Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What a Community means to Local Motors

Over the last couple of days we have received a number of queries on our commitment to protect designers and their work. We anticipated this concern and that is why I have blogged a number of times about our thoughts on rights and protection. I still consider this one of our most important advancements and cornerstones of Local Motors, so I wanted to take a little time tonight to address it in further depth.

( "Big_Burglar" Circle added)

To paraphrase one of our community member's questions which summarizes a great deal of these concerns into one thought:

In [my country, ABC Co.] organizes design competitions regularly, for very few winners....They receive thousands of free ideas from designers that earn nothing for their job. [ABC] then submits all the ideas to [its own] designers and [uses] some for serial car design. That is the reason why I never show more than one or two views of a vehicle on the internet. Your competition terms require a detailed and scaled design of the car, don’t you think that it is just a new way to make people work for no salary at all ???
Some may think that we would cower at such a pointed question, but actually we see it as an opportunity to put our best foot forward. For instead of being troubling for Local Motors, this question highlights some of the most positive and groundbreaking innovation in our Company and Community.

Do such Companies as ABC host such competitions? You are right that they do, and I really dislike the fear that they have created in the automotive design industry. Take for example the latest guidelines for a major annual auto design competition. I will summarize from the rules:
1) Submit to ABC your design.
2) Only ABC gets to see that work. The designer gets no feedback, and the community (if there even was one) does not get to see anything.
3) ABC alone chooses 30 designs and rejects the rest. They don't even have to send a "losing" designer a letter if he doesn't win.
4) Then a group of viewers and the company votes to choose the top winners. EVERYONE of these 30 designers signs over their rights in their design completely, regardless of what they win ($300 or $6000)
-There is one competition per year and the prizes are about $20K all together split between 30 people.

( "Big_Burglar")

This is SO different than what Local Motors provides:

1) We are building a community that puts the designer on a pedestal. This is not a black box, where you send stuff to us and we tell you only if it is good, and only in our myopic judgment. This is an interactive community where comments and suggestions and voting go on in real time. This feedback is the Most Important Value designers receive from the site. Based on interviewing many designers, we know that this is something that is really challenging, really exciting and something which has not been done before on such a scale. We understand that sharing design is challenging, but the value received from the community ought to far exceed the fear that people will only take and not give. Local Motors will run a competition every month, and pay out every month. Not every year. True, we cannot make every car which wins. We do not intend to, but that does not mean that we cannot celebrate and offer a community for great design. There is of course value that we receive by being in this nexus, but it is nothing that is not loudly declared and nothing that we have not paid for.

2) As for whether we might steal designs. I would first point onlookers to our Guidelines and Terms of Use at the bottom of our website. They make it clear that we have to pay a designer in order to use his design, and even then, we do not have unlimited rights in every case. So we are not taking something for nothing. Furthermore, if we simply decided to be a bad company and steal anyway, that would be a short-lived way to run a company. I give our readers and our community my word (and you will see it is true over time) that we will NOT do this.

3) As for whether the prize is worth the effort for designers. We are running sketch competitions NOT highly detailed 3D rendering competitions. We have (and will continue to) emphasized that doing modeling and photo-realistic rendering in one's competition entry does not give that person an advantage in winning a competition. We are looking for blunt, raw inspiration. So the time spent by a designer in creating a sketch for LM should be measured in hours not in days or weeks. We have calibrated this by studying the average capabilities of designers at one of the preeminent design schools in California. Therefore, if someone wins, for only a commitment of a couple of hours, we offer Status in our Community, prizes, and cash. We believe that is more than a fair trade. Even if a designer doesn't win, he has benefitted from real critical thought and comment, and he still owns his design.

In short, we celebrate all professional and amateur car designers. We intensely dislike the way that design competitions like ABC's have been run in the past. I appreciate all of these concerns, and I hope I have answered at least some the questions. We would love every designer who comes across our site to participate. The more people the more rich the commentary, and the better the cars that result. This is people helping people, and Local Motors is paying to develop the community in which they interact. I hope that the oppurtunity to have the status, to have the comments and votes from a worldwide community, and to earn the prizes we offer is valuable to our believers.

Come and give us a try, you will be pleased. And keep the questions coming!


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