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Thread: Selling Your Homemade Tool Plans on HomemadeTools.net

  1. #11
    C-Bag's Avatar
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    As usual, well said PJs and not spew. I also want to salute you too Jon and the other mods who make this forum possible and I have no idea about how this will all shake out. But bottom line little of what I do ever makes to paper or electron because it's way harder for me to add that step. Seems like if I have to draw it out I'm not going to have the time or energy to make it. Taking pix is somewhat in that category too. But I'm possibly in the minority, dunno.

    My biggest fear is it would make folks not want to continue on with the wonderful free flow of designs and tips that get either used right away or stored in the old grey jelly to solve a sticky problem years down the road. And if the good DIY Creative Commons here gets damped because of $$$ it could kill for me what I love about this site and all tie ins that bring this vast Makers Maze under one electronic roof.

    It seems like a good idea, but like PJs so sagely put, be prepared to walk away. For the sites own good and for your own.

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  3. #12
    Jon
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    PJs (and others) - no problem, I'm a very fast reader

    Yes, the initial cost of prepping the bundle may be significant, but it scales nicely after that. Errors would be fairly easy to correct, and we would have a very open and fast feedback loop by encouraging people to post with their questions in the forums. Per Cunningham's Law, I'm sure no mistakes would go unnoticed.

    I ordered the Bluing Tray plans from Clickspring yesterday on your recommendation, and added them to my sample plans folder. Yes, I see how he's got PDFs (metric and standard) and IGES files in the bundle, and everything looks very professional. When CAD files are involved, we would have to be strict. For tools that are a hodgepodge of existing tools and parts, CAD files wouldn't be appropriate; instead we would have a very detailed PDF with step-by-step instructions, plus maybe a video, parts/materials list, etc.

    Polling of some sort will be nice to add, but we do already have our first piece of good data, from click numbers on tools in the encyclopedia with the word "plans" in their titles. For example, this single listing: Homemade Power Hammer Plans, gets hundreds of clicks per day. The plans referenced in that linked discussion have actually been taken down, so the listing is going to be deleted. Those hundreds of clicks could instead be going to a page where someone is offering their power hammer plans for sale on HMT.

    I think a lot of guys who run their own sites have considered selling plans for their tools, but have been stopped by time/hassle and limited ROI due to a smaller traffic base. A specialty niche blog, even a very high quality one, will generally not have a huge following. That's the value we can bring: heavy traffic volume. In fact, guys who already sell tool plans on their blogs might want to also offer them for sale on HMT.

    Agreed that disincentivizing current contributions is a risk; possibly the biggest risk. However, few, if any, of the existing tool builds posted on the forums are detailed enough to qualify as plans. This system might actually increase builds posted on the forum, because people could make those same posts, but at the end of them, offer full detailed plans; the post itself acts as kind of a free preview for the full plans. Currently, I think the main incentive for people to post tool builds is peer recognition. Peer recognition is a really noble motivation, and it produces great results, especially when you amplify that recognition with awards, trophies, etc. It's a strong enough incentive for people to post 10 paragraphs of text and 10 photos, but it's not a strong enough incentive for someone to also put 10 or 20 hours of work into making a detailed set of plans. For that sort of time investment, we would need to fairly compensate people. Nevertheless, loss of our current positive atmosphere is a risk, and now's the correct time to mention it.

    There's another problem we can solve by making plans available. This community has an abundance of highly-skilled members, but limited participation at the beginner and intermediate levels. I'm sure most of us know that this is rare in forums; it's so often the other way around. If you look in the Introduce Yourself subforum, you can see that the problem isn't a lack new members coming in the door; we have a very healthy stream of those. I think that our beginner and intermediate level guys are seeing the tool builds that are posted in the forums, and wanting to build them, but they're needing extra guidance to replicate the tools. If those threads offered plans, guys at beginner/intermediate level could more easily replicate those builds, and, in the process, they would share their experiences on the forum, thus encouraging others to do the same, and building up community participation at the beginner/intermediate levels.

    Regarding Amazon reviews, lately I've had good results from only reading the 3 star reviews. Company shills leave 5 star reviews, competitors leave 1 star reviews. I figure the incentive is lowest for either of them to leave 3 star reviews, so that's where the most honest reviews must be!

