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.