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Friday Forum: Ask an Editor (pre-Maker Faire edition) Answered

Hi guys. My name is Wade, and I run the editorial team at Instructables. I'll be answering community questions posed on this thread on Friday, May 16th from 1-4PM PST.
All questions asked and answered for today. Feel free to ask more questions, though, and we'll probably run another one of these in a week or two.

If you've been curious about the site, here's a chance to get the inside scoop on what actually goes on at Instructables.
  • how to get featured
  • how we choose featured authors
  • the best time to enter a contest
  • how much meat do Eric and Christy actually consume?
  • how we decide what prizes to give away
  • ...and whatever else you're curious about

Thanks to everyone who participated. Especially Ben, whose interrogative greed was beneficial for everyone who lurked without posing a question.

For the next Friday Forum on May 30th: https://www.instructables.com/community/Friday-Forum-Ask-an-Editor-Contest-Edition/


I'm wondering how you find an old posting. I saw a posting last year about generating electricity using coolers somehow and have been trying to find it. Are things only on for a period of time? Do they get archived somewhere and if so how would I look for that?

Thank you

If you're looking for an Instructable (an actual project), then I recommend using Google to perform a site search on Instructables for the keywords you're seeking. We're working on a better internal search option, but this is the temporary workaround that the editors use to build collections and stuff.

"instructables.com cooler electricity generator"

It is Friday Wade! Yeah I know today is not the day but after giving this some careful thought I decided to post my questions in case I can't be here for the next forum. I have had some questions for a long time. If I post them here perhaps others will follow and you will have a jump start on what to expect in the next forum.

1. When is the best time to enter contest.

2. Sometimes I have needed a picture that was impossible for me to take and I have no artist skills. Is there a totally free link for any purpose (pictures) without breaking the rules and may we use them here?

3. Are there any restrictions for sharing a link that supports an instructable and if so how do we find out if it is? I recently posted an instructable and needed to support my comment.

4. I have recently needed to use the cut and paste selection but it does not work anymore. I understand the purpose of this but many times I will write up my instructable in an email and paste it in my instructable. I have lost some hard work because I did not have a back up. Is there a code I may use?

I know I have more questions but off hand these top the list. I wish to thank you for this forum, I believe it is a great idea that will save you and the team members a lot of time and save us some frustrations. Thank you all for your hard work and . . . . all the great changes to this wonderful site. I love the new spell corrector and the pixlr editor! Good going! I hope your weekend shines!


1) Enter a contest as early as possible. That gives you the best chance of accumulating pageviews and votes for the duration of the competition.

2) http://search.creativecommons.org/

3) There are no restrictions on links in comments provided you're within the confines of the "be nice" policy.

4) You should probably use your browser or keyboard shortcuts to perform copy-paste actions. I imagine you're talking about the options built into the editor's toolbar, which is the least robust copy-paste tool at your disposal. CTRL+C to copy, CTRL+V to paste. (If I totally missed the mark on your question, please follow up with me via comment or PM so I can get it right.)

5) ...and Jessy is answering questions on May 30th if you have anything special to ask her. :D

Thanks Wade. I have used the control cut and paste option and it won't paste into the instructable, comments, or email on instructables but I have no problems with it elsewhere. Perhaps it is a bug? I have posted this in the bug section and have not received any replies. The links I was referring to is in the body of any instructable. I ask this because I suspect it may be a problem because I have used links in the past in an instructable that I thought was good but it did not get featured. I know not all of anyones work will be featured but  knowledge is power and I like to understand the rules. I have been working very hard publishing good quality instructables that will interest the community. I just like to follow the guidelines and often I am confused about some of the requirements on social networking about posting information from other places. I understand I can use 500 words in some however, I don't usually do that because of copy write however I do like to give a link to add more information to my instructables. Awesome about Jessy answering more questions on Friday! I have already been using some of her techniques in my instructables which has been very helpful.  I hope to be there in this one. Thanks for the heads up! I am sure everyone here is very happy that you guys are giving us some insight into the instructable website.
Have a great day! sunshiine

There is no set number or guideline for an appropriate amount of links. If they're informational and relevant to the project, use them. If you're trying to hustle some extra money by sending people to other websites, then they're not okay. If your project was not featured and happened to have more links than usual, I'd say that was coincidence more than policy.

We'll try to replicate your copy-paste bug. If it's still giving you trouble in a week, write in to service@instructables.com for help. (We're updating the site code this week, and peripheral bugs have been known to disappear with changes to seemingly unrelated chunks of code.)