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  5. #13
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    Jon,
    Your observation wanting to see more participation at the beginner and intermediate levels is something we need to encourage. I think your suggestions for plans and extra guidance to replicate the tools published at HMT will be welcomed by most and especially those who want to get started but not sure how to start. Every day in my shop is an education day and the more we can share the better for all. I do worry about the notion of dollars getting in the way of free flow of information but you never know unless you try. Thank you,
    Paul Jones

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  7. #14
    PJs
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    Nicely said Jon and agree with most of your thoughts and directions.

    As for initial prepping/scale and Cunningham's law, I agree, but we also had an expression back in the day we called Zigmurphy's law which states: "Once you open a can of worms you can't get them all back in the can". ~¿@ Can't find a reference for it on Google though...just a memory I guess. In the case of wiki, it's a place to start some times, contrived a lot (IMHO), valuable in some topics...whether it gets written, redacted or changed by the truth seekers or dissidents...the jury is still out in my book. It's always about discernment, for me.

    I appreciate that you ordered a set of Chris's Plans based on my recommendation. Yes Professional and they are just that, Plans and not necessarily a build tutorial but very well done and accurate. It's a very broad mix of builds we have here and your thoughts about the variations and "levels" appropriate to them will be important (at least to me) to establish a baseline of quality and levels (novice, intermediate, expert or what ever you choose) to the great space you have created.

    Too bad about the plans being removed from the other forum. Yes, it would be great to have a source to keep alive those types of builds (especially with that kind of data) and an opportunity to share/sell their hard earned work on a long term basis. It brings another point up about how long will a post with plans stay up? Also, Criteria for adding or removal? I also like that you have added the "Post a comment" to the pages, particularly to those that lead away from the site. I use the stars and sometimes comment now, like on Magnitoman's last build and led me to the other forum to read more of his well documented builds.

    Agreed that placing and maintaining a quality, secure cart is a pain and not a good ROI for the average person with low traffic. So many to choose from and most are lacking in my opinion. No denying your readership/members would be of great benefit to those wishing to pursue it. I got a great big spike after my knurl calc was posted and very appreciative and grateful that you/this site fulfilled my wish to get it out there for those who struggle with knurling...not because I want the hits or recognition, but to pay forward because others have helped me freely on my paths over the years.


    Agreed that disincentivizing current contributions is a risk; possibly the biggest risk. However, few, if any, of the existing tool builds posted on the forums are detailed enough to qualify as plans. This system might actually increase builds posted on the forum, because people could make those same posts, but at the end of them, offer full detailed plans; the post itself acts as kind of a free preview for the full plans. Currently, I think the main incentive for people to post tool builds is peer recognition. Peer recognition is a really noble motivation, and it produces great results, especially when you amplify that recognition with awards, trophies, etc. It's a strong enough incentive for people to post 10 paragraphs of text and 10 photos, but it's not a strong enough incentive for someone to also put 10 or 20 hours of work into making a detailed set of plans. For that sort of time investment, we would need to fairly compensate people. Nevertheless, loss of our current positive atmosphere is a risk, and now's the correct time to mention it.

    A lot said here, key points being "disincentivizing" and "loss of current positive atmosphere". Agreed most are simple, "needed this did that" kind of posts, some with great detail some with minimal or just pics. Developing categories for detail level of Plans/build docs and the levels/details could be explained in the posting or as a heading if separated from the main forum. To me it would all go back to some root standard. Currently there isn't a lot of standard in what constitutes a build/post and that's fine because most of us (I think) check it out because it peaks our interest and satisfies some need to see how other solve or create things. For me personally, I'm not sure that Peer recognition is the main incentive. Yes it's a subset to get praise from peers and superiors, awards and tee shirts (wear mine proudly) but for me at least it's the learning, sharing/helping freely and most of all the community of like minded souls of a broad range of skills and wherewithal.

    As for "Loss of current positive atmosphere", C-Bag makes a strong point. Personally, I'm not sure how it may be affected but do have the concern and can see the benefits to advance the sharing for small profit. I can only reiterate, detailed planing and allowing for and embracing course correction have been the most successful.

    Not sure I could explain my method for review sorting in less than 300 words but using 3 stars works pretty well. ~¿@ ~PJ
    ‘‘Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.’’
    Mark Twain

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  9. #15
    Jon
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    Posts with plans would stay up indefinitely, unless of course the author wanted the plans removed for some reason. We would also add a "Plans" tab among the top navigation tabs. Clicking it would take the user to a page that listed all the plans for sale.

    We would need to see the first batch of submissions before we specified exact criteria for adding. Some of the tools are very straightforward, and a PDF plus some CAD files is perfect. But, for example, plans for this week's Tool of the Week, the Hedge Trimmer by pauladan, would need to meet a different criteria. This is why I think a soft approach of: "send us what you have, and we'll touch it up if necessary and go from there" is best for the beginning. Eventually we'll see the patterns in submissions, and we can tailor the system accordingly. Some excellent examples of various types of plans will also begin to emerge, and we can refer authors to those plans as our gold standards.

    Regarding removal criteria, we would probably have to initially reserve the right to remove plans "for any reason". My guesses as to actual reasons for removal would be intellectual property concerns or tool safety concerns. For IP concerns, we have the standard DMCA copyright procedures in place. As for tool safety, if a safety issue emerges as people build the tool using the plans, we could remove the plans until the author addressed the issue.

    It wouldn't hurt to approach existing plans authors and see if they have an interest in selling their plans here, in addition to on their sites. As a bonus, we would potentially gain those guys as forum members.

    Of course there is no way to involve money without collateral drama. However, there's no way besides money (that I can think of) to incentivize people to go back and add detailed plans to all of the builds they've previously posted, and to post detailed plans with future builds. The thought of having half, or a quarter, or a tenth of the tools posted here accompanied by detailed plans is very alluring, and it's something we can accomplish. We also benefit from the fact that this forum is populated largely by mature professionals who have interacted long-term with a bare minimum of conflict or drama, and an abundance of goodwill. That dynamic may alter with the cultivation of a plans economy, but we would be building on very firm ground.

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  11. #16
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    Hi everybody,
    Wow, what a thread, and I am unfortunately not as fast a reader in English as Jon says above, and I must admit I have not read everything but picked up a few ideas with which I fully agree.

    I didn't want to answer too fast, as I am still not sure to have a clear opinion yet about that .

    To make it short :
    - Like Paul above, not sure for the real need, and that button "request for plan" would definitively help

    - Like C-Bag above, I am really questioning on the future of the site if things start to be commercial, I mean it will become a simple catalog, with people not publishing all the details as they will want to sell them ...

    - I personally never sell any kind of my craft or intellectual private work, for different reasons, but mainly because it is not my official job, and legally as well as fiscally, I don't want to enter into troubles with that. One day I could have to reconsider that, for the moment this is not the case.

    - Last and not least, I am a real believer in the "Open" principle, open source / open hardware ... .
    I feel I have some kind of debt towards the big anonymous community of the Web from which I have learned so much of my skills, or picked up so many ideas, and in return, I am really pleased whenever I can offer something in return.
    This is why I am so attached to the Creative Commons licence, a principle where you can share (and possibly sell, that's not a problem) your work, with the only constraint for the user, if he modifies or resells it, of publishing that it is from your original idea, and he will continue to offer his work with the same licence.
    Note that you can restrict the terms of the Creative Commons license if you want, for instance preventing the commercial use of the work.
    I do really believe in this principle and see it like a technological Darwinism, a long chain of evolutions leading to the most optimal and well thought object.

    I stop here, for me, I wait and see how it turns out !
    Christophe
    Last edited by Christophe Mineau; 10-05-2015 at 03:15 AM.
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  13. #17
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    Lots of good arguments here. How about an option to donate to the builder/forum member? It's a kind of compromise between commercialization and the "Open Principle" as Christophe mentioned.

    Al

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    Jon, you have a view us user mortals don't have. So it's hard to know what's going on with the number of folks who seem to lurk here. I'm always astounded to see how many are looking but don't comment. I have no idea how much skill, time, and equipment they have. Are they just trying to solve a current problem or are they fascinated like me what's going on out there off the corporate grid? Or are they coming up with stuff but are too intimidated to post? Or are they harvesting these ideas with an eye on taking them and trying to get a patent? It's all a big 'ol question mark.

    But like my Okie grandpa instilled in me, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. So when something seems like it's going along its reached some kind of happy balance. There are a ton of folks on the net that seem to be natural born teachers and the net is the perfect medium for them. They are keeping alive something that has been killed in the school systems here(shop class) and reversing the downward spiral that is passive consumerism. This is all underground. So when we lament that we need promote beginners and intermediates I believe just by posting your projects and then answering questions about details we are doing that. The next logical step might be to offer plans. But once again only Jon would know.

    There are guys like John at NYC CNC who's now a "personality" and learned all he knows from guys like tubalcain and other amazing guys. All without going to school to become a machinist or apprenticing. And he's turning around and giving back to the same net that taught him.

    For me doing plans is such a PIA a 20% of $20 does not seem like any incentive. But I don't think about the crowd of lurkers and have a tendency to think anything I come up with is going to be junk and nobody would want it. But the universe has proven me wrong and I make my living from what I make and it's all possible because of the net. So if you can come up with some kind of system that can help preserve the spirit and expand the intent of the Creative Commons more power to you.

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  17. #19
    Jon
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    I remember being fanatical about GPL and Creative Commons licensing when I was younger (I adamantly refused to install non-open-source software on my computer!), and I think this community is a great example of what the open source mindset can accomplish.

    I'm still a huge fan of open source, but I believe that free contributions have a reasonable limit. As an example, my wife and I donate time and money to various charities, as I'm sure many others here do too. I used to donate quite a few hours to develop and maintain a website for an advocacy organization for a specific type of learning disorder. Eventually, they needed someone to commit even more time. I had to politely decline, and they ended up hiring someone to handle the increased workload. Similarly, I think our guys are happy to provide photos and detailed text description of their builds. If we want them to ALSO sit down and draft formal plans, we have to up the ante.

    It's important to state that open source projects and money are not mutually exclusive. One example is the ability to commercialize Creative Commons licensed material. Another is the rise of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin - it's a great example of an open source project that not only involves money, it actually is money. Previously this would've been taboo; now we are beginning to see how democratizing it can be to apply open source principles to financial projects.

    I know other forums do donations, and I also believe that our members would be generous with donations. However, I'd rather have people donate plans!

    C-Bag - to clarify, the author's share would be closer to 70%. 70% of $20 still isn't much, but if 50 or 100 copies of the plans were sold, the incentive builds nicely.

    Christophe Mineau touches on an interesting point about legal/fiscal conflicts. People would certainly need to consider these factors in light of their specific situations. For example, if your official job is to draft plans for a manufacturing company, you may have a conflict if you are drafting and selling plans online.

    I believe the big risk we've identified here is that monetization of information may disincentivize the amount of available free information. Instead of someone posting 10 photos and 10 paragraphs of free text, they would instead post a sentence or two, a single photo, and a link to buy-Buy-BUY! their plans. However, such a post would be at a disadvantage: it couldn't win Tool of the Week or any other award (not enough details), which would prevent it from being featured prominently in the newsletter, on the forums, and other parts of the site. They guy who posts 10 paragraphs and 10 photos stands to get a lot more publicity for his post, which could then offer plans for sale.

    I had a closer look at ClickspringProjects.com, and you can see that he's hit the correct balance: free videos, free tutorials, but the plans are $2-$4. This is the give-before-you-take philosophy that I believe would work for us. We're at a great advantage because the "give" has already been completed for many of the posts on here. Authors could go back and retroactively add plans to their previous posts.

    The only position I've seen in this thread that I firmly disagree with is the notion that the need for plans might not be enormous. We seem to be agreeing on a great deal, so I suspect my view is different because I'm exposed to the backend website traffic stats; C-Bag hit the nail on the head when he brought up lurkers: the invisible majority.

    I can share some data and see if others agree. Here's a chart from Google Analytics (a common website traffic analytics package). It's displaying the search keywords that people used to find us in the past 30 days. So, people enter these words in Google, then HomemadeTools.net comes up in the Google search results. I've filtered the results to only display search queries that include the word "plans" (note the "Advanced Filter ON" text). Over just the past 30 days, there have been 7,927 searches that include the word "plans". Take a look:



    Now you guys see why I keep using the power hammer example!

    One thing we can do if we have a plans market is open source this type of data to our members, so people can instantly see which tool plans are most desired, without having to inquire or guess. We can also open source the sales numbers, without personalizing them. So we could publish figures like monthly sales, while keeping individual members' exact earnings private.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Selling Your Homemade Tool Plans on HomemadeTools.net-screen-shot-2015-10-05-9.34.31-am.jpg  

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  19. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon View Post
    C-Bag - to clarify, the author's share would be closer to 70%. 70% of $20 still isn't much, but if 50 or 100 copies of the plans were sold, the incentive builds nicely.
    oops

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