Dr. BadMOC or: How I Learned to Stop Wondering and Build Poorly

The hits just keep on coming constant reader, another brave soul has stepped forward from the crowd of paste-eating mankinder to let his voice be heard.  The Manifesto is proud to present an article by noted TFOL Aaron Van Cleave, a.k.a A Plastic Infinity, a.k.a Lego Lemniscate, and I certainly hope it isn’t his last because he’s a far better writer than I am and he classes up the joint with his mere presence.  You may remember Aaron for his bold use of color and odd choice of subject matter, from such popular creations such as Turaga Retei-atomnSymbiote City, and Unidentified SHIP.  Take it away Aaron!

When I first discovered this blog, one of the articles that really stood out to me was the first issue of Michael Rutherford’s Fire for Effect column: Unique is not Special.   I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t read it to do so; my article is a sort of spiritual successor and you won’t get as much out of it without the conceptual basis Michael sets down. In essence, his article examines how the term “unique” being too closely associated with the term “special” has resulted in “a culture where CRITICAL FEEDBACK IS DISCOURAGED.” That’s a general observation that could be applicable to many different subcultures, but a salient point was that it includes FOL culture. That’s us!

At the risk of overvaluing Michael’s article, I need to point out that he tenaciously covered most of the nooks and crannies of his topic. Couple that with the thorough discussion by the Manifesto’s regular readers, and there doesn’t seem to be much left to say on the subject that wouldn’t be parroting someone else’s statements. If there’s something more to say, I certainly don’t know what it is.

So what am I even doing here, then?

Good question! This article is an exposé of sorts about a social experiment I’ve been running for a couple of months now and some of the interesting observations it has yielded. I use the term “social experiment” lightly because it’s really more of a satirical art hoax (I didn’t want to muck around in the Marianas Trench of social experimentation ethics, but this hoax was technically a social experiment. That makes it dangerous, even at such a small scale, because the medium through which it worked was people unconscious of their involvement. If you’ve interacted with my photostream in any way in the last two months or are already feeling offended, know this: I’ve taken all precautions to protect the privacy of anyone who was involved prior to the posting of this article, except Deus, who consented to publication of his remarks). This project was not intended to glean social data but rather to direct public attention to the important issue at hand: Critique. What better way to do so than provide MOCs that would be easy to critique?


Without further ado, here was my plan:

  1. Build a terrible build and post it in all seriousness
  2. Observe reactions
  3. Figure out how to make a worse build
  4. Repeat twice for a total of three bad builds
  5. Expose plan, explain issue

The initial objectives I set included:

  • Crafting builds so poorly that onlookers would have trouble honestly responding positively
  • Providing plenty of mistakes for prospective critiquers to point out
  • Keeping things flexible; basing building decisions on how the previous MAC (My Awful Creation) had been received

Unlike an experiment, the general outcomes of my actions were quite predictable, barring a few surprises. I went into this expecting drastically reduced stats on all posted MACs. People are a lot less predictable on an individual level, but I had three hypothetical groups I expected any commentator to fall into:

  • The Bold: Not buying it and quite vocal about letting me know.
  • The Brash: Confidently or confusedly buying it; convinced it’s actually good.
  • The Beautiful: Probably not buying it, but not letting on. Not necessarily uncritical (whether a comment was Brash or Beautiful could only be guessed at, but comments’ tonal quality provided a reasonable basis for making the determination).

Enough speculation. Here is what actually happened, what I learned, and why it’s of concern to YOU as an FOL.


For my first MAC, I settled on a working title of “this is a test” fitted to a diorama of a scientist in a laboratory. The test was, “How bad do I have to build before people start bashing me?” I love double entendres!

The building process was surreal and brief, though not as brief as the finished product might suggest. I’m tempted to say it took less than an hour and a half, but it might have been closer to two hours.

Fun fact: It actually takes longer to think about what would look good, then determine the polar opposite, than it does to intuitively determine what looks good during the building process. DOING the good building, of course, almost always takes more time (case in point: the angled panels that form the backdrop of this build would look much better if they were level and tiled, but it takes longer to make a stable framework for that and put down all the tiles). Fundamentally, bad building will almost always take less physical effort, but it often takes a great deal more mental effort.

So what was the product of all that effort? How was the MAC received?

Raw numbers first! Since being posted over two months ago, it has accumulated 95 favorites, 14 comments, and over 5,900 views. For reference, my builds generally average 150, 25, and 12,000, respectively, placing This is a test on the low end of the spectrum. However, that’s a large disparity, and an easy one to judge from. Later on we’ll be dealing with much closer numbers, so it will prove useful to determine which of the three values-favorites, comments, or views-gives the best indication of the subject quality. Is it comments? Nah, they can express disapproval, or any number of other things. Views? Nope, the number of people who viewed something gives no indication of their feelings toward the object viewed. By elimination, favorites are the heaviest factor. This makes sense, as they are synonymous with “Likes” and are bestowed solely as a token of approval. Judging solely by them, a reduction from an average of 150 to 95 favorites is no 50% dive but pretty steep nonetheless!

To someone who averages lower, that’s still pretty darn good and probably seems pretty darn unfair, too. Ninety-five is pushing 100, and almost 6,000 people had their eyes assaulted by my skinny triangle scientist! As you can guess, that’s just a result of me being a five-year builder with a decent amount of seniority. If someone far older and more established like Tyler Clites or Nannan Zhang had done this instead of me, their results would be better than I could have gotten if I’d built at my best. The de facto power of following and reputation; something that always needs to be calibrated for.

Moving on to the subjective, let’s take a look at those 14 comments. The non-qualitative words “interesting” and “creepy” were used most often, along with “innovative,” “weird,” “crazy,” and “unsettling.” Skirting around the quality of the build with Beautiful comments was definitely the most socially appropriate thing to do, but there were two or three others who expressed varying levels of criticism, from tentative implication to polite directness. Then there’s Bold Deus Otiosus, who totally passed the test with uncommon brutality: “I thought you said you have higher standard. [sic]” For the record, he didn’t know what I was doing, but he does know me personally to a certain extent. You can always count on a friend to point out your flaws!

Having considered all that feedback at the time, I decided it was time to take things to…


The next level.

The building process for this horrifying Mario was incredibly swift; only about 45 minutes all told. It’s hard to say for sure because I was so giddy the entire time due to how awesome that pun is.

I should have kept my mind clear, because it was at this point that things started going wrong… Being only a day younger than the first MAC, Mario’s also had about two months. Two months to receive 106 favorites, 10 comments, and just over 6.4 thousand views. Remembering to judge by favorites, you’ll notice that going from 95 to 106 is a marked improvement, which for awfulness’ sake translates into regression.

I had thought the speed of construction was evidence that this MAC would be even worse than its predecessor. Less time = less quality, right?

But as you can guess…

…that logic runs counter to what I asserted earlier on about bad builds requiring conscious mental effort. Sure, this build was abhorrent in terms of technique, but I wasn’t really focusing on how to maximize the perversion of shape and color. Furthermore, I still had one more bad build to go, but was now cornered in by a formulaic “worsening” procedure.


Trying to further degrade the quality on a purely technical level after Mario resulted in this LDD screenshot of a blocky camel with mismatched minifigs. It was supposed to be “The Final Straw,” but it’s clearly too satirical for anyone to take seriously. These builds wouldn’t work if they were received as jokes; they needed to be taken as seriously good or seriously bad to generate serious praise or serious critique.

