Interesting read and a great article for educating the uninitiated. Thanks for sharing, Ace.
I related to this comment:
Dan Blank wrote:The Community Breeds Acceptance and Validation
Being able to connect with other fans of LEGO online turns a basement hobby into something that is okay. Instead of being the lone nut in someone’s real-world community who collects LEGO, suddenly there is the realization that there are thousands of these lone nuts all over the world. In fact, this obsession is celebrated and encouraged. Most adult LEGO fans don’t get that in their everyday lives.
That's very true in my life. Nobody in my everyday life shares my rabid fascination with LEGO and what you can do with it...at least not at the same level I do. My daughter and I share a fondness for LEGO, but she's in 2nd grade and has other interests (and is also easily distracted). My wife's interest in it goes beyond tolerance, but not far beyond casual enthusiasm and the kindhearted appreciation of a spouse's passion for something.
Dan Blank wrote:There is No Individual Identity
In forums and blogs, you don’t know who anyone really is. Everyone has a username and avatar, not a real name and face. This puts some very real barriers up in terms of solidifying a community. People are largely nameless, faceless, ageless and placeless. It’s hard to form real human connections with that.
Likewise, we learn very little about people’s lives outside of their LEGO hobby. That too limits the connection. We know nothing of their other interests, their job, their friends and family, their life experience. These are the building blocks of relationships.
If someone stops posting to a forum, they will never be found again. We only knew them as a username, and have no idea where they went. They are ghosts.
This was really brought home to the LEGO community when one of its members was killed in a car accident...
Not sure how to feel about that one. I think an easy solution for establishing identity, if that's important to you in this context, it to "brand yourself." Use the same username/avatar/signature across multiple communities and become "LEGO Internet famous" by creating great stuff. I think, though, that not everybody who contributes to the online LEGO community wants to be so deeply involved with it that it feels comfortable asking for money. Maybe that's just my inner curmudgeonly shut-in talking, but I think it holds validity for some.
Dan Blank wrote:The Fragmentation of Community
For those who participate in the community, your identity is not pervasive, it is fragmented across dozens of websites. Not only do you have to create usernames on each site, but some people participate on some sites, but not others. Voices are spread too thin. It becomes hard to identify who is the same across different websites.
Personal branding seems to be the most logical answer to that, but then, it's not something that can or should be enforced. As for the rest, I'm with that guy
- you can't really force folks into a single, consistent community, regardless of interests. Where individuals are involved, there are a myriad of personal tastes, preferences and foibles. How many Fantasy Football Leagues are out there in the world? Setting aside for a moment the proportion of fans to players that makes this unfeasible, should they all be in one huge one? Should there just be one online sports community? I guess the long and short of it is, I don't know that I see this as a limitation. It all depends on what you're in it for.
that guy wrote:...but I'll never post on them because I have other things to do in my life, and keeping up on the few things I comment on here is enough for me to be involved without dominating my days and weeks.
As I get older, I feel I have less and less time for things. LEGO time is definitely luxury time for me. My involvement in the community at large is mainly as an observer, consumer and occasional commentator. None of that involves building, which is the real draw. I guess my point here is that I'm as involved in the community as I want to be/can afford to be. While I hate to seem like I'm turning my nose up at some potentially awesome relationships that combine good people with a shared passion, I have a lot going on in real life as it is...I can't necessarily commit to the community in the way that Dan or Mark Schaefer (the guy whose article he links) seem to think is necessary. Am I missing out? Sure, quite possibly. But having as many real friends as social-networking friends is sometimes impractical if we're talking about genuine, effort-filled cultivations of meaningful relationships. It's not you, community...it's me.
As a side note, for anyone interested in non-virtual communal involvement as it relates to geeky interests like LEGO (as well as LEGO specifically), I highly recommend the 6-part series: James May's Toy Stories
referenced in this thread
. I'm pretty sure all 6 episodes are up on YouTube.