Authors@Google: Jonathan Bender

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 26.08.2010

Mark: Good afternoon. My name is Mark Pollager and I'm here for the Authors at Google program.
And we're here to welcome Jonathan Bender. He's the author of "Lego: A Love Story," which
was released just this past May. It covers the year that Jonathan spent immersed
in the Adult Fans of Lego community, traveling to conventions in search of the world's largest
private Lego collection. His journey also took him abroad to Billund
-- I think is the correct pronunciation -- in Denmark, which is Lego headquarters
where he was able to take a factory tour and also see the secret set vault, which I'm sure
none of us have been able to see. It's on the web? Aw man!
>> [Laughter]
Mark: -- ruin all the surprises. While I was attempting to understand why adults
are so drawn to a child's toy, he and his wife were starting a family of their own.
Originally a journalistic documentary third party – sorry, third person project, he
quickly felt himself drawn into the world of adult fans and attempted to build alongside
them. And nobody can really resist the draw of a
pile of Lego bricks just waiting to be built. He's a freelance journalist. His writing has
appeared on CNN, ESPN, Women's Health, and the Kansas City Star amongst others.
He makes his home in Kansas City with his wife and has significantly more -- he tells
me -- than the 62 Lego bricks that exist for every man, woman, and child on earth.
And with that, please join me in welcoming Jonathan Bender.
>> [Applause]
Jonathan Bender: Thank you, everybody, for coming out today.
So what I wanted to do very quickly was introduce myself, talk to you about some of the things
that I, I learned and saw over the course of the book.
And then, Mark was very nice to forward on to me three or four questions that, that people
had had in advance. So I'll answer those after I give my talk.
And then, feel free to open it up to questions. If some of you feel shy, I'm also going to
stick around and, and sign books afterwards and you can ask me questions then.
But I think this is going to be a lot of fun. And I always really enjoy talking about Lego
bricks. And to some degree, the past 24 hours I think
have been a bit of a dream experience, 'cause at this time yesterday, I was actually on
a panel at Comic Con talking about Adult Fans of Lego.
So coming to Comic Con and then Google here in Mountain View -- I think that's sort of
like a geek's perfect game. You know, I feel like I'm kind of nailing
it right now. So that feels pretty good.
So thanks for having me here. And I really -- I look forward to kind of
sharing with you what I learned. So, I want you to picture, if you can, basically
a world that's like today. The economy is pretty terrible.
And obviously, people are having trouble selling their homes.
Now, in particular, there's a carpenter. He's a master carpenter in Denmark, and he's
built three homes. He owns the largest home in the small town
of Billund. And he's in danger of losing that home because
he can't sell any of those three homes because the economy has, has gone through the Great
Depression. So it's a very difficult time to be in the
world of carpentry. And that man is actually in the center of
your slide screen there. Looks a little bit like Walt Disney.
It's "Ole Kirk Christiansen" -- is the man's name.
And Ole Kirk Christiansen is the founder of Lego.
And so, in 1932, he does a very very smart thing.
He realizes that people will not buy wooden houses, but they will always buy things for
their children. And so, Lego actually began as a wooden toy
company. Most people think of the classic plastic bricks,
but it started with wood. And they made trains and tractors and wooden
ducks, and sort of very classic, simple wooden toys.
Now, the issue with making wooden toys is, wood is extremely flammable.
And there were actually four separate fires at the factory where they made wooden toys.
And so, I think Ole Kirk Christiansen realized pretty quickly that it's a bit of a mistake
to work just in wood. And then, as the company itself became more
popular, he realized that he should probably be using something that could be mass manufactured,
and plastic came to mind. So, "Lego" is actually two Danish words put
together -- 'leg' and 'godt' -- which stands for "play well."
That's the loose translation in English. And actually, at the time, Christiansen didn't
know, but there's a third translation in Latin, which means "I put together." So actually
in three languages, "Lego" means the same thing, which is -- it's kind of neat.
And so, in 1958 -- this is actually the original patent for the Lego brick.
On top, you can see are the tubes which are those little holes on bottom.
