When Eric Wilheim started Instructables five years ago, it was supposed to be nothing more than a side project a dalliance from his day job as a designer at Squid Labs. But Instructables, which catalogs super cool do-it-yourself projects in easy-to-follow detail, has grown into a full-fledged site with a huge following of its own. DIY was bigger than he thought.
We spoke with Wilheim about Instructables, the cult of DIY, and just what makes a homemade dachshund wheelchair so darn cute.
What was the inspiration for starting Instructables?
The site began as a part of my design firm Squid Labs, which worked on early-stage prototyping and innovation. We built Instructables to document personal and professional projects. Within a couple of months it was taking off and in 2006 it spun off on its own.
Now the site houses around 35,000 Instructables from around 20-25,000 authors.
What do you think sets Instructables apart from other how-to sites?
We do how-to projects that are inspirational and entertaining. You can find how to fix your sink anywhere, but we want to know the story behind the project. We want to know why you did something - that's as important as why you did it.
Why do people submit to the site and in such high numbers?
When you build, bake or create something, you want to put it on your coffee table so that people ask about it. At some point your friends and family get sick of it, so you need to branch out. We've put that coffee table on the Web.
What are some of your favorite projects?
My favorites are things that are inspirational. My favorite is the dachshund wheelchair. A user fashioned a chariot for their injured dachshund. It's ridiculous but it's also heartwarming. This is something that you make but it's personal to you. It's a little tear-jerky and over the top but it's real.
How does "green" fit into your site's mission?
We've run a number of contests around green, it's a big hit with our community. In my opinion DIY is green for a number of reasons. You're often reusing something. More importantly you're getting a deeper relationship with the things that you're making. That deeper relationship tends to make you want to understand how something works. That gets you thinking about how to repair it and how to make it last longer.
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