Thanks Wade, I usually only use one or two links so that gives me some insight. Don't know how to hustle money LOL. Have a beautiful day!


when are the winners of the outdoor survival contest reviled

Judging for the 2014 Outdoor Survival Contest closes on May 25th. Winners should be revealed the next day. (Contest winners are almost always announced a week after the contest closes for entries.)

We won't be reviling winners, because it is very hard to do so nicely and constructively in accordance with the site's "be nice" policy.

Awesome! This made me laugh a lot harder than it probably should have!!

Just as an update, judging actually closes on the 26th - so winners should be announced on the 27th. I had messed up the dates before!

First off you guys do a great job, Instructables is the best thing on the net,

I had a thought about the contest rules,
one rule in particular which I guess is to encourage more new content.
You can "only enter new instructables into comps" which sounds fair
enough, but at the moment I have a instructable that's all ready to go
but I haven't hit publish, because, It took me a year to write, I spent a
huge amount of time and effort on it, and there is no comps on at the
moment that fit the subject mater, or that I want to enter it in. I know
kiteman said something about having a stock pile of unpublished
instructables also for the same reason.

Has anyone thought that
if you drop that rule, and enforce the rule you that you can "only enter
3 comps with one instructable" you could get more entries into comps
for your sponsors and encourage people to publish, because sooner or
later there will be something I can enter.

Now I know most of us dont write just to win a prize, But it is a great confidence boost and acknowledgment of hard work to get that email saying great job, your a finalist... have a tee shirt....

Just a thought...

The management on that would require an engineering fix, so we haven't even really considered it.

I'm actually fine with people sitting on brilliant projects waiting for the perfect contest. That's why we've tried to make the contest calendar a bit more transparent.


Thanks Wade, I was waiting for the laser comp but it got cancelled. any news on that? Jessy said she had some good news this morning that I might be able to announce soon.....

We got super lucky with sponsors willing to run back-to-back-to-back laser contests starting with FSL and ending with Epilog. Our middle sponsor had to drop out, so we've got a small laser gap due to the cancellation. We'll try to move Epilog forward a bit to make you post faster. :D

I'm eating meat on the east coast and reading this discussion. Thanks for all the information!

East coast meat! Thanks for being my target demographic. :D

Can you explain, from start to finish, how contest finalists and then winners are selected? I've seen various posts about this in the Contest forum, sometimes with conflicting information. For example, this claims that 49% of finalists are based on user votes:


but I checked the small print of several recent contests, and couldn't actually find that anywhere.

I've also read that about the judge scoring system - are winners picked strictly based on averages of those scores? Does some higher authority (you guys or sponsors) have ultimate say in picking winners, possibly overriding judging scores?

After a contest closes, finalists are chosen by a roughly 50-50 combination of votes and editorial selections. Users have several days in which to vote after the contest closes. There are pretty strict rules about user voting to choose winners, and allowing user votes to determine a winner is actually frowned upon in some of the places we run contests. That's why we've settled on a roughly balanced system: we want to solicit community feedback without running afoul of the law. 49% lets us skirt the sweepstakes problem and keep these contests of skill.

[There's still a fair bit of work to be done to make our official rules both legal and useful to folks looking for a clear explanation of the contest mechanics. Nobody on my team is a lawyer, and Autodesk's actual lawyers often have non-Instructables work that takes precedence over making our contests completely perfect. It's a work in progress.]

Here's how judging actually works. The votes are averaged, but because not every judge is obliged to weigh in on every single entry, projects not on a judge's ballot are not included in the average.

HQ has final say in picking winners, but we rarely exercise our power unless it's for a contest where the sponsor requested oversight of the judging the process. We do have it, though, because we sometimes seed contests with our own projects and don't actually want or need the votes for ourselves. And sometimes we let in a project that doesn't actually meet the criteria of the contest but accumulates a ton of votes.

Hi Wade. I have a question along similar lines. Do you exclude entries that accumulate votes but do not *really* fit the criteria? I tend to enter my projects in whatever big laser contest is on as well as the one I think it's better targeted for, because I might as well, right, even if it's not really very techy? I ask because my bookcase got a metric crapton of views and favourites but didn't even make finalist. I'm well aware it's not the kind of thing that is going to win that contest (my electronics skills are primitive), but I'm mildly mystified by it not making the cut.

We try really hard to keep the contests as interference-free as possible, but we'll occasionally push a contest finalist harder in a competition where we know it will succeed with the judges. And we may push a new author a bit higher in the standings to give them more exposure.

We might do it if, say, you were about to be selected as a winner in another contest and we wanted to spread the wealth a bit further afield. You'd have to have been just on the bottom end of the finalists-by-votes list for that to happen though.

