Instructables “Hackaday Edition”

We got a pleasant letter from [Eric Willhelm], the owner of Instructables. He wanted to shoot a token of good will our direction, in the form of an EPUB of some of the projects we’ve linked to in the last quarter of 2010. These are Ad-free and have all images included. You can download it and view it on the e-reader of your choice, or even in your browser with the appropriate plugin.  The videos still link back to Instructables, but he thought our readership might enjoy having an ad-free experience. He says that link should work for about a month.

For those who really want ad free content and are willing to pay for it, Instructables has been putting out publications that are collections of instructables on certain topics. For example, [Eric] pointed out that they’ve compiled some that might be of interest to us like “Better living through microcontrollers” and “Amazing LED Projects“. Actually, there are a bunch of titles and it looks like some are free as well.

Thanks [Eric], I’m sure your actions gained a little respect, even from those who dislike Instructables generally due to ads and registration.

67 thoughts on “Instructables “Hackaday Edition”

  1. My problem with instructibles is not the ad’s. it the fact that to see most of the images at a decent size you need to be a “member” sorry, no thanks. You are profiting off of the work of others and then restricting access to what they did? That’s simple scumbaggery.

  2. As soon as I read “ad-free instructible” i was interested. When I got to the fact that this would only be for a limited period of time, I realized this was little more than a publicity stunt. Thanks, but no thanks. Until I can view instructibles without registering, I’m not really interested in anything posted on it. Teasing me with content for a month doesn’t really cut it.

  3. Well that was nice of them. I guess the comments have gotten pretty negative towards them. Maybe if they give you more shwag you can turn the spam rat against anti-instructables comments.

    Seriously, though, that was a nice gesture.

  4. OK, so Instructables provides free web hosting and free tools to make it quick and easy for anyone to make an instructable, with (1) page navigation, (2) image hosting with nice mouse-over annotation regions, (3) comment support, and (4) links from and to other (hopefully) related instructables.

    It’s kind of like YouTube, I think. When I first heard of YouTube, I thought “Why is this so great? Anyone can hosting video files on their web site easily.” Well, beyond the free network bandwidth, and so-easy-your-grandma-could-do-it part, you get the visibility that comes from being part of the YouTube site. I think it’s similar for Instructables. You give up control and flexibility for ease of use and the benefits of being absorbed into the social structure of the site (with links to and from other ‘ables).

    I would certainly not make Instructables the main home of any project I created, but I could imagine posting an Instructable copy of a project that also links back to my real project web page. This way I could get the publicity benefit of being on instructables but users could always “upgrade” their experience by clicking the link to my own web site.

  5. Sure, it’s a nice gesture but it doesn’t make our day-to-day experience any better. You just have to think about both the positive and negative aspects of Instructables and decide for yourself. This limited-time, limited-scope gesture in some weird format (EPUB? why not PDF?! Does the file expire after a time?) is less than useless.

  6. ColinB – I dont have to register to watch youtube videos. If youtube required registering in order to watch videos, you really think it would be as popular as it is now? As someone who is primarily a consumer of project instructions, how easy instructibles makes it to post project descriptions isnt my main concern. My main concern is how easy it is to read project descriptions. When I see that a project is on instructibles, I know that I am going to be annoyed with “register to see the rest of this!” tactics, and I’d rather just pass on what may or may not be a good project. There are alternatives, and as a consumer I’d prefer the alternatives that go out of their way NOT to piss me off.

  7. Instructables provides no barrier to competition. And putting your project on Instructables is a free choice to make. If there is a superior alternative, just name it, otherwise Instructables provides a platform for things that would maybe otherwise not be published. They even have competitions and a pretty good newsletter. They can’t be held to the standard of those who do things for free, as personal endeavours. Too many projects give too much away, then have no resource for growth; Look a HAD maybe? v. small community with low participation (the Santa competition), occasional low quality posts, no forum; Can’t exactly damn what Instructables has achieved, they’re in a bigger league.

  8. “EPUB? why not PDF?!”

    Maybe because epub is way better than PDF for ebook readers, since it allows for text reflowing?

    By the way, epub is also more open, since it’s basically a ZIP file with XHTML content and a couple XML files for metadata. You could probably unzip and read it with a normal browser.

