Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Lenticular" Lego

Not really lenticular but it is a great metaphor for this clever effect done by Google staffers.

One pixel image is constructed with vertical "panel" elements and another pixel image is constructed with panel elements placed horizontally.

The effect is that when you adjust the orientation of light, the shadows create different images, in this specific case Darth Vader and Yoda.

Pretty darn clever. 

Weekly Cuusoo (really Three weeks actually)

Been a while...

Well I have finally gotten done with my programming project.  It has had some great response but I am trying to keep it a bit low key still for a while as there are some issue to work out.  In the mean time I am playing catch up on the weekly reviews...

Pick of the Week

Buffalo Airways / Ice Pilots DC-3
by Ssorg

I love Ssorg's vehicle designs.  I can't believe that Ssorg's first DC-3 has not yet gotten to 10k.  Regardless, this one is a bit more conservative, and not chrome, but I will take it however I can get it.

One of the other ways this project is great is that it uses a team.  Mikey McBryan is the publicist and Ssorg is the builder.  There are a lot of great idea out there but you need a public voice to bring the votes and a great build to get the votes.  Great work.


Honorable Mentions

Classic Micro Trains

Wow!  These are really fantastic homages to the lines of trains Lego has produced.  I like this idea because, well, all the train guys I talk to about Cuusoo don't think the community is big enough to really pull off Cuusoo sets like the Roundhouse.  This is a much more conservative concept though and allows train fans to showcase their hobby anywhere. 

Additionally, these builds are not something that Lego has done before.  They have done trains.  They do multiple trains a year.  At least one targeted at big train fans and one themed one (Lone Ranger, Monster Fighters, etc...).  This concept has a higher chance of leveraging train fans rather than pushing out another scheduled train build. 

Toy Story OF TERROR! LEGO Bunny
by MacLane

Unfortunately I missed Toy Story of Terror so I am flying a bit blind here but I understand that there is an animated Lego build that changes to different shapes.  I really like this idea.

Normally I would question someone jumping onto a Lego build showcased in some piece of media but it makes a difference, to me anyway, that the person posting the project is the designer of the build.

The issue for this project is getting it out to the support base though.  MacLane is an impressive and popular designer but of course he needs to reach the people who would want this as a set, and that is going to be much more difficult than accessing his direct fans.  If the Pixar twitter account every tweets about it, it will have a strong shot with 3 million followers, but of course, I am not expecting Disney/Pixar to make any action "for the heck of it."   Same thing goes with Facebook.

That being said, as time goes by, I assume that as more people see TSoT more votes will come in but that is a subset of a subset, which is the difficulty of all projects 

Lothlórien Swan Ship

Reekardoo is well known on Cuusoo for his Galaxy Command project (one of the few IP independent projects to breach 1000 votes).  This is the large divergence from his regular works but wow, that is an amazing figure-head!  I have rarely seen anything better that was not based on a minifig.

I also am a sucker for creative use of the frog element and using it for the tip of a bill is just, inspired! 


The Darkbringer - Galaxy Command
I just mentioned Reekardoo's Galaxy Command and here is a fine example.  I am not showcasing this project because this is a splinter off of the primary project, but it still deserves recognition.

I especially like this design because it is unique but still has a Lego feel to it.  
Lego Chem
by tsjerk
These toys basically exist already as non-Lego elements.  I have seen several of these type of projects where someone thinks to take a perfectly acceptable product and just put the Lego label on it.

There is nothing wrong with this idea on its own, but I feel these projects need to express what they bring to Lego fans. What cool, non-chemistry themed designs could be made with these elements? 
Fire Truck Hook and Ladder
This is one of the best fire engines I have ever seen in Lego. 
Sea Monster Attack!
Another fine brick-built monster offering from lizardman.
Mini 4x4 Crawler Exclusive Edition
by Sujiro
A great looking homage.
The Parthenon
by mc2k13
A great, moderately scaled Parthenon.  
This creative design deserves a lot more than the 19 votes it has.  I am curious about how robust the design is though.
1001 Alhambra Nights Modular Diorama
by Alcyon
I really appreciate that idea of drawing on 1001 Nights for inspiration.  I think however the difficulty of bridging this project between fans and supporters is providing fans with a set that really embodies 1001 Nights.

