Argh. I just don't know on this anymore. I like to think I'm a relatively approachable guy, and as a designer that's generally a good thing, but...well, I think I'm getting too approachable. Thing is, I spend a lot of time working on my Shapeways designs, and now... I just don't know what to do with the PMs I get. My problem is that I try to be helpful to people who ask me about my customs work, and my designs. I make no secret of the fact I have my years of experience in Sketchup, and I know some people have picked up on that and started experimenting. But now I feel like I'm becoming a... help desk of sorts. People are bombarding me with questions, like "how do you design your robots" and "how do you make x part". I don't know whether or not to answer anymore. I do want to be helpful, but at the same time, I don't want to give away my secrets either, and recently I've run out of polite ways to say no. I've just been ignoring PMs from people now, if they want help with design. I jumped through a lot of hoops to get to where I am now, and I guess I would feel sorta cheated if i gave that info away for free. I only post about this now because it used to be close friends on the boards, many of which I'd happily do small designs for just as a friend. But now everyone and their mother is asking for help, and I just don't know how much is fair, to help the community while maintaining my trade secrets. The worst part is, I get people asking me for specific parts. As anyone who followed the Dark Fremble Minions knows (see sig), I had to work out a whole new system of joints in Sketchup to make them work, and I pulled an all nighter just to get a draft of that joint, spending days after to perfect it. Now, people are asking me to send parts to them, ball joints seemingly popular. I like to keep on my computer, a set of what I call 'Origin' files, parts that I can use in any project. Sockets, useful connectors, ball joints, inset wheels, all the stuff that's most valuable to me as a designer as that's what makes all the designs work, and it's taken me ages to build up that collection. Ive had to draw all those parts from scratch, often having to test those parts multiple times through Shapeways to make sure they worked, so its cost me a small fortune in time and money to establish that collection. Now everyone seems to want me to send those origin files around like...well, for free, basically. So, what's the right thing to do? I make no secret of the fact I use Sketchup. But that's all I'm saying from now on, unless someone can convince me otherwise. I want to help people, but at the same time I have a Shapeways Shop to run, a designing reputation to keep, and I do take commissions for parts. I like to think I charge a fair rate for my design work, and if people really needed a part real bad they can just commission me. That seems fair, I get something, I give you something. I just can't afford to be giving away my files for free anymore, not that I ever did to anybody anyways. Is there any reason why I should start responding to people again? I still respond to close friends on the boards, but that aside, I feel like I have no choice in all practicality, but to ignore the people that come to me for help. I had to go through a lot of work and a lot of hoops to learn 3D design, and I just don't know how much I should be telling for free. Ultimately, now, I realise why, whenever I PM'd some of the so-called big names in kit bashing or designing, I never seemed to get a response; there's a fine line between being helpful to a few and the public seeing you as a free help desk. I don't want to cross that line. But I don't want to be unhelpful either. For now, I draw the line at "I use Sketchup" as my only piece of advice, unless I happen to have known you for a long time for the right reasons. Anyone want to tell me where I should be drawing the line? EDIT: I guess it doesn't help that today's the 15th, and hence the idea of giving away stuff for free is even less appealing. Sadly, at this point, I'm giving out so little advice I'm not even going to btoher to explain why the 15th is an important date. Either you know why, or you don't. I've just resided to not advising peope for the time being. I can't believe i actually need to start ignoring people... EDIT 2: thanks JavaJim. It's just not practical for me to do tutorials, though, given that so many a available through a quick Google Search (like everything else, nowadays, you can find it with your favourite search engine). That, and there is now way to do a tutorial, given that the way I tackle a project varies from design the design. I have trouble explaining to family and friends how I do this, and a lot of it is based on my ability to visualise things that aren't there before I draw anything. It would be impossible for people to follow since I have a habit of drawing things out of sketches I made in my mind rather than on paper. And yes, nothing stays a secret forever. But by the time peoe figure out what I'm doing now, I'll have moved on to other stuff. The sad fact is, I need to stay competitive. In terms of providing a service to the community, I made the decision a while back to simply offer a one-week period where I would donate my time as a designer. I did a lot of projects during my holidays, lots of weapons and small parts, and I tried to help out as many people as I could. I guess that's where I found the balancing point. I don't give out free files and advice anymore, but I try to make small parts designing cheap enough for people to afford. But since then, people just expect me to do HUGE things for free, even voyager class conversions. Surely that's not fair on me, I'd have to charge on something that complex.