Fire for Effect: Give Credit its Due

This is the second salvo in Michael Rutherford’s regular column, Fire for Effect.  Take it away Mike…

It is amazing what you can accomplish…

Harry S Truman did some pretty cool stuff.  He took the wheel during WWII and ended that mess in less than 4 months.  Old “Give ’em hell, Harry” checked the expansion of communism both at home and abroad and at the same time…championed the UN…helped rebuild Europe and the global economy… pulled off the Berlin Air Lift… racially integrated the U.S. military… started NATO… stopped the entire Chinese Army, in Asia, without WMDs (a cool trick in anybody’s book)…got General Douglas MacArthur under control (Almost as big a deal as that thing with the Chinese Army!) and he had a few other pots on the stove.  Somewhere in and amongst all those little distractions, he had time to utter a saying that has stuck with me since the first time I heard it.

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit”

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Credit.  Recognition.  Acknowledgment.  One of the sweetest nectars to be found in the garden of AFOL delights, as well as one of its most insidious toxins.

The Desire For Credit (DFC) is a classic motivator.  The idea that our peers will acknowledge our efforts as exemplary.  That some lasting accomplishment will be attributed specifically to us for a very long time.  We long to see our name and our contribution carved into the marble of history next to other reputable guys and their great achievements: Euclid’s Elements, Newton’s Constant, the Van Allen Belt, the Pickard  Picard Maneuver

It’s an attractive notion that speaks directly to our self-worth.  It taps directly into our narcissistic tendencies, a sirens call both irresistible and destructive.  It might even be primal, this desire for the approval of the group.

And like most primitive urges, we often suppress and deny it, like our intense desire to stare at attractive people in public.  Like our deep-seated need to establish dominance in social situations, or our intense need to eat food from Chick Fill’A.  These are all very natural behaviors, and all suppressed (usually with only marginal levels of success).   We get busted checking people out, we get pissed off when slighted in public and we eat the hell out of those damn chicken sandwiches…just like we all know a Cro-Magnon would!  Many of us reject the notion that this desire exists at all, but this denial is of course false.  We want credit for our effort, but WE THINK IT IS BASE to want the credit, so we SAY that we don’t.  Only for a few, a very select few, is this rejection sincere.  In fact, recent satellite images of the Earth suggest that there are precisely FIVE people alive on Earth today who don’t care at all about getting credit for their work.  Oh shit… Mother Teresa is dead?  Make that FOUR people. Then again, even the beloved Mother Theresa had her issues with credit.

This Desire For Credit (DFC) is a pervasive element of the AFOLs life.  Isolating the DFC from everything else, for the purpose of discussion is largely artificial.  Like ethics, safety, respect, faith, trust…and bunch of other stuff…The DFC is part of everything we do.  Maybe a small part, maybe not so small, but it always OVERLAPS with a lot of other topics. A transition sentence is one that helps your reader move to the next concept smoothly (like my thesis for example), but I don’t have a good transition sentence, so…JUMP NOW!

THESIS: The desire for credit (DFC) can both motivate and prevent the artistic growth of AFOLs and the hobby, and acknowledging our DFC allows us to mitigate it’s destructive side.

We can see the impact of credit (or the Desire For Credit) in at least three areas of the hobby: Parts and Techniques, Building Efforts and Disputed Credit.

PARTS and TECHNIQUES.  From time to time, one of us will use a part effectively in a MOC and receive the curt but salutary accolade: “NPU!”  Ah yes…that use of the yellow minifig life jacket to capture the subtle curves of Hasselhoff’s ear lobe…that was quite clever wasn’t it?  You KNEW they would dig it, “But soft!  They speak!… NPU bro!”  Ah yes, time to smile and sip the sweet nectar of credit.  But once per era, one of us, usually the seventh son of a seventh son will use a part to devastating an affect and with such relentless frequency that the part becomes synonymous with that builder!  Or a mind will conceive of and execute a technique… teachable, learnable, re-producible on demand and guaranteed to increase crop yield by thirty percent!  Part and builder, part and technique… bonded forever in AFOL song and lore!   It’s a real hallmark.  No, really, it’s cool.  And chicks dig it too!  In fact, I hear it also reduces home mortgages by a quarter of a percent!  Examples of this rare CREDITUS MAXIMUS include:

Nnenn, a beloved and departed AFOL who brought us this enduring design criteria.  True, the Vic Viper is not called the Nnenn Viper, but the formal and recorded design criteria for the Vic Viper is synonymous with this artist.  His design remains an enduring challenge to our entire community.  Nnenns idea endures, an ongoing dialogue within the community about the tension that will always exist between conformity and creativity.  The below image conveys two messages.  First, Nnenns vital contribution to the greater Lego dialogue: conformity and creativity are NOT mutually exclusive.  Second, all of these MOCs were built by different AFOLs and brought to Brickworld Chicago in 2010 in order to commemorate Nnenns passing.

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The man had IMPACT on AFOLs and the Art of Lego.  He created and shared an idea that resulted in an explosion of creative effort, AFOL improvement, and vigorous dialogue.  I never saw or heard of him chasing credit… but we all know he earned it, and I for one will say without hesitation, that it is a good thing to recognize his contribution (by name).  Not base, not crude, but unambiguously inspiring.  Oh, and his influence is seen at the highest level an AFOL can achieve: Lego product design, as documented so excellently by TBB.  And of course… just to nail down the trifecta in a supernova of CREDITUS MAXIMUS, we all still call this part the Nnenn:

Other examples of CREDIT in the realm of Parts and Techniques include:

The Travis brick: Named for a remarkable AFOL who passed away too soon.

The Lowell sphere: Invented by a man questing for the perfect round cap on the end of the engine thingy on his Y-Wing…

The Bram sphere: As hydrogen warheads followed on the heels of atomic warheads, so the Bram sphere followed on the heels of the Lowell sphere…marvel at the vast and cool intellect of one of our greatest builders.

Reality check: I Can’t KNOW how or even IF the DFC effected the cognitive processes of these esteemed colleagues and I make no such claim.  What I do say is this: most of us would really dig achieving this level of notoriety.  STOP!  Yes you would!  Don’t deny!  Don’t succumb to the notion of what you THINK is more civilized and ignore the savage TRUTH!   Instead, I urge you to make peace with this base motive, acknowledge it and then having befriended it you must learn to tame it and always strive to keep it in check.  Again, I do NOT claim that the DFC motivated these builders.  Creative impulse.  The need to invent the technique in order to achieve some higher level effort.  Accident!  I declare that Keith should interview each of these cats and get their take on the whole business!  (Do it Keith… Do it!)  I’m just saying, it’s pretty cool that they have parts or techniques named after them and if I was ever able to achieve the same,  I would be pretty jazzed about it.  Because I’m base, crude and think like a Neanderthal?  Maybe.  Or maybe just because I have a rather pedestrian world view.

Building Efforts.  The hobby encompasses a broad swath of activities.  From table scraps, to MOCs, to Collections of MOCs, to contests, copnventions and other operations.  Sometimes, the DFC is manifest in these broader efforts.   Did the visionaries behind these efforts feel the DFC?  I don’t know.  Yes, yes…of course I suspect…but then that is pretty much my thing isn’t it?  Suspicion and derision.  Oh, the horror… Any ways, I feel that whether the DFC was a motivator or not, none can dispute that these cats deserve a dose of our favorite deadly nectar… CREDIT!  In these cases, CREDIT EARNED BEYOND THE PART, TECHNIQUE, or MOC LEVEL.  Let’s look at some laudable EFFORTS.

Nannan Zhangs Creations for Charity.  I remember when I first saw young Mr. Zhang (now Dr. Zhang right?) posting on MOCpages.  Black Fantasy (great builds!) and long quotes inspired by Lovecraft (Not so great literature!).  He displayed a new and in my opinion emotionally evocative style.  Black monsters with orange eyes… in their multitudes… really, the stuff of nightmares.  Cool.  This guy was always pretty quiet, and fairly prolific.  He has published some VERY INTERESTING stuff about how to buy Lego, sell Minifigs, and come out ahead.  Nannan even wrote an informative essay about how YOU can use his techniques to build your LEGO collection using his proven process.  Although those particular thoughts are slighty outside the scope of this article, they always struck me as supremely practical, and again, totally in the best interests of Lego as Art.  But the effort I want to draw your attention to (as if it needed that) is his annual fund-raiser for various charities: Creations for Charity.

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Look, I haven’t done my research here, the first iteration, the growth rate of his events annual earnings, the number of contributors, the number of nations involved now (Simon… you’re the guy for CfC Canada right?).  But the big picture is self-evident.  The event is massive, many of our hobby’s best builders contribute and the event began as a vision in the imagination of Chairman Zhang, and he plans it and he runs it… year after year.  The total benefits generated to date are probably GALACTIC in scale!  My point is that this effort is a credit to Dr. Zhang.  And again, as a focal point for the larger Lego dialogue… IT IMPROVES THE STATE OF LEGO AS ART.  For some legitimate history regarding this remarkable event, I direct you to our favorite Cherub and Half Orc team, Joshua Hanlon and Matthew Kay for their excellent Beyond the Brick interview with the man himself.

Well, that went longer than I though.  Sorry Simon, but now you get squeezed… it’s this blog… the editor doesn’t enforce any standards!  Yea, Simon Liu.  One of the fastest moving AFOLs in the population.  I don’t mean in terms of skill or development.  No, I mean physically.   His rate of travel, his personal velocity is simply astounding.  This guy is ALL OVER the place.  I can only name a single guy who hits more AFOL events… Abner Finley,  and he can move fast because he never brings any models.  But Liu?  Buckets of action!  He has about eight irons in the fire at any given moment.  But the effort I want to draw your attention to is his annual contest: SHIPtember.  The annual contest focuses on 100+ stud long spaceships and the building thereof.  We talked about it in the comments from last week’s rant about critique yea?   Two faces of the DFC here.  First, Simon, I rely on you to set us straight here…but I am guessing that at least in part you feel some DFC.  You organize the thing, publish the rules, judge, and distribute the trophies at the end of the annual contest.  It’s your baby and you want it to rock.  When it does rock you crack a cold one and wink at yourself in a mirror right?  No?  No to the cold one, or no to the mirror?  Second face of the DFC: Participants!  When you join a contest, you want to SLAY your competitors with your awesome MOC right?  RIGHT?  I mean, how can you enter a contest and say “well… for me, it’s all about the build” What?  ASSERTION REJECTED!  Competition incentivizes performance and in the process, improves the state of Lego Art.  That is why SHIPtember is such a laudable effort.   Good on you Liu and good on all the competitors!  Tooth and nail!

Look at the results of this effort on the community in 2014… this is IMPACT on builders and Lego Art!

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Disputed Credit.  This is the other side of the DFC coin.  Many AFOLs proffer the notion that seeking credit is low, base and often they state, hand tucked majestically into coat (you know, like the classic Napoleon pose) that the DFC does not affect them.  But… let somebody steal their shit…or let them witness the act of Credit-Theft and suddenly its GO TIME BABY!  It is true, to chastise one person for falsely claiming the credit for the work of another is not the same as denying their own DFC, but I say the difference is too fine to be operationally or statistically relevant.  More often thatn not, this vigorous defense of another’s credit only betrays our own love for THE CRED (or as they say in Germany: Das Kred!).  It’s looking at the same force, the DFC, but from another direction.  If it is important for that guy to get credit for THEIR work, how can it be totally unimportant for you to get credit for YOUR OWN work?  How does that scale balance?  (Yes… I am poking fun at people who deny their own DFC here, I stand guilty of defamation before the AFOLs of Rome!).  Look at the link below the photo.  It’s old, and that is good!  Because the specifics don’t matter.   It’s about the time that guy, stole credit for that thing, that old boy built, for that contest… screw all the details!  What matters is that this is a REAL SPECIMEN taken from the wild.  It’s unedited public rhetoric on this exact topic.  What I want you to consider as you review this thread is the ANGER of those who speak.  It’s real.  It goes on and on, and it becomes white-hot.  Respect, restraint, the Laws of Land Warfare… they all get thrown out the window!  In the end… heat fused sand, twisted metal, and intolerable levels of ambient radiation.