This is a lovely build but I don't see the connection...not that I am extremely learned in the 1001 Nights, but it does not even include Scheherazade. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A bit more data on the Last Cuusoo Review

This Q&A was recently published elaborating somewhat on the reviews and rejections.

Basically they did confirm that they want reviews to go quicker, hence the sweeping up of all the backlogged reviews.  They have also stated an interest target for the completion of the Fall 2013 review in early 2014.

The other tid-bit is that they have reiterated that each review is independent and should not be seen as a bellwether for other reviews.  In this they specifically mention Zelda indicating: If another Legend of Zelda set qualifies for review, we will happily consider producing a LEGO set based on that project.

So in short, Cuusoo is taking steps to speed up the results and boilerplate rejection is now the norm.

Cuuscomp, an experiment in determining FOL preference

If there is one thing I have learned in bringing Cuusoo projects to your attention it is that FOLs have radically different tastes in LEGO builds.

In the interest of figuring out what projects appeal the most to FOLs, I have set up this piece of code that I'm calling Cuusocomp (it's a working title).

Now it just needs your input.

It is very much in beta right now but you can try it out here: Cuuscomp.  I will be the first to tell you these pages could use a lot of tweeking to look nicer.  This is more of a technical shakedown than a polished product.

Here is the FAQ


What is Cuuscomp?

Cuusoo projects are organized based on how much support they have, how many comments they have, how many times they are viewed, and how recent they have been published. 

Many FOLs have complained that these methods still conceal "great" project.  Of course the difficulty in cracking this nut is that FOLs have a vast array of personal preferences.  Anyone who has gone to a meeting of FOLs knows that, though we all respect great builds, we all have our own tastes.  That is why I have created this system. 

Cuuscomp uses random sample comparison to reduce the impact of personal preference for a specific subject and instead emphasis the overall "quality" of a project relative to other Cuusoo projects.

Well, here is how it works.  When a user goes to Cuuscomp, it will present the user with a pair of Cuusoo project.  The user then picks which project they like more and then a new pair is presented.  All of these single votes are pooled together with the votes of every other user to get the overall opinion of the community.



Log in via facebook or google by clicking on the icon of the desired option. 

Pick a category (top, popular, newest) and two random projects will be presented.

Click on the "Best of the Two" button of your preferred project of the presented pair
You can use whatever metric you want to decide on which project is the best:  Skill of creator, presentation, personal desire for the subject, possibility of production, voting "down" the one you are not voting for...use your own judgement as a "Lego Expert." 

You are free to make snap judgements based on the title image of the project, or you can get more information by clicking on the project image OR title.

If you don't have a preference at all for a pair, go with the your first gut instinct, the idea here is that a lot of tiny decisions are compiled together to make one big one.  

What is effectively happening is a massive round robin.  Each time you pick project X over project Y, the wins and losses are logged and added to a "global FOL opinion" and your own personal preference.   The more answers you give, the more accurate the "personal preference" list will become. 

You can review the global project order and your own personal preference list by clicking on the link: Review Your Results.  From there you can find links to more expansive lists of results as well.  Of course, you should not have any results until you make a few selections.  The more selections you make, the more accurate your personal profile will get.

Category Descriptions

  • Top Projects:  Any project that is brought back in this pair will have at least 500 support.
  • Popular Projects: Any project that is brought back in this pair will have at least 250 support
  • Newest Projects:  These projects range from around the 50th to 70 most recent projects to be added to Cuusoo (and thus their quality varies tremendously).


What is this about?

This is a survey system called Random Ballot Polling which reduces the impact of person bias from the results.  
If you let people decide on what they will vote on  they bias their opinions towards what they personally care about and what they know about. This system is to develop a quick way for people to give a rapid opinion between a random pair presented before them.  

This helps to establish the user as a Lego expert giving judgement, not a Lego Fan voting up their favorite subject...for that, people can go directly to Cuusoo and vote up their favorites.  
You may certainly vote your preference on the subjects you love, there is nothing wrong with that, but this system also asks you to vote on projects you likely care less about in the process. 


I don't like either project, Can't you give me a NEITHER button?

