Used to be, if your kid crayoned a portrait of the family dog, you slapped it on the refrigerator for all to see ("all" being, well, the rest of the household). But such small-time exhibition space doesn’t rate anymore, says Vimeo cofounder Zach Klein: Today, children live effortlessly on the world wide web. So too should their creative output.
Thus was born DIY.org, a digital scrapbook-cum-social network for kids. How it works: A child makes something, captures it using the DIY.org app on his parents’ phone (or digital camera), then adds it to a virtual portfolio. He can then show off his work by sharing the portfolio’s URL with his parents and family. Soon, DIY.org will open up kids’ portfolios so they can scan each other’s assorted doodles, finger paintings, and model Spitfires.
"What’s remarkable is that kids are aware of the possibilities when they share something on the web," Klein tells Co.Design. "If kids are going to be online… we feel there’s an opportunity to provide them something special, something that encourages creativity and personality, and even gives them incentive to go offline, too. The world is wonderful, we want to help them discover it, learn from it, and contribute to it." Which makes the whole thing sound like Baby’s First Deepak Chopra. Here’s a less romantic take, and the real reason why DIY.org might take off: Children love promoting themselves almost as much as they love being praised. In a ballet recital, they’re more interested in looking at you—and gauging your approval—than in getting the steps right. DIY.org gives them the biggest stage of all, the web.
And it isn’t just for the good of young minds everywhere; this is a business. The service is free for now, but eventually, it’ll offer paid memberships with "extra features." (What exactly, Klein won’t say.)
Klein runs the site alongside Isaiah Saxon, Daren Rabinovitch, and Andrew Sliwinski—a bunch of self-described "makers and doers"—from a San Francisco storefront (complete with a paw print on the door). How Klein went from Vimeo, a video-sharing site that attracts 65 million unique users a month, to finger painting and paw prints (with stopovers at Boxee and Svpply) is perhaps not as mysterious as it seems.
As a kid, Klein loved making model railroads, building forts, and writing short stories. As an adult, he prefers the urban woodsman brand of DIY and has constructed a cabin out of old barn wood and maintains the Tumblr freecabinporn.com. "My passion for DIY is driven by what I learned at Vimeo," he says. "Everyone is able to be creative. And our confidence to be creative flourishes when we’re surrounded by people who positively support it." There’s something sweetly ironic in that: To do it yourself, you have to do it with others.