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"It's not like everyone who does DIY is a communist!" - Instructables in the Financial Times Answered

I get attributed my favorite quote so far in DIY fanatics find a cyber showcase: "It's not like everyone who does DIY is a communist."

Eric Wilhelm was studying for his PhD in mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2000 when he decided that he needed an athletic pursuit. So he took up kite surfing, a sport that was then in its infancy.

Because kite surfing was so new, there were no established manufacturers producing reliable equipment. So Mr Wilhelm decided to make his own. He began sewing kites from rip-stop nylon and crafting boards from plywood. "It's a perfect sport for an engineer," he says. "You can build all your own gear."

Mr Wilhelm posted instructions and pictures of his craftsmanship on his personal web page. It soon gained a following, and readers e-mailed to ask where they could find documentation of similar projects.

The website evolved into Instructables, a San Francisco-based portal, and Mr Wilhelm is its chief executive. The business employs 10 and registers 5m unique visitors a month. The site, Mr Wilhelm explains, serves as a sort of collective repository for creative types who want to show off their wares.

More broadly, Instructables is a symbol of the latest evolution of a do-it-yourself culture of invention that has been the lifeblood of California's Silicon Valley high-technology industry. Apple, Google and Hewlett-Packard are just three global companies that began with a couple of creative tinkerers experimenting in a garage.


But isn't there something incongruous in a profit-seeking marketplace for specialised goods that are supposed to be the antidote to big box shopping? Herein lies the paradox of the DIY tech ethos: much as it would like to escape the confines of the throwaway economy, it cannot exist too far outside consumer culture.

Mr Wilhelm of Instructables does not see a conflict. The DIY movement, he says, "is not anti-capitalist...It's a backlash against mass market. It's not like everyone who does DIY is a communist."

More news and press about Instructables here.


Do-It-Yourself is the epitome of classic American self-sufficiency. Also known as "Yankee Ingeneuity" and sometimes equated with "The Pioneer Spirit."

Spread the concept of (unselfish) DIY to the world and power of invention and entrepreneurship may change even international relationships for the better!

Entrepreneur is very different from capitalist. Entrepreneurialism gives more freedom, growth, and generates more wealth in the hands of the public than capitalism, socialism, communism, etc.

[Is this flame bait? No, it's a clarification for the media types who need to hear it.]

Cool... Financial Times compares Instructables to Apple, Google and HP

Haha, that's great. I never even thought of a conflict like that...probably because I rarely build to save money. I make my own stuff because I enjoy it, and it lets me get exactly what I want.

still, it would be nice to have the art of building things, help pay for itself, especially when funds are tight :-)

Yes, me too, as long as I can do it without. The (hopeful) income from the MAKE store may help a little though


9 years ago

Someone always seeks to profit from every human endeavor, but that motive is peripheral to (and far less signficant than) the endeavor itself... 'Course, consider the source. If you read the Financial Times, it's because you're looking for new ways to make $$$... It's a reasonable perspective for them, if not for all makers. Me, I'd still be making stuff if the internet (and instructables) didn't exist.

They quote Eric, but show Bre Pettis?

(Oh, that's the London FT - classy!)

The Financial Times thinks of everything in the context of money? Color me shocked. What those editors at FT, who sit behind their desks counting their piles of coins, don't realize is there is a motivation greater and older than the love of money, pleasure. And I would no more pay someone to do something I can do myself, and divest myself of the pleasure of the doing, than I would pay someone to make love to my wife.

there is only one step from DIY mentalities to being communal; that is, the locals where one is a blacksmith and another raises chickens, the chicken's eggs can be traded for work on the tractor or scythe etc. But that is not communistic. That is living as an integral part of those around you.

Communism is nice...........................

Excellent point! Sharing the knowledge is great, but certainly doesn't equal communism. Most of us are Do-it-yourselfers because we are not welfare-state communists, or big-box slaves! It's easy to shop away, when you're spending other peoples money. If Washington and big business were as frugal as DIY folks, we wouldn't be in this big mess! In fact most DIY people are huge supporters of "mom and pop" type businesses. Supporting the "BIG BOX" guys is not synonymous with healthy capitalism. Self sufficiency (financial or otherwise), individual responsibility, and a good work ethic (in the interest of healthy profit, or savings) are the antithesis of communism!

Eric, I think compiling a list of quotes from you could be a fun way to spend a day...