Thingiverse, the de facto standard for sharing 3D printable designs on the web, recently made some inroads towards improving discoverability.
The problem — which isn’t fully solved yet — is that managing a catalogue of over 25,000 designs, especially when they can be literally anything, is very difficult.
Originally, the only method of organisation was user-defined tags. That seemed to work well enough at first, but without a scalable way to combine and manage them, they got really messy.
For example, as someone that uses the site regularly, to this day I find it mildly frustrating that “videogame”, “videogames”, “video game”, and “video games” all represent four slightly different sets of objects:
In June, Thingiverse added support for categories. This made it much easier to browse and search within a sensible range of topics like replacement 3D printer parts and musical instruments.
Most recently, new features have been added that allow users to “follow” their favourite designers, “watch” specific objects/categories/tags and view the whole thing as an activity feed in the dashboard.
The result is sort of a micro-Twitter, and so far I’ve found it quite handy for staying up to date on what I’m interested in. It also lets me see at a glance when my own designs are printed or remixed, without having to manually check each page.
For the complete low-down on the new features, have a look at the Thingiverse blog here.