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Alternate versions can be found all across the internet.  But this is an excellent, old and mostly harmless example:

Again, this is not a new take on this topic.  There are lots of discussions out there.  Reading the older stuff is a great to get caught up on a topic in a big hurry.  TBB posted this excellent discussion back in 2010.  Here we can see the intrusion of what I consider a red herring: The notion of copyrights and patent infringement.  While these concepts are absurdly litigious for this context, they do arise again and again.  I want to remain focused on the human, moral and ethical dynamic of these questions.  Right and wrong.  The schism between law and morals is also evident in the rich comments that follow the article.

So, credit, and the DFC are not new, or esoteric topics for the AFOL.  They are old friends.  Parts of the landscape.  My point here has been to drive home the fact that although the notion of DFC gets a bat rap, it can be more than an annoying distractor or a dangerous stimulant.  It is often a constructive motivator (and it is, as Rush would put it: Closer to the Heart).

Credit for ideas is a good thing, but the highest credit we can hope to achieve is in sharing.  Great ideas held back in the name of proprietary control simply remain unknown and unvalued.  We can’t allow our ideas to become our Dragons Gold, treasures that crush all good will and leaves us each alone in our own creative dungeon.  Isolated by our self-importance and kept company by our own good ideas.  In order to gain the chalice of credit, you must share, inspire and lead.  The cats I mentioned in this article have done just that (except for Keith… who is of course a vile usurper).

One other thought.  There are limits to this whole DFC notion!  Some people simply need to be slapped.  I refer here to the “Plz give credit” crowd.

In the words of an AFOL whose name escapes me: “Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him; drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death.”

tcm

Attack!

1 starship troopers 2

http://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=95058

www.bricksabillion.com/techniques/lego-modular-building-style-moc-modular-park-sections/

29 thoughts on “Fire for Effect: Give Credit its Due

  1. I can honestly say the topic of credit has never received such a thorough taffy-pulling as this. Kudos on your house for tackling it Michael. I recall years back there was a ‘builder’ who would cobble together watered down versions of other people’s MOCs out of blue and dark grey elements, then sell them as kits on BrinkLink. Much to your point, he was nearly universally scorned by the community as a whole, mixing IP theft, generally lazy building and Money, Mistress of Evil into a hot slurry of revulsion.

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    1. Thanks Gil!

      A hot slurry of revulsion? Now your just talking dirty to me! Yea, everybody remembers that guy, who stole those pics, of that other guys MOC, and then posted them in that place, and tried to sell knock offs on that site… This topic, to include image steeling, technique copying, plz gv credit… all of it, even the flame wars that so often follow…It really is sort of an inevitable rite of passage for each of us as we live into the hobby.

      One of the things I find delightful (in the most morally indefensible way) is that there seems to be almost NO correlation between conduct and age where credit is on the line. AFOLs get grubby fast in this arena! I love that. That, and maybe also the denial. It’s right up there on the shelf next to “Oh… I never really count the hits…” Yea sure thing pal!

      Never count the hits! Are you crazy!

      Attack!

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  2. Man Mike, this article goes deep!

    I know you said there are 4 people on the planet that don’t care about credit. I get your point, but regardless of number I think your notion isn’t quite accurate….has to be more than what you’re insinuating.

    I am not cool with people stealing my pics or people posting pics of my builds without giving credit or claiming them as their own. But that isn’t really what you’re referring to throughout the article, right? However…that’s about all I care about. If I post a technique, or if I “did it first” or whatever, I don’t really care if someone else does the same thing and doesn’t give credit to me. Of course, credit is nice, but I don’t really expect it, nor get upset when I see it elsewhere. I look at a LOT of Lego pics, day in and day out. I even favorite techniques I like, and if I knowingly use them, I’ll cite the source material. Other times though, I know I’ve used a technique that I know I saw someone else use, but if I can’t find it quickly, I’m not gonna call it out, unless the technique is CENTRAL to my build.

    Maybe I’m old and don’t care anymore…maybe it’s because my output is well below the norm nowadays…who knows. Credit is fun, it makes me smile, it is enjoyable…but in no way do I think I’m relevant enough in the hobby to warrant the credit you refer to in the article. Maybe you’re looking for a visceral reaction from more established / popular builders, but I don’t have a lot to add on this one.

    Cheers though, the read was fantastic, as per usual. Going to grab some Chick-fil-A for dinner now. =)

    – Z

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    1. Zachmoe,

      “stealing my pics or people posting pics of my builds without giving credit or claiming them as their own. But that isn’t really what you’re referring to throughout the article, right? ”

      Well, in part yes I do mean that. That is all part of the credit landscape. Mostly I want to wrestle with the notion of credit and talk about what it means to us. So really, if we talk about any aspect of credit, then that becomes the “relevant” aspect for us.

      “If I post a technique, or if I “did it first” or whatever, I don’t really care if someone else does the same thing and doesn’t give credit to me.”

      Agreed. This is about the scale of activity in the hobby. There is a massive volume of material out there. Too much to track. And frankly, every time I do something for the first time, all I really know is that it is NEW TO ME. I don’t know if it has never been done before. Or done before, but not noticed. Or done before, noticed, and is simply not a big deal. I just think “Ah! It fits together. Thank god!” Maybe I think: “Im pretty clever to have thought of this” Your thinking is consistent, and the same logic supports your next statement:

      ” Other times though, I know I’ve used a technique that I know I saw someone else use, but if I can’t find it quickly, I’m not gonna call it out, unless the technique is CENTRAL to my build.”

      Again, how can any of us KNOW what is new or original? We are talking strictly in the realm of the informal here. That’s why for me, the notions of patents and copyrights are not relevant. We are talking MOCs, not research papers. There is no “Lego technique search” function on Google.

      Keeping the focus at the moral level, then it becomes a given that we are discussing our actions, and the actions of others based on what they know.

      Many times I have commented on my own MOCs with something like: “I saw this hinge thing done a long time ago, but I can’t remember where… maybe on Lugnet?

      Waffle Fries man!

      Like

  3. I’m going to be that asshole, I’m going to stand on the top of the cliff and say I don’t care about credit. It’s not where I get my kick from. If see someone using some of my techniques or building in my style, that’s one of the biggest satisfactions I can get; if more than one builder is using the same technique or style, then sure I hell I must have done something right there. I couldn’t care less if they mention it’s from me or not, the fact that I’ve done something to warrant that kind of attention is enough.

    I don’t think there’s anything that helped me grow as builder as much as inspiration from others. I’m not going to elaborate on this, you’re all involved in this and I’m pretty sure it’s obvious to what I’m talking about. And if I manage to do the same for others, all the better.

    Sure, there are cases where credit would be nice, say if a popular builder uses some technique from an obscure one; it’d help the unknown get a bit of attention. But it’d only be a bit, 95% of the viewers won’t care or look at the credit anyways.

    I could go on and on about this, but the simple truth is I don’t care enough about the subject to do so. And I’d be writing a lot of nonsense either way.

    Like

    1. Absurde,

      “I’m going to stand on the top of the cliff and say I don’t care about credit.”

      Tell me you did the Napoléon pose when you said that! I mean, you went all the way to the top of the cliff… tell me you did the pose!

      “If see someone using some of my techniques or building in my style, that’s one of the biggest satisfactions I can get; if more than one builder is using the same technique or style, then sure I hell I must have done something right there.”

      Yes, I agree. Somebody (credit?) said “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” If you do it, and you see others take the idea and use it (or even better, develop it further in some way!) then you are part of rowntRees Lego Art. You are in the dialogue. Speaking through the art, and creating and contributing. I’m down!

      But tell me true, if you do a thing, and then I do the same thing but I label it: The Rutherford Thing! And then suddenly people are throwing rose petals at my feet… and there is a rash of Rutherford Thing Builds and Rutherford Thing Contests…wouldn’t that at least nibble at the edge of your ego? Are you such a harsh keeper of your own emotions, of your own passions, that your ego never gets the microphone? Never gets to yell into the wind?

      “But it’d only be a bit, 95% of the viewers won’t care or look at the credit anyways.”

      And that is the ironic truth! Nobody else cares! This is one of the most easily overlooked truths about credit. The DFC is almost entirely EGO driven. Weather it produces pleasure (as with pride), or anger (as with jealousy) … the process is almost entirely internal. It is all happening within our own head… because as you say… nobody looks at the credit anyways. It’s like fear. It’s a powerful but arbitrary emotional response with no connection to the REAL world.

      Absurde!
      Je vous remercie pour être mon Napoléon !

      Like

      1. Did I do the Napoleon pose? Naturallement! Maybe not as dignified, after that climb I probably looked more like a dyspneic dog.

        “or even better, develop it further in some way” > Now this is the essence right there for me. I’d love to see builders take an idea from me and develop it, or take a technique and use it in a more meaningful way that takes it to a new level. Many times I come up with a neat part use or something, but the build I integrate it in is crap and only there to showcase that particular use. Maybe someone has the insight to take it further and that’s a beautiful thing.

        At this point, my most popular build was born from this type of inspiration: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vitreolum/19748716926/in/dateposted-public/

        And here’s the build that inspired it: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vir-a-cocha/19570883619/in/dateposted/

        My main “credit” in this thing is that I put it in a more fitting and more recognizable context. Would I have come up with this on my own? Maybe, maybe not.

        “But tell me true, if you do a thing, and then I do the same thing but I label it: The Rutherford Thing! And then suddenly people are throwing rose petals at my feet… and there is a rash of Rutherford Thing Builds and Rutherford Thing Contests…wouldn’t that at least nibble at the edge of your ego? Are you such a harsh keeper of your own emotions, of your own passions, that your ego never gets the microphone? Never gets to yell into the wind?”

        Here why I find this a different thing: it’s not the fact that you used the said thing without giving credit that would bother me, but your need to shout it out that you came up with it. It’s somewhat… perverse, isn’t it? At this point your craving for credit tingles my ego. But would that make me shout at the devil? Not really. Because unless I come up with something as relevant as the Lowell sphere, the worship I receive for it will be as lasting as the next npu. And if I do something that relevant, the community will notice before someone else borrows the idea. So go ahead, bask in the glory while it lasts.

        Realizing that this credit, recognition or whatever is merely ephemeral at best is one thing that not only makes you evolve as a builder, as an artist but also as an individual. First and foremost you should create for yourself, then for the community.

        Like

  4. Brutal examination. Really makes you question motive and purpose. That said, it then becomes that internal struggle you alluded to with L’etranger Bonaparte. 😀

    Ego is everything (that is also redundant if you think about it.) I think there is a conscious effort in builders like Zach and L’etranger to be humble, not so much altruistic. I do it as well and am fully aware of my actions. I can even say that I am proud of my humility, which seems rather like an oxymoron in itself.

