Instructables: step-by-step collaboration

Here’s a nice little tool, community, and design pattern for creating and sharing how-to learning objects. Basically, it provides a wizard for inputting text step descriptions and illustrative images. Mix in some Flickr-style usability principles and some folksonomic tagging goodness, and you have a nice little instructional confection.

Here’s their description of their approach:

A key insight behind instructables is that humans are constrained to working in linear time – ie you do things sequentially and are generally not in two places at once. This gives us the overall framework for instructables, a way of documenting the sequence of steps that are undertaken to make any particular thing or do any task. Many of the sub-sequences will be re-useable. Why have everyone document how to drill a hole repetitively? These sorts of things should be seen as share-able sub-routines in the library of how to do things. Add to that the power of a large community filtering sub-routines for best practice and you get an expanding library of human knowledge, craftsmanship, and best practice for making just about anything.

We learnt in previous projects that well motivated communities are capable of solving the CAD conversion problem for themselves, and that out there are thousands of really smart people who know how to solve most of the little problems that arise when building something. Give these people the forums to discuss these points and they’ll solve the problems. The problem to date though is that the format of these forums hasn’t been conducive to retaining that information for the long haul, and continually improving the information to create the library of best practices.

We’re starting to see more and more of these specialized tools that instantiate particular design patterns to address specific learning needs. What we need to do now is to start codifying them into a pattern language.

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About Michael Feldstein

Michael Feldstein is co-Publisher of e-Literate, co-Producer of e-Literate TV, and Partner in MindWires Consulting. For more information, see his profile page.
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