Category Archives: Opinion

Love, Legalized

Yesterday the Supreme Court overturned California’s Proposition 8 and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). I created this simple rainbow heart sculpture design to celebrate justice being done at last.
Rainbow Heart
This isn’t an opinion or politics blog, so I won’t go on any more than this, but I just wanted to share this design with the world.

Flickr Changes

Have you seen the latest stupid decision from Yahoo? They’ve not only completely redesigned the Flickr user interface, they’re phasing out the Flickr Pro account system. According to this article from Mashable, they’ve stopped selling Pro accounts, and they’ve taken away almost all the advantages that Pro account holders have had. In fact, it would seem that Pro accounts now have a smaller maximum file size than free ones (50MB vs 200MB, 90 seconds vs 3 minutes for video)!

So for those of us who have Pro accounts, the only real advantage that seems to be left is unlimited (vs. 1 TB) storage, and the ability to see view counts and referrer statistics.

Oh yeah, and they royally screwed up the UI. Sigh. Yahoo, what were you thinking?

Should I still upload my Maker Faire photos? I’m tempted to just stop using Flickr altogether… but then I have to figure out where to put my photos, and then there’s all the past posts in the blog to think about.. Ugh.

Ignite: Hillel Cooperman – “The Secret Underground World of Lego”

Hillel Cooperman gave an “Ignite” presentation on the adult LEGO community recently. You can see it here on Youtube:

I found this through a post on Facebook by Felix Greco (I don’t think I can link to that because of the way Facebook works). The comments were not entirely positive, mostly around the way he talks about the adult LEGO fans, implying that they are so nerdy that they don’t date. It does sound to me like Hillel is not entirely comfortable with his AFOLishness. If he hadn’t had a kid and a wife who was enthusaistic about Harry Potter LEGO, do you think he would’ve rediscovered LEGO? Somehow I doubt it. However, most of the presentation was pretty positive. I do think he needs to take more pride in LEGO as a hobby and not denigrate his fellow AFOLs. But all in all, it’s a pretty good overview of the LEGO scene, told in an engaging and lively manner.

LEGO survey of adult fans

This showed up in my email today. I filled out the survey, and encourage everyone else to do it too.

The LEGO Group Wants to Hear From You!

As Adult Fans of LEGO, you bring an important perspective to the LEGO Group. We respect your creativity and passion for our brand.

Please take a few moments to complete this short online survey to let us know your opinion on how we are doing.

We promise to listen to you and use your feedback to improve!

You might notice that the link refers to the LEGO Kids Inner Circle; this is because Satmetrix, which hosts that site, is also supporting our efforts to track AFOL opinions. Rest assured that this survey is for AFOL’s only.

Thank you.

Steve Witt
LEGO Community Relations Coordinator

Truthfully I didn’t have a lot to suggest. I think LEGO’s pretty much doing everything right these days. My only beef is the discontinuation of 9V trains but then, I understand why they are doing it. I just hope the new Power Functions trains that are supposedly coming out next year are good enough.

BrickForge, BrickArms, or MegaBloks?

Lately it seems everyone is getting all excited about the latest from BrickForge and BrickArms. Every LEGO convention includes a sample of their products in the kit. They’re featured all the time on sites such as the Brothers Brick blog and LAMLradio podcasts. Frankly I just don’t get it. Yes, they make parts that are not sold by LEGO, which some people really need to complete their MOC.

But then, so does MegaBloks.

Most people in the AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO) community wouldn’t be caught dead with a MegaBloks set, or even with a MegaBloks part included in their model. When you buy a big pile of random LEGO parts at a garage sale or flea market or eBay auction, there are often “clone brands” parts included, since many kids (or their parents or other well-meaning gift-giver) don’t really understand the difference. What do you do with those parts? Most AFOLs I know would either throw them away, or perhaps collect them to give to a children’s charity, but would certainly not build with them.