I was genuinely snagged on how to effect this and even considered it impossible for a brief time, but didn’t want to just throw in the towel without giving it a final shot. Looking back, the problem was that I hadn’t inwardly cemented all the theoretical particulars of my experiment. I intuitively realized that the builds needed to be taken seriously, but was too confused to be able to express that clearly to myself. Fortunately, by this point I was engaged in some private discussion about the ongoing project. Input from various sharp-minded individuals was very helpful in assessing what had gone wrong and what needed to be done.

That feedback and my own ruminations on what constitutes a bad build led in all different directions, but ultimately left the conviction that a successfully bad build needed to look unintentionally bad, as that obvious intentionality was what caused The next level, and to a lesser extent This is a test, to “fail” as bad builds. I also came to the critically helpful revelation that those builds had been widely known subjects (a stereotypical scientist and Mario) and no matter how badly they were built, as long as I could be said to have built something resembling them, they’d still be recognizable, eliminating a whole category of awfulness I could have been exploiting: an ambiguous and ill-conceived concept!

Here’s an expansion on that train of thought: Building an easily recognizable subject, like a pop culture figure or common object, strengthens the basis on which a viewer attempting to interpret the build can make a reasonable assumption of artistic intentionality. Essentially, it would be incredibly difficult to build Mario or something equally recognizable in any “bad” way-no matter how bland, uncreative, repulsive, or bizarre-without those bad qualities being attributed to… *** STYLE ***.


This was certainly reflected in The next level’s comments. Fewer they may have been, but aside from a few excellent instances of criticism and another display of Bold candor, they were overall more positive (or perhaps the consoling tone employed upon the recently insane is not easy to detect via text). Style was emphasized, described as “chaotic” and “wacky,” and even compared to the work of Picasso and Dalí.

Going into the third MAC, I could not combat this by completely botching another popular subject beyond recognition…what would be the point? I would have a blob or something totally unrelated which could then be considered a “great blob!” or “great ____!” By building pop culture subjects, I was actually making building poorly harder on myself! What I needed was something that viewers would struggle to identify, and only succeed in visually parsing with great effort and irritation. A confusing, original spaceship design (my specialty, by the way) would be exponentially easier to fail to effectively convey than a universally recognizable character or item.

With this epiphany in mind, I set forward to give the FOLs of Flickr and myself a…


…Last Chance.

Nicknaming this spaceship “Maerskdusa” to continue my legacy of horrible puns was tempting, but, it being a sand blue spaceship and all, felt dishonest. I’ve left it nameless.

Nearly a month was needed to finish this MAC. Every horribly mismatched color, skewed detail, and idiotic design choice in the miasma was carefully considered and painstakingly compared to previous versions to see what worked (didn’t work) and what didn’t (did). The goal was to very intentionally create a build that would give a convincing impression of having unintentionally failed; to forge the appearance of effort. To this end, the theory of poorly-conceptualized subjects being easier to build poorly was put to the test. After laying out all of my sand blue (a color I have little of and would have fewer good choices with), I partially sketched out the most confusing spaceship I could muster, keeping it as parts-driven as possible.

Forcing myself to use (draw) 95% of my sand blue pieces in the initial sketch alone was exceptionally helpful in keeping the design confusing. As an aside, I think (and experience correlates) that the converse of that is a good rule of thumb in most cases. Do NOT force yourself to use all your parts in a specific color group or type in one MOC unless you want to risk it becoming a MAC!


Poor pilot… If you can bear to look closely, observe the placement of the standard spaceship structures Cockpit, Body, and Engine(s), as well as a Tail and the quarter round brick, which I’ve dubbed Fender. Most of those are decently easy to identify in both the sketch and final product, but the engines might be harder: they’re the large, printed, clear dish structures. In retrospect, I wish I’d made them even harder to identify, since they bear similarity to helicopter rotors. They also look like giant yo-yos, so I can only hope that spawned some confusion.

One major factor in making this build fail is the placement of these separate structures on the body in a way that produces many contrasting axes of symmetry: one along the cockpit and associated tentacle spike outgrowths, one through the fender and tail, and a group of two or three mildly harmonized ones through the engine system. The axes through the lower structures are perpendicular through the square width of the body, which divides visual impact fairly evenly, preventing the emergence of dominant symmetry between them. The engine structures, on the other hand, are too large not to be a dominant structure, and the harmony in their symmetry also assists in making them a focal area of the spaceship. Without a focus of that sort, the ship would be much worse, but it might be harder for viewers to believe it was not intentionally made so. Point=defeated.

Most of the other details in the landscape and whatnot don’t merit much analysis. Here are my favorites:

  • The abhorrent pairing of a classic black rectangular base with an irregular base the color of vomit. Rancid cherry on top is the small amount of off-color loose studs filling the cracks.
  • Regularly spacing three of the chaotic alien plants in a perfect line and posing them all exactly the same. Inexplicable!
  • Placement of randomly-colored and flesh minifig heads in the dinosaur mouths.

This grueling exercise taught me that building this badly is not fun. The inspiration and passion to work and innovate that I usually feel for a project, no matter how difficult, went to the same place that it would if I were tasked with cleaning rotten eggs out of dense carpet knowing I would be forced to eat them afterward. A normal build grows in beauty and drives you forward in excitement and anticipation of the finished product; this was like seeing that in reverse. I cultivated a rotting plant, making it more garish and repulsive with every added piece. I’d like to add that the thing fell over and self-disassembled at least eight times. Also discouraging.

For all that, I still don’t think I was able to capture the essence of feigned unintentionality I described earlier. Maybe I used too many colors? Maybe screwing up the camera positioning makes it too obvious? Was it the subtle allegory in the description? I don’t know.

Nonetheless, this build did worse than the previous two, so I must have done something right, er, wrong. Last time I checked, it had 79 favorites and just under 6,100 views. Sure, it’s only three weeks old, but the first two had already leveled off around two weeks whereas this one is going nowhere fast. Judging once again by favorites, this is a decided failure/improvement in comparison to the previous MACs!

Maybe too much of an “improvement.” I think my goal to create critiqueable builds was overlooked here, because it’s too awful to critique beyond “destroy it.” On the flip side, it was also darn near impossible to praise! Out of 19 comments, only six or seven were Brash or Beautiful remarks. The rest are flavored with some of everything: concern for my mental state, thinly veiled disgust, disgust, inquisitions about substance abuse, overwhelming confusion, and supplications for mercy. It’s time to end things with…


The Final Straw.

“Bravo Aaron, this is your worst yet! You really nailed the whole building poorly thing the fourth time around!”

This one was actually intended to be good (for real this time!), but I wouldn’t be surprised if, in a supremely ironic twist, I’ve unintentionally made a seemingly unintentionally bad build after working so hard to build one intentionally (try saying THAT five times fast!). The purpose of this hopefully good build was to lure you all here; at least half of the people who usually see my builds and probably far more clearly ignored all my bad ones, and I don’t blame them.

I’m not going to analyze the technical aspects of this build. The only background information that might require disclosure is the message. It’s a statement whose symbolism is so blatant that explaining it seems borderline insulting, but there are three builds behind it with very deceptive artistic intents that were interpreted in many different ways by many different people. The ultimate purpose of this entire project is to broadcast a very clear message, so there’s no room for ambiguity or uncertainty. Here goes:

The robot is the FOL community on Flickr (we don’t really have our own logo, and using Lego’s logo would DEFINITELY have thrown people off), enamored with (floating hearts) a trashy MOC (colorful thing in a garbage can). It expresses this approval by placing a final straw on an already-collapsed camel overburdened with straw. The straws represent the growing threat that a public and common aversion to critique poses to our community. I’m actually not sure what the camel represents. Our artistic integrity? The ability for FOLs to cooperatively and publicly engage in communal self-improvement? All I know is, the pun in the title wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without a camel. And breaking the camel’s back is bad.

That’s a lengthy and very literal explanation, but it translates into a much simpler message:


Kidding, kidding! Please don’t take that seriously. I see you angrily slinking away over there, get back here! It was a joke!

It’s also here to prove a point. Critique is often construed to mean “Your _____ is bad and you should feel bad.” In a shockingly large number of cases, that’s not actually what the critiquer was trying to convey. Even if they were, you generally shouldn’t feel bad, unless the thing you’re plugging into that blank is something like “genocidal war campaign” or “anime body pillow collection” and not “MOC” or “critique”. What you should do is consider the possibility that they were half right: your _____ is “bad” and could use some improvement. Don’t get mad, don’t get sad, get better!

This article is effectively meta-critique. I’ve tried to be careful and keep it sensitive, but it can only go so far in that direction before it becomes part of the problem or simply loses all utility. Please trust me when I say that the purpose of this article is NOT to make people feel bad, and NOT to dictate how to universally “tell” which builds are good or bad. It would have been too easy to do both of those things at once by juxtaposing all the purposely bad builds with comparable good ones I’ve made in the past, but even my extensive analysis of the MACs was included only to provide reasonable justification for my classification of them as bad, which could be absolutely wrong. Notwithstanding, it was a logical prerequisite for claiming that the praise they received was unwarranted, and a crucial part of this argument. In the end, part of the responsibility is on you to maturely assess what I’ve said here, even if I failed to not make you feel bad or made judgments (of my own work, no less) that you disagree with, and determine whether the way you respond to other FOLs’ work could be improved.

With all that said, here’s the real condensed meaning of The Final Straw:

FOLs are accustomed to giving only praise in situations where it would be better to give critique.

“Don’t try and pull a fast one on me Aaron, that’s just the same thing you said in the meme but phrased differently!”

No, hold up. The meme is saying that FOLs can’t even tell what’s good or bad in a MOC. That’s insulting and not true (have I established yet that the meme was a joke and also not true?). There’s a difference between not being able to assess a MOC and not openly conveying that assessment to the builder. I doubt there are many FOLs who fit the first description, but the latter…it encompasses a pretty hefty majority. To this majority, the concepts presented in Unique is not Special are nothing revolutionary. They’re an articulation of what a lot of people feel when they peruse a comment section and see nothing but glimmering praise that may not be fully warranted. If we’re being conscientious, we brush these feelings off as too judgmental. That’s definitely something to guard against, but we’ve restricted the moderate and healthy use of judgment through, as Michael put it, our fear, laziness, and lack of critical tradition.

The stuff I’m saying right now isn’t revolutionary, either. It’s common knowledge and even common practice in most other artistic disciplines and many other facets of life. So why not ours? This is a conundrum that had bothered me for a long time. Why? Why? Why?

Is it the difference between FOLs who consider themselves hobbyists opposed to artists?

Is there a secret Positive Commenting Cult orchestrating the downfall of all criticism?

Is there a less-secret Positive Commenting Cult orchestrating the downfall of all criticism? (looking at you, MOCpages…)

Is it Flickr’s update tampering scaring people off?

Was it because the past crop of excellent builders all went off to college and are currently darkaging?

Is Lego releasing too many specialized parts?

Is the rise of private online LUGs usurping the role of public critique?

Is this just another instance of humankind naturally entropying toward a less ideal state?

Am I just a cynical teenager?

Eventually, I realized there was no point in spending so much time wondering why. The FOL culture, like all social systems, is host to insanely complex, compound issues. Fear, laziness, and lack of tradition may sum up the root causes of this issue pretty well, but there are certainly many more reasons. I don’t expect anyone to ever fully understand it any more than I expect any human to unravel all the mysteries of the universe. And I no longer care that we’ll never fully understand why. I’m a man of action now. Admittedly, it’s mostly action I can partake in from a stationary position, via a screen, but action nonetheless.

It’s not that the causative reasons for this issue are unimportant, but I think it’s possible to start testing out solutions without that elusive full understanding. This article and the experiment it details comprise one of those solutions.

“But Aaron, my scroll bar is indicating that this article is finally close to an end and you haven’t even talked about a solution before now. This is no way to pitch your crazy newfangled ideas!”

Excellent observation. I took an unorthodox approach to structuring the article’s introduction and left out the fact that it includes a solution at the end. That’s because it was a surprise!

The reason I staged an art hoax was to alert you to this issue and draw you here, and the reason you’re here is to be part of the solution to the issue. SURPRISE!

Here’s how: If you, while looking at another person’s MOCs, see something that looks off, tell that person. If you can think of a way they could have done it better, tell them that too. Write it all in a comment, and post it (Michael exempts new or young builders because they need a hearty diet of encouragement, and I agree). Over the course of the hoax I experimented with this exact action myself, and it worked out fine in most cases-people were happy to receive critique. There’s nothing more to it than being considerate and candid, so far as either permits the other to go.

That’s it. That’s my solution. Until it doesn’t work or someone else comes up with something better, I’d really just recommend that more people give more critique more often. As with all critique, it can only be a subjective recommendation, but that doesn’t prevent me from making it a strong one.

I’d like to suggest once more that those people who haven’t already done so READ MICHAEL’S ARTICLE.

I think it would also be great if more people would ACCEPT CRITIQUE GRACIOUSLY.

However, that’s dependent on there being critique to accept, so another thing I’m proposing that I feel is really important is that lots of people TRY GIVING MORE CRITIQUE.

Unlike those last few strong recommendations, I’ve used a lot of authoritative language throughout this article when referring to subjective qualities like the lacking aesthetic appeal of MACs or the content of comments. If prefacing every sentence with “I think, ” “In my opinion,” and “It appears that” didn’t sound so awful, I would have done that. Were those “bad” builds actually good and I just have narrowminded, prescriptivist views of MOC quality? Were those commentators justified? Is this whole article a bunch of pretentious hogwash? Was this experiment too cringy for your liking? Are you unsatisfied with my pop culture references? Have I committed human rights abuses? Did I spell a word wrong? The comments are there for a reason, folks. If you hated this article, but make no action to provide a corrective viewpoint, the irony would probably kill me.

91 thoughts on “Dr. BadMOC or: How I Learned to Stop Wondering and Build Poorly

  1. Haha, I figured something weird was going on there, but I didn’t feel inclined to participate (more on that later). Besides, you and weird are not mutually exclusive.

    Thor did something similar here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/xenomurphy/21929268171/in/dateposted/ This in a way disapproves your theory that a more popular builder would get more “hits” while doing this, since aside from views he’s got less of everything than any of your MACs. Also, the subject of a build has a huge impact on the number of faves (which shows how redundant they really are), since a mediocre build based on a recognizable subject will always have an edge over a high quality build, be it something original or based on something relatively unknown.

