Travel the dunes with the LEGO� Star Wars™ Ultimate Collector Series Sancrawler™

FBTB - From Bricks To Bothans

Follow us: RSS
News? Questions? Comments? Email!

The Possibility & Limitations of Online Community

Want to talk about how the LEGO company is doing, your recent visit to LEGOland, your local LEGO club, other resources in the online LEGO community, or about LEGO software and games? Come in here and join us!

The Possibility & Limitations of Online Community

Postby Staff » Mon Oct 11, 2010 11:52 pm

Dan Blank over at We Grow Media wrote an interesting if not thought provoking essay the LEGO community. He uses the community as a prime example of how it can be at once both an area of growth and an area of limits.


The LEGO community online knows no boundaries. It is diverse in terms of age, ethnicity, region, and by most any other measure. Clearly, LEGO has a huge following in the US, Europe, and Asia, but that hardly matters anymore – regardless of where you live or who you are, you can now be an active member of the community.

Because of this, every member of the community comes to understand the worldwide LEGO community, not just their local market. You constantly hear news about international set availability & prices, and I’m always amazed to see original creations from people around the world. It’s so easy to meet someone from across the world, and immediately have a conversation. In a funny way, it tears down boundaries.


He follows this up with:


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.


Thoughts? Reactions? Share yours or read what others have been saying.
---
Permalink: http://www.fbtb.net/2010/10/11/the-possibility-limitations-of-online-community/
Staff
 
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Feb 13, 2009 8:19 pm

Re: The Possibility & Limitations of Online Community

Postby Gooker1 » Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:33 am

I'd have to agree that there is some fragmentation. But that could be due to collectors of specific lines. I rarely if ever dabble in anything outside of Star Wars. I do enjoy checking out MOCs but I really don't bother w/ anything else. I'm on two other boards and there's a good Lego thread or section that overlap. But it's nice b/c everyone's opinion is different and you get to see that on other boards as Lego might not be their primary focus.

I think it would be neat to see a super Lego forum, and there might be one out there too. I'm content w/ the three i browse as there's something different to each board.
Gooker1
 
Posts: 509
Joined: Mon May 04, 2009 2:25 pm
Location: Los Angeles

Re: The Possibility & Limitations of Online Community

Postby that guy » Tue Oct 12, 2010 11:00 am

Of course there will be fragmentation, how can there not? When you're dealing with millions of people on various continents you will have an incredibly diverse database of ideas and reactions. Not only that but the notion that there should be a "super site" for Lego is crazy because it still wouldn't appeal to everyone. Case in point is this site versus let's say Brothers Brick. I love this site and post all the time on a range of topics but you wouldn't catch me dead posting on BB. Why? Simple, I don't like their format and web design. I happen to like this one, it feels more 'comfy' to me and inviting. I'm sure there are tons of equally captivating forums on BB or other sites, and certainly there will be people who post there and not here, or maybe post on both and countless other sites, 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. I also know that any seriously pertinent information will disseminate through here just as fast as any other site so I feel confident I'm not missing anything life altering by not keeping up with countless other Lego fan sites. This one fits me, it's just geeky enough that I feel welcomed, I feel that most people are mature enough and can both take and give honest criticism on most topics, but certainly goofy enough that I know nobody is taking themselves or these silly like plastic bricks we love too seriously. In the end, fragmentation is a good thing because it ensures that there's a home for everyone. XD
that guy
 
Posts: 492
Joined: Tue Mar 23, 2010 10:04 am

Re: The Possibility & Limitations of Online Community

Postby onions » Tue Oct 12, 2010 11:28 am

Gooker1 wrote:I'd have to agree that there is some fragmentation. But that could be due to collectors of specific lines. I rarely if ever dabble in anything outside of Star Wars. I do enjoy checking out MOCs but I really don't bother w/ anything else. I'm on two other boards and there's a good Lego thread or section that overlap. But it's nice b/c everyone's opinion is different and you get to see that on other boards as Lego might not be their primary focus.

