The Community Over the Years Answered
In the seven years I've been on Instructables, one thing I know to be true is that the community has changed. A lot.
It is amusing to look over the "How to Steal An Instructable" post made years ago, which satirized the theft of projects.
Looking back on things as old as this proves funny but also depressing though; the community has changed so dramatically in the years that have transpired that copied projects are now no longer the objects of satire or chiding but the recipients of praise and prizes.
A few months ago, when I again broached the topic of copies on Instructables and the problems they cause, I was met with responses indicating that to overcome copycats all one needed to do was work a little harder. That is, those who have already put forward the effort of actually developing something new and of their own design should now work even harder to succeed. Curiously absent was any suggestion that copycats exert themselves and actually do something say--original.
By chance, I ran into a thread I had not seen in years while writing this: the thread on the "Instructables laws," guiding principles users ought to observe. There are four, with some accompanying notes to all. The first entry, the Zeroth Law, is the one relevant to projects and their content.
It states that:
"if an Instructable exactly like yours has not already been posted, then you shall post your Instructable."
An addendum is made to it, stating:
"If your Instructable has an identical goal to a pre-existing Instructable, but achieves that goal by a different or improved route, or in a different style, then you shall also post your Instructable."
The legitimacy of simplicity is also noted in an accompanying corollary.
None of the above ideas are wrong. On the contrary, it is people ignoring this thinking which has caused serious issues. Nowadays, people know other projects have been published with identical instructions (and even superior quality), yet they proceed on and repost it themselves anyway. Furthermore, their copying usually violates the copyright restrictions laid out by the original creator.
When the Instructables laws were written down, it is clear that original content was valued highly and respected. Nowadays, the dedication of the community toward these ideals is questionable to say the least. Today the community displays a disconcerting apathy toward makers and what they do. Just a few weeks ago, I was told the community is not interested in anything but the results--that the makers and their efforts are completely irrelevant. I'd rather not believe that is how the community at large believes things ought to be (especially given that it's a particularly unimpressive pitch to attract new makers and new ideas), but it seems like it may in fact be just that.
With that in mind, things have obviously changed--for better or for worse is in the eyes of the beholder; I have already reached my own personal conclusion.