And the bottom figure is actually for the studs which are what click into the tubes
and allow Lego bricks to stick together. And what's pretty amazing about this is, this
first patent that's from 1958 is actually the same Lego brick we have today.
So there's not a lot of products that I feel like have stayed similar for so long, but
this one is one that has endured. So Lego still makes a lot of very different
products. They're starting to move into electronics
and robotics, which I'll talk about a bit later.
But, for now, they've really relied on having things as an offshoot of this classic 2 x
4 plastic, blocky brick. So the one you think of when you first think
of Lego is really the one that they started with.
And so, in 1961, Lego was looking at coming to the United States.
And when you're thinking about who would be a natural partner for Lego in the U.S., obviously
your first thought is Samsonite, the luggage maker. [laughter]
They had experience in both plastics as well as retail sales.
And so, Lego signed on to allow them to sell their company's products in the U.S.
Not surprisingly, Samsonite didn't do a particularly good job of marketing Lego bricks to children
because I don't know how much crossover there is between luggage purchasers and toy purchasers.
And so, in 1973, Lego took back their franchise and began licensing and marketing Lego in
the United States themselves. And that's the beginning of when Lego really
started to take off. But the true year that Lego really started
to seize the U.S. market was 1978, and that's because that's the year I was born. [laughter]
And so, beyond me being born, Lego also made a couple really important distinctions in
'78. They introduced the Lego mini figure, which
you see here, although the first one had none of these facial features or even arms.
He was a really simple guy. And so, that was part of it -- that there
was this element of play to Lego that had never been there before.
And then, in addition, they also introduced themes.
So this is the classic "space" theme. There was also "castle" and "town." So what's
great is some of these initial themes -- this is called the "Yellow Castle."
It's the first Lego set that was introduced in '78 as a play theme in the United States.
And so, if you run across one of these at a garage sale or on Ebay, you should buy it,
because it's, it's the kind of thing that could fund your kid's college tuition in a
couple years. Right now, this set probably goes for about
$1500 or $2,000 in mint condition, which -- if you think about a Lego set in a store
-- is pretty incredible. It's part a mix, I think, of sentimental value
and then also actual rarity. So the nature of Lego bricks is that they
all get jumbled up. So the idea that somebody would not only keep
the original box and also all the pieces together, that concept of collecting wasn't as developed
in '78. And so, I think things, things like this just
-- you don't see very often. So when I was 12, if you'd ask me what I wanted
to be, I would have said, "A master model builder."
They're the guys who work for Lego at theme parks and then also just for the company in
general building big, giant models of just about everything you can imagine.
And so, this is a picture of, of me and my dad.
Obviously, I'm much older than 12 in that picture.
This occurred after I'd started to get back into researching the book.
What's in that diorama box, which is on your left, right -- my left -- is the Sears Tower
that I built with my dad in fourth grade. And that's part of the genesis for how the
book came about, was -- Lego was a big part of my childhood.
But when I turned 12, I, I gave Lego up. I found soccer and piano and all manner of
other things that you get into when you're starting to grow up a bit.
So those bricks went into the closet. But what was great is, when I got back into
it at 30 -- as I started to do some research for the book -- Lego has a series of sets
that are called "Brick Structures," or "Lego Architecture," which are actual re-creations
of the landmarks. In this case, the Sears Tower.
So 'Lego set' and 'my set' are both pictured there.
And I had the rare opportunity to go back and build the Sears Tower again with my dad
18 years later. And I feel like it was just a wonderful experience
for the two of us, because here we were building as adults, but it was a bit like when he had
built with me when I was a kid. And so, one of the things that really grabbed
me when I first started thinking about the book was this, which is a Lego 22-foot Titanic.
It's built entirely of Lego bricks. It comes apart in three 7-foot sections.
And it's built by an adult fan named Scott Fowler.
And it sort of triggered something in me -- the "what, where, when, why" that are sort
of hardwired into journalists. And I wanted to know why somebody could build
this, how they would go about building it, and then, who would want to?
And what was great about that is there's a period of time called the "Dark Ages," which
is what adult fans refer to when you give up Lego bricks.
So when you turn 12 or 13 or 14, you go into the Dark Ages, and then, something pulls you
out of it. And for those rare fans who continue to play,
some might have Dim Ages where they make compromises, and they continue to play with Lego bricks.
Others will just play straight on through. And it's actually a phenomenon that Lego recognizes
now. So the, the company thinks of kid builders
-- or "child" -- up to age 13. And so, up to 13, you're safe, and you're
probably gonna keep building. And then, 13 -- for whatever reason -- is
the magical age when you put it down and go into the Dark Ages.
So if you've made it past 13 and you still play with Lego bricks, you're considered an
adult builder by Lego, and I'm, I'm jealous of you.
Because it was about 18 years that I didn't have playing with Lego bricks in my life.
So I feel like I'm making up for lost time. And so, when I went back to a series of conventions
around the country -- adult fans hold conventions like Trekkies, or comic book collectors like
Comic Con -- they're on a much smaller scale. And this is actually the first thing I built
since I got back into Lego. Appropriately, it's built with Lego Duplo
bricks, which are meant for preschoolers. Like, you start at about age one and a half.
That was right about my building skill level at the time in 2008.
And I think this is a great picture, because I feel like it illustrates where I was then
and where I'm still about now. In the foreground, you'll see what I termed
a "crocodile" or "alligator." I like to think that it is recognizable as
such. But in the 20 minutes that it took me to build
that 7- or 8-piece figure, one of the adult fans who was at that convention in Michigan
built a Tyrannosaurus Rex out of Duplo bricks. And he wasn't bragging; he was just much better.
And so, to me, it was illustrative of -- I sort of saw that I had a long way to go.
Because, at 30, it's very different to think about becoming a master model builder than
it is at 12. So, one of the great things is, as adults,
I think we bring a lot of our fan interests and then also our experiences to what we build.
And so, there are two huge camps among adult fans of Lego.
There are the "customizers." And so, these are guys who build things like
the Ironman that you see behind me, which is great.
It's a standard mini fig. So if you took that castle mini fig I showed
you earlier, you would use Brasso or something abrasive on the chest to rub off any figures.
And then, you would drill a hole through the arm to insert a small aftermarket LED in the
chest, hands, and then, feet. And, to me, it's almost like requiring surgery
or some incredibly complex skill in order to turn a tiny mini figure into a tiny Ironman.
But the idea here is that some people feel limited by what Lego produces.
So they say that there's only a certain number of parts and colors and elements and I'm not
satisfied with that. And I want an Ironman, so I'm going to go
build it. But what I love is, there are people who are
purists. And so, for them, the idea of cutting into
a mini figure and putting lights in it is sacrilege.
The idea that my dad and I painted and glued the Sears Tower would make them shun me.
And so, what's, what's neat about the purists -- just to show you for contrast -- is that
this is a piece that's built entirely out of Lego elements.
There's a builder named Jordan Schwartz. He's an 18-year-old high school kid who just
graduated in Rhode Island. This is built primarily out of Lego tires,
most of which are inverted so the two eyes, and then, the bell or base of that octopus.
But he built an octopus, which I think is akin to sculpture.
When I've shown it in previous slideshows, people have thought it was made of clay or
something that wasn't just Lego elements, but everything you see in there is from an
actual Lego set. So the nice thing is, I think, depending on
who you're talking to -- whether it's a purist or customizer -- it's very easy to be swayed
by their argument because of what they can create.
So now -- a lot of things that happen at conventions -- so for example, the next one coming up
is "BrickFair," which is in Washington, D.C -- are group displays.
Adult fans tend to congregate by region or get together online into what are called "LUGs"
-- so, Lego User Groups. And the great thing is, out of those lugs
and then also at conventions, there are these huge group displays.
This one is from a convention in Seattle called "BrickCon."
And it's actually the Zombie Apocafest. So it's displaying a theoretical zombie attack
on a blown-out city. If you can see a yellow school bus in the
back, that is the best thing in the display and it's because I built it. [laughter]
So what's fun about that is, the idea is everybody builds on the same scale and brings pieces.
So you'd bring a building or vehicle or even just use your mini fig customization ability
to build zombie mini figs -- which, up until this summer with the mini fig collectibles,
Lego had never made a zombie. So it was up to you to either use your creativity
and repurpose troll pieces or to actually sit down and build one out of clay and paint
and who knows what. But what I like about conventions too is that,
you can also have individuals who have collections large enough to make displays as large as
any group display. And so, this is a builder named Brian Darrow
out of Indianapolis who has a 33-foot display called the "Blacktron Intelligence Agency."
It's based on a black and yellow space theme from the 70s and 80s, and for him, this is
-- it's great, because he, he literally sets it up over the course of about 14 hours.
And this is all just one guy's imagination kind of run amuck.
He has a collection of a couple hundred thousand bricks -- a lot of which go into his display.
And it's just as magnificent as that group display that you saw.
But you don't have to be constrained by how many bricks you have.
So you can build very small and still have a pretty large impact.
And when I was talking earlier about different fandoms, the Harry Potter sets went into hibernation
for a few years based on licensing and movies. And so, they're coming out with new sets in
October. Lego just released the Harry Potter video
game sort of based on like the Star Wars, Indiana Jones blocky theme.
But this was at a convention in North Carolina this year.
It's a vignette of a Quidditch match. And so, the players appear to be flying.
They're on brooms. And Lego did make Harry Potter figurines,
but they obviously didn't make a Quidditch sort of vignette or style or setup.
And so, here's someone who just wanted to use what they saw as inspiration.
And, in this case, it happened to be Harry Potter.
They built the whomping willow and the inside of Hogwarts with flying letters.
But I thought it sort of a wonderful example of -- I mean, this looks like it could be
a set, and it's actually only on one green base plate which you guys have upstairs in
the little Lego dump room. So you can go ahead and build it yourself,
assuming you have all the parts. Now, one of the things I was looking for was
the largest collection in the U.S. And, and probably one of the best contenders
is a guy named Dan Brown who lives in Bellaire, Ohio.
And, and he has the unofficial Toy and Plastic Brick Museum.
And what's great about that is, he is a computer recycler by trade who decided the thing he
wanted to do with his life was honor Lego art and sculptures.
So he bought not one, but two, middle schools at auction in 2004 -- one, to store his Lego
collection and one to build a museum. And what I love about Dan is, the one that
holds his collection has about two million bricks, which the average set has between
a hundred and a thousand -- 1500 -- bricks. So, I mean, it's a lot of sets for him to
accumulate that many bricks. And then, the second setup is a middle school
that is slowly being transformed into a museum, classroom by classroom.
And so, each one has a theme or a setup. This particular theme is from the zoo room.
And so, it's a Winnie the Pooh that's behind homemade chicken wire.
And the great thing is, it's really like walking into a middle school that is essentially the
structural equivalent of that Sears Tower diorama that I built.
This is all ideas that come from Dan's mind and then, he translates into building out
his museum. And so, you're walking around a place that
really -- I think -- takes you into somebody else's mind or what they really love about
Lego art. So, for example, in the basement, he has a
robotic band called "Plastica" that used to play at F.A.O. Schwartz in New York City
-- that I remember from when I was 12. He told me it was $60,000 worth of robotics.
And so, on a Sunday night in the middle of summer, I'm sitting there listening to this
robotic band play Lego music in a middle school gymnasium in front of what's now the World's
– world -- like Guinness Book of World Records for the largest mosaic in the world,
which Dan holds. And it's a tiny town of 5,000 on the border
of West Virginia. And it's the kind of thing that I feel like
nobody knows about, but in many respects is an actual manifestation of just how excited
people build. And Dan is on the cusp.
This is the first generation of adult fans. And so, for him, he really wants to preserve
Lego art. And one of the people who he wants to preserve
is a guy named Nathan Sawaya. And Nathan designed the cover of my book.
And he's a guy who has commissions, where all he does -- he was a corporate lawyer who
left his job to build Lego commissions. This is actually a 10-foot speedboat that
has a working rudder and tan bucket racecraft seats that I helped move.
It's about 250,000 Lego bricks, and it weighs several hundred pounds.
And, for about 30 minutes, it was on a 4-foot wooden dock as we carried it over the Pacific
Ocean out into the parking lot, because this was at a convention in Seattle.
So what was really exciting about that, if it had dropped off the dock, it would have
sunk immediately. And so, Dan paid $5,000 for this model.
And it's sort of the "What's going to happen next with Lego art?"
You know, trying to figure out what it's worth, not only in terms of the actual value of the
bricks themselves, but then for creating an art piece out of a medium -- potentially anybody
could build this boat, but as to whether they have the skill, time, and bricks to do it
is the question. So -- What price do you put on Lego art?
And then, Can Lego be art? -- I feel like are some of the things being
debated now. And so, now, Nathan is an interesting guy
in the sense that he worked as a master model builder at Lego.
He had my dream job. And then, he left to go out on his own.
He's one of 14 certified Lego professionals. So they build commission jobs and I mean,
they really have a dream job from that perspective. But one guy who was in his old position is
named Gary McIntire. And Gary's actually at Legoland in San Diego,
just down the road. And Gary gave me a tour of the park before
it opened. And he does something called "Park Check"
every morning. So the idea is that he has to fix all of the
Lego models which get beaten up over the course of the day just to make sure nobody gets hurt.
And what I love about this is that here Gary is fixing what they call a "maxi fig."
It's -- she's about 3-feet tall, just a scaled-up version of a mini fig model that's built entirely
out of Lego bricks. Now, unfortunately for her, her nose was knocked
off because she, she has the sad distinction of being located next to the only miniature
golf course in Legoland. And so, invariably, her nose lasts about two
to three days because somebody decides to take a mini golf club to her nose.
But the nice thing is, she was not harmed. And since she's made out of Lego, she can
be rebuilt in seconds. And so, Gary is actually an adult fan of Lego
-- as is Nathan and a lot of the people that I met over the course of this book who are
working with Lego or attempting to figure out how they can turn their passion for Lego
into a full-time job. And so, this is one of the things that Gary built, which got a
lot of press recently, is the inauguration for President Obama.
And so, these are miniland scale figurines. Everything in here is, is built to scale.
So, all of these guys would translate to about 6-foot people.
If you're holding them in your hand, they're three, three-and-a-half inches tall, depending
on what they are. But it's a great visual depiction of different
sizes and scales. There's Miniland, which is at the Legoland
park itself. And there's Miniland, Las Vegas and Miniland,
New York -- so, actual creations of real places. There's "mini fig scale," which is where you
build something four or six studs wide in order to be attached to a mini fig driver
or just a house that would fit a mini fig person.
And then, there's maxi fig or just sort of big, big ass building which doesn't have a
name. So but, we'll go with "big ass building" from
now on. So then, another way that adult fans are working
with Lego -- some of you may have seen this. One of the first brick structure sets was
that Sears Tower that I mentioned. This is actually Fallingwater.
So it's an official Lego set that is same as Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic building.
What I love about this is, it, it changes your perception about Lego a bit in the sense
that this is something that's meant to be built and displayed.
You're probably not gonna take it apart. And to some degree it's become a niche hit
with architects and designers because there are genuine design elements at work here.
And it's also a bit of something that's easy to fetishize.
I think you can look at it and sort of have a, a great appreciation.
And so, it's built by Adam Reed Tucker, who's a former architect out of Chicago.
And now this is his sole business where he builds what are called "Brick Structures."
The latest one is the "White House," that just came out last month.
And it's some of the examples of how Lego is working with adult fans in order to try
and figure out ways to leverage either their building skills or their interests and see
is there a way for them to have a partnership? Now, I've shown you a lot of examples of things
that people do very well. But I think it's important -- it's easy to
be intimidated when you see great things. And so, this is something that I built.
And I think it's important that -- it's fairly recognizable.
The yellow thing is a, is a whale, and the white, yellow, and red thing is a camel.
You probably could guess one of the two of those by looking at that.
But I'd show this for one very particular reason, 'cause I think it's important.
And the adult fan community is extraordinarily welcoming.
And to them, it's a bit like Little League where participation matters more than skill.
And so, I think my sort of ending note or the thing I want to suggest to you is that
you don't have to build well as an adult in order to be a part of this community; you
just have to build. So, find the thing that you like doing --
whether it's Harry Potter or something else like whales -- and give it a shot.