I think it would be neat to see a super Lego forum, and there might be one out there too. I'm content w/ the three i browse as there's something different to each board.



ever hear of lugnet? if anything that was THE "super Lego forum" to be in the '90s if you were an AFOL. that coupled with brickshelf, there was no other site that could compare. and then at some point the fansites started to spring up, splintering off like the at&t baby bells. some people say it was the lack of customization for specific lines, some say it was outdated software. i'm not really sure what the cause was; perhaps it was the community maturing and needing to splinter off to create separate identities, like it was inevitable. the same thing sort of happened with brickshelf but instead of splintering into many places flickr has become the number one choice. i couldn't stand brickshelf's ui so i'm glad for the change. if anything, i think eurobricks is trying to or already has become that super lego site you mentioned.
onions
Founder
Founder
 
Posts: 73
Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:45 pm

Re: The Possibility & Limitations of Online Community

Postby SuperDave » Tue Oct 12, 2010 12:08 pm

I wonder if the concept applies in other hobby-realms. "Toy trains" seems pretty cohesive, but something like "cars" would, I suspect, fragment into "antique cars," "muscle cars," "hot rods," "current sports cars," "tuners," etc.
SuperDave
 
Posts: 197
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2009 1:26 pm
Location: Harrisburg, PA

Re: The Possibility & Limitations of Online Community

Postby Draykov » Tue Oct 12, 2010 12:22 pm

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.
Hail Space!
Image
Draykov
 
Posts: 1775
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2009 8:14 pm
Location: Lone Star

Re: The Possibility & Limitations of Online Community

Postby Darth Mitz » Tue Oct 12, 2010 1:34 pm

apologies I started writing my waffle at work this afternoon and since then there have been some posts...

...i found the article interesting for two reasons; obviously as an AFOL but also as I work in the Online space. The LEGO community is what other commercial brands and hobbyists have been trying to achieve for years, you only have to look at Facebook to see numerous brands trying to increase their brand awareness by trying to engage their user base and encouraging them to upload images and videos etc. What makes the LEGO community is its Fans and their MOCs - Online Marketeers would class MOCs as "user generated content". The likes of Games Workshop and other hobbies have huge fan bases but doesn't offer the creative freedom LEGO has; could you build a Taj Mahal from bits of space marines?

Onions mentions the possibility of the "community maturing" - I rediscovered LEGO late, by which time I was in my mid twenties so can't possibly comment on the community in the '90s - however in my opinion the World Wide Web through natural progression (maybe a kind of evolution) has helped the LEGO community to grow into what it is today...LUGNET was the foundations for the LEGO community, the natural progression from Lugnet and Brickshelf was inevitable as technology advanced and the introduction of Social media.

I also agree with Gooker1, and I think it is the key thing the article misses; "the fragmentation is the community" - the blogs, groups, forums and love for individual licences creates small groups of communities that overlap via the individual members creating the LEGO community as a whole. Flickr is a great example of small groups however you can see that many of the members overlap across multiple groups; be it Mech MOCs to Steampunk MOCs. I think any kind of super Lego site would be a step in the opposite direction.

And like Draykov, no one I know is an AFOL or in my case even just a FOL - the community allows for others with a similar passion to see my MOCs (of which there are very few at the moment) and hopefully offer comments and feedback, something I'm unable to get in my day to day life. I think the LEGO community has its good points and they far out weigh any of the "issues" Dan mentions in his article, intentionally or unintentionally these "issues", I think, have helped to grow and preserve the LEGO community.
Darth Mitz
 
Posts: 66
Joined: Sat Mar 06, 2010 4:25 pm
Location: London, England

Re: The Possibility & Limitations of Online Community

Postby Gooker1 » Tue Oct 12, 2010 2:51 pm

Lugnet - I'm familiar w/ them. But when I started collecting Lego, it was strictly Star Wars. This was about 3/4 years ago and the first site that popped up was FBTB. I was happy with what was offered and never really strayed. So yes, heard of site, but never browsed it.
Gooker1
 
Posts: 509
Joined: Mon May 04, 2009 2:25 pm
Location: Los Angeles

Re: The Possibility & Limitations of Online Community

Postby legodavee123 » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:02 am

onions wrote:ever hear of lugnet? if anything that was THE "super Lego forum" to be in the '90s if you were an AFOL. that coupled with brickshelf, there was no other site that could compare. and then at some point the fansites started to spring up, splintering off like the at&t baby bells. some people say it was the lack of customization for specific lines, some say it was outdated software.


There are certainly a lot of contributing factors. Personally, I think the major one was the ease of which one can set up forums technology-wise. People want things their way-- they want power. And if LUGNET won't let you do something that you want to do, but you can go create your own forum where it's possible? Bam! You're going to see new forums pop up. If it were still as technically difficult to create forums, LUGNET might well still be the one-stop-shop that it was from 1998-2002.

How many sites use phpBB or something similar? The only sites I can think of that have discussion forums that were actually custom written are LUGNET, BrickLink, and 1000Steine. Every other site uses some sort of pre-built forum software like phpBB or IP.Board. I expect that maybe a small chunk (no more than 3 or 4) would have sprung up if it weren't for free, easy-to-manage forum software.

onions wrote:if anything, i think eurobricks is trying to or already has become that super lego site you mentioned.


Yeah, they're one of the only ones I visit that spans across the entire hobby. But I doubt they'll ever rival LUGNET's legacy in terms of percentage of the hobby on their site.

I think the only way you're going to get a super-site is if you allow people to make their own custom forums within the super-site's framework. People want discussion forums for their own LUGs, their own friends, and so forth. They want to be able to be moderators and admins, and to control what their content looks like and acts like. So if your website won't allow them to do that, they'll be snatched away as soon as something else makes it possible for them.

DaveE
legodavee123
 
Posts: 82
Joined: Thu Jul 16, 2009 11:50 am

Re: The Possibility & Limitations of Online Community

Postby fredjh » Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:47 am

Yup... a couple of years ago I went through my accounts and "rebranded" myself as Fred, my real name. I don't have the exact same name on every site, but it should be obvious. One of the reasons is because, despite the fact that I can be... uh... let's say "honest" with my opinions, I don't say anything I wouldn't say to someone in real life, so I don't feel like I need to hide behind the anonymity.

Eurobricks allows you to upload a picture of yourself besides your avatar, so anyone on Eurobricks can see a real picture of me. Maybe I'm missing something, but I haven't seen that on other sites.

As for fragmentation... I generally limit myself to just a few sites. A place like EB is large enough that it seems like a waste of time to go elsewhere to a smaller site with fewer participants for a much narrower range of discussion. I suppose it's because my interests span many themes. If I ONLY liked SW, I might just stick with FBTB.
fredjh
 
Posts: 118
Joined: Tue Jul 21, 2009 8:46 am
Location: Lilburn, GA

Re: The Possibility & Limitations of Online Community

Postby Daz Hoo » Fri Oct 15, 2010 11:22 am

With the growth of the online community, fragmentation was inevitable due to the various LEGO themes, regional considerations and various interests of the FOLs. One super LEGO site would have never achieved what the different LEGO fan sites have done for the hobby in the past 10 years.

Are the voices spread too thin? I don't think so, especially since the administrators for those different online communities - and more recently the ambassadors - have done a pretty good job of representing and featuring what their members are all about.

As for creating meaningful relationships between FOLs, I don't think any website could achieve that, being a super LEGO site or many different online communities. Along with what Draykov described, I think that, as FOLs, our relations with other LEGO fans will mostly be influenced by how much we want (need) to be involved with others who share our passion for the bricks.

That being said, I think that the online communities did in fact help to create more meaningful relationships outside of their boundaries, relationships that would never had happen if LEGO fans sites did not exist. I know that QuéLUG would have never been created or grown that much if it wasn't for the internet and the QuéLUG's website.

IMHO, the major downside to the fragmentation of the on-line LEGO community is that it is now more time consuming if you wish to be involved with the community as a whole. Like others pointed out, you can always "brand" yourself and adopt the same username, avatar and signature on many different websites. But if you're not a well known builder like, say, Nannan, posting a MOC and getting people to notice it and give you feedback is quite an endeavor these days. Between posting pictures of your creation on Flickr, MOCpages and Brickshelf (AND adding those pictures to different groups in those websites), you also have to present it in numerous forums to be able to get some sort of visibility in hope of getting enough constructive criticism to improve on your next project. Seriously, for some of my latest creations, I've spent more time taking pictures, editing them, uploading them and posting about them than the time I've spent building the creation itself.

And let's not forget that, in order to get feedback on your creations, you also have to give some to others and take the time to be a "part of the community" you post in, and not just a "MOC poster" in order to get the feedbacks you want.

In short, the fragmentation is very time consuming when you're a "small time MOCer who's trying to get better" like me.
Daz Hoo
 
Posts: 483
Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2009 6:56 am
Location: Laval, Québec, Canada


Return to General LEGO Discussions

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests