For many families, the refrigerator doesn’t just store food, it’s also a showcase for childhood crafts. But when your child makes a three-dimensional appel zwaan or a banana dolphin, upgrading to a larger stage and a larger audience might not be a bad idea.
That’s where the Mission-based DIY.org comes in, offering talented tots a place to share their creations with the online world and earn recognition beyond what they get from mom and dad — in this case, through online stickers visitors can leave on the website.
The mobile app and website, which launched in late April, are the brainchild of four co-founders, including Zach Klein, who co-founded Vimeo, and Encyclopedia Pictura filmmaker Isaiah Saxon.
DIY.org started as an idea for a film involving animal characters and kids who build their own town. Then, said Saxon, “I met Zach and others and we all realized this shouldn’t just be a film. This should be a real tool.” It evolved from there.
Children like to be recognized for their work. And given the prevalence of the Internet, “we thought it was a natural opportunity to create a platform where the rest of the web could give them love for what they’re making,” said Klein, seated inside the DIY office, a wood-lined “tree house” with books such as “Harnessing the Earthworm.”
The website acts as a public gallery, connecting families and displaying art created by kids from all over the world, including China, France, Germany and Brazil. But it will be more than just a community for gifted children to share their projects online, said Saxon, the company’s chief creative officer. On July 30, DIY.org launched a new feature called Skills, which encourages kids to learn by completing challenges.
DIY.org works like this: Kids log in and are prompted to choose an animal mask avatar and username. After they create a profile, their parents receive a confirmation e-mail; once approved, kids can upload their creations and parents can monitor what their children see and do.
Viewers other than mom or dad, from children to adults, can give feedback via online stickers that say things like “awesome” and “genius.”
With more than 10,000 users signed up, getting to know all of them personally is almost impossible, but the creators of DIY.org are trying to get to know the community and its users better.
Although DIY.org’s creators don’t get a behind-the-scenes look at how the children work from their storefront office two blocks from Dolores Park, they chose the Mission as their base in order to become part of a neighborhood with families they can reach out to.
Putting a huge paw print on the front door was just the company’s first step toward gaining recognition as part of the community, said Klein. Other efforts include spending time with kids from the local Boys and Girls Club and taking part in the science workshop at Mission High School. Flowerpots and a self-designed irrigation system will be the latest additions to their storefront.
Looking to the future, they hope to release a feature animation film about DIY.org and will introduce their free app on multiple platforms.
Giving kids of all financial backgrounds a chance to become part of the do-it-yourself movement is a part of their mission, too.
The Federal Communications Commission is spearheading a digital literacy program that will invest $200 million to educate low-income families, said Klein. He hopes DIY.org will serve as an example of a website that reaches children from all backgrounds.
“With the Internet becoming, if not already, a ubiquitous part of our lives, we believe that DIY.org will become more accessible than ever in just a matter of time.”