The Brothers Brick turns six years old today! In my write-up last year, we focused on changes over the previous 5 years across the LEGO fan community. Today, let’s take a look at these past twelve months here on this blog.
TBB gets real
The main theme here on The Brothers Brick this past year for many of our contributors (myself included) has, unfortunately, been that commitments to work and family have sometimes taken priority over blogging. This is fairly self-evident in the frequency with which we’ve updated the blog. Feedback we’ve gotten from readers reveals several assumptions I’d like to clear up, in fairness both to you our readers and to TBB contributors.
I’m often shocked when I talk to TBB readers in person to learn that they assume running TBB is a full-time “day” job for me and the rest of our contributors. I get a warm glow knowing that we do a professional enough job to make people think that, but it’s not, really. I created The Brothers Brick six years ago today because I love sharing my passion for LEGO bricks, and all our contributors do so because they share this vision. We have a diverse group of contributors who all have day jobs — a call center trainer, a research physicist, a lawyer, an oil refinery operator, a probation officer, a medical student, and a technical publications manager. It’s wonderful to know that many of you have come to rely on us for your daily LEGO fix, but we need all our loyal readers to understand that there will be an inevitable ebb and flow to the rhythm of our lives and to the corresponding rhythm reflected here on the blog. Real life always takes priority, so we’ll continue to blog what we like, whenever we can.
It’s also surprising when people assume we rake in so much money from advertising that all seven of us are employed by the blog (or, somehow, by The LEGO Group). The advertising is there to pay the bills, and whatever’s left over we “reinvest” back into the LEGO fan community we love so much. For example, last year, TBB covered travel and hotel expenses for several LEGO fans who might not have been able to attend BrickCon otherwise. This all amounts to a few thousand dollars, not hundreds of thousands — enough to keep The Brothers Brick operating independently while giving back to the community, but neither I nor the other TBB contributors pocket a single penny ourselves.
TBB looks to the future
All of this isn’t to say that The Brothers Brick is going in a direction we all don’t want it to go — certainly not! We want to make sure TBB can continue giving back in a variety of other ways, even if we can’t fly people to conventions every year. We’ve also figured out several ways to maintain a consistent level of new posts for all of you out there without adversely affecting our non-LEGO lives, and we hope you’ve noticed an improvement in the front page’s freshness over the last few weeks.
As always, feedback and suggestions are welcome!
All about you, by the numbers
As always, here are some stats for this past year.
- 1,200 fans on our Facebook page
- 10,000 subscribers to the RSS feed
- 5,636,554 visits
- 10,559,107 page views
- 1,738,669 unique visitors
- 800 new posts
Central Africa, Central Asia, North Korea, and Svalbard continue to hold out.
The top 30 countries from which people visit The Brothers Brick didn’t change at all, though several did change places. Visits from Japan fell over 7%, moving from 11th to 14th place. Visits from Russia rose a whopping 91%, moving from 28th to 21st place. Similarly, Brazil moved from 21st to 17th, up 47%.
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.
|Top Keywords*||Top Categories||Referring Sites|
* Excluding variations on “The Brothers Brick”.
The LEGO creations we feature here every day took center stage in most of our highest-traffic posts, with the usual news items interspersed — dominated this past year by the release of the Collectible MInifigures.
- LEGO Collectible Minifigures Series 3 decoder
- Dragonball Z Kame House and minifigs
- Nannan’s purist LEGO guns
- Massive LEGO Star Wars Sandcrawler
- LEGO Collectible Minifigures Series 1 decoder
- Tim helps define NPU
- The TBB LEGO glossary of AFOL terminology
- Nate Nielson’s online eulogy
- Will Page’s Portal turret
- LEGO Collectible Minifigures Series 1 decoder (European edition)
Finally, stuff for the historically minded:
Dillon (-Pendragon-) presents a LEGO model with a fresh theme that I can’t put my finger on. The swamp setting and the dark color accents on the building are unusually pleasing, even though the subject portrays decay and a bit of chaos. Despite the absence of action, there seems to be an imminent danger lurking in the water.
While others may have been more impressed by Karf Oohlu‘s recent armored vehicle, I’m a sucker for his weaponized LEGO animals. Hilarious, yes, but the “Cowabanger assault bovine and Rashbacon support pig” are actually rather well built, with some interesting techniques and parts usages, especially on the cow’s smaller porcine companion.
As LEGO spreads various parts of its supply chain and manufacturing process beyond Billund, Denmark and Enfield, Connecticut, the number of countries listed on the box after “Components made in…” has increased dramatically, making it unclear exactly where specific LEGO elements and aspects of the product packaging come from. Some LEGO fans have been concerned about the fact that the country list now includes China. After all, the PRC is not particularly well known for its positive environmental record, nor for hitting the high quality bar set traditionally by LEGO.
Although LEGO has not yet confirmed — despite general consensus among fans — that products like the Collectible Minifigures and magnet sets are manufactured in China, LEGO has recently come clean about its packaging.
Environmental advocacy group Greenpeace reports that LEGO has agreed to stop sourcing paper and pulp products from Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), a company based in Singapore notorious for harvesting Indonesian rainforests in an unsustainable manner. LEGO packaging I’ve reviewed does not list either Singapore or Indonesia — though APP does operate plants in China. LEGO’s original response to Greenpeace identifies the offending item as a licensed product actually manufactured by Dorling Kindersley (most likely a book) and therefore not part of LEGO’s core product lines. Nevertheless, Greenpeace has complimented LEGO on its responsiveness to the issue and leadership among toy companies. (Packaging news via Environmental Leader.)
Meanwhile, LEGO is further improving its environmental record by making its boxes smaller. Astute readers will already have noticed that the latest line of LEGO Star Wars battle packs are in smaller boxes, reducing the amount of paper needed to produce the packaging. This is apparently a general trend across all product lines.
Our sources tell us that the move toward smaller packaging was entirely business-driven — that the smaller boxes allow more product to be placed on shelves, while simultaneously giving consumers the impression that they’re getting more LEGO by increasing the “perceived density” of the product (a counter-intuitive result from consumer research). Whatever the reasons, LEGO will be using less paper in its packaging going forward, and that’s a good thing.
Next time you call LEGO, let them know that you’re thankful that they’ve taken these steps to improve sustainability and environmental stewardship.
Victor Martinez N. gives the hardsuit concept a twist and outfits his Martians in protective outer body enhancements.
UPDATE: Victor has posted a video showing how the jackhammer mechanism on the miner suit actually works:
I’m a sucker for LEGO chess sets. I’ve built several myself and once you get going, it is hard to stop. This miniature set, by Matt Armstrong has a deceptively simple quality to it. The pieces are all made from the micro trophy figure, from the Collectible Minifigure series, and at first glace are nearly indistinguishable from one another. However, the bases of the chess pieces are just different enough that one can tell the various pieces apart at a glance. Now I want to go make some more chess sets…