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Is Cuusoo bad for the community?

Discussion of general LEGO topics

How do you think Cuusoo has impacted the AFOL community?

Largely for the good.
2
10%
Mixed impact, more good than bad.
2
10%
Neutral balance between good and bad impact.
5
24%
Mixed impact, more bad than good.
9
43%
Largely for the bad.
3
14%
No impact either way.
0
No votes
Don't know ("What's Cuusoo?")
0
No votes
Other / this poll is flawed.
0
No votes
 
Total votes : 21

Is Cuusoo bad for the community?

Postby Bruce N H » Sat Aug 24, 2013 7:11 am

Hey all,

Do you think Cuusoo is good for the community?

I'm beginning to think that it's really bad for us. At first I thought it was kind of a neat idea - a way to convince LEGO to make some cool sets that they might not have made otherwise. But I don't think it's really done that (see, for instance, the Western town), and instead it has only served as a distraction and at times a source of tension and fighting.

I've got a lot of random thoughts in a stream of consciousness. Don't expect this to be an orderly essay:

I suppose I'm responding in part to this story in the LEGOverse this past week about some Cuusoo user getting banned and accusations going back and forth. I don't know who is right and wrong and don't really care for the sake of this post. All that is really important here is that someone is falsely accusing someone else of bad behavior, and there seem to be other people jumping on board on either side of this debate arguing back and forth. But this is just one incident. There has been a lot of sniping and complaining related to the whole Cuusoo enterprise.

Of course, members of the community have been desining sets for LEGO for a long time. There have been one-off deals like the Dan Siskind Blacksmith Shop or the Eric Brok Market Street, or group projects like AFOLs involved in the design of the NXT or the train system, and then those prominent builders who have gone on to work for LEGO full time (e.g. Mister Zumbi, Mark Stafford, Megan Rothrock, didn't Jordan Schwartz do an intership or something? etc).

Back when MTV played music (Yes, I'm old. Get off my lawn!), there was this series of concerts by request. They got someone like, say, Billy Joel, and people would call in requests, and he'd play them. But the thing is, it was a scam. He basically had in mind a playlist of songs he was going to play, or maybe he had a set of twenty and he knew he'd play ten off that list. And the call screeners would pick those callers to put through whose requests matched that list. You knew that there were going to be people calling in asking for Piano Man, or Only the Good Die Young, or whatever would be on his greatest hits album. It's not like they're going to put through a random caller who would then ask him to play Happy Birthday, or Rhapsody in Blue, or whatever, it was going to be off of this list he was prepared and willing to play. Cuusoo is like this. LEGO isn't going to make a set just because some fans ask for it. They're going to make a set because they wanted to make that set. Sure, they might not have made that specific set at that specific time without Cuusoo, but they're not out of the realm of possibility. In particular I point to the Minecraft and Mars Rover sets. As I understand it, the Minecraft thing was spearheaded by the owners of Minecraft. If they didn't have Cuusoo, they could have just approached LEGO directly with a licensing proposal, and it's a good enough match that it probably would have happened. And the Mars Rover. Don't get me wrong, I think Stephen's MOC is great, as are all of his NASA MOCs, but LEGO didn't really need him to come up with the idea of doing a Mars Rover. They have a long history of NASA collaborations and official sets, and even had two different set versions of the last Rovers to touch down on Mars ten years ago. Sure, they may not have made a Back to the Future set, as a movie from almost thirty years ago seems a little bit of a hard sell, but once they saw the potential of these one-off nostalgia sets, something like Ghostbusters seems a pretty reasonable set idea regardless of the two Cuusoo proposals that have the support. They could keep making similar sets for the next ten years (Knight Rider, A Team Van, Dukes of Hazard, etc). A Jurassic Park set seems pretty reasonable even if none of those make it to 10,000 ... oh, wait, they've already had a JP theme! So what, really, does Cuusoo get us that we wouldn't get otherwise.