    Human nature wants recognition and that cannot ever be denied, or even honestly deemed low or base. The immediate fix is credit only because it is erroneously perceived as lasting, making your mark as it were. Throw in the notion of litigation for intellectual property and you’ve created a wall that spits in the face of community. How many more times will Zeppelin be sued for copyright infringement? Dude, it’s four damn chords, infinite variation is NOT a possibility. There are a limited amount of words in the English language, at some point someone will, without knowledge, combine several in a similar way and be charged with plagiarism. We deal with a similarly limited palette in LEGO. Even if there are brazillions of combinations, at some point it will match a registered, copyrighted, and trademarked technique. Now we need laws, punishments, and enforcement thereof. And to that, I call bullshit.

    In many cases there are those builders out there that DEMAND recognition for a style/technique/Brick Buddy/design/contest/name/whatever that will viciously pursue and attempt to regulate. But what is lost is that this is first and foremost a community. Secondary to that is if a builder so chooses, then it becomes a business. Selling mocs or instrukshunz is another matter entirely and falls under the laws of business. If one wishes to infringe therein and SELL something under their own name when it is not theirs to begin with, then legality prevails. And good luck to both parties because the house always wins; lawyers will get paid.

    That is the far end of the gamut, the other end is less cumbersome but still relies on an underlying notion. Respect. Flattery is one thing, stealing is another. And if one’s own ego cannot accept that someone else came up with whatever before you, then it is definitely time to reexamine your motives and purposes in addition to your place in this community. Same for anyone that thinks they are entitled to recognition from someone else placing some pieces of LEGO together in a similar fashion to you. What then were the motives and purposes as to why you shared this whatever with ALL of us in the first place?

    If you seek recognition, then you deserve to be disappointed. If you seek to steal whatever as your own, then you deserve the chastisement/berating/litigation. Either way lacks a healthy dollop of respect for one another. Grabbing for the brass ring only gains the ring, and it’s still useless brass. There is a touch of glory, but it is fleeting at best. The final product is literally a product. That has its place, but it stops the conversation. How can it progress further when there is a price tag or the threat of lawsuit? “Mine” will find a very difficult existence in a community based on sharing.

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    1. God dam rowntRee… I had to literally read your whole post before I found something to contest! Putting it at the end, in the very last line like that is a little inconsiderate don’t you think?

      This part:

      “The final product is literally a product. That has its place, but it stops the conversation. How can it progress further when there is a price tag or the threat of lawsuit? “Mine” will find a very difficult existence in a community based on sharing.”

      I agree that talk of lawsuits is destructive and I would even add: Sucky! But I can see in my minds eye, two craftsmen, rivals, Artists… each striving to outsell or out “produce” the other. And yet, at the same time, they are friends, colleagues, drinking buddies. Talking to one another about the competition. Willfully borrowing (or taking) ideas from one another and reviling in it! Celebrating each round of brutal competition, each setting the bar for the next iteration. Competition, tempered by respect, can be a powerful force for mutual improvement. The selling of the byproduct of that completion (the by product turned into… product) is something done to pay the light bill! An administrative detail… real, but not the HEART of the matter!

      Likely? No. Not so much. But I only mean to point out that the intrusion of practical concerns (money, a price tag) does not EXCLUDE the possibility that there is also Art happening. Profit and Art are rivals for our focus, but like so many rivals, they co-exist.

      “If you seek recognition, then you deserve to be disappointed.”

      I don’t disagree with this at all. But I had to highlight it because I love the tone!

      Justice…under the eyes of what gods may be!

      Like

      1. Abso-lutely!

        And the product is NOT a bad thing to strive for; we build things, it’s unavoidable. The practicality of what we do here will eventually crop up as a simple “how much for that?” Yeah, we all want to have a selected model for LEGO Ideas; shit, that’s a percent of the sales, recognition for our creativity, AND justification for these years of playing with a goddamn toy. We can all give our parents the big ol’ finger saying SUCK IT! All those in the community that doubted our vision can kneel before Zod as they shell out $49.99 and collect their V.I.P. points. To tell all those naysayers that uncomfortably walk away with a smile and a nod when you tell them you are a LEGO artist, “Yeah, that’s me and I just earned a percent. Uhthankyouverymuch.” -mic drop-

        We all want that to some level. We actually suppress it, willfully, because we understand subconsciously that the trek is more satisfying than the destination (and the possibility of being selected by LEGO is gallactically improbable.) Discounting competition as a driving force behind development is an absurdity. And speaking of absurd, I’ll give you a word from Darrell Waltrip (yeah, he’s a loon and I watch NASCAR. What of it!?) Coopetition. When you can work together to get the BOTH of you to a greater position THEN it’s game on and winner takes all. Even though second place IS first loser, there is more gained than lost. Especially when dealing with the Art of LEGO. There is a fluid community here that has NEVER existed before in human history. We would ALL be fools to pass up any opportunity afforded us by sharing. Seeking credit for it or claiming it as your own when it is not will simply lose the draft. There are more out there sharing ideas, throwing down, and encouraging others to explore than there are that seek the top of the podium.

        I think giving credit just opens the door for more eyes to focus on the true prize. Community. And with that community, the end product can not only be something of meaning and substance to be further improved upon, but also can be profitable. I deal with enough BAD art to know that GOOD art is rare and damn near priceless. No need to do anything half-assed, we already have plenty of that shit floating carefree out there. Time to make it count. Regardless of whether or not so-and-so is credited for this, that, and the other.

        Almost sounds Leninist. So be it. Soviet?!

        Like

  5. Absurde,
    Je suis d’accord! Your example of your development of an idea, and the post that inspired it…I think that is the Art that rowntRee talks about. The exchange about the medium and through the medium. That is the Artistic high ground to be sure.

    “but your need to shout it out that you came up with it. It’s somewhat… perverse, isn’t it?”

    Yes. Perverse is indeed the perfect word. Perverse but also I think, very human. We strive to live by higher moral and ethical codes, elevated from the primal… but I think that we are well served to “keep in touch” with our baser motives. To not only suppress them, but to remember them. Lest, forgotten… they break out of their cages when we least expect it (and embarrass us in public). We can not control or suppress what we have completely forgotten.

    “merely ephemeral”

    Yes, I agree, once you grasp that all this credit and pride is just a game in your own head, then is a way you are free. But people who grasp this truth… not just say it… but who live it… they are rare. It is like genuine courage over bravado, or a selfless love over self serving love. True, and real… but rare. Also, for many who never grasp this, there is still value in recognizing pride and credit instead of denying them completely. There is a high road, but also a low road.

    “And if I do something that relevant, the community will notice before someone else borrows the idea. So go ahead, bask in the glory while it lasts.”

    Yes, if it is worth a dam, the community will notice… and that is a sweet moment is it not? My point is not so much that we need to run out and tell everybody how great we are, but rather that recognition is part of our culture and we should be aware of it.

    “First and foremost you should create for yourself, then for the community.”

    Ann Rand said something like: A man does his best work when he sets out to build something beautiful, not when he sets out to be better than others.” I think she meant basically what you just said. We should create for ourselves… and the quality of our work will follow on as a result of this pure focus.

    Thank you for helping to turn another article into another conversation! Its what makes the effort entirely worth while!

    Like

  6. Yeah, I’ll admit to the DFC bug. Zach and L’etranger are better men than me! (You only have to spend a few minutes with Zach to pick up on that.)

    But I don’t expect any annotation for individual “techniques”. I usually can’t keep track of where my toolbox of tricks came from — did I invent this thing just now, or use it before, or see it from elsewhere? How is anyone supposed to catalog this? To me the way that the parts can go together is kind of an innate (beautiful) thing, just waiting to be discovered. Those little discoveries are a wonderful thing, but too small to either claim or expect perpetual copyright.

    What I do care about is the full-blown model, when everything comes together to make a coherent design. I work for a long time on those things (because I’m slow) and do take pride in the final product (sorry, I have that vice too). When I’m done, much of what I’m “proud” of is beneath the outer layers of plastic, so it’s fun to share the model internals with the world. Hey look, a video if you’re interested! 😛

    I’m always hoping that someone will pick my designs up to make their own versions, *have an absolute blast building*, and even make it better. Play with the colors, improve the construction, etc… When people do this it’s huge thrill for me. I think of it like the open-source software model, with possibility for chaining contribution. But I’ll admit to definitely wanting the credit when they post their rendition.

    Like

    1. Nick!

      Yea, your MOCs are crazy complex under the skin. Your vids are crucial, and the effort you put into them tells us all a lot about where your focus is. They are always executed with meticulous care so as to leave no room for confusion regarding where the incredible shapes and angles come from. Is it to show how good you are? Maybe. I dig it brother! Or is it to ensure that anybody who wants to, will be able to exploit your technique? Maybe. I dig that too!

      In the end, the motive is immaterial. You have surrendered all mystery to the community. No hoarding of ability. No “secret weapons” in your arsenal. Everything you build, all of the excellent ships, and… six wheeled cars? Those crazy Robo Tec shapes! All of it is given up freely, in perfectly lit, pausible, color, step by step clarity!

      Thanks for throwing in man!

      Attack!

      Like

  7. Mike – so much to nibble on…
    Apologies on lateness of my reply, but I was off being a special snowflake out in BFVA ….

    I think actually DFC is slightly too specific … and is a subclass of DFA – Desire for acceptance. DFC is one of many siblings including: DFR – Desire for Recognition, DFP – Desire for Praise, DFF – Desire for Favs, DFB – Desire for Blogs, DFE – Desire for Ego, DFT – Desire for Trophies or even DFSSS – Desire for Special Snowflake Status.

    As I can probably group myself with L’ETRANGER and proclaim I don’t care about credit. I do have other tendencies in the DFA gamut, but far less so for so called credit. I generally remember what I do, so I don’t necessarily need people to point it out for me. But I do have a desire for my stuff to be ‘received well’. As in my build was interesting and is liked. Sadly the only useful metric I have is favs and comments, which I use in a very extensive spreadsheet to track my progress.

    As for credit for techniques … I generally assume any technique I’ve used – anywhere – has been done by someone else already. Though I do confess I generally don’t credit builders as much on Flickr – a bit of laziness and keeping descriptions brief, I will nauseatingly credit people when having in person conversations.

    “Simon, I rely on you to set us straight here…but I am guessing that at least in part you feel some DFC. You organize the thing, publish the rules, judge, and distribute the trophies at the end of the annual contest.”

    DFE for sure. But not DFC.
    Past-Simon thought it would be really funny to try to create a theme month – every month! and this was the first of many I was going to unleash. But Present-Simon is now – OMG there are too many theme months, I just want to build my own thing.

    So this really was not for credit – I will gladly transfer credit if someone else would run it – it’s a logistical nightmare that eats up several months effort that I wish I could use just building. And I’ve had a long history even prior to SHIPtember of running various contests and challenges, this was going to be the next evolution, and it may not have enough gone past the first year if it wasn’t for the response.

    And for the actual record – I didn’t think it’d actually take off – it was almost a joke, where I thought it would be me, Rook and maybe one more sucker that would be silly enough to try. SHIPtember has been wildly successful and is now it’s own beast that I have very little control … I may have the reins, but it’s really everyone else that is in control.

    It’s now an integral part of the AFOL fabric – and while parts of me would be more than happy to to walk away – far too many people enjoy and look forward to it – especially non traditional spacers that has this one month to flex their muscles and a grand excuse to do something different. And that’s important.

    “Participants! When you join a contest, you want to SLAY your competitors with your awesome MOC right? RIGHT? I mean, how can you enter a contest and say “well… for me, it’s all about the build” What? ASSERTION REJECTED!”