(Also, this is totally what happened to your Secret Door Bookshelf project. It was tied in votes with the last community-selected finalist for the Full Spectrum Laser contest, but it was very highly ranked in Woodworking. So we pushed you in Woodworking and gave the judges a different look for FSL.)

Good to know, and good call. I really don't need more T-shirts and pro memberships, but it sure is fun to win your first.

Being extra greedy and asking a third question: have you ever considered trying to proactively direct new users or first-time posters to things like the Featuring Checklist, or one of the various guides on how to take nice photos with a white background? From helping out on The Clinic and browsing new but non-featured submissions, it seems like a lot of new posts suffer from some pretty common issues (photos with cluttered background or poor lighting, lack of a clear materials list, skipping important steps that might be obvious to the author, but confusing to someone who's never seen the project, etc etc).

It's been a few months since I've written something, so I actually forget what notifications you see when you go to write a new Instructable (I think there are at least a few tips). I know that you'll never be able to force people to carefully read material like that, no matter how helpful it actually is - just curious if there are ever any internal discussions about proactively helping users create better content (as opposed to directing them to The Clinic after the fact).

Not a bad idea.

We've discussed it in the past, and it comes up from time to time. Our expectations are pretty well buried in the forums, but I think most authors know what they're aiming for... some just fall short or need to sacrifice a few jpgs of blurry carpet on the altar of the Clinic before it really sinks in.

I appreciate the great questions, you guys. Feel free to ask for followup.

Someone please throw me a softball. "Which dinosaurs are getting deskfan haircuts from Mikeasaurus?"

Diplodicus and stegosaurus are looking well-coifed and windblown, a rare combo.

Is Mike like that kid next door in Toy Story?

I hope those weren't your little sister's barbie dolls... :)

He does have some Sid-like qualities, just watch his youtube channel and look for the abused Army man fork on the title screen of a vid. He's a hexapod baby head robot project from full Sid-dom.

They are a huge pain in the butt to run. We tried one last summer that didn't go particularly well, and I'd rather focus on some other experimental contests moving forward. (An "I Made It" contest, maybe. Or minicontests that the Featured Authors come up with.)

Going to be greedy and ask a second question. How exactly does getting featured work internally? Are there people whose sole job is to sit there all day reading through new projects and deciding which ones to feature? Do you guys do it in shifts? Do submissions get seen by multiple editors, or is whether or not something gets featured mostly up to whoever's on duty at the moment?

For example, I've noticed that sometimes my projects get featured immediately after getting approved for a contest entry, so I'm guessing it might be the same person handling both. I also have a friend who's had projects get featured weeks, or even months, after she initially submitted them, which she can't figure out.

~2500 new projects are shared on Instructables every month. HQ staff and a handful of deputized community members see all of them as they come in, and decide on a project-by-project basis whether the ible should be featured. Two people definitely see them immediately, and the rest of the team sees them in the course of moderating contests or just browsing the site. If the first two miss a feature, usually someone else catches it.

Individual editors feel more comfortable featuring projects in their respective wheelhouses, though, so occasionally a fantastic project will be overlooked due to ignorance. And ALL of us are suckers for great main images who occasionally ignore a great project with a bad main image.

Missing a feature on the first pass is what leads to us rewarding a project months down the line. The cream tends to rise, though, so we eventually feature good projects even if we miss them up front. We periodically sort by views in a given time period to surface any diamonds in the rough.

Along those lines...how do staff-authored Instructables work? It looks like most staff have a high featured rating, but it isn't 100%. Are you allowed to feature your own projects? Do you have some separate internal system for that? Do you actually decide not to feature staff projects because some of them don't meet the featuring criteria?

We don't feature our own stuff. There may be a rare exception for a Forum Topic or where a project is re-featured by the staff author to coincide with an event to help bring attention to a quality for a timely occasion (like a really good pie project for Pi Day). We want to keep things as fair as we can, so we play the same rules and need to be featured by our peers. If they don't meet the same criteria as every one else, they don't get featured.

Hi, actually I am interested how you select featured authors, there are a few I think really deserve the feature (e.g. ASCAS or andrea biffi) and haven't been featured yet and a few features really surprised me.

There is a list we keep of authors we would like to interview. We select authors based on the criteria wilgubeast mentioned. Since I started doing the interviews a little over a month ago, I have also been trying to interview a range of authors with different skill sets to keep things interesting and try to give time to all the different subsections of the diverse community we have here at Instructables.