True, the BrickForge and BrickArms guys came from the AFOL community, unlike MegaBloks which is a big company that sells products in big toy and department stores. But I think they are clones – producing parts that compete directly with some of the parts LEGO makes. BrickForge produced a set of barnyard animals last year, and now LEGO makes cows too. Both companies produce realistic weapons, but some of the recent Star Wars and Indiana Jones sets include them too; plus you can create a lot of realistic weapons using unmodified LEGO parts, as Nannan points out with his Guns Museum. Looking only at the products, the only difference between MegaBloks and BrickForge/BrickArms is that the latter don’t make basic parts or complete sets, just accessories.

Is it just because BrickForge and BrickArms are fan-run, small companies? What if one of them got a big infusion of capital and scaled up operations to a large scale, and started appearing on the shelves of Toys ‘R’ Us?

So if people are happy to use BrickForge and BrickArms products, why not MegaBloks? People complain about MegaBloks having poor quality standards, which is true to a point, but even if they changed to a higher grade of plastic and met LEGO’s exacting standards, I still don’t think the AFOL community would flock to the MegaBloks banner – there’s more to it than just quality, something more abstract and harder to pin down.

To me, the LEGO hobby is an art form using a limited palette of parts to achieve a desired goal. Once you open up that palette to parts from other sources, it’s a different art form. Using parts from other companies lets you get around the limitations of the medium, which in my opinion changes its essence entirely. And it doesn’t matter if those other companies are a multinational company or a guy in his garage; it’s still not LEGO.

What do you think?

Brickshelf v Flickr

I’ve been using my Flickr account exclusively for LEGO photos as well as other things, like pictures from Earthquakes soccer games or various scenic shots I may take from time to time. Flickr LogoBrickshelf LogoI always tag my LEGO pictures with the lego tag though. I stopped using Brickshelf in 2006 when Kevin Loch suddenly shut it down. At that time I uploaded my back catalog of LEGO photos to Flickr and updated links in all the blog entries… what a chore that was! Then he said it would stay up after all, but I was so miffed I didn’t go back.

But I recently realized that a lot of people are still using Brickshelf. So, I’ve started uploading my pictures there too. I’m working my way backward in time through the blog, uploading all the photos to my Brickshelf account that are only on Flickr. I’m not planning on posting any links to the Brickshelf pics, but in case anyone finds me through that outlet, they’ll not miss what I’ve been doing. I am putting a ‘readme.txt’ in every folder I add, which has links to the corresponding Flickr page and blog entry.

How do you do your image hosting?

It all starts with LEGO

When I was a little kid my great passion was building things (usually spacecraft) out of LEGO. When I was 10 I learned about computer programming thanks to the Commodore PET computers at my school. I really think that the mental process is much the same, and that my experience with LEGO led directly to my ability to pick up computer programming skills.

The basic idea is that with LEGO bricks, they fit together to build some kind of creation. And they can only fit together in certain ways and not in others. For example you can’t fit two bricks together stud-to-stud, or bottom-to-bottom (at least, not without other pieces to hold them in that position). Similarly, there are syntax rules with software that limit the ways you can put statements and expressions together. And just as you can create a given shape using a wide number of possible arrangements of various LEGO bricks, you can implement a particular software feature using any number of different combinations of statements and expressions. So if a LEGO creation is like a software program, a LEGO element is like a variable or an operator.

For years when I have talked to parents at train shows and BayLUG meetings, I have been telling them that all the years I spent building LEGO etched certain pathways into my brain which prepared me for computer programming, and that’s a reason they should encourage their kids to do LEGO. And I think the fact that we’re based in Silicon Valley is not the only reason that many of our BayLUG members come from software, engineering, or other technical backgrounds.

Today, I came across a link to an interesting article by one of the foundes of Macromedia Flash on Jake McKee’s blog. His story is basically identical to mine through his childhood years – except that he got into Apple ][ and Mac computers and I was a Commodore guy.