    Ha! I reject YOUR ‘Assertion Rejection’ !
    Fun fact – I have never won an online contest. Placed third once, win – never. Yet I have ummm… a few trophies from all the conventions I go to, so I can say my DFT is high – but I can assert that there is just building for building sake for Contests.

    My example – the Building like a boss contest – where you had to build a boss from video game. I’m pretty sure I built because I thought it was funny and knew I wouldn’t even come close to winning when I built the ‘boss’ from Asteroids:
    Like a Boss: Asteroids

    And even my DFT is normalized – I don’t need to win ALL the trophies, just 2-3 per con is fine… I even declined one at BFVA (sorry Zach).

    BUT … my DFE and competitiveness does kinda like me seeing how many participants do do my contests – relative to other contests …. similar to counting favs – it’s a metric on how well it’s working as a community endeavor …

    Like

    1. “Sadly the only useful metric I have is favs and comments, which I use in a very extensive spreadsheet to track my progress.”

      You have a spreadsheet for your stats?! That’s awesome, I don’t suppose you’d care to share it with the rest of the class?

      Like

      1. “You have a spreadsheet for your stats?! That’s awesome, I don’t suppose you’d care to share it with the rest of the class?”

        … of course I don’t have an actual spreadsheet. Counting and adding all that up? you’d have to be some sort of mad man to actually do that!

        Nor is there an actual formula – it’s more gut feeling on what is my lower bounds of a below/above ‘standard’ simon build, and what constitutes a home run.

        Though I suppose for rest of the class I could make up an entierly BS formula like:

        0.1 x #followers = epic
        0.05 x #followers = really great job
        0.025 x #followers = normal

        Like

      2. That’s disappointing, I was hoping you really did have a spreadsheet, that would take it to a whole new level. You’re at that white-hot level now that you could literally post a 2×4 brick with a pirate chest on top and it would get 10k hits, 54 comments and shouts of NPU. You’re the man now, dog.

        Like

    2. Simon!

      Good god man… I just found this! I’m sorry to leave this hanging unanswered! I don’t get any cool email thing that tells me “Ping… Simon Liu has just commented on…”

      That said, allow me to respond.

      Desire for acceptance, recognition, praise, favs, bloggage, ego, trophies and of course… the DFSSS – Desire for Special Snowflake Status.

      Aren’t we sort of splitting hairs here? I’m a big fan of words. Each has a discrete denotation and connotation. Tone, suggestion… but there is also such a thing as an “emergent trend” right?

      I’m going to look at your list of nouns and see… Hmmm… that if I’m off the mark with DFF… Im still pretty close. Yea? Acceptance and Ego are the two that resonate the loudest as maybe “overarching” concerns. Life concerns for all of us. I mean all of us all the time even! Like up there near the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Bam! Drop it like it’s hoooot!)

      So, OK. Not credit, for you, for Shiptember. Pride thought?

      You say: “I generally assume any technique I’ve used – anywhere – has been done by someone else already. Though ”

      I feel much the same. And as mentioned earlier, we are talking about what we KNOW. Like when you KNOW you should put a foot note in a paper… but you don’t. And no… MOCs don’t need foot notes! But if I KNOW I saw you do this, and it inspired me… then I feel I should give the shout out. It doesn’t detract from my effort, and it’s a cool point (cash value…ZERO) for the guy who inspired you.

      “I didn’t think it’d actually take off – it was almost a joke”

      Now that is funny…Yea? Who’s laughing now! I know from Keith and his reports regarding his “You Control the Action” contest, that running a contest is like having a parasitic illness. It saps you’re time, your creativity, your will to live… It’s a beast! So while I regret that truth, I am glad you do it, because the resultant ships are epic!

      “Ha! I reject YOUR ‘Assertion Rejection’ !”

      Can you do that? Is that even a thing? I reject… no. It stops here. I accept your rejection of my assertion rejection.

      “Fun fact – I have never won an online contest. Placed third once, win – never. Yet I have ummm… a few trophies from all the conventions I go to, so I can say my DFT is high – but I can assert that there is just building for building sake for Contests.”

      Well, OK, (it is astounding that you haven’t nailed any contests on line!) but NOT WINNING is not the same as NOT WANTING TO WIN right? I mean, you did want to win right? I suppose by the same token, WINNING TROPHIES (YES! Sack the vault!) doesn’t mean you WANTED to… but come on! Shallow, nasty, base motives… winning IS cool… am I alone on that one? I don’t want to be alone! Join me atop Mt Covetous! Grab a meaningless symbol and shake it meaningfully at the crowd below! Teeth clenched! Grrrrr! No? Come on… there might be beer…

      “BUT … my DFE and competitiveness does kinda like me seeing how many participants do do my contests – relative to other contests …. similar to counting favs – it’s a metric on how well it’s working as a community endeavor …”

      Whew… Ok. I’m down with that! Close enough for me. Again, sorry I didn’t see this and respond sooner. Awesome response. Thanks for once again elevating the quality of the post man.

      Attack!

      Like

      1. “but NOT WINNING is not the same as NOT WANTING TO WIN right? I mean, you did want to win right?”

        Well its not necessarily the same… there are definitely parts of me that is super competitive and must win (trophies! ). But I don’t feel the need to win everything, or all the trophies. And part of the contents is that I actually enjoy them, I build what’s fun, not necessarily what going to win….

        Now trophies….
        I didn’t set out to win trophies first year on the con circuit. I was fresh eyed and had no clue what to be expected. I just brought everything I ever built pretty much.

        And at brickworld I got three nominations. I didn’t win, but that was okay just getting nominated was awesome…. then at closing ceremonies, I got Brickworld master – aka uber builder award.

        Then the game was on.

        Brick con that year I picked up 2 more…

        But year after that, shut out at both BW and BC… so now I do build a bit more towards convention, as it being the central end goal to display ‘well received’ builds aka Trophies.

        So besides collabs, which is my other main driver, you’ll probably see at least one showpiece ofor trying to pick up an award…. #DFE

        No worries for the delay, FFE seems to have spawned into the community philosophy posts, so I watch these, and most importantly the comments with great interest.

        Like

  8. Another well-written, thought-provoking article, Mr. Rutherford. Both this and the previous bring to mind a recent conversation I had with Cath Bailey.

    We were discussing “favorites” on Flickr and how they aren’t really used as such. They’re often used as a superficial “I like this” button rather than a “this is a major source of inspiration to me/resonates with me on a personal level” button. Cath seems to be among the minority that uses them solely as the latter. Personally, I use them as bookmarks for anything I might wanna go back and find later since this is the internet and even the most noteworthy shit gets buried and forgotten in a matter of months or even weeks (although this is not nearly as useful as it once was since my favorites list has surpassed 10,000 photos). There’s clearly a wide spectrum to how faves are given, so for one of our most common forms of feedback they’re highly ambiguous.

    I would argue that most faves are, aside from their function to the user as bookmarks, non-verbal pats on the back for a job (generally) well-done and maybe encouragement for other people to take a closer look when they see the fave count on the thumbnail. While a useful feature, the fave system has the unfortunate side effect of being an easy way out of any sort of conversation or criticism, and that feeds into the whole special snowflake problem. Faves leave every snowflake blissfully (or frustratedly, for some of us) unaware of whether they just got a pat on the back or if they actually did something noteworthy. Faves mean the snowflake did good, in the eyes of some other snowflakes, but how good? We can’t know because faves say nothing more than that and most people won’t take the time to explain why they faved. And maybe not knowing is more comforting to some snowflakes. Faves are equalizing, to some degree, in their ambiguity.

    Now, when I was new to Flickr I thought it was really cool that you could look through another builder’s favorites and learn more about them as artists by seeing what their influences are. But it turns out this is usually impossible because, as previously established, a fave often isn’t a “favorite.”

    Getting more to the focus of this article, I not only have a DFC, but also a DTC (desire to credit). I try to think of what my influences were at various stages in the designing and building processes and cite them in the descriptions of my photos, not just because of some responsibility or altruism for my fellow artist but because I feel it gives the viewer a deeper perspective and understanding of why I built what I built and what motivated me to build it the way I built it. I believe this is every bit as important to the discussion as giving full disclosure of techniques used. It’s not just about what’s next, but also what came before. Another point that came up in my conversation with Cath is that most of us build what we would like to see more of. Again, it would be cool if people’s favorites actually reflected this.

    Therefor, I think having an *actual* favorite button and public list of said *actual* favorites on Flickr separate from the current “favorites” system (which would maybe be renamed to “likes”) would:

    A.) help disambiguate a “good job” from a “this is inspirational,” (hopefully) nudging some of us awake from the special snowflake wet dream, while

    B.) also providing additional context for builds by showing what the artist values.

    Would Flickr actually implement such a feature? I wouldn’t count on it. But whoever is so inclined can at least make a gallery on Flickr for their *actual* favorites and at least deal with the DTC side of things by showing the world what really inspires them (should anyone in the world care).

    Like

  9. I’m down with this assertion:

    “it gives the viewer a deeper perspective and understanding of why I built what I built and what motivated me to build it the way I built it.”

    Your already living / applying the Art as communication paradigm. Your approach is intrinsically open. You want people who are interested to be able to see your whole thought process. I say right on!

    the Favorite button: yea. We are swimming through a culture of convenience. We worship at the twin temples of FAST and EASY (on every other week we stop in at the temple of CHEAP as well). There is no stemming this flow. To deep, to wide.

    But… as you point out, we CAN invent work-arounds. A special gallery for “Really, my favorites!” is an excellent idea! The real deal guys… no, really! I love THESE MOCs. It’s a work around that is simple and exploitable for people who care (and that aint many brother!). Some… but not many.

    So what if its not many? We have to take care of the people we can. The people who care DESERVE the effort (yea?)

    So, no. Flickr isn’t going to add a feature just to increase the QUALITY of commo. The big machine just counts clicks and keeps a tally. They only care HOW MUCH, not HOW WELL we communicate.

    We care. You, me, and maybe one or two other folks. Enough to fill an average size sports arena maybe. I think that’s enough. Assess and adjust our own conduct, our own outlook. Reinforce our own developmental behaviors, and that’s enough to be meaningful and worth while.

    As my mom would say: Look to thine own ass first!

    Thanks for the feedback man.

    Attack!

    Like

  10. So I went and made a gallery and it was a surprisingly eye-opening exercise. It really makes you think about what you value in this hobby. I have a couple of guidelines for anyone who wants to try it themselves:

    1. Confine it to a single gallery (50 photos or less). I didn’t think I would reach this limit, but it happened relatively quickly. Use this limit to your advantage and pare down your choices even further. This will really get to the heart of your inspiration, and after raising your standards enough you may realize you don’t even need 50 slots. My gallery is currently at 41.

    2. If there is a specific builder whose entire body of work has left an impact on you, mention them in the description instead of putting 5+ of their MOCs in your gallery. This helps deal with (1.) above and also makes you think past individual MOCs and consider stylistic influences as well.

    Like

      1. Wow, that’s quite a collection. I see a few in there that I thought long and hard about including in my own gallery

        Like

    1. Thanks for that idea, I’ve never really explored the gallery option before, but I will certainly start one now! I think if enough people with taste took on the exercise, it could go a long way towards that idea of preservation we were talking about in another post. A hall of fame seems fraught with problems, but this gallery idea is an interesting idea to explore. Maybe it’s old new to you guys, but I never looked at it that way before. Cheers!

      Like

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