Monthly Archives: March 2010

Empire of swoosh: a chat with Linus Bohman, creator of Swooshable.com [Interview]

Talented builder and former TBB contributor Linus Bohman recently unveiled LEGO Building School (LBS), a new application for his LEGO-related app project, Swooshable. It warrants something more than a simple referral, so, in true TBB fashion, I used an Imperial interrogation droid on him.

Linus BohmanTBB: You went through a bit of mini-dark age recently. Why was that, how long did it last, and why are you coming out of it?

Linus Bohman: I think I’ve been on a LEGO hiatus for almost a year and a half, give or take. Life and my hyperactive nature came in the way. I tend to stock up on things that I really like and do those 100% – all of them at the same time. So I was working full time, doing heavy freelancing, studying a bit, constantly moving, as well as trying to spend time with friends and family and get time for hobbies. It didn’t really work out so I eliminated everything but the basics: friends and family. I quit my job to do something I really enjoy, stopped freelancing, found a nice place that I settled in, and now I’m adding in hobbies again. That purge was the best thing I’ve ever done, but I also needed the busy period – I learned many, many really useful skills.

TBB: What are you especially hoping to accomplish with LBS? What needs do you think it meets?

LB: LBS was built to answer questions like “How do I become a better builder” or “What is SNOT?”. The answers float around in the community, but they’ve been hard to find since the post-LUGNET community is so fragmented. I don’t believe we need a central place for communicating with each other – those things tend to work out anyway – but I do believe we need various central hubs for other things. TBB has largely filled the LEGO news niche, for instance. I intend for LBS to fill the learning niche, at least until something better comes along.

TBB: What inspired you to start working on Swooshable?

LB: Well, to be honest: nothing significant has changed in the community while I was away. The conversation is mainly held on flickr instead of in niche forums and different building styles have evolved, but otherwise we haven’t really gotten anywhere as a group. The same questions are asked, the same needs go unfulfilled. The community boat needs some gentle rocking – and intend to lead by example. I looked at my skills, workflow and already finished material and decided that the best way to do it, without falling into the half-assed trap many other LEGO projects end up in, was to do short bursts of self contained apps. They may be fun for a while (like the probable life span of the Fad Masher) or usable for a long time (like LBS), but either way they’ll make people think a bit differently.

TBB: Tell us a little bit about the special features of LBS.

LB: I have two criteria that guides all of the Swooshable apps:

  • They must be easy and enjoyable to use
  • I must be replaceable in case I go AWOL

Thus, if you use LBS you’ll find that it’s mainly just a toolbar. You do everything from this toolbar, and it follows you around on the different sites (except flickr which doesn’t allow these sorts of things). If the toolbar gets in the way you can just flick it to the side, and it’s there when you need it again by the press of a button. The lesson listing only display the basic information for easy scanability, but still encourages exploration. If we’ll need a new moderator it’s as simple as creating an account. People can also submit articles directly through the toolbar, so that I (hopefully) don’t have to monitor the entire community to get the freshest and bestest material. *hint hint*

Of course, nothing is set in stone. I monitor statistics, comments and behavioral patterns pretty carefully, and intend to make things better if I discover things aren’t working as planned. Iterative work for the win!

LEGO Building SchoolTBB: What do you think are the most important things that you hope newer LEGO fans as well as veterans will get out of LBS?

LB: The ability to focus on building and cultivating better discussions. Want to learn some new techniques? Stop hunting them down and go to LBS. A new guy wants to get into the building scene? Head on over to LBS and read up on what you can, then explore the forums and ask good questions instead of mediocre ones. Those are the main ways I believe the School will make a difference, but these things are pretty much impossible to predict. I’m very open to different way of using them, or making them into something else than they are. Creativity is fun like that.

TBB: What’s your vision of what the adult LEGO fan community should be, and where do you think Swooshable and LBS fit in that vision?

LB: I don’t have a vision, but rather a wish: that we stop making so much darn drama and do fun stuff instead. Sometimes it feels like we fight internally as soon as someone is doing something different – be it making money off of the LEGO hobby, get a certain number of fanboys or use clone bricks. Different isn’t bad; it’s just different. Something great may come from the next different thing.

Okay, so I do have a vision, then. More intentional chaos, less demeaning of different stuff. Creativity to the people!

TBB: What’s the next Swooshable app up your sleeve?

LB: I’m choosing between ten or so ideas. I need to do some testing to get an indication of which ones will fly and which ones will fall, but it’ll be something really simple this time. LBS took a lot of time to sketch out and build, and now I need to do something that is less worky and more silly. I’ve been itching to do something that gives me a feeling for the general community – perhaps something to do with all of the LEGO blogs out there? Or a continuation of Repoort’s old but inspiring Creativity Challenge?

In the future I want to do a project of a more emotional nature. Unfortunately I need a good amount of people to be involved before I release it in order to make it good. I’m putting a lot of faith in the Swooshable mailing list for that. If anyone wants to help me and receive notifications when a new Swooshable app is ready, please join it!

TBB: Thank you very much! Anything else you think is important for us to know?
LB: If someone accidentally got my fame, money or girls, please point them in my direction. Thanks.

LEGO Prince of Persia sets now available at Toys R Us [News]

Two weeks before their scheduled release in April, the new LEGO Prince of Persia sets have found their way first to Toys R Us online. Three out of the five sets are now available at MSRP, and with free shipping over $100, this makes for a great opportunity to get these new sets early!

UPDATE: you can use the code 935009 (exp. 3/21/10) to receive $10 off on orders over $50. However, this cannot be combined with the free shipping offer.


icon

7571 The Fight for the Daggericon (258 pcs. $29.99)

icon

7572 Quest Against Timeicon (506 pcs. $49.99)

icon

7573 Battle of Alamuticon (821 pcs. $79.99)

Horns of an awesome vehicular dilemma

I was really torn between which of Marin Stipkovic’s vehicles to blog, his garbage truck or lime fire engine. Both had been sitting on my to-blog list for a few days, then I realized that I could do both. Eatin’ my cake.

LEGO Marin Stipkovic garbage truck

The fire truck is slightly more glamorous, because . . . well . . . it’s a fire truck.

LEGO Marin Stipkovic fire truck

Check out other pictures of the garbage truck, and fire engine.

Volunteering for LDraw

According to my Future of LDraw? post there are a bunch of readers of this blog who use LDraw. But LDraw can only work with a steady stream of volunteers to make and review parts for use in new parts releases. (I also forgot to pimp the Flickr group for LDraw)

Reviewing parts is a great way to get involved without having to get too technical. Niels Bugge has written a very handy tutorial explaining what is involved and how to get involved. If you feel you’d like to give something back to LDraw this is a great way to get started.

It is also a good start to making new parts if you wish to pursue that path. If you understand 3D software which can output 3DS format you can even get involved with LDraw part creation without leaving your known environment. Simply team up with someone who does understand the LDraw file format and make and convert a file from your preferred tool to LDraw format for tidying.

There are also other ways to get involved such as running for elected office (not for a year or so now) and helping out with the website. If you think you might be interested in these roles please contact me privately.

Remember that without volunteers the LDraw library would grind to a halt. Fresh faces are always welcome and necessary. If you like LDraw please consider helping it.

Image credit to LDraw.org, Elroy Davis (taltosvt) and Niels Bugge from top to bottom

Nate Nielson: Winter is a struggle and wind is my foe – Boilerplate & Beyond Vol. 3 [Interview]

Our third installment of interviews by Keith Goldman takes us into the mind of a builder that — let’s be honest — you either love or hate. Take it away, Keith!

LEGO Neo-Classic Space nnenn fighterThis week’s builder is known as “nnenn,” and should need no introduction if you’re a fan of science fiction models, or a follower of any number of groups on Flickr.

Nnenn’s name has become synonymous with both great building and controversy, beginning with his debut on Classic Space forum, where he managed to rile up more than a few purists with his tape, knife, and clone-brand components.

I take special notice of any builder who has fan-boys, if nothing else to make sure their army isn’t larger or more rabid than my own.

I met nnenn, as per his rather specific instructions, at the Palm Springs Wind Farm in Palm Desert, California: I didn’t actually see him, but we spoke through a grating at the base of a windmill. There was no small talk, we just talked about LEGO.

The Build

Keith Goldman: You always have interesting backgrounds for your creations. How do you select the background color for each model, and what sort of lighting do you use?

LEGO tank by nnennnnenn: I shoot everything outside by hand; winter is a struggle and wind is my foe.

The background posters are chosen for contrast: first, in value (dark for a light model, and vice-versa) or second, in color (blue for an orange model, etc.) I approximate the original color when digitally imaging so the model’s reflectives don’t look odd.

KG: Like many sci-fi builders, you have mentioned that your models draw inspiration in part from the “Terran Trade Authority” series of illustrated books from the late 1970’s. Is there any other go-to creative reference you consider when designing a model?

Terran Trade Authority concept artnnenn: I’m influenced by many things (including other builds) but I don’t have a dominant source of inspiration, nor do I keep a ready reference bank. Because seeing the same thing repeatedly tends to dull the awe, I purposely avoid perusing my muses (which is why I don’t keep ‘favorites’ on Flickr, incidentally.)

Though I am rarely at a loss for ideas, I do become unmotivated from time to time, so a few quick glances does more to spark my competitive side than provide fodder for new content.

KG: Do you purchase clone-brand sets, or is there a Bizarro-World BrickLink? If the answer is sets, which theme if any do you prefer?

nnenn: I’ve wished many times for a way to get clones by the piece (I’ve even contacted MegaBloks about it) but no, I resort to purchasing whole sets for just a handful of unique parts… themes don’t really play a part in my acquisition decisions. I’m holding out for cost-effective 3D printers.

More of Keith’s interview with nnenn after the jump: Continue reading