Let's face it, if you're proposing something, you're just not going to make it through and get an official set named after you. It's like entering the Boston marathon because you think you're going to win. Sure, someone is going to win, but it's not going to be you. Maybe if you're one of a handful of world class athletes, and in that case you know who you are and you know who your competitors are, but for anyone else, you're entering for the challenge, for the excitement of taking part in a world event, for the encouragement you get from your circle of family and friends, for the challenge of bettering your own time, etc. But I don't see all of those other motivations being in play on Cuusoo. That sort of thing is why you post a MOC on Flickr, or share it on this or another LEGO forum, or compete in a community based contest. At least IMO, Cuusoo is all about the carrot. Maybe LEGO will turn my idea into a set. And it's a false carrot. There are way too many variables. Out of 47000 projects, lightning has struck three times. It reminds me of nothing else so much as the numbers racket in Harlem as described in the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Enough people won to give everyone hope that they would be the next to win, but in the end it was ultimately to take money from the most desperate in society. IMO posting set ideas to Cuusoo because you think they'll make your set is like playing the numbers. I suppose if you're just building for fun and posting on Flickr, and decide to also throw your MOC up on Cuusoo, fine, but don't spend any more time on it.

I don't think that Cuusoo works as an image sharing site, or a discussion community. It just wasn't designed for those things, and there are much better sites (like this one, of course). A semi-anonymous comment stream doesn't substitute for a community, and those sorts of comment streams often encourage the worst sort of sniping rather than conversation. But there seem to be a lot of people who are spending a lot of energy on Cuusoo, that would be much better spent in actual community forums.

I do see what LEGO gets out of Cuusoo - free press. I check 'LEGO' on Google news every day, and there are lots of stories out there related to Cuusoo projects, especially of course when they have actually released sets. So for the cost of paying off five builders and probably the higher cost of building a website, LEGO gets a ton of viral buzz about their product.

But I think it ultimately doesn't help, and probably hurts, us.

Bruce
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Re: Is Cuusoo bad for the community?

Postby Bluesecrets » Sat Aug 24, 2013 11:52 am

As I understand it, the Minecraft thing was spearheaded by the owners of Minecraft. If they didn't have Cuusoo, they could have just approached LEGO directly with a licensing proposal, and it's a good enough match that it probably would have happened.


Was it? I thought Chris Malloy, porschecm2 here, submitted his build to Cuusoo himself. I haven't talked to him about it or followed any of it myself. So I can't talk freely about it.

I have unfortunately heard a lot about this woman who was banned and her "followers" and their behavior all over several LEGO sites. I am not going to comment on that either, for I don't know what is true or not.

But as far as Cuusoo goes, I am not a member. I don't vote. I haven't bought any of the sets. Why? Well I have zero interest or zero reason to spend money on them when there are other sets I want (and need for the parts).

I am not sure if it is a bad idea or not. There is this odd thing in the LEGO online community. People steal images of builds and submit them to LEGO contests as their own. But not just LEGO contests. They take our MOC's and turn them into LEGO hosting areas as their's. We have several adult builders out there who make it their duty to find these people and report them. It makes me sad that there are people who don't know that it is wrong.

But...we do get the opportunity to get sets that would not have been made because of Cuusoo. I'm absolutely not a fan of Back to the Future, but if I was, I would have been thrilled to see that set. I know a ton of people who are, and many are just casual adult builders. I think it is a way to bring people back to a hobby. How can that ever be wrong?

So is it bad? I think it has it's good and bad parts, just like most everything does.
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Re: Is Cuusoo bad for the community?

Postby Bruce N H » Sat Aug 24, 2013 1:59 pm

Hey Blue,

I'm certainly happy to be corrected on the Minecraft thing. Did the Minecraft people help heavily promote it to get to the 10000 mark? I thought that I heard something about their actions.

One other thing I forgot to add in my rant above, as someone who maintains a little family of blogs, and also an admin here, I get a bunch of "Please use your site to promote my Cuusoo" e-mails. I can't imagine how many of those that Andrew and company get for the Brothers-Brick. I know that FriendsBricks doesn't allow Cuusoo postings, because they don't want people to just use their forum to push projects, and I certainly understand that. I never like it when people join our forum simply to promote their own thing (Flickr stream, blog, personal site, BrickLink store) without actually getting involved in the community, and I think that Cuusoo has increased this behavior.

