The Brothers Brick turns five years old today!
Rather than focusing on changes within the LEGO fan community over this past year, I thought it would be more interesting to explore some of the differences between 2005 and 2010.
Half a decade in the LEGO fan community
When I started The Brothers Brick back on July 25, 2005, the world of LEGO fandom was a very different place. Though LEGO fans had begun to carve out spaces of their own throughout the Internet — mostly on forums like FBTB and Classic-Castle.com — we all posted our photos on Brickshelf and at minimum lurked on LUGNET. BrickCon drew a mere 45 attendees in 2004, while BrickFest ruled the convention scene with 250 attendees in 2004 and 330 in 2005.
How times have changed.
I asked several people what differences they’ve observed over the past five years, and here’s what they had to say.
- LEGO fandom goes mainstream. The “big boys” at Boing Boing, Gizmodo, MAKE, and other tech/geek sites have shown remarkably steady interest in LEGO, and have even begun crediting builders by name, rather than just throwing up a gallery accompanied by backhanded complements like “This guy must have way too much time on his hands!”
- Conventions go big. BrickFest was pretty much the only game in town back in 2005. Since then, about half a dozen other conventions have sprung up in the US alone (if I’m counting correctly), ranging from newcomers like BrickMagic to conventions that carry on the name or spirit of BrickFest itself. And then there’s Brickworld, which this year drew 800 attendees. Though I can’t write in detail about events outside the U.S., there’s now a fan convention in just about every major market for LEGO — especially in Europe.
- More LEGO sets for advanced builders. For at least the past 35 years, LEGO has produced sets for “advanced” builders, ranging from sets like 956 Auto Chassis (which my father had) to UCS Star Wars models. But beginning with 10182 Cafe Corner, LEGO incorporated the type of detailed design aesthetic used by builders like the “rest of us.” In fact, The LEGO Group has started employing more and more designers who started first as fans.
- The rise of blogs. I was only aware of a couple LEGO blogs when I first started TBB, but there are now more than I can count. Tim says, “With the division of the community into smaller units blogs have filled the place of overarching narratives of the community.” Some blogs have come and gone, but the ease with which sites like Blogger and WordPress.com enable LEGO fans to start their own blog means we’re probably years from seeing this proliferation die down.
- LEGO video games. Yes, there were plenty of rather horrible PC games throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s, but TT Games has since created an entire genre of games centered around little plastic bricks, while LEGO themselves will be releasing LEGO Universe later this year.
- LEGO stores everywhere. Okay, not everywhere, as our Canadian and European readers will quickly remind us, but the U.S. is now full of brick-and-mortar LEGO Stores, while Japan has a dedicated chain of LEGO stores in clickbrick.
- Diversity. LEGO is still very much a hobby dominated by men. But as the hobby itself goes mainstream, more women have begun to contribute to the community. Writes Caylin, “I remember being able to count the amount of women hobbyists (especially online) on one hand. Now there are many, and they’re damn good builders, too. More of them are coming to the hobby because they want to — not because their partner or kids are into it.”
With a few exceptions, the overarching theme among these changes is decentralization and greater choice for LEGO fans. We’ve all worried about the fragmentation of the LEGO fan community, but so far what we seem to be experiencing is growth — with the specialization that comes with that growth.
Let’s hope we see even more growth over the next five years.
All about you, by the numbers
As always, here are some stats for this past year.
- 2,500 registered readers
- 8,000 subscribers to the RSS feed
- 5,122,594 visits
- 9,702,180 page views
- 1,537,027 unique visitors
- 1,100 new posts
We’re still waiting for our first reader in North Korea…
The top 30 countries from which people visit The Brothers Brick didn’t change much, though New Zealand jumps quite a few places (up 73%), while the Czech Republic (up 64%) and Croatia (up 172%) edge out Malaysia and South Korea.
- United States
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
- Hong Kong
- Czech Republic
Like last year, search engine keywords seem to be mostly about news items, while more and more of our traffic comes from fellow LEGO sites rather than sites outside the LEGO fan community.
* Excluding variations on “The Brothers Brick”.
Most of the top 10 posts over this past year were again news items — the most devastating among them the loss of a prominent member of the LEGO fan community.
- Pictures of 2010 LEGO sets – Atlantis, Toy Story, & more – at Festival RFFL
- Howl’s Moving LEGO Castle
- LEGO 8683 Collectible minifigures coming June 2010
- Farewell to a Legend: Mourning the passing of Nate “nnenn” Nielson
- Announcing LEGO Pirates 10210 Imperial Flagship, available Jan 1, 2010
- Dalí + Halsman + Balakov
- Stefan’s micro Star Trek fleet is ready to make first contact with the Borg
- Should LEGO release modern military sets?
- LEGO Atlantis – first high-res pics of 2010 sets
- 10213 Shuttle Adventure blasts off in June
Finally, stuff for the historically minded: