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DIY and Open Source Design

I did a story in this week’s magazine about how more companies are combining people’s desire to share their expertise with a do-it-yourself urge. It’s an interesting, techno twist on the arts and crafts movement. Rather than one person, say Martha Stewart, sharing expertise on how to make a bag or a skirt, companies like Etsy, Burda, and Instructables are built on the notion that folks want to share and build on each others’ expertise.

BurdaStyle is a good example. Burda, Germany’s sewing pattern and magazine giant, relaunched an online community in July where it posts a Burda pattern once and week that members can change as much as they want. Members post how to videos on the site, contribute photos of their finished projects and give each other advice on altering clothing.

Burda is hoping to get word of mouth for its patterns. Though it’s biggest pattern seller in Europe, it claims less than 2% of the U.S. market.

Etsy is also very savvy. Though the startup is building lots of buzz as an online marketplace for handmade crafts, what’s a little less known is how actively the company works at sharing the knowledge about how to make crafts, sell them on Etsy and market them. It holds virtual and real labs each month, run by Etsy folks or by Etsy sellers. And it creates how-to videos. Etsy also has street teams, where Etsy sellers get together to share tips and figure out how to drum up local publicity and awareness for Etsy .

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