It is ok to vote up a project you don't like.  All you are saying is based on this pair, A is better than B, not that A is good or B is bad.  The quality of A or B is only established as an aggregation of several comparisons....just like a round robin.  It is not A vs B independent, it is A vs B, A vs C, A vs D, A vs E, B vs C, B vs D, B vs E, C vs D, etc....

I like both projects?  What do I do?

See the question above.

Why do you want my Facebook / Google info?

The fact is I don't really want ANY of your data and that is why I am going this route.  If I created a system where you log in and give me your email address...then I would feel very responsible for that data and that is not the place I want to be at this moment in time.

Additionally I would have to write some code that allows you to create an account and change your password when you inevitably forget it yadda yadda yadda.

So, I am using the expedient of Facebook and Google log on systems.  The only thing I am keeping is your username so it becomes your unique identifier on my system.

If you really want to participate but don't want to give out your username, consider making a "throw away" account on either system to set up your logo on.  

Why do I keep seeing the same three projects over and over again?

You are not logged in.

Where can I find the project's rank

I intend to add a lot of project statistics later but for now you can see it by hovering over the project image on the review pages.

I am not showing the ranking of any project that is below a certain threshold (currently set to 25) because the point of this system is to showcase projects that a lot of FOLs like, not embarrass the low ranking projects.

Why are you doing this?

Well, primarily I like data and crowd-sourcing of information.  But it has a few more purposes.  One is that it gives FOLs an interesting way to peruse the Catalog of Cuusoo projects while supporting projects they like and voting down projects they don't.  Additionally this will help to showcase the projects that the community likes, for one of course is the page that sorts the projects by the ranking.  I will try to develop some better pages for showcasing this data over time but of course, I need the data in order to present it and that is where we are now.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Exo Suit is the set selected from Winter 2012, Spring 2013, and Summer 2013

The Land Rover Defender is apparently still under review though. 

This answers a long of complaints people have had with Cuusoo.   They are gaining speed on the review process and catching up...all the way up.  On top of that, they picked a project that is from the community of FOLs rather than a IP Cash Cow.

One other point that is perhaps less evident is that the rejection letters for the other projects are now boilerplate, all identical.

Although I would love to know why each project was rejected, I think it is a smart move on Lego's part.  All giving the public answers would do would be to establish belief systems which might not apply to the future.

If they say no to Zelda today, they might not say no to Zelda tomorrow.   It is my understanding Lego turned down LotR initially but 10 years of cultural integration changes people's views on such subjects. 

So yes, disappointed I don't get to see behind the curtain more but accepting that it is a smart choice for Lego and Cuusoo as far as creativity and openness of idea.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Does Cuusoo Need Target Deadlines?

I am a firm believer that every project should get a shot at getting to 10k but there are now 5000 of them on Cuusoo.  Every quarter, less than 10 projects have reached 10,000, but in the last three months over 750 projects have been published.  It is easy to see that the problems people already have with Cuusoo will only get worse with time if this trend is not addressed.
What follows is my proposal for a method that could be implemented to identify and remove 80% of the low performing projects while still giving every project a chance: Target Deadlines.

Under the paradigm of Target deadlines, any project can be published, but it has to meet target support levels at given intervals or become archived.  This paradigm thus integrates project velocity as a factor in the overall success of the project.

Proposed Model
  • 25 support within 30 days of publication
  • 50 support within 60 days of publication
  • 100 support within 90 days of publication
  • 200 support within 365 days of publication
These might sound startling low goals to some, but it would actually have a very significant impact.  If these deadlines were put into place today, 4170 projects would be retired.

Benefits to Cuusoo

This would have several, potentially beneficial impacts:
  1. It gives a pressing goal to the project creators
    First impressions are critical for project support and many project publishers do not understand this.  If publishers went into Cuusoo knowing they had goals that had to be met, this would hopefully result in more thoughtful implementations.  This idea of a deadline will also encourage project creators (and serious fans) to take a much more active role in promoting their project.
  2. People (Supporters) are inspired to action by deadlines
    People are always more willing to vote and spread the word when there are consequences to not voting.  I hope this statement is self evident, but it has proven effective on getting Cuusoo projects to 10k just prior to the review deadlines.  I have found that online sites are more likely to give a shout-out when there are consequences to not doing so.  Additionally Cuusoo could develop a page that emphasizes projects in their last days to help get the word out.
  3. Cuusoo would look better.
    If you remove 80% of the poor performing projects on Cuusoo, then what remains, by definition is the 20% that perform well.  So, any random project you encounter on Cuusoo is much more likely to be impressive.  The suggestion and search systems will "work better" because the content they bring back will be from a healthier collection of projects.
  4. The Combination of all the above
    With projects getting promoted more by their creators (1), and people coming in to support before the deadline (2), that means more traffic coming in to Cuusoo.  With the suggested projects looking better (3), there is likely to be more draft Support for projects from new visitors and more chains of support occurring.
  5. Broken Window theory
    If you are not familiar with this, well, that is why the link is there.  But basically, if people see "junk" they make more "junk."  So, if Cuusoo is cleared out of much of its "junk" people will be less likely to introduce more.  I don't expect this to work miracles, but it very well could change people's opinions on what you need to have a successful project.
  6. Automatically Cleans up Abandoned and Timely Projects
    It is evident that many of the older projects on Cuusoo are neither being supported by fans or even tended by their creators.  In more extreme cases these projects are based on events, like the 2012 Olympics, where the timeliness of the project is a critical aspect.  Putting these deadlines on all projects will give Cuusoo a method to clear out these abandoned ideas and make room for the new and impressive ones to shine.
But what about the archived projects?

If the project creator so chooses, they can be reposted.  There is no reason to burden the Cuusoo staff with trying to decide if a project is "new" enough to get posted.  All they need to do is evaluate a re-submitted project on the current merits for publication and put it up if it meets them.

People who are serious about their ideas will lick their wounds, assess what went wrong, and try again.  The really good ideas that have gotten lost in the shuffle the first time around will even have a better shot at finding its audience in this slimmed down Cuusoo.

Regardless, I think many projects suffer from jumping the gun on publication.  They publish a weak presentation while they have the "new project audience" and then develop a strong presentation when nobody is looking.  Starting over is the best thing for many projects.
There is one caveat I would put on this however (I realize this is a digression).  I would allow anyone to put anything up on Cuusoo (that meets the standards), but I would limit how many low performing projects they can put on Cuusoo.  I would bar people from posting a new project on Cuusoo until their least supported project reaches a threshold of support, perhaps 25 or even 50.

With the new limitation project creators would either have to wait for their weakest project to get up to 25, actively promote their project until it is 25 support, or delete their weakest project to launch a new one.

Many of you might question the need for such a rule, but those who turn a more critical eye on Cuusoo will see that many poorly supported projects are from chronic project creators.  I myself am guilty of this...I have several projects that I "plan to upgrade later" but while that is true, these relatively poor projects are taking up space on Cuusoo and I should probably delete them now and repost them if I do make improvements later.  There is no incentive for me (or anyone else) to actually do this though and this would be a very compelling one that still gives the Cuusoo publisher control of their projects.

Are the cutoffs set for best effect?

That is a great question.  The model I am proposing is based on my personal review of Cuusoo projects.  I imagine if Cuusoo instituted such a model, that it would need to get re-evaluated from time to time.   If streamlining helps the projects that have a real chance at production get more support, then the bars could get moved around quite a bit.

Wouldn't this system favor IP based projects?

I will start off by saying, personally, I don't have a problem with the fact that IP projects are more prevalent on Cuusoo.  I might feel different about this if there was evidence that non-IP projects would get more support if there were less IP themed projects but I have seen that the really good non-IP projects can easily reach 100+ support.

That being said, the initial thresholds are not difficult to meet for a quality project of any variety.  That can be difficult to see by just going to Cuusoo so I have provided this view of Cuusoo.  This shows all projects from the last thirty days sorted by their support level.  Of course this is a moving target, but at the time of publication, 15 No IP projects have reached 25 support in the last 30 days, 5 of these have even reached 50 support in 30 days, and 1 has reached 100 in 30 days.

So...what would this look like?

Well, you can see for yourself.  I have created two new sort order views for Cuusoo projects.  Here is a page displaying all Cuusoo projects sorted by their "lifetime" support rate and here is the same sort but with projects that have not met the proposed deadlines removed.  Additionally, as it is important to many FOLs, I have added a rate view that is exclusive to non-IP projects which can be found here.

This method of sorting does have an interesting quality in that new projects show up high in the sort (5 per day for ONE day is pretty easy) but the low supported new projects do tend to drop off quickly as their support level tops off but the number of days continues to increase, quickly bringing down their average.

So, what do you think...
Should Cuusoo implement Project Support Deadlines:

What can you do?
Well, obviously most of the people reading this article are not Lego employees and have nothing to do with Cuusoo.  But you can make a difference by telling Cuusoo what your opinion is.  The easiest thing you can do of course is respond to the survey above.  If you feel stronger about this subject, for or against, you can do so by emailing Cuusoo at: LEGOsupport@CUUSOO.com or you can use the "Contact Support" link on Cuusoo's Knowledge Base.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Weekly Cuusoo

Pick of the Week

Microscaled steam locomotive

Henningb has some great project on Cuusoo but this is probably my favorite to date.  This train is the best micro-scale steam locomotive I have seen in Lego.  It reflects, quite admirably, all the qualities I expect to find in a steam locomotive and I especially like the use of he samurai blade for the coupling rods.  This would make a great display piece for any Train FOL to keep at work to showcase their hobby without...well, leaving a train at work. 

Honorable Mentions

Lego Golden Girls Kitchen
by misterr

Not the most supported project based on a Whedon tv show to come out this week but it is certainly the one with the highest quality, in my opinion.

Golden Girls is a show I grew up on and when I saw this project pop up I was, well, very surprised.

The kitchen is extremely show accurate, at least enough to satisfy the memories of a fan and to the detail that the photos allow.  It does look like the elements in the background though might be built closer to Friends scale though than minifig.

The figures are well done, especially from the utilization of prints but I am not sure I would have been able to identify the figures out of context.  Lego certainly has limited produced options for Sophia's hair...especially in stark white.  

Regardless, I got a huge kick seeing this on Cuusoo.  If someone can get Betty White to tweet on this it could really get going...

Welcome to Bedrock - Flintstones

Personally I am not a huge fan of the Flintstones, but that does not keep me from appreciating this great MOC.

The project concept is very strong: Four figures, a small building and a vehicle.  The build is instantly recognizable even as a small thumbnail and "everyone" knows who the Flinstones are.

The figures are spot on with the exception that Fred and Barney look like they are wearing shoes.  Of course this would not translate into the final figs but being bare foot is one of the iconic aspects of the Flintstone continuity, especially when driving...

The house looks great on the outside.  Contextually I like the inside, Fred in a chair watching TV, but it could use some work still.  I probably would have built the roof out of bricks laid on their side so I could use slopes to get a more natural curve.

The car is great but I can't see a way for Fred's feet to reach the ground.  I don't have a decent idea on how I would pull that off, but that would really sell me on the project.

I am eager for a project requiring new cloth cuts, like this one, to reach 10,000 to see if Lego is up for making new cuts for a project.  



Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Set
The other Whedon project (Joss and Zack).  I love the work of the Whedons, and I am very happy to see the second episode of Agents of SHIELD picked up a lot of the energy that was lagging in the first one but I can't get behind this project as it.

It is a list of poorly executed figs of (currently) poorly defined characters and unrelated, pre-existing, vehicles to go with them.
AS-31 Atom Shadow
Talebuilder has a lot of very original ships worthy of checking out.
1989-1992 Batmobile
One of the better 90's Batmobile MOCs I have encountered.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Weekly Cuusoo


Project Nearing Open Beta

As I have mentioned several times over the last few weeks I have been working on a Cuusoo related coding project and I will soon be releasing it as an "open beta."   I still need to work out a few kinks in the interface but I could use some testers as the true technical hurdles have been met.

If you would be interested in participating, I would be happy to have your assistance.  The only requirement is that you have a facebook account and about five minutes to spare.  If you are interested please contact me via this link and I will get in touch with you in the next few days.

Pick of the Week

Mobile police 2075
by yoroi

This is definitely one of those those weeks were my pick is not supported by the community.  I must confess though that I love mecha builds and usually, the tinier the better.  Mobile Frame Zero is a particular joy of mine.  I can't help looking at these guys and being amazed.  I am also a die hard fan of the original Bubblegum Crisis series so anything to do with a mechanized police force really hits me where it counts

Even despite my personal proclivities for this projects how can you not respect a design with so much content, character, and articulation in a build so small!  Take a moment and really breath in how the parts all go together.  You could learn a lot by seeing how much is accomplished with simple parts woven together expertly. 

Yoroi has four other mecha based project on Cuusoo, so if you like this one, make sure to check them all out. 

Honorable Mentions

Mercedes Simplex antique automobile
An absolutely fantastic build.  I really like to see old school cars done in Lego.  I love to see the ingenuity people come up with for the wheel wells and head lamps and such. 

The placement of rubber rings around old style wheels is brilliant and I will probably have to replicate that if I ever get around to making one of my own.

Henningb states the the build "fits minifigures" and I think that is an apt description.  This build is obviously scaled more towards authenticity than minifig compatibility (which I am totally fine with).  There is often some selective interpretation between minifigs, cars, and scale and though, as depicted above, two figures can sit comfortably in the front seat, they do appear to be children pretending at driving.

Modular Mini City
I am very impressed with the scale and variety of this work.  This seems more like a designing standard than anything else though.  This could be a great project for a LUG to do for a Con, each member contributing a small section to a massive small scale city. 

Mini Castle Modular series #1
by daystar
Again, going back to my affection for small builds, I find this concept very compelling.

Overal the design is excellent.  The creators custom builds are fantastic and the mini builds of the classic medieval Lego builds are great.  However with the two elements paired together there is some issue.  The Lego inspired builds seem to be out of proportion, to me, with the castle elements.  For example, the Blacksmith's is taller than the castle wall.

All in all a great design but it could use some work bridging the gap and bringing the disparate elements together. 

Iron Giant
A great homage to a classic, if underrated, animated film.  Brilliant to include the Cadillac for extra playability and attention to film elements.

Personally I would like to see the biceps and thighs be thinner, but I can totally respect that the elements used give the build greater durability and certainly locks in the poses well. 

by jalex

I am unfamiliar with the series but Penguins are popular regardless of context and this set idea is compellingly adorable.  That is a great "sell" on a Cuusoo projects.  Something that has an established market but is also inviting to people not familiar with the exact details.  


HiFatigue serie
by yoroi
Another great mini-mecha design by yoroi
The A-Team
An impressive MOC

Wreck-It Ralph - Building and Characters
by Yossi
A very accurate model of the building from the fanatic movie but the project fails to capture the content that is great from the film.

There is also a huge disparaging in what is being presented.  The characters are 8-bit style but the building is fully actualized.  If you are going to mix it up, for the sake of playability it should be the other way around with a flat building (conserving pieces) and minifigs/brick built playable figures.    

Lego Batman The Ace chemicals Hazard
This is an awesome MOC.  I would expect it to recieve high marks at a Con in a comic themed category.  There is also some great technique and ingenuity at play there.  The Walkway is utterly fantastic. 
This fails to grab me as a viable set in the same way that seeing the Waynes shot down in an alley between two massive Modulars would also fail to grab me as a set.   Red Hood, a fall guy taking his role literally and falling into a vat makes for a great scene and MOC, but the scale here and lack of thematic playability are heavy knocks against it.

The Little Prince
by Colin23
A great MOC of the The Little Prince.  If this could be done without glue I would be totally sold on it.
by Buffoon
Very impressive!  
Pilot for Sopwith Camel
by saabfan
All the add-on sets are extremely clever but, to be absolutely blunt, if there is anything legitimately more pointless on Cuusoo I have not found it.

Any project, not based on some extremely popular IP or well supported movement is going to take a minimum of two years to reach production.  This likely puts the Add-on outside of the production dates of the original set.   This would mean that the market for the proposed add-on is extremely limited as it is only a subset of the people who bought the original set.

Total Drama Island Project
I love the show, and even considered, briefly, doing a project.  Fundamentally though the series is based on character interaction and unique challenges for every episode.  This does not lend itself well to a single compelling set. 
Wooden Mannequin
by TMunz