'Cause I think it's very easy to be self-critical as an adult.
Thirty-year-old me is very different than 12-year-old me, because I sit and look at
what I build and I judge it the entire time. So I think you have to try and put that aside.
And Mark had mentioned to me that there's a nice thing here, "the ugly baby syndrome"
-- where you can hold onto something because you, you really don't want to show it.
And then, when you do, you get worried about that criticism.
But you'll find I think that most people are willing to tell you how to improve something
as opposed to focusing on the shortcomings. So I encourage you all to build.
I've had a wonderful experience since coming out of my Dark Ages.
And with that, I'd just like to turn it over to the few questions that you guys asked in
advance, and then, open it right up to the rest of the panel.
I'll read them first just so you have an idea what people asked, and then, hopefully answer
them. If whoever asked them is here and feels like
I didn't cover it properly, call me to task and I'll see what I can do.
So, the first question that somebody asked was if I had any experience with Mindstorms
and FIRST LEGO League. And so, the honest answer with that is very
very little. When I was researching the, the book, I went
to one FIRST LEGO League meeting. And it taught me that I would have to, I think,
go to about 50 to understand exactly what FIRST LEGO League entails and to become proficient
about it. And so, I ended my FIRST LEGO League participation
at that one meeting. But one of the interesting things about Mindstorms
to me -- which is Lego robotics, for those of you who don't know -- is that, adult fans
have had a big role in shaping how Mindstorms have come to play.
So the first version of Mindstorms Robotics Invention Systems debuted in 1998, and it
was wildly successful for Lego. It's one of the reasons the company is as
successful as it is today and it has managed to transition to a digital space, because
it showed that Lego was capable of applying its principles to the world we live in today.
And then, in the same light, it tapped into this need for math and science education.
And so, as Lego looked at the sales numbers for those first million units that they sold,
they discovered something incredible. The adult fan market is typically five percent
of the total of people buying Lego. So only five percent of people are actually
adults who buy Lego bricks. But for the Robotics Invention Systems --
for this Mindstorm stuff -- it was 50 percent. They dubbed these adults the "shadow market,"
because there were as many adults buying robotics kits as kids.
And so they reached out to some of the more proficient and/or visible adults sort of Oceans
Eleven style. So the idea was they wanted to get somebody
who knew software and somebody who knew hardware. And they flew four guys out to form the initial
Mindstorms Users Panel. And those four guys really helped guide some
of the development for the second iteration which is Mindstorms NXT that came out in 2006.
And so what's great about that, it was the first example of Lego really reaching out
to adult fans in order to develop a product -- both internally and externally.
So a lot of those guys still act as ambassadors for the product and are in stores teaching
people how to use it. And then, in the same light, shepherded the
change from studded to studless building. So, it's very different.
In the Mindstorms NXT, there's no studs -- it's all teknik, which are pins and holes
-- and if we're getting too technical here, please let me know.
But you went away from that studs and tubes system that I showed you earlier -- that patent.
And so it represents really a whole new system of Lego building even if it's founded on the
same Lego principles. So, the second question that was asked talked
about -- so it said, "Do you keep original sets apart or mix them?
And if you mix, do you sort first by color or shape?
And which is the one true religion?" [laughter] So, the answer is, I think, among adult fans
of Lego, the one true religion has something to do with midi-chlorians and/or Jedis.
There's a lot of Star Wars geeks. That was my joke.
And so, the real joy of that is that I think you try and keep things separate, but you
never can, because Lego bricks end up in a big Sterilite or Tupperware tub.
And they're under your bed or they're in the closet.
There's sort of no way to keep sets separate unless -- I think a lot of adult fans just
adopt a strategy of buying multiples and they are emphatic and/or sort of militaristic about
separating it out. So this is my set that I'm going to put together
and this is my set that I'm never going to open and this is my set that I'm going to
part out. And so, before you know it, you're buying
four and five copies of a set, which at thirty to a hundred dollars -- yeah -- can be, delightfully
expensive. But in, in many ways is possibly the only
way that you can keep everything separate -- is to sort of be a bit -- I guess maniac-al
or maniacal about what you're doing. But other than that, I think you just have
to embrace the idea that things are going to get mixed.
And then, that's which leads to the third question which is about sorting.
And so, the sorting question I enjoyed, because it talks about, "if you sort by color or shape."
And so, you start with color. That's the easiest for everybody.
It's the most distinct. Yellow goes in one bin, blue goes in another.
And then, there comes a point where you can't find anything to build what you want.
So then you move on to shape, and you sort by part or element piece.
So there's a lot of different names. And one of the things that was most daunting
when I was researching the book was about the language of adult fans.
The names for specific bricks are multivaried and confusing and change from region and country.
And so, for example, there are the flat ones which some might call "flats."
Other people call "plates." That's their actual name.
And then, there's "bricks" and "slopes," which is anything that has an actual slope on it.
So when you start sorting by piece or element, then you break it out according to that.
So now you had two iterations of sorting -- one by color, one by piece.
And you've gotten to the same place where you just can't find anything while you're
building. And you're spending as much time rifling your
hands through a tub as you are actually building. So now, you move to what you would consider
to be like the real advanced stage, which is sorting by part and color.
And that's really, you're starting to be a pro, because you are buying specific things
at hardware shops or hobby lobbies. And they look like the nuts and bolts containers
that are segregated so they're plastic. And you just keep having smaller and smaller
groupings of parts because you need to keep things more specific.
Your house begins to look like a garage. And by this point, your collection has overgrown
one room and it's threatening to take over your entire house.
It's a bit like the blob. And then, the problem is now you think you're
done. But you're gonna come to a point where once
again, you can't find anything. So that shouldn't be possible, but it is,
because you keep buying Lego bricks. It's sort of an addiction.
Just Lego bricks attach -- attract each other like magnets.
And once you have a little bit, you tend to have a lot.
And so, that final sorting phase is where you actually are sorting by individual piece.
It's not enough to just do shape and color. It's like every piece gets their own tiny
compartment. And when you've reached that point, you're
basically a master model builder. So, congrats. I mean, that part is -- there is an element
that your building skill ideally will improve with sorting.
And then, the last question that was here was about the design program.
And it said, "Is there a particular design program that I'd recommend for building things?
And then, specifically, vehicles." So you basically have two options -- both
of which are 3D modeling or CAD-based programs. The first is actually Lego's own program.
It's called Lego Digital Designer. It's LDD. And that's on Lego's website.
They have a program that's factory and designed by me.
So the idea is, you can use any parts that are on their site to design your own set or
kit or creation. And then, you'll get customized building instructions,
and they'll mail you all the pieces. And you are basically your own set designer.
What's neat about that is, it lets you be as creative as you want and gives you the
opportunity to see some 3D modeling tricks or techniques and work with that.
I think that's where you should start, but I don't think that's where you should finish.
The best one you can use is called LDraw. It's just at and it has a larger
element and color palette. So the beauty of that is, you're not constrained
by what Lego sells on their website, but instead, you can use any of the parts that are in Lego's
universe. So the idea is similar to how you would add
something to Google maps. I saw the 3D version of the Google map and
somebody can render a picture of the pavilion. People can render individual parts and add
them to LDraw. So suddenly you're working with a really rich
composition of things. And you end up with a, a 3D mockup of what
it is that you want to build that has the same capability as a Lego's website.
So you can have customs instructions if you wanted to give it to somebody else, and you
can also break it out by what parts you've used, which is really helpful for ordering.
So there's a secondary marketplace called
And that works exactly like Ebay. So if you found that you needed 50 white pieces
-- rather than having to buy 50 sets, you can just go to BrickLink and order those specific
parts so that way you can build your Ecto-1. And, at this point, you guys have been exhausted
of your pre questions. I hope I've inspired some new ones. Are there?
Q: I have a funny story. A friend of mine from grad school went to
work -- I guess as a consultant -- to build, Lego company -- to work on vision algorithms
for identifying Lego pieces for sorting them out so they could like straighten out the
mess the builders had made at the end of the day. Failed totally. [laughter]
A: I'll be in back. And I'm glad to talk to any of you more, but
thank you guys for your time today.
>> [applause]