    Here’s where I think you went wrong – going full bad. You should have gone with quality builds with a certain flawed (and obviously so) aspect. You should at least have included one of these. Going all the way made people inclined to critique ignore you completely and have a hard time taking you seriously. Let’s take the mario build as an example; I was almost inclined to comment how bad the legs were, but the more I looked, the more I realized everything is meh and there’s nothing I can suggest to improve it; your only success there was making it rather recognizable, which is what fooled me into thinking there’s something worthy there at first. Knowing you and your talents, I didn’t feel inclined to tell you it’s bad or demand explanations; I figured you were doing it intentionally either for laughs or whatever. It doesn’t matter, it failed to grasp my attention further than a WTF? and a chuckle.

    Now if you went the route I mention and made a good build with a flaw, that would have had a chance to grasp my attention and make me point that out; as it would others that simply took the ignore route.

    The final build is also a strange choice; going with such a weird and abstract build makes it hard for people to point out flaws; it’s hard to identify with you vision and realize what you were going for (bioveggiemech?) to point out the flaws aside from technical ones. If you want to maximize the reactions, you need builds that click with most viewers easily, but without giving them something completely identifiable (as mario was). Your scientist was pretty much the best choice for this.

    It’s definitely an interesting experiment, but I find the result to be 100% as expected.


    1. I remember that joke build. It’s actually pretty good on its own and could have done much better. The difference between his and mine is that he left it up for only an hour before posting the mindblowing real one, which completely overshadowed the microscale version and doomed it to small potatoes. At the same time, I’d agree with the broader counterpoint that a bigger name attached to these builds wouldn’t necessarily result in them doing FAR better. People aren’t that blind, so in reference to Tyler and Nannan I think I exaggerated a bit.

      The article doesn’t go much farther than discussing the failure/success of the Mario build, but viewing the experiment as a whole, I agree with your assessment: the whole thing didn’t really work. I even realized that while writing the article, but by then it was a little too late. I felt like it was pretty necessary to explain what had been going on due to all the confusion the bad builds had caused. That said, I’ve still managed to harness the series of MACs as an object of contemplation within the article. Rather than having them and the reception they got serve as a self-sufficient vessel for the idea (people praise too much and critique too little) though, the article bears the full brunt of conveying those ideas. I probably would have articulated them verbally anyway, but it would have helped to have builds and results more in sync with the message.

      Despite the stipulations of purpose and method I started with, I don’t think I planned this enough. That tiny plan outlined at the beginning was pretty much all I had to go on, as I didn’t go further in determining the technique for the bad builds. Building them might not even have been necessary, but either way, I could have done it better (worse). A lot of the suggestions here, including yours, show superior insight into what would have helped them fail. I could have gone your critiqueable route and thrown in a major, obvious flaw, or gone the unpraiseable route and made it unpalatable, boring, and unoriginal. There’s probably a fusion route in there somewhere that really balances between the two, which is what I was trying to do, but failed. The MACs are too interesting opposed to boring, and too totally awful opposed to awful enough to be critiqued. Someone even warned me of that last thing in PM, and while I kept in mind I wasn’t able to keep it in practice. Like you said, the closest I probably got was the first one-without the color and wall decorations, and with some less interesting parts usage on the scientist, it might have been bad enough.

      Fortunately the MACs were really just a means to an end, so though they didn’t accomplish what I’d hoped for, they’re still quite the learning tool in other ways, while the point I meant to get across is still getting across.


  2. Ps – my comment is based on the article posted yesterday, not sure if anything is changed, in case my reply is on a different planet.


    1. This article, much to my chagrin, was live yesterday for perhaps 5 minutes and according to the stats had 4 views before I caught the mistake, you must have been one of the 4. Somehow in the editing process I accidentally published the post. I’m not sure how I managed that trick but I did, and it was actually your comment that alerted me of the error. Unfortunately I had to trash the post and start over again and your original comment was lost in the process. My apologies to you for deleting the comment but it was unavoidable, there is no way to convert a post into a draft again.

      As for the actual content of the article, nothing changed since yesterday with the exception of links, basic editing and photo placement.


      1. It wasn’t my comment that was deleted, I didn’t get a chance to post before it was taken down. Besides, the article is in the mail so anyone who subscribed got it.


      2. Hmmm, could have sworn it was you but it doesn’t matter I suppose. I’m still face-palming over how that happened. I didn’t think about the subscriber angle, I guess more people saw it than I initially estimated, not that the blog has a ton of subscribers.


    1. Take it from someone who just did it, you’re probably building poorly ALL WRONG and all your builds are actually amazing and good. I hate it when that happens!


  3. Aaron, you read my article and used it as a start point for a larger (and more difficult) effort? Right on!

    Hey Keith! Suck it!

    Aaron, Your articles style fits El Manifesto perfectly. Comics, quotes, pics. You broke one of our cardinal rules by posting pics of your own MOCs… but those pics were obviously central to your whole theme so… right on.

    Screw the “scientific ethics” man. Those rules are so elaborate and over developed now, its almost impossible to work outside of a laboratory, under the direct supervision of a tenured professor (who wants credit for your work). I imagine some “Science Lawyer” would have told you that you have to do your experiment using only bacteria as test subjects. While some might classify your direct approach as “abusive” or “disingenuous”… they aren’t writing shit for articles, or doing experiments of there own… so screw’em!

    I’m blown away that you read my diatribe and took it some place. Absolutely blown away.

    Oh, and Deus! You cold hearted Teuton! Way to speak truth to power! The emperor has no cloths! You are that guy! They wrote a book about you man!


    You guys should have a cop buddy show on TV: Aaron and Deus… two cops who buck the system and fight a loosing battle to keep the world honest!

    Great article man.



    1. Yeah, I guess I did…like I mentioned in my response to Shannon, it might have just been a simple acknowledgment and forwarding people to your article, but as it turned out I ended up jumping into the MACcing process first and sort of cycling back to your article to amplify those ideas after it was done. Even that would have just ended up with the acknowledgment/forwarding at the end, with either a more limited PSA or a “Hey guys, I’m totally cool with getting critique so even if you don’t feel comfortable giving it elsewhere you can always hit me with your best shot here if you like” if Keith hadn’t messaged me like he recounted. I’m still in some disbelief over that happening but we had quite the amusing exchange when he found out the builds were based on an article from his own blog!

      Actually, the style of Manifesto articles really stuck out to me, so I adopted it a bit for my own article.
      …Which sort of seems to defeat the purpose of the ever-changing roster of different and distinguishable authors. Nonetheless, I think we all manage to stay distinct with tone, style, and our choice of pop culture reference. Since you all seem turned off of Lazytown I don’t foresee any disputes if I call dibs on it for potential future articles!
      But really, this format seems very practical in terms of entertainment value. Punctuating otherwise interminable text walls with images and videos? Yes please!

      The “ethical” element of it wasn’t of MASSIVE concern to me…this is the Internet for crying out loud, there’s legions of people stealing credit card numbers as you read this, better to be concerned about them and all the other real jerks and pervs online, not to mention out in the real world. All the same, out of the pool of people who commented or faved there was a pretty significant chance some of them might feel humiliated. Why needlessly risk that chance when it’s easy to press some buttons and make the whole situation anonymous and the message more amenable to the diverse and sensitive majority that needs to see it?

      All in all very glad you approve, it felt strange referencing you so often without having ever talked. I felt inclined to drop you a line at various stages of the experiment, but you have quite the reputation for verbosity and I think between the two of us the private messages might have stalled the project into 2018, haha.


      1. “Since you all seem turned off of Lazytown I don’t foresee any disputes if I call dibs on it for potential future articles!”

        Yeah… Lazy Town is all you. WTF is that? Kids watch that? Freaked me out like PTSD!

        More importantly, “Potential future articles”. Yeah? That would rock man. We want more voices on the blog.



  4. So I read the article and your latest Flickr post and after initially feeling offended I waited to calm down to evaluate a response. And yet, after waiting, I still feel offended by this hoax but I’m not wholly sure why. Is it because there’s a certain amount of trust we place on each other even when we’re on line? Is it the fact that rather than lead by example and encourage people to critique you’ve decided to educate us through deceit? Or is it the childish and pseudo-scientific flavour of the writing? Maybe it’s a little of all these things. Rutherford’s article was great, well-written and keenly observed; it certainly didn’t need a sarcastic, self-aggrandizing hoax to follow it up.

    I don’t know why people favourite things more than they comment now; in 2007 it was the other way around. Maybe i’m being too harsh, you are nearly half my age and maybe I’m just a grumpy old cunt. Maybe I take life to seriously. I don’t know.

    So well done mate, your experiment is a success, I feel like an idiot and you’ve proved people are a bit too polite. Bravo.


    1. Dang Shannon, there were a number of people I expected to get offended by this whole thing, but you were never among them. I’ve critiqued you before and you take it like a champ, and you just didn’t seem like the type to get disgruntled by deception of this sort.

      Like I mentioned in my comment to Vitreolum, there wasn’t any real need for the hoax from a functional perspective, though at the time it seemed very necessary to make a nonverbal statement of that type. As a retroactive justification, it provided a more interesting framework to write on and sensationalizes the whole concept of meta-critique in a way a larger audience might find more palatable.

      That last statement probably also sounds self-aggrandizing…I think I wanted the tone of the article to be prepared for a larger audience if one was somehow directed this way (which would also explain the “ childish and pseudo-scientific flavour of the writing,” which I’m inclined to believe is the unholy fusion product of my efforts to approach candid and detailed analysis of a sensitive social issue with a family-friendly and not overly offensive tone). I tend to do that whenever posting; prepare for a big showing. The worst that can happen is few or no people show up and I was wrong. However, I’ve seen more and more examples of people doing the opposite and assuming nobody will see it, then making edits when it somehow blows up: “Woah, wasn’t expecting this to blow up! Thanks everyone!”

      Is that more honest or less honest? I think it depends on who’s posting and what audience they’re used to ending up with. Another possibility would be that I let a typical prideful showboating behavior slip into my writing despite my best efforts to do otherwise. That’s embarrassing for me if the case, but maybe you are just grumpy. More likely a combo.

      As for whether the article and this whole thing was necessary…I’d say yes, in the sense that there was a problem that this article at least attempts to solve. That problem was the fact that for as great as it was, very few people had probably actually seen Michael’s article. At the very least I would have liked to post a photo on Flickr saying, “Hey, go read this great article!” and linking back to Michael’s post, which would have accomplished the same end result: Overlaudative people on Flickr go over to the Manifesto and get a much-needed lesson in critique. It definitely would have saved me some time, haha. Maybe that would have been a better choice, but there’s no guarantee that Michael’s article wouldn’t be perceived as a few ranks in offensiveness above mine. I definitely know there’s a large population of TFOLs who shrink back from the smallest instance of profanity, which I tolerate despite not caring for it myself, and that would be a pretty big factor in itself. In the end this article is serving an intermediary role for (among others) that demographic; they’re the future of the community and need this message way more than you old grumps.

      I can’t help but be curious whether you see some similarity between some of the MACs and your own work that’s potentially contributing to your irritation. I’m mostly talking about the Mario and scientist ones, whose minimalist style and use of primarily basic, legal connections is, coincidentally, somewhat reminiscent of your work. That’s not to say that I think your builds are bad any more than citing the similarity between Charlie Chaplin and Adolf Hitler’s mustaches as a basis for comparison between the two is reasonable. You take those simple connections and the minimalist style and make them look GREAT. So apologies if you weren’t seeing that at all and I’ve just triggered you up to Level 2. It was worth a shot to determine the source of your ire.


  5. I remembered seeing some of these photos cross my eyes in my flickr “recent activity” log and wondering, “Who the heck am I following that would be positing this wonky stuff?”… It wasn’t Karf, and I wasn’t following the Murmurdog as of yet. I peeked in on Mario image, but no real insight, and that was about it. Nothing to see here. Move along…

    After I received the inadvertant article draft via subscription, I went over to your photo-stream to read the comments. Sorry that some people felt duped and offended, but the comments on the “Last Chance” were pure “Gold Jerry, gold!” I was ROFL. They should be proud of them. You shouldn’t have gone back and hidden them either… Andy Kaufman would have approved of your experiment.

    QUOTE: “You should have gone with quality builds with a certain flawed (and obviously so) aspect. ”

    I couldn’t agree more with Vitreolum’s comment here. For your intended experiment, that should have been the approach. Back in my early professional engineering days, I worked for this guy who was literally the pointy-haired boss in the Dilbert comics. He was the incompetent, and the worst. He was always meddling in our projects, without being technically qualified, because I guess that’s what he thought managers were supposed to do. So whenever a project review was coming up, we would purposefully put some obvious superficial flaw in our PowerPoint presentations for him to catch. Like a spelling error, font size inconsistencies, crooked photos, you name it. Anything to protect the core content, and to keep him from throwing a wrench into our engineering calculations, or requesting some iteration that would have been days of work but redundant. Those errors were comment magnets, and our projects were spared from any derailment.

    That said – I think you could reframe this to be called the “Murmurdog Experiment”. I know Christopher Hoffmann had commented on a few of them, and if I remember correctly he showed much appreciation for them. It kind of shows the overall AFOL acceptance of the abstract art form that the Murmurdog prescribed too… and obviously you got fewer views and faves as a result (don’t quit your day job, Murmurdog….)


    1. First off, I keep seeing the name pop up and it seems familiar to me, but not familiar enough. Who/what is Murmurdog; is it a nickname for Hoffman?

      Oh yes, most of the comments on Last Chance were fantastic and I wish I could have kept them around. It felt very necessary to get rid of all stats to prevent any sort of inference that I was “targeting” individuals. I won’t address the ins and outs of that to you since there are other, more incensed people to discuss that with, but in the end the conviction that keeping them up would be a bad choice was too strong to ignore.

      Vitreolum and now you bring up a great point about how the experiment could have been engineered better, and I’m now inclined to think that you two are on one of at least a couple theoretical “right tracks” that could have improved the execution and results. At the time, I was afraid of taking the Dilbert Approach because people might have just ignored the flaw and talked about the rest being good, or they would think the flaw was actually really good (and subjectivity being what it is, who’s to say…). But given how subjective these MACs turned out to be, I might as well have just tried the Dilbert Approach!

      I’m not sure how clear I made it in the article, but I’ve gradually been succumbing to agreement (since before this article went public, even) that the Scientist and Mario builds weren’t so bad, just abstract. All the same, I’d like to see whether I could try my hand at builds in similar style without being bent on purposely screwing up the end result. Will my opinions on what looks good or bad make it impossible for me to build in that style without the freedom from trying to make it look good/with the enslavement to trying to make it look bad, or is it something I can replicate, only better? Something interesting to try in the future…


      1. Dang it, I’d read that spotlight and somehow forgotten about it.

        Their Jack Sparrow is pretty snazzy, but with ALL OF THIS in context I can’t help but find Murmurdog exceptionally suspicious…


  6. I was completely duped by the first two images in the experiment and there was something about them that prompted me to Flickrmail Aaron to congratulate him on his weirdness and encourage him to stay that way. I certainly didn’t offer critique, but mostly because I really didn’t understand it well enough to offer one. I just thought he was being weird and artsy and I’d rather look at his rendition of Mario than a perfectly crafted X-Wing. I don’t consider myself an artist (more of a hobbyist) so I”m drawn to and fascinated by builders like Aaaron even though I clearly have no taste in art.

    I employed the classic Picard facepalm when he let me in on the experiment, but it also paved the road for this article to happen. I can understand why some people would feel bad about the deception at the core of the experiment but I think it is by and large a harmless one. I thought it was funny and didn’t find it offensive in the slightest. In any case I can’t cast a stone on this issue because I’ve employed pseudonyms on a couple of occasions just to see how a creation would do without my name attached to it. I thought the article was well composed and owned the controversy with honestly and candor.

    Now, for your questions, because I’m pressed for time and there is a great deal to unpack in this article. I’ll probably hit it again tomorrow when I’ve mad more time to chew on it.

    Q: Were those “bad” builds actually good and I just have narrowminded, prescriptivist views of MOC quality?
    A: I don’t think you were able to completely arrest your creative sparkplug and some interest leaked through. Maybe that’s because I was duped but I don’t think so, Something about the Mario thumbnail caught my eye and made me want to look before I saw your name. The builds may not have been good, but they were interesting.

    Q: Were those commentators justified?
    Unless you had reason to believe they were specifically trying to curry favor with you, then yeah, they were justified.

    Q: Is this whole article a bunch of pretentious hogwash?
    A: Maybe a little, but it was interesting and the cardinal sin of blogging is to bore the audience. The numbers of hits and comments both here and on your Flickrstream seem to indicate that the audience finds it interesting. This is already the most statistically most popular day the blog has enjoyed since it’s return.

    Q: Was this experiment too cringy for your liking?
    No, I like horror movies and such.

    Q: Are you unsatisfied with my pop culture references?
    A: No, your game is strong, although that last video was disturbing. The cartoon was worth the price of admission for this article.

    Q: Have I committed human rights abuses?
    A: Unquestionably, crimes against mankinder. You may be un-followed by some of the tribe and cast into the forbidden zone. You should probably leave for college now and begin your dark age. “They’re coming for you Barbara.”

    Q: Did I spell a word wrong?
    A: No. Are you available to tutor Rutherford, dude really needs the help. He used to ride the short-bus, just ask him if you don’t believe me.

    More later….thanks for the article!


    1. Agreed. That Lazy Town shite is difficult to watch. It makes me squirm in my chair. Rubbery faces, hyper activity, bright colors… Its like there all on cocaine… watching it jacked me up. Made me clench my jaw and flex my fingers. I don’t want to talk about it any more.


    2. I should have included the backstory of our messages somewhere in the article, but I’m glad you wrote it down here. Everything just lined up so perfectly…

      Also glad you took the time to answer those questions, they may have been more of an aggressive disclaimer but the feedback is helpful regardless…metametacritique!

      -I’m still kind of in disbelief that I didn’t think them being that interesting would have a detrimental effect on how badly they’d be viewed. Duly noted for next time I want to try building poorly, probably in twenty years when everyone’s forgotten about this… :rubs hands evilly:

      -Not currying favor with me specifically, but just not candidly expressing what they really thought, is what I’d suspect, at most. Not like total candor is common anywhere in life (you weirdo Deus, you). In retrospect I’d consider all of the comments justified, because…they’re opinions. A lot of them said the builds were interesting, and lo and behold a lot of people afterward are still considering that to be true. In the article I had to play it by ear and dole out some made-up classifications, but they only really approached the comments from a generally analytical perspective, not one that could determine whether they were “justified.” The only criteria I’d be willing to really solidly judge the comments on would be how much their expression measured up to the commentator’s actual feelings at the time, and there’s no way to know that.

      -“Maybe a little” is good enough for me! Doing the experiment was provocative enough, I wanted to make sure I didn’t come across as a pointy-nosed, sallow villain lounging inside a castle made of broken dreams while sipping the tears of orphans out of a poached unicorn horn.


      -Yeah I wouldn’t normally use LazyTown; I’m also not a huge fan. However, through a complicated backstory I won’t recount, that specific clip was in my memory and seemed to fit well here. As for the comic…everything Kate Beaton touches turns to gold. Gotta give her most of the credit for the comedic progression in the original that carried over into my edit.

      -Good advice, I’ll come back in four years or so.

      -So it’s Rutherford and not Rutheroford, right?

      Yeah no problem Keith, thanks for running this blog!


  7. I had actually written the skeletal basis of an opposite point of view to this last night, and had it saved in a drafts folder.

    The gist of it was you need to filter the critique and feedback you receive, which is hard to do. Most of us are trained to be people-pleasers, or want to fit in, or just need some attention and therefore build for whomever the audience is. So, lots of comments try to beat people into looking like what the ‘pinnacle’ of that theme or style currently is. This results in me seeing tons of builds that are needlessly tiled, for instance, as somebody seems to have decided that building something with Lego should actually be an exercise in *not* looking anything like Lego. This gets taken to an unnatural extreme of tiling EVERY STUD in some weird self-flagellating attempt to be “clean”, as if studs are some sort of disease indicator.

    Don’t get me wrong; many builds are taken from good to great by excellent integration of tiling, and some that convince me they aren’t Lego from a distance are quite the thing to behold. The problem lies in critique that tries to conform all models to being uniform to a standard. You may only see the “positive comments only” or what have you, but there’s a decent amount of “fix these things and make it look like this other thing entirely” floating out there. It kills the interesting uniqueness that helps add to the hobby.

    However, as Mike has pointed out in the previous article you linked, uniqueness is not equivalent to special-ness. Building and ignoring all critique is fine if you’re happy, but there *are* some things to learn and improve with. The trick is learning how to filter useful critique from the samey conformist garbage. My only answer to that is trying to identify what your own style is; the build what you like, how you like, and take input that improves what you built to your own satisfaction. Unless you’re building for a competition or a paid commission or suchlike, critique really comes down to what is useful for you.

    Your urges to accept critique graciously and give more critique really need that third piece of knowing how to filter critique and build for yourself. Your own ‘bad’ builds have redeeming qualities and character, but what makes them bad to *you* is that they aren’t what you wanted to build, and you’re not proud of them.

    All of this said, I do take some dark glee in perusing convention halls and talking mad shit on the builds. We’ve all got our demons.


  8. Yes, I definitely think we could be better at critiquing. I think half the time, I’m just too lazy to take the time to seriously evaluate someone’s MOC… which is kinda sad now that I write it.
    I think most people (that’s a guess) would gladly accept critique. While you don’t have to be uber positive about it, I would suggest saying that you’re not trying to trash their MOC.


    1. Noel,
      Your comment: “which is kinda sad now that I write it.” is excellent. I think Aarons goal was to stimulate self examination, and your comments suggest that you are doing exactly that.

      Maybe not a feel good moment, but we all get enough feel good moments every day. We are surrounded by feel good moments. The next critique you write will be better though. Given your reaction to Aarons article, it would say it’s unavoidable.
      Thanks for the comment.


    2. Thanks for taking the time to read and taking an honest look at yourself, Noel. I wouldn’t call your laziness sad though, because we’re all lazy.

      It takes a LOT of effort to write even a few different critiques, which is why you should only go for a few when you get the chance. Maybe only one. You don’t even need to be better at critiquing, either. You just need to write that one critique more often! Practice makes perfect, and the best practice is when you get slammed to the ground in the cold, cold reality of rejection.

      One of my first attempts at critique on someone else’s build early on in this experiment’s lifespan got deleted despite their apparent emphasis on personal improvement. It could just be a personal deal with them not wanting that personal improvement to come from without, but I think I have to ascribe a lot of the blame to myself for going a little over-the-top in really breaking apart what I thought was wrong with their build and then going equally in-depth with verbally rebuilding certain sections in a suggested better way.

      That comment was looooong and stuck out like a sore thumb. I suspect all but the most hardened veteran of critique would have turned a bit pale at having that out in the open for others to see. In a more critique-accepting community, I could see even longer comments being happily welcomed, but at this time and for that person it wasn’t okay, and I have since learned to respect their preferences. It was not unpleasant at all besides a brief twinge of sadness that they would probably never follow my advice and “Dang, I wish I’d saved that comment, it was good.”

      Good it might have been, but it was a little too heavy on critique (though I did make it clear I wasn’t trying to trash their build and sandwiched my remarks with all care). It wasn’t outfitted for a pleasant reception, even by general standards and not the personal ones you learn over time that differ from person to person. I agree with your remarks on the importance of staying respectful when critiquing, but I didn’t talk about that much in this article because there are dozens of articles out there about how to critique respectfully, and fortunately it’s usually a matter of common sense (except when you’re a moron like me and go into a writing frenzy). I wasn’t going to echo the importance of the annoying-but-necessary Comment Sandwich, or the obvious social protocols that go along with that, because almost everyone knows them or can find them easily elsewhere.

      Since you already know HOW, go forth and use that knowledge to critique MORE!


      1. I’ve never had a critique deleted but I have had a few people—some with pretty big followings—get overly defensive. It’s usually some drawn-out excuse that’s longer than the actual critique was. In that case I think it’s a problem with the builder, not the person making the critique.


  9. Sweet article, Aaron. I think you, as a popular builder with a distinctive following, were a good subject for this experiment. I nearly commented on the last spaceship thing; I thought it was pretty unusual. I’m a big fan of the Mario build (the legs are pretty successful), which I hadn’t seen until this article.

    I definitely feel apprehensive about offering critiques, mainly, I think, because I don’t know you guys, and I’ve seen many react poorly to well-intentioned critiques on Flickr. Maybe I’m an asshole, but I get the vibe that a lot of builders are pretty fucking pompous (not you guys), so I feel uncomfortable engaging them. On the other hand, posting a Moc on Flickr also isn’t group critique in art school; no one is doing this for a grade, money, or (usually) anything beyond personal enrichment, so critiques sometimes feel inappropriate. I think new builders are probably the ones who can thrive on criticism the most; they often don’t have established styles and have desire to “improve”.

    I really enjoy Constructive Criticism here at the Manifesto. “The good, the bad, and whatever…” is successful (I think) specifically because it is long-form, and gives Keith the space to justify and expand on his criticisms.


    1. Nate,
      All good points. But I really want to amplify this one:

      “gives Keith the space to justify and expand on his criticisms”

      YES! Keith should be forced to justify his actions! Finally somebody get it!

      And yes… Constructive Criticism is one of my favorite parts of this blog as well. I like it because it’s pure application. Not talking about critique… but offering examples of what critique can be. We all sit around and talk theory until the cows come home… but it’s important to remember to DO it!

      Critique is the key to improvement. Both of our builds and of our character. Taking it, or giving it. No doubt.



      1. Mike,

        No doubt. Critique needs to have rationale behind it, otherwise it’s just smack talk. It’s good to see Keith evolving. CC is great because it’s one of the more “Lego nuts and bolts” columns.

        As Aaron pointed out in his reply to Noel above, this long-form critique isn’t great for Flickr. A long comment, no matter how well-intentioned, can come across as petty or even belligerent, especially when the comments around it are limited to “Great work!”, “Sweet build”, and “NPU”. Meaningful critique is difficult on Flickr; you have to find a sweet spot between brevity and long-windedness.

        Personally, I think I’d welcome a long comment like this. I rarely get to talk about my builds with others.


  10. Ah, so glad to see another (hopefully) permanent writer on the blog, welcome! And if I do say so, all the prep work is really putting my ideas to shame….

    Anyways, I do agree with your assessment. If it’s even possible, last I remember, MOCpages was even worse about criticism. People would get into multi-comment chain arguments over irrelevant points and facts that left no one better off. It wasn’t a good time.

    I personally do have to plead guilty to not offering enough criticism. I’m very much prone to saying, “Nice work” or “glad to see your still building” or something else that hardly helps. It’s definitely something I’m working on. As for receiving criticism, I actually haven’t really received any truly help critiques in a while, though I haven’t restarted building until very recently.

    Overall, I think the hobby as a whole could use some more self critiquing and assistance. I’m not too knowledgable on the subject, but I am aware that at many LEGO conventions nowadays, we have quite a few coddled participants, sometimes with very overbearing parents who force themselves into certain locations and attempt to maximize engagement, but reject any critical analysis or friendly amendments to a build. Hopefully we can see a transition to more honest feedback.


    1. Achintya,

      “I’m very much prone to saying, “Nice work” or “glad to see your still building” or something else that hardly helps.”

      Words matter. Feedback, praise, encouragement, critique, recognition, acknowledgement, chastisement… they all have there place. They are all types of messages we should choose and use according to our agenda and or the needs of our audience. Each is a tool that produces different results.

      While we are all standing around repeating the word “Critique” to one another (like crickets: Critique… Critique…) we should beware the mental trap of artificial dichotomy.

      I mean in this case, a response to a MOC needn’t be THIS OR THAT. Praise OR Critique. Salutation OR welcome. Lots of our messages actually blend elements of different message types to suit the situation. And they should.

      So don’t be in a hurry to relegate non-critique comments to the dust bin. Some people don’t want, or can’t process critique. For them, maybe a shout out, or a hearty “Classic Space FTW!” is best.

      Keep all options open. The trick is to keep your use of message type both deliberate and effective.



  11. So much to respond to, so little time-too little. I’ll admit I’ve overspent my free time on this undertaking, but engaging and answering the feedback is at least half the work. Have no fear that I’ve permanently retreated; this is a raincheck and I’ll get around to answering as much as I can in bits and pieces.


  12. I’m sure there’s so many levels of clever here I’m just not built to comprehend. But it seems to me that if you were going for “bad”, maybe making builds that looked bad might have been something you should have gone for. Because against your portfolio, none of your experiment pics are really very far afield from anything that came before… Maybe not as fleshed out as some projects, but they work.

    Bad is subjective, and apt to change in a different light, but I’ll join the ranks who want to stand up and give brilliant rhetoric, and offer this…

    Mocs that are completely unoriginal.

    Mocs that do not show any variety of piece use (exempli gratia, a 2×4 wall composed of a single color)

    Mocs that are photographed in a manner that doesn’t let the viewer get a clear view of the build.

    Mocs that have no underlying cohesiveness or idea that it offers.

    … To me, those would be the highlights of a “bad” Moc, though some might prefer to say forgettable. Again, the subjective nature of words.

    The builds you posted for this experiment don’t seem to fit any of those four things. All were very original. Even the Mario one presents an interpretation of a familiar subject in a new and interesting way. …You certainly didn’t restrain yourself on incorporating obscure parts, colors, and unique connections. …All conveyed a story or idea, even the Ldd made me wonder what was being conveyed, and not because it was from a Veteran Five Year Builder. Just because I like Lego and I like builders. …And the pix were all pretty high quality and not of a different caliber than what you had posted before. The one that stands out the most is the photoshopped Art Hoax. I see a ton of “good” builders that haven’t even incorporated that next level of presentation.

    Say what you want, but every entry of your experiment presents some aspect of the “good” building that gets me to check my Flickr feed daily.

    I would offer to you that the real payoff of this whole… Thing… Is the same that art instructors hope for when they get students to draw a model in just 3 minutes, or put a medium the artist doesn’t typically use in their hand and tells them ‘Go!’. You broke out of your normal comfort zone and tried to build in a different direction. With success.

    Manifestos are awesome, but maybe instead of trying to school people on comment protocols, maybe just build to make yourself happy.

    Authentic relationships and communication are hard enough to find in the physical world we share, I wouldn’t expect a quantum leap of sincerity here online.

    The man is the fire, art is merely the ashes.


    1. “maybe just build to make yourself happy.”

      Sure. Sounds great, except…

      If you are really just building for your own pleasure, then why would you post? Posting your work suggests that you want others to see it. It is a communicative act. Posting on a site that supports feedback is even less ambiguous. Failing to set your page to block comments even less ambiguous.

      All on line activity is first and foremost a form of communication. So while I agree that there is value in building for your own pleasure, I question that goal as soon as you post.



      1. Wrong. WRONG. WRONG!!!!!

        Just build to make yourself happy and for your pleasure is the way to go. Why the hell would you build otherwise? To collect as many npu’s or faves as you can? Yes, you’re absolutely correct posting makes it a communicative act. But the subject that is communicated should be precisely what makes you happy, not what others consider worthy. You’re sharing your vision and your interest, not putting you skill to use so others can see what they want.

        I dare you to give me a good reason why anyone should build otherwise. (Except to get cheap/free stuff 😀 )


    2. Vetreolum,

      Excellent clip man.

      No, your not getting my point. Yes… building for your own pleasure is probably the best reason to build (unless you can make really really sick children laugh by building… I suppose THAT might be a better reason… but really… what are the odds of being able to do that?)

      But you can do this “highest” building alone at a table. Build it. Enjoy it. Re-sort your parts, and build again.

      Posting on line represents a threshold. My point is that once you cross that threshold, you enter the realm of sharing. You have deliberately put an image of your build in the public eye. Why? Why would you do that exact thing? Obviously, so that others could see it. That part is almost axiomatic. But why do you want others to see it? You are telling them something. Just like when we use the written word, it may not be a clear message. You yourself might not even know what your trying to say. Again, just like words, we often send messages in haste… not realizing what we are actually saying. But it is communication.

      My point is not “Don’t build for yourself”.

      My point is “Once you post on line, you can’t claim to have build just for yourself… AND… that you have built in part for others… AND… that this fact means that you should be ready for feedback.

      Otherwise, you are sending a message and telling everybody who gets it to shut up. Phrased differently, your saying “My message is important enough to send… but your message is not important enough to send”

      Building for ones self is great, but it’s not what people who post on line are doing.



      1. I still can’t understand why you have to make this distinction, why one should cancel the other. The two of them should go together. When you build, you build for yourself and the posting part is the part where you share your vision with the world. Keyword: “your”. I’m more drawn to builders that managed to create their own style I can recognize in a second, who build whatever obscure subjects they see fit, that don’t go with the flow (of course where a certain level of skill is involved and have a message I can get, not murmurdog) than those who build the same thing everyone does and everyone likes. Also, in many cases, the more personal the build (or it’s a subject the builder really enjoys), the better the result; which is quite obvious really, since you’d be that more interested to get it right and spend the extra mile on it…. since you’re kind of enjoying it. 🙂

        You building a house and getting feedback like “You should build a car, cars are cool” is not how it should be, ever. Fuck off with that thing. Any artist should primarily showcase what they want and only what they want; and the feedback should be how you can improve what you want to build, how you can improve your style, or simply how much you like or dislike that thing, not how to change what you’re doing and do what others expect you to do. The only reason to go with crowdpleasers is when money is involved, or you simply want to thank you followers (I try to do that every now and then, but it’s usually a shit build, since I’m not always into it).

        I guess we’ll never agree on this, but for me sharing is all about people’s creativity, and seeing new things that I don’t know about or haven’t thought about, not how well everyone can handle what’s hip. Also sharing NEVER (yes NEVER) includes everyone. It’s always focused on a certain group and always will be (be it 10 lego fans or the entire lego community, it doesn’t matter, there’s always a limitation).

        “My message is important enough to send… but your message is not important enough to send.” How and why? If the the one that initiated the communication pushed a subject for discussion, you coming and discussing about something entirely different (not even related) has no place there. You’re free to send you message where it’s relevant or start your own dialogue. That doesn’t mean you have to have a say everywhere.

        And finally, when I post something I don’t invite the entire internet to judge. I share for the same reason I watch, in the hopes that someone will like what I do and hopefully be inspired by it as I am when seeing other people’s builds. And a bit of praise never hurt anyone’s ego, same way a bit of critique never hurt anyone’s skill. But when it comes to the subject of my builds, there’s no room for debate there, I couldn’t care less what anyone thinks.

        And I think this is how everyone should go about this. So meh right back at you.


      2. It starts when Rust says:
        …maybe instead of trying to school people on comment protocols, maybe just build to make yourself happy…

        It’s actually a pretty ballzy comment. The topic of the article is critique and it’s place in the hobby. Rust then says “don’t talk about critique” BUT RATHER build for yourself. In this context, Rust suggests that the questions regarding critique are moot. He suggests that building and our own pleasure should be our focus.

        Here is why I think Rust is off the mark:
        1. Rusts assertion that the author should NOT discuss critique is not easily defendable (except philosophically, like: Rust should say whatever he wants! This is true, he should… but that doesn’t mean that everything Rust wants to say will be a good point…) Discussion of critique, how to give/take it, and what role it fills in our hobby IS a beneficial topic for discussion.

        2. Rusts statement frames the issue as an EITHER/OR type of choice. This is incorrect. We can, (and I say SHOULD) both talk about critique AND build for ourselves. But Rust says build INSTEAD of talk. He is wrong in this assