On teaching, takeovers, and let-downs

Folks say a picture is worth 1,000 words. I put 1,099 words down below and I still think this image does a better job describing my feelings than anything I wrote, damnit.

I’ve had a over a week to get my head around what I keep thinking of as The Craftsy Kerfuffle but which is really That Bluprint Situation and you know, I still don’t have my thoughts in any sort of order, but that’s okay. LET’S JUST TALK ABOUT THIS THING.

The basics are that when NBC bought Craftsy in 2017 things changed, which is pretty normal. If you’ve ever experienced a buy-out or a take-over, this is standard and it can be a good thing, a bad thing, or a completely neutral thing— it’s just what happens when a new organization is in charge.

NBC gave instructors new contracts almost immediately, which is also normal and felt pretty reassuring: cool, nobody was getting dropped, business as normal. They also started upgrading our systems and talking about re-branding the company into its current iteration, Bluprint.  Amongst all those changes, instructors started making noises about not receiving any notification when questions were asked in their classes, and not being able to access students’ questions when they could see them. While instructors were no longer required to answer student questions under the terms of their contracts with NBC, many of us considered continued student interactions a part of our work. The change in response policy was also not made clear to students, especially not students who had joined or participated under the earlier, more engaged Craftsy model.

To complicate things further, the platform posts automated weekly prompts (“What are you making this week?” “How did this technique work for you?”) intended to spur student engagement with the forum. Many students believe these prompts come directly from instructors and respond in kind, becoming frustrated when they receive no further interaction.

Instructors can now see the student questions- all of them, going back more than a year. We can’t do anything with them, though. It’s… aggravating? Frustrating? Sometimes, it’s actually heartbreaking: one instructor posted a screenshot of a student asking if they were invisible, for crying out loud. The end result of all of this is that the platform, and essentially the instructors lost student trust. There are numerous forum posts, videos, and blogs discussing Bluprint vs Craftsy, the drop-off in instructor response is mentioned as a negative in almost every instance. It’s a completely valid complaint; being able to ask questions about the material was an enormous added value to the product, and it was discontinued without notice.

So… augh.

The thing about what’s happening with Bluprint is that it’s disappointing but it’s also not terribly surprising. I don’t mean that as cynically as it sounds, honestly. When I came on board, Craftsy was a small company focused on helping professional makers reach their audience- all enthusiasm, 100% charm. You can do that when you’re small and self- owned. I filmed my second class with them as the takeover was going down and you could see it happening: the corporate shine slipping in everywhere, the twee getting buffed off. I’m not even saying it’s a bad thing for Bluprint. I do think it’s a shame for the artisan instructors, though, and their students.

That’s not what I was getting into when I signed up with Craftsy, though. I wasn’t an already-famous-person shilling stuff or promoting a new piece; I was just another maker hustling my ass off, and when Craftsy picked me up it was a big deal. It was a big deal for me and also for my community, who all celebrated that milestone along with me, and I think that has something to do with why a lot of us feel so sore about how this has worked out; we didn’t just use Craftsy, we were rooting for this platform, and for the artists and makers featured on it. We felt as though our friends found success here. Seeing a designer, co-worker, or fellow crafter you love get picked up for a Craftsy class was exciting, a new way to experience their content, and another way to support them.

I don’t have that feeling about the platform now, and I can’t rustle up a high level of enthusiasm for non-artisan celebrity content that’s readily available elsewhere on the web:  I think Bluprint will make plenty of money selling things like Al Roker’s BBQ something-something, which I just saw advertised in their newsletter, but I’m not the target market for that and neither are my students. I am interested in seeing the content of respected creators centered and highlighted; I would like to see established makers with decades of experience in their field given center stage over entertainers who dabble in arts and crafts, but I am not running that show, and I understand/ respect that.

So okay, Craftsy/ Bluprint: it’s different now, and there are feelings about that, but it’s somebody else’s gig, so there’s not too much I can do about that. Let’s talk about the future and what we can do.

Everybody has their own strategies moving forward and before I get started I just want to be sure I say that I’M FINE WITH THE CHOICES OTHER ARTISTS MAKE. It’s hard out there and we all have to figure out what works best for us. Solidarity matters.

I’m going to leave my content up. It helps pay my bills, frankly, and I’m proud of the work I did there: it’s super- accessible, and I worked hard to make certain that it was beginner-friendly. I’m going to answer the questions that come my way. I’m also going to spend this summer looking into alternative ways to create and distribute new content (what’s up, YouTube and Patreon!) because honestly, I’ve always preferred running my own gig and I don’t want to let anybody own my content again. So there’s that: I’ve always loved a good project, YouTube sounds like an awesome exercise in getting super uncomfortable (holy cats I really do dislike being in front of a camera) and I’ve got a good block of quiet time coming up.

I keep feeling as though there’s something else I should say, but that’s my piece, friends. At least, that’s everything I have to say about this. I hope you’re having a good 2019, and that the biggest of your frustrations involves being disappointed by an online learning center, honestly. I mean, it’s balls, but there’s definitely worse.

(I know my site badging is all wrong. Those questions aren’t the only issues out there. If you’re looking for links, I’ll have those fixed as soon that Bluprint’s tech support gets back to me. In the meanwhile, you can always find my classes at this link.)

 

 

  One thought on “On teaching, takeovers, and let-downs

  1. Tan A Summers
    June 12, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    It’s good to know who destroyed Craftsy. NBC–the name shall go down in infamy.

    • June 12, 2019 at 3:26 pm

      You don’t even want to KNOW how we spoke about that adorable Amy Poehler/ Nick Offerman maker show that they put out immediately after the take-over (whilst instructors were still requesting contract clarifications and overdue pay). I LOVE BOTH OF THOSE PEOPLE (Offerman especially) but oh god, my very big exploitation-feels, girl.

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