It also depends on who responds to PMs and emails! haha

If you want to nominate an author to be interviewed, feel free to PM me (chances are, they are on our list already!) or we could start a forum topic as well if that would be of interest to people :)

It's mostly random. Some combination of pageviews, site engagement, and whether they've visited the office recently determines who we interview. When I did them, I picked from a list of authors sorted by pageviews. That wasn't as much fun, as some folks with high pageview totals were very active in 2007 but haven't logged in since 2009. That makes an interview via PM pretty tough.

Is there a forum topic for suggestions for authors we should feature? If not, I'd be interested in giving the community what it wants. It'll save dangerismymiddlename some time.

How do we complain about an instructable? For example, I got your email about this instructable being popular:


This is a terrible instructable that can lead to infection and serious disfigurement. You have a great site but there really HAS to be moderating on these and some type of common sense.

It's much more efficient to just email service@. And we're far more tolerant of belligerent all-caps emails than we are of not-nice comments. That said, emails do not allow for caitlinsdad to comment on your comment, so you may want to send an email and leave a comment to get the full experience.

For newsletter and other complaints, send me and the editorial team an email at the service@instructables email address. (That's kind of incomplete and unsatisfying as far as answers go, so enjoy this wall of text...)

We deliberately exert much more editorial control over the newsletter than we do over individual projects. You may absolutely take us to task over newsletter selections, but I'll always defend an author's right to share something controversial so long as it's presented in PG13 fashion.

I want sharing a project, even (or especially) a controversial one, to be a straightforward and pleasant experience. It takes time and effort to share a project, and loosey goosey censorship from the editors makes for an uncertain project-sharing environment. We already work to keep projects at or around a PG13 level, and I don’t want to add any further restrictions on what can be shared or kept on the site. I believe that people should be encouraged to share more, not less.

The newsletter is entirely within our editorial control, as it’s a curated list of projects we share with our wider audience of subscribers 3x/week. It does a fair amount of lifting for us pageviews-wise, and occasionally I am overwhelmed by the temptation to run something a little outside of our audience’s comfort zone to goose our stats. I honestly didn’t think that DIY tattoos would cause this much concern, though.

That said, we’ll occasionally run things that a small segment of our audience does not like. Perhaps duct tape throws you into a rage, or to you bacon represents speciesist hegemony over Gaia’s most intelligent other white meat. I can’t not displease everyone every time. But I can probably avoid sending a million people a newsletter containing projects that lead to staff infections and ruined quilting needles.

I have one for you right now. Why do you continue to highlight “how to clean” type articles as features while in the meantime you do little more than generate a nation filled with small, deadly vapor bombs, nerve gas and explosives “EXPERTS” who did nothing more than learn how to make their little disaster ridden cleaner by reading it here and hope to save 3 cents over the next year?? It feels like I’ve corrected a dozen of these things in the past 3 months!! I don’t know whether to quit as a member and let people blow up, burn themselves, hurt theirs and their pets lungs permanently, or let you get sued for not bothering with a cursory review by someone who can balance an equation - because you’ve become inadvertent merchants of death.

What’s next? the 3 pic guide to becoming as good as a licensed sushi carver of the blowfish — and then a peak of sales at PetCo and 400 people dead from the toxic poison sack not being properly removed/avoided??

That's a great question, realguy. (Great enough to answer a little early, even.)

Instructables is a space for people to share what they make, and my team of editors makes a daily effort to feature projects that the community will find helpful, interesting, or informative. A featured project gets some extra attention and a free pro membership, not a stamp of approval saying "this totally works, we've tried it." We see hundreds of projects a day, and a handful of things get featured when they probably shouldn't. (Like this.)

If you have a genuine concern about the safety of a project (as in it's obviously lethal, not a "think of the children" concern), flag the project as inappropriate. If you're deeply and acutely concerned, then hop onto the About page and tell someone who can do something about it in addition to flagging it.

Short of that, leave a polite comment explaining how lethal their combination could be. At least you'll inform the author and anyone who bothers to read the comments. Or publish your own 'ible explaining the dangerous chemical reactions that the aggressive home economist might accidentally employ. I'd love to feature your work, as you clearly have a flair for detail and drama.

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 3.19.58 PM.png

Be prepared Wade, this is great! Glad you have back-up!



4 years ago

I'd be curious how much meat we eat, too. Perhaps a summer intern could be in charge of weighing and photographing all the meat we eat for a month?

Absolutely you need an intern for this. I think that the surest way to get accurate measurements is to have the intern prepare the meat as well. That'll ensure proper data is kept without hunger or impatience interfering with measurements.

You can train them on best salt solution practices, teach them to vacuum seal and sear, and make their summer one of gently immersing as many creatures as possible into a warm bath for your dining needs. And you can get fed all summer long.