Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Weekly Cuusoo

Opinion:  How to "Fix" Cuusoo

A while ago someone challenged me to address problems with Cuusoo.  A big problem I have with that is I don't really have a problem with many aspects of Cuusoo.  I don't mind the amount of time it takes or that Lego can't pass every project for instance.  Sure, It would be great if everything was smoother but it is in Beta, there will be plenty of time to pick it after it is out of Beta. 

My thoughts have been percolating though and I do think there is an issue with Cuusoo that will be rather hard to address, but I think I might know a way the Lego Group can.  There are really two populations in Cuusoo:  Hard-Core Lego Fans and what I call, for lack of a better term,  Subject Matter Super Fans.  In the earlier days of Cuusoo these parties did not get along very well....actually that is a misnomer.  Sometimes the Hard Core Lego fans will "complain at" projects that are heavily supported by what they view as "non-Lego fans."  This was most evident with the Purdue Pete Project.  Usually the Subject fans don't even notice the friction they are causing however because they just popped in to vote, then immediately go away (which is what really pisses off the Cuusoo users ;)) My personal opinion on this is that any project that brings new blood to Cuusoo is good.  I am also very glad to see that the success of the Flórián Albert Stadium has not caused similar blow back.  I have to wonder if this is from changing opinions on Cuusoo or if the quality of the relatively high quality of the project has something to do with it.

But I digress.  There are two "high quality" project types on Cuusoo that server these two populations:  Projects that require a large investment by Lego (Licensing, excessive design issues, production of new part/color combinations, printing...true Lego Wishes) and those that are effectively without license or issue (lets call these Builder MOCs for this purpose) that readily appeal to the regular Lego fan who is cruising around Cuusoo.  There are a multitude of the first type, nearly every project that has reached 10k to date is a good start.  The second type does not show up in the high rankings anywhere near as often.  The Lego Birds Series is the most popular of the second type but there are many other examples:
So, in the eyes of public opinion and potential Lego profits how are the Builder MOCs suppose to really compete with the Lego Wishes.  When 10,000 people are crying out for Zelda, how is a set about a parrot going to get picked for the "once per seasons" selection?

I hope that at some point in the future, Lego addresses this issue.  One possibility could be by creating a new site dedicated to these Builder's MOCs, one more true to the Kickstarter & Threadless Models of product creation.

This is all pure speculation so those who don't want to hear a windbag wax on can just jump to the reviews ;)

So, definitely keep Cuusoo for the wishes and any who prefer to go that route.  To be absolutely clear, I am not suggesting that Lego get rid of that at all, but here is my slightly pie in the sky idea.

Not long ago, Lego Digital Designer (LDD) let you purchase any set you designed in a service called "Design By Me".  The Lego Group eventually shut this down as not profitable, at least that is what I have been told.  Each submission needed Lego staff to wander the warehouses and collect the parts for a single build.  It is easy to see how costs for this program drove it into the ground.

So, I wonder, would it be possible to bring back "Design By Me" if you downplayed the physical collection costs with scale and crowd funding?

Many are familiar with the Kickstarter model for a product creation:

Person gets idea for product. Person submits idea with a funding goal in mind.  Others can pledge moneys at various pledge levels toward the development of said product.  If the funding goal is met, then Creator gets the money to make the product and the pledgers get what their pledge level dictated at some future point in time. 

Threadless is a crowd sourced t-shirt company.  Here is the Wikipedia description:

Threadless (T-shirt) designs are created by and chosen by an online community. Each week, about 1,000 designs are submitted online and are put to a public vote. After seven days the staff reviews the top-scoring designs. Based on the average score and community feedback, about 10 designs are selected each week, printed on clothing and other products, and sold worldwide through the online store and at their retail store in Chicago. Designers whose work is printed receive $2,000 in cash and $500 in Threadless gift cards, which can be exchanged for $200 cash.[3] Each time a design is reprinted, the respective artist receives $500 cash.

How can Threadless do this weekly when Lego is struggling to pull this off once a quarter?  Theadless has a very rigidly designed model.  You get a fixed two dimensional area and a set number of colors.  All they are doing each week is changing the colors and image to match the popular designs.  If all Lego Cuusoo did was Lego mosaics...well, they could operate on a similar schedule but....that would be pretty lame.

Actually it was at the Cuusoo SXSW presentation that this idea started brewing for me.  Tim Courtney brought up the Threadless model as an organization that was doing crowd sourcing of their product line, then went on to explain how complex a task it is to package a Lego set relative to printing a t-shirt.

Then I began to wonder, why doesn't Lego steal a page from Threadless's book and also offer a simplified system.  

So, here is what I would like to see in the future as a little sister to Cuusoo:
  1. Lego fans use a specialized LDD that only allows the user to use brick/color combinations available in the warehouse.
  2. Lego fans then submit their build to Lego "Little Cuusoo."
  3. Lego Techs then do a quick check of the build to ensure that the build does not require a license and that it can be built (all parts connected, gravity is not an issue).
  4. If the design passes review, it is budgeted for a range of units: 100, 500, 1000 etc...
  5. The design is published.
  6. At this point, people can put their money down.  If they like a set, they use their credit card and pledge for as many units as they like, up to a preset cap.  
  7. A set has 30 days to reach the minimum production milestone.  If it passes to higher production milestones, perhaps the cost of the set reduces slightly for all those that pledged. 
  8. If the set reaches a production milestone, Lego bags up the pieces and sends them out to the people who pledged.  No fancy box, no printed instructions, no official Lego set number.   
Some of you might say...this is crazy, Lego would never go for this...but in effect, they already did this once.  This concept is just the original shelved program but with a Kickstarter style website that ensures profitability. With the product not being official Lego product perhaps the designs could be a little more relaxed even.  

There you go, a proposal (however useless) for giving the Lego fan projects some breathing room in the future of Lego crowd sourcing.


Sam Vimes Minifigure




This is my second of five intended Figure/Vignette pairs as part of my campaign to create an official Discworld Lego set: Sam Vimes.  He is the quintessential character of "The Watch" line and is, in my opinion the precursor to all the stories about life in Ankh-Morepork.  Sure the city predates his introduction but it is through Vimes that Ankh-Morepork becomes a living, breathing city for the later stories to flourish in.

On the left you can see one of the many Paul Kidby images upon which I based my Vimes model.  On the right is a street light from the movie adaptation of  Going Postal that I based my street light for the vignette on.

Reviews


Pick of the Week

Minifig Scale Aircraft
by Spider689

Support Level: 33

As we all know, when Lego does moderate to large aircraft, it uses aircraft shaped pieces.  This is fully brick built.  I love it!  It allows for interesting coloring.  The slight strangeness in the lines (due to the stacks of plates) gives it a lot of character in my opinion.  The color combinations is also very attractive.  As the whole point of this projects is about minifigs though, I would like to see some more of the interior. 

Now, many people just look at the pictures, If you do in this case you will see that Spider689 is proposing in fact a line of aircraft based on being wide enough to handle figures.  So, this appears to the crux of the design.  Of course, there is a one set per project policy so if they want to see more they will have to make more.  It would be interesting to thing that Cuusoo projects could influence Lego's style, but I have to believe that this build is much more expensive to produce than Lego's model of snapping together dedicated aircraft parts to make planes. 


Honorable Mentions

Leonardo's Glider
by Bigboy99899

Support Level: 58

Who doesn't love da Vinci's art.  I have been trying a design to do justice to the glider for a while, much larger scale but this really just nails it without going overboard.  Perfect as is for a desk display.  Another great offering by Bigboy99899.


Flórián Albert Stadium
by Laszlogabii

Support Level: 791

Over the course of just a few days this become the second most supported stadium on Cuusoo.  I must say it is very attractive with a nice scale.  I am certain that someday a Stadium with get to 10k, it is only a question of when...Of course, all it takes is one of the major ones to ask for it, WHILE it is full.  Sure, there is horrible connections but they have a captive audience who are using their smart phones...

It does however appear that this might be the "tap off" point for theFlórián Albert Stadium as there has been very limited activity since the original push...of course there might be a few articles waiting to incite the fans to support waiting in the wings.  You really never know with this stuff.

The Nebulon Void Fighter - Galaxy Command
by Reekardoo

Support Level: 76

I like this build because it is very out of the box.  It has a lot of "creepy" factor going for it.  I think the total occlusion of the crew just builds on this. It does remind me ever so slightly of a space shrimp, in a good way.


Swampy
by Bigboy99899

Support Level: 46

I chortled when I saw this.  My son absolutely loves the app game "Where's My Water!"  It is a very good, it slightly caricatured rendition of the "main character."  Extremely cute too.  

Notables


Modern Modular Furnished Beach Front House
by Bricksare4me

Support Level: 37

This has a lot of really nice features.  It opens like a dollhouse too.

Christmas / Holiday Gingerbread House
by Jorpaxton

Support Level: 53

A Lego gingerbread house is a really clever idea. I think this needs a little work...don't really now why but even though it has a lot of what makes a gingerbread house a gingerbread house (like the white lining between the walls), it just isn't quite nailing it (for me) for some ineffable reason. 

Still the core concept is a great one!

Update: I realized what is rubbing me the wrong way with this project. The color is wrong.  It should be using dark tan in my opinion.  This looks like a cake house to me with the brown. 


Back to Mars: Terra Forming Platform
by Mybrick

Support Level: 31

Of Mybrick's "Back to Mars" line, this vehicle is my favorite.  If you like the design motif you should certainly check out their other offerings.

Godzilla and Friends
by Borex

Support Level: 29

Fascinating idea.  A bit similar to some

Star Wars VII series : Flower Ships Cup
by Alkido

Support Level: 29

This is a really clever ship design.  They are made to look simultaneously like flowers and space ships.  The effect comes off quite well.  This does have nothing to do with Star Wars though. 



Operation: Steam Knight - Sugegesa Styled Bone Mecha
by Pittstop

Support Level: 16

Pittstop is being quite prolific with this Steam Knight line.  This one is certainly one of my favorites.  Good use of the Loki helmet.  I am more and more curious if the joints can support these builds though.


Week of Cuusoo

This week the cut off was at support.
Flórián Albert Stadium
by Laszlogabii

Support Level: 791

The Nebulon Void Fighter - Galaxy Command
by Reekardoo

Support Level: 76

Leonardo's Glider
by Bigboy99899

Support Level: 58



Swampy
Support Level: 46

Office Stuff
Support Level: 37

Minifig Scale Aircraft
Support Level: 33
Avatar Aang vs. Firelord Ozai
Support Level: 32

Godzilla and Friends
Support Level: 29


Star Wars Trade Federation AAT
Support Level: 16
batman, Killer Moth's lair
Support Level: 16

Planet of the Apes
Support Level: 14
TIE Aggressor
Support Level: 14
Dark Castle
Support Level: 14


Household Items
Support Level: 10
Race to Buckleberry Ferry
Support Level: 10

Silcrome Hunters
Support Level: 9
Diamond tower
Support Level: 7

AMANTIS BLADE
Support Level: 7

Lego Armoured Van
Support Level: 6
Wrestling Theme
Support Level: 4

Ninja Starfighter
Support Level: 3