My main problem is the falseness of the carrot. The thing I mentioned above about the numbers racket is in the first few paragraphs of this chapter of Malcolm X's biography. With my quick skim through I don't find where he later writes about how the false hope just served to keep poor people poor, and if they'd used their money and energy more wisely they would have actually made something for themselves. I'm not saying Cuusoo rises to that, but I think there are a lot of people who actually think their thing is going to become a set, and they are burning a lot of energy, and often misbehaving, based on that false belief.

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Re: Is Cuusoo bad for the community?

Postby Bluesecrets » Sat Aug 24, 2013 2:32 pm

But is that constant promotion something that was meant to exist when Cuusoo came into existence? Or is it what happens because of the people (or companies) involved? I'm more inclined to say the second.

So who owns that problem? The LEGO company or the people who are promoting their set? How can LEGO control that at all? Now please note I am not saying that LEGO is the all mighty never does anything wrong here. I am posing a question of maybe it is the users of Cuusoo that are the problem with all this promotion.

But, I have seen promotion or maybe the "pimping" of builds since day one of joining a LEGO community. We have members who join every single fan site out there just to go about posting their builds, anywhere and everywhere. And they have for the nine years (holy moly I didn't realize it had been that long) that I have been around. Look around, you will see those all over the General LEGO forum. People who come only to post their build and never comment or do anything else at this site. And they have done it for...as long as we've existed. I have run a contest where it was meant that only the members of the site vote on the best build, only to see people who participating doing exactly that, going to any and every site to promote their build to get votes. To win what? A small insignificant set?

So I ask again, who owns this issue?

I guess in reality, whenever money or a prize is involved and voting is to take place, one has to expect this to happen.

I am more inclined to think this is once again people being people, taking advantage of something that was meant to be a positive. Finding loopholes and doing anything to get their set made.

But there is also one other factor, this is "online" and for some strange reason a huge number of people do not think anything "online" needs to follow the behaviors that are expected to exist in society. It happens constantly. It's the "I can say and do anything I want online and it won't have any consequences in the real world."

I can tell you, as someone who was part of the planning and development of a program for LEGO, there was a lot of time and effort put into the making of Cuusoo. I highly doubt any of these issues ever came up in the planning. But when they do come up, LEGO has to deal with them, and they do.

So I guess my point is, yes there are some problems. But are those problems created now or have they existed for a long time in the fan community? I think the second.
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Re: Is Cuusoo bad for the community?

Postby Forestboy » Sat Aug 24, 2013 4:43 pm

In regards to the Minecraft set, I believe that there were a few 'fan' CUUSOO attempts floating around at that time, and it wasn't until Mojang saw the opportunity and created their own CUUSOO idea, be it with the pictures of a lot of fan stuff (two of them were by Michael Thomas (suparMacho)).

In Beyond the Brick #40, I gathered this from Chris: He is/was Minecraft fan. Came up with idea to build Diorama based on game. Took it to Brickcon. Got in touch with builders who has built similar. Who were drawn in by the Mojang CUUSOO page. Although, he did state that the getting involved was another story of itself. I don't see Chris's photo on the idea page right now, so I guess we'll have to ask him the level of involvement he had (I know he still has that HUGE MOC around).

The CUUSOO idea shot up to 10,000 supports in 48 hours all due to word of mouth, at which point main Mojang people flew out to Denmark to help design the set, I believe. Other designers included: as this official Lego press release states:
The product was developed in collaboration with four LEGO fans: Chris Malloy, Michael Thomas, Kyle Tingey, and Bjarne Panduro Tveskov. These fans developed concepts alongside LEGO designers and helped shape the product into its final version.


Keep in mind with the whole, well Mojang could have just contacted Lego to begin with sorta thing, that while Minecraft was/is a global phenomenon, Mojang was/is a very small independent gaming company who were also going through a lot of studio changes. I'd say that even if they wanted to do a set, that they wouldn't even know what to pitch they're set/license since it's so broad and encompassing. The creation of the CUUSOO page showed immediate consumer interest, at which point Lego had the idea to bring in fans who had been experienced in building Lego Minecraft before. I mean, it is too hard to tell what would have happened if they had just contacted Lego directly. I think that the Mojang staff just saw CUUSOO as exactly what they were looking for: a place to pitch their ideas.

Now whether CUUSOO is negative or not, I'm not sure, not be honest. It does seem a bit lop sided with mostly licensed things winning (which, I'm really loving with BTTF and Minecraft). Bruce mentioned emails of people trying to pimp their CUUSOO page. I've gotten one of those before, and I actually really liked the page they sent me, but I can see how this desperate attempt to win might get annoying after being flooded with requests.

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Re: Is Cuusoo bad for the community?

Postby porschecm2 » Mon Aug 26, 2013 8:07 pm

I guess I should say something here. I'm naturally a bit of an optimist, so wanting to see the best in intentions colors my approach here, no doubt.

As for the Minecraft project origins, yes, the project that reached 10,000 votes was started by Mojang. That process was unique, and for more reasons than I care to explain here, I don't think that project serves as a good measuring stick for Cuusoo at large, at least in regard to what's been brought up about the Minecraft project here.

I do think there are a lot of troubling things about Cuusoo, however, and the main two are as follows:

Bruce's point about a false carrot is only partially valid. Yes, only a few projects will win. That's not a problem in and of itself: everyone knows that going in, and this isn't an actual lottery that preys on the weakest in society. Cuusoo projects are a creative endeavor, and even if you "loose" Cuusoo, you still walk away having created something. I do agree with Bruce, though, about LEGO only producing those items which are convenient for LEGO.

The second issue I see is that most of the projects that have garnered the requisite 10,000 votes have done so on a wave of non-AFOL internet support. All of the projects which have been approved for production have been of this variety. I see very little change of a predominantly AFOL-driven project making it through to production, regardless of votes. I would love to be proven wrong, though.

As to the marketing efforts of people promoting their own Cuusoo projects, yes, that is intentional, and encouraged by Cuusoo. For better or worse, Cuusoo sees itself as a product of social media, and successful projects will require either lightning striking (e.g. Mojang getting on board with the Minecraft project) or relentless advertising and promotion.

I don't feel that Cuusoo is sucking the life out of other online communities, or creating widespread divisions in the AFOL community. It is my belief (backed up with my perceptions and no facts) and, to be honest, my hope, that most of the people involved in the petty bickering and no-holds-barred promotions at Cuusoo are not people who would be otherwise involved in the AFOL communities in a meaningful way.

I think that Cuusoo, as it currently stands, is a great deal less than LEGO promised it to be, and what fans hoped it to be, but I don't think it's entirely bad. I think there is merit to be had in the concept, if expectations are set properly.
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Re: Is Cuusoo bad for the community?

Postby BiggerJim » Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:33 am

Isn't Cuusoo actually it's own social creation company and not a part of TLG? I wonder if this should change our expectations of what it is or isn't?
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Re: Is Cuusoo bad for the community?

Postby OverLoad » Tue Aug 27, 2013 1:16 pm

Personally, I've become relatively disinterested from Cuusoo for an entirely different reason. Beyond the fact that not all projects that reach 10,000 won't be produced, I think that certain projects miss (what I feel at least) is the purpose of Cuusoo.

From when I first heard about Cuusoo, I thought it would go as so: Build something, and then if you put it up on Cuusoo LEGO would potentially turn it into a set if the project garnered enough support. A cool idea in concept, but that's not exactly what I've seen. There are those who are misusing it by using it to promote more licenses, and less actual MOCs/original ideas. I'm somewhat guilty of this (I made a thread awhile ago about the Legend of Zelda project, which was it's own creation, but to be fair would require a license with Nintendo), but as a whole I feel that parts of the community are misinterpreting it, and to me it seems those parts are prevailing in generating support for their project by various means.

I haven't been on the Cuusoo website in a while, but the last time I was I remember seeing a Star Wars themed Cuusoo project on the "up and up" area of the front page. From what I recall, it was a essentially a bucket filled to the brim with Imperial Stormtroopers and one Darth Vader figure. Not exactly a MOC worth the support it got, in my opinion, but regardless others seemed to think so. Not only is Star Wars already a license, but the idea itself didn't involve much "creation" in the typical sense. (Going on the site now, I see that Ghostbusters reached 10,000 supporters; another license.)

I'm not completely against the idea of licensed sets being produced through Cuusoo, and I can say I am a fan of the Minecraft sets. But I think the problem lies in the amount of licenses being pushed over the 10,000 supporter threshold. Maybe I'm wrong, and I'm misinterpreting Cuusoo, but I thought (hoped?) it would involve more original ideas and less recreations/license theme ideas.

More or less, I think Cuusoo can be used to a great degree. But, I feel with the way some people are going at it (as others have mentioned with the "pimping" of Cuusoo ideas not unlike MOCs) that the community is more at fault than the system itself. That's not to say that I don't enjoy being a part of the LEGO community, but with the way some are handling Cuusoo, it's not a bright looking future for the continuation of the site/system.
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Re: Is Cuusoo bad for the community?

Postby Norro » Tue Aug 27, 2013 1:21 pm

Thanks for posting Bruce! It's a separate issue, but this is the kind of discussion that the new style 'social' communities are killing.

Personally, while I mainly agree with Bruce, my dislike of Cuusoo primarily comes down to one complaint (which really isn't even its fault). Why does everything have to be licensed? This seems to be part of a broader war on originality/creativity, but I really hate to see Lego, and its wonderful fans, falling victim to it. I'm bored with movies that are remakes, products that are endorsed by 'my two faviourite brands came together' style campaigns, and old musicians (Sorry Bruce, I just wish my generation could produce a few people who weren't known for their skills of 'adapting', 'homaging', or 're-imagining'). So as part of my general wish to see new ideas rise, I really miss the days of the fan created themes and subthemes on Lugnet (imagine what would have shown up on Cuusoo then), as opposed to what it has become: a request a license service. The western street was a tantalizing glimpse of what should have been. Back to the Future is what will be. To quote Buzz from a recent interview "You promised me mars and all I got was 140 characters". I was really hoping that Cuusoo could have led to an extension of the Cafe Corner scale/price point into other, fan requested, areas. A decent sized castle model (would probably have to be just a watch tower, tower house, or lonely ruin), a large imperial fortress for pirates, an 8 baseplate + landscape (any theme), etc... Oh well, a least I can still build it myself.

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Re: Is Cuusoo bad for the community?

Postby AK_Brickster » Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:46 pm

I think that the rise in licensed proposals on Cuusoo is directly related to the success model that has been observed. In order to hit 10,000 supporters, you pretty much HAVE to pull in people from outside the Lego community, and the easiest way to do that is by utilizing a fan group that is pre-existing and in the general AFOL demographic of males between 16-40, or whatever it is. (Minecraft, Zelda, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, etc all hit this demo).

If the Lego fan community would come together to support more non-licensed themes, and eschewed licensed ones, then I think we'd see a shift to more original themes being produced, because they would actually have a chance at succeeding.
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Re: Is Cuusoo bad for the community?

Postby RichardAM » Tue Aug 27, 2013 3:21 pm

AK_Brickster wrote:If the Lego fan community would come together to support more non-licensed themes, and eschewed licensed ones, then I think we'd see a shift to more original themes being produced, because they would actually have a chance at succeeding.

I think this can only carry so much weight though.

The Western Modular has been around for sometime and was perhaps our first great community push. The end result, that it didn't pass the review phase is disheartening but doubly so because of the fact that it would never have been destined to pass that review (as we know now, TLG had been developing and since released Lone Ranger sets), the licensed theme strikes again! With the upcoming Space Marines proposal we've got a similar problem once again- a great original and brand new fan endeavour, but one that TLG have already ticked and taken care of themselves by releasing the Galaxy Squad theme. To this extent, aren't we always going to be at a disadvantage when proposing or voting sets in that, one- we're going to have the wider mass-appeal of licenses and two- that we're always going to be in direct competition with TLG themselves and ideas they've maybe been developing for longer?

I know, I still share excitement about the possibility and potential of Cuusoo as a platform, but it's hard not to feel disheartened with the logistics, failures, and perhaps something that should be touched on, the secrecy involved? Granted TLG is a business and I think we all understand that but wouldnt a quicker turn around of review results help drive enthusiasm? Even if it was just a "we're going to look into this/we're already releasing something similar"?

Eitherway, I think some of the best results from Cuusoo have yet to happen, and for what it's worth aren't typically concerned with "conventional" minifig type sets.

Lego Bird Project, Labyrinth Marble Maze and Red Squirrel

It's these original projects and their successive review passes or fails that will ultimately make or break the Cuusoo dream for me and prove if the platform is worth pursuing.
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