor if I was following an instructable, and I was super confused by an instructable (a featured one at that) that said simply "build a rectifier circuit".  

Sigh, I guess I am just bitter that I won't get one of those awesome tshirts.

should I post the next idea on instructables once it is completed or not?  Or are ideas like that generally not appreciated in this community?  (hint: it is similar to the light up swing powered by a bicycle dynamo I posted, but implements another piece of playground equipment instead).  Perhaps I should just keep them to myself until I've built them beyond working prototypes?  

Sorry for all the questions and being a Debbie Downer, I am just reflecting on what could have factored into my entry not having been selected as one of the top 25.  I was pretty sure it was at least in the top 10 or so.  If I am going to improve on future projects, I want to know what I should consider focusing on, and if complex projects don't really belong here (or if others have good ideas on how to shorten them).  Thanks all.



3 years ago

I had the same feeling with one of my instructables in the Time contest. When you see some of the finalists you (as author not selected) can think of something weird with the selection of finalists. I still don't know why mine wasn't selected and none of the Instructables' staff really wanted to check my complaint.

Nothing should stop you from feeling good when sharing, don't let a contest to give or take value from your ideas. I don't get so many views as other popular authors, but still I like the idea that my instructables have reached so many people, and that's what matters to me in the end, not prizes (which may be too influenced by sponsors).


4 years ago

If you stop entering, you'll never win!

The vast majority of contest entries do not win, or even reach the finals, but winning contests should not be your ownly motive for posting.

There used to be an in joke here; Thou Shalt Post. Even if you don't win a contest, even if you don't get featured, somebody, somewhere will still appreciate your work, and the effort you put in to it.

To answer some of your questions about why you didn't win:

> Nothing in your project will have put off the sponsors.

> Over half the finalists are selected by the members' votes - you got 2.5k views, so maybe your idea just didn't catch the imagination of the readers.

> Maybe it was just too complex - maybe a glowing swing would have done better, and a self-powered swing done well in another contest. That's a hard one to call.

> Your steps were long. That doesn't put off real Makers, but most voters do not follow your instructable, they just vote because it sounds cool, or they like the pictures. It's a bit shallow, but they may just have been turned off by having to read a lot at once. Breaking complex steps into simpler steps makes projects more accessible.

As for networking and promotion:

> Speaking personally, I am put off by being asked for a vote in the introduction. It makes me think that the author is just posting for glory or personal gain, rather than for the joy of sharing. If I enter a contest, I leave the request for votes until the end, and leave it in a comment, which I can remove when the contest closes.

> Share your links. Post them on Facebook, Tumblr & Twitter. Send your posts to acounts that might be interested enough to retweet you or otherwise share your link. Find popular blogs or forums and share there (when I wrote my whiskey instructable, I joined a distilling forum and posted it there - the discussion and argument there drove a lot of traffic to my instructable, and still does years later).

> Keep publishing. The more you publish, the followers you get, the more people are likely to vote for you purely because you are you.

If you are aiming to win contests, do research - look back to see what ranked highly in past versions of the same contest, search and see what is trending in that theme. Tailor your style of writing to match what you see, and work on making at least your introduction image re-blogging freindly. Apparently the main reason my "Remote Match" project got 79k views is because the main image was good for sharing and re-blogging. I didn't win the contest, but I got 79k extra people aware of my work.


4 years ago

I recommend thinking about who is likely to try to reproduce your project and write it for them. Generally, this will be someone who is looking for inspiration rather than every last detail - my most reproduced instructable (loft bed) has *never* been made exactly how I described it, and that is OK. I recommend looking at a super-successful contest winner like BrittLiv and seeing how she writes and photographs often really complicated projects. I'd encourage you keep writing up your cool ideas, but cut down massively on the text in your documentation. Good luck in winning that T-shirt!


4 years ago

Your swing set was great and got my vote, But it can be hard when your instuctable doesn't get the attention it deserves. Ive been quite lucky and have won a ton of prizes, but its really hard to know which instructable will fly or die. (sweet potato fries got 7.3 million views) If you really really want a Tee shirt, PM me and Ill send you one.


4 years ago

DO NOT GIVE UP!!!!! The first Instructable I made was entered into 3 contests, one of which I was SO SURE I was going to win something in. None of the contests panned out in my favor, but by that time I had already posted a new Instructable and was hooked! I credit Instructables greatly with providing me with a great deal of inspiration to make things. This inspiration sparked my enthusiasm in the projects I was doing and guess what? Now I'm winning lots of contests!

When reading an Instructable you can really tell when someone is excited about the project they are doing. Find a way to express that in your projects weather that be a personal story in the Intro, or funny little tips and tidbits along the way. Executing a complicated project never goes perfectly, and being honest about that is helpful and makes for a great story.

As for an Instructable being too complicated, I wouldn't worry so much about that. Chances are, someone who doesn't already have the skill set to do your project(or isn't willing to acquire it) will not attempt making it. Having a clear introduction and a beautiful main image will get someone interested in the idea of your project though, which I think is much more important than 'dumbing down' a project to a simpler level. If you are worried about leaving things out, link to other Instructables or instructions on the internet for technical areas you don't want to take the time writing out. If you have a pro account, utilize the ability to add HTML to your projects. I like to break up long complicated steps with tables, and I think that this helps a lot visually.

I hope this was helpful. You really shouldn't be discouraged because you have a lot of great Instructables! Just be confident in your voice as an author and good things will come!


4 years ago

Not winning something is always more likely than winning.
I would not be too concerned about not winning but really concerned about someone else taking all the credit for the work and effort.

I found stuff I created on other websites under other author names. Sometimes they even used the images and explanationsI uploaded.

The contests here, as I understand it, are mainly voted for by the community.

Of course the final word comes from the judges and the sponsor...

If I do something that might involve winning something I do it with the knowledge I won't win anyway - makes it even more fun then if instead I get something.

Having said that I am also not very good at makingit all so simple and perfect that the biggest noob in the field can follow it, but then again some of my things are not meant for noobs to start with.

Like your example of bending the legs of a capazitor - these are things I would expect someone to know that wants to build an electronic circuit...