  9. Could HAD implement a policy of hosting a PDF (Or EPUB, if you must) of every Instructibles article that is linked to (forever, concurrent with each new posting of an Instructibles article)?

    This would be beneficial not only to remove some of the griping about Instructibles but also to help future-proof HAD against Instructibles changing their URL structure, the article being changed/removed, or possibly increasing the restrictions to the point of unusability.

    …or is there an EULA that prevents members from distributing the PDFs that they download?

  10. Sooo they’re giving us a very limited amount of projects ad free for a limited time in a format I have to download yet another plugin to view in my browser.

    Can someone explain to me how this makes Instructables easier to use?

  11. @CH – I suppose you’re right about instructables being in a bigger league. That being said, how many visits a day does a site like HAD get? (if that’s public) I’m always curious as to how sites like this stack up.

  12. Bigger league doesn’t imply that they need to be annoying to use – look at google, I get all the features of the search engine without having to sign up for an account. Youtube is the same way, I can watch vidoes without needing an account. Why do we need to sign up for a service to view other user’s content? Instructibles went for a paid model, and it must work for them, but for people who expect free content (a lot of people, since most content nowadays IS free) it isnt up snuff. On that note, thank you, hackaday, for not requiring registration to view your posts, or even to comment on the posts. Thats a huge plus in my book :-D

  13. I love the “your profiting off of” blah blah blah its an exchange, they get profits to continue running and I have a place to put my stuff

    besides if you get featured you get a 3 month pro membership for free, so far JUST in the last 2 months I have racked up 18 months of pro membership, oh nowes someone named fartface doesn’t like where i host my stuff, oh effin well

  14. I appreciate what Instructables started out trying to do. However, what guaranteed my eternal non-participation was how they added the signup walls after there were already thousands of projects uploaded to their site. Everyone who uploaded a project did so thinking it was going to be visible in a certain way, and then Instructables changed it all. It would be just like if WordPress decided that people could view only a small portion of blogs they host, like Hackaday, unless they created an account and logged in.

  15. The quality of instructable has gone down hill, rapidly. I could not find anything worth clicking for last few months. I don’t think this is even a nice gesture, but a constant play of seeking free content and potential paying viewers. The minimum they should have done if they are fair in nature is to pay people for posting when they started charging. But if a fairplay needs to be asked and told, one can safely concluded they aren’t worth it.

  16. Long time user of Instuctables; but I’ve mostly “dropped out”:

    Instructables has one over-riding positive–it’s project interface is easy to use, easy to navigate, and decently featured. It’s enough of a reason alone to use the website.

    Unfortunately, there are loads of negatives.

    –It’s bug filled. Always.

    –Forum? That’s a joke. It’s dominated by a handful of hardcore members, split evenly between pedantic adults and irritating 13 yr-olds.

    You cannot edit any forum posts. A special editor must be launched simply to format posts (even carriage returns). Same with PMs–no CR in PMs. Paying members can add formatting tags (maybe they can edit existing posts, but I think not). What a great idea–write custom-coded forum that works like a throw-back to 1998…

    The forum originally had no organization–all posts were lumped together. Later they added sub-forums, but everyone clicks on “view all”, because that emulates the old “easy” way. So no sub-groups have ever been nurtured or grown there, and no more than a handful of projects have every originated in the forums.

    In fact, they also originally had a “Group” concept that’s largely fallen by the wayside.

    To make matters worse, they “forked” all the technical discussions to the “Answers” section, where the same (semi-knowledgeable) people “answer” the questions, and the person least qualified (person who asks) gets to judge the answers. And now the forums are even LESS interesting to read.

    –The add-on editor (they brought this code in prewritten) launch “broke” much of the pre-existing formatting within Instructable projects. That was a huge PITA.

    –I won’t even go into the “Pro” (member pay) issue. Soon after they announced it, there was a mini-uprising, and the website was forced to scale back the “restricted” non-pay features.

    So be happy that non-registered, non-paying viewers can see anything at all…

  17. I’m not even complaining about the cost.
    The fact that they require me to log in to view images _ALONE_ is enough to make me loathe Instructables. The fact that anyone who isn’t a subscriber has to deal with that atrocious mutli-page structure they enforce is stupid.

    They’re profiting from other people’s work, not their own services. They don’t simply add a few advertisements or charge posters a small fee, they restrict access to the very content these people wish to share. It’s a backwards model. Yes, it’s been around for a long time in one form or another, but it’s never been any good for anyone but the publisher.

  18. And, on the issue of “bigger leagues”:
    Look at what popularity has done to digg. It was a decent site at one time. After it went non-strictly-tech, it’s become the same asinine pseudo-political ragefest that saturates the rest of the blogs and forums on the internet.

    There is a reason I read Hack a Day and I don’t read Instructables. I don’t care about how large a site is or how much content it produces. On a big site, I’ll only see a small fraction of it anyway, so what does it matter? I read HaD because it’s relevant to me. HaD fills a very specific niche that _no other site_ on the entirety of the internet fills. Not even Instructables.

    Instructables is very arts-and-craftsy. It’s form over function in the truest sense. Gluing a few brass doodads to a computer peripheral will never impress me. I can find something to like if I try really, really hard (forging swords, etc), but most of it is just knitting novelty socks or painting Nerf guns.

    Hacking is on the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s doing some herculean task with absolutely nothing or with (seemingly) the most inappropriate tools. RFID with an ATTiny chip and a single inductor (no supporting circuitry or power source), using the PWM of a power indicator LED to enable rapid-fire on an XBox controller, or probing BGA pads with some thin enameled wire and toothbrush fibers or fishing line. Possibly even designing a huge, ugly, loud, inefficient, and impractical (yet totally functional) computer using nothing but a few thousand electromechanical relays.

  19. The overall content of Instructables and the layout are the two main reasons I only ever visit it when there’s a link from one of the few hacking sites I regularly visit.

    Apart from having to log in to view all the pages in one go, their login setup is a pain in the arse because I can’t simply login and click back to get to the project page and press refresh – it doesn’t work like that, I have to login, close the tab and click the original link again.

    Then there’s the embedded images, it’s very frustrating trying to click on the individual thumbnails to view the ‘fullsize’ version because often the fullsize images aren’t the same height so the thumbnails change their position on the page and you have to keep trying to follow them with your mouse.
    Why not put the thumbnails above the ‘fullsize’ image or make sure the the ‘fullsize’ image is always the same height even if you have to pad it with blank space.

    Talking of layout issues, one minor thing that bugs me about HAD is that when you click links in the article writeup or the comments, it replaces the HAD page you’re viewing, I’d prefer it to open in a new tab – actually I think I might whip up a greasemonkey script to fix this for me.

  20. i’ve been a member and user of hackaday AND instructables for years now and i have 1 complaint with instructables
    1 thing that they USED to allow
    you should be able to enlarge ANY picture without registering, maybe not to FULL resolution but atleast give us a little bigger than the damn thumbnail without logging in!
    who cares about ads?
    ads pay for the internet!
    if i didnt want ads i would install ad block plus or something similar
    but not being able to enlarge pictures without registering/logging in ruins the user experince, not everyone wants to sign in every single time they view a site, the only time i log in to instructables is to post comments or submit content, i dont want to login just to view somone’s submission, we get ads either way(or maybe adds) so its not like a few extra k of bandwidth is going to kill the site because we arnt logged in

  21. Instructables ad’s and there need for you too pay for just about everything if you wish too create a project takes the ****, it was great when you could do everything for free as long as you were a free member!

    Money making out of us hackers.

  22. @Haku:
    “one minor thing that bugs me about HAD is that when you click links in the article writeup or the comments, it replaces the HAD page you’re viewing, I’d prefer it to open in a new tab”

    right-click -> “Open Link in New Tab”
    or, simply:

    This is the behavior I expect of links. I’d rather HaD didn’t change it.

  23. @r_d, I know about “open link in new tab”, middle click and ctrl+left click to open in a new tab, but I have my browser configured so that the browser doesn’t automatically go to the new tab, this behaviour is preferred for me so that when I’m searching for something and get a slew of links I can middle-click on several links all at one go and then go through the newly opened tabs at my leisure instead of having to constantly go back to the original search results.

    Did you also know about middle-clicking on the Reload, Prev & Next navigation buttons in Firefox? (and presumably IE), now those are some useful functions.

  24. I hate Instructables. Email harvester in my opinion. Intentionally holds back content until you give in. Steer clear of them. Instructables would get far more hits and make more ad money if would they stop harvesting email addresses and let you actually view the content on their site that was put there by others for free.

  25. Here’s a free tip for login/pay/walled sites like Instructables: LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO KEEP LOGGING IN, DUDES! The Internet is humongous and 99% of sites I visit when I browse I see less than once a month, likely less than once a year if ever again. The rest of 1% I visit regularly, and I refuse to log in even there (but on different grounds).

    The idiots who think I’ll register to just to see a pic/get access to an attachment every time I find a post answering a problem I have are BITTERLY WRONG. I won’t. Period. And if I must, it will always be a disposable identity I’ll never use again, that will just clog up their databases from then on, for all eternity (give or take).

    So here’s one for you: do kindly step out of the way – completely – and don’t restrict access in any way, especially when content isn’t even your own, no matter what you claim to provide or not. If you have to make money (and I do understand that you do), provide instead OTHER optional, supporting services for-pay, that COMPLEMENT that content, but do not restrict access. Something like a PCB fab service for a hobby electronics site for example – you’re not paying me, so come up with your own ideas; I have no idea what may or may not work, ok?

    Oh, and marketroid bait like special-offers-for-a-limited-time instead of genuine good-will (long-time policies) do nothing but offend me even more instead of redeeming some respect. But hey, that’s just me, right…?

  26. HAHAH What a gesture from Instructables

    It’s like some old perv that comes up in a van to offer you one free candy, in a non-standard packaging. Then he asks you to go in his van if you tell him your name and other login info.

  27. Instructables died when 50% of the content was Knex guns. Seriously, they saw the end coming and decided to cash in while they could. They took a good place and ran it into the ground, then shit on it.

  28. Let’s face it, there is a culture mismatch between the two sites.

    I’m a huge fan of user generated content, the remix manifesto, the free software movement.

    Access to information and being able to hack the devices we want is vital.

    Instructables is the antithesis of that mind set. Just say no.

    Post your content on one of the free blog hosts. Or Keep your content free.

  29. The Instructables pay-wall for user-contributed content was ill-conceived, no doubt.

    Still, once it was implemented, if they had only hired more programmers to fix the weird bugs and screwups (forum), pop-up ads they claimed they would never host, etc., I’d have gladly paid. Simply because I had found a stable, persistent home for my projects.

    Instead they doubled the programming staff–to two. For a site that’s pretty much all custom code, and a large database.

    I’m not paying for someone to make money off my projects–unless the freaking thing works seamlessly. It’s simple consumer issue for me–don’t pay for crap.

  30. Register for free and run adblock, then you’ll have the nicest tutorial experience on the whole friggin web.

    I seriously don’t see the problem here?

    OH NO I NEED TO REGISTER, yes it will also cause your mahood to shrink and your hair to fall off. At least have the knowledge of site like bugmenot that was posted earlier if you want to avoid registering. Christ, ignorance is more annoying that add filled sites.

    I also didn’t know HAD ran ads, i’ve been having an ad free experience for about 7 years now. And no i’m not sorry for “not giving the sites their ad money”. The ads are random, never interesting and mostly they’re made by people that think flashing something big and neon at your face makes you buy shit – guess what, it doesn’t.

  31. @Jimmy you’re exchanging your project for their platform – that’s how the site works. Paying is optional.

    It’s like renting a lemonade stand, it will cost you something, but you’ll get something in return.

  32. @Eirinn: Don’t tell me, tell instructables.

    At the inception of the PRO campaign (paying users), they initially tried to limit access to project photos to only one photo per “step” (page) unless you ponied-up for a paid membership (projects usually have several images per page). And there were other plans to limit content access.

    So don’t tell me about quid pro quo and YOUR concept of “how the site works”–the staff was FORCED (in the sense that hundreds of users rebelled) to honor that perception, against their new business plan. Only a user uprising prevented it’s implementation.

    Clearly, the site doesn’t make enough money from advertisements to support operations. Equally clearly, they’re willing to go pretty far to survive, including boning long-standing members who contributed believing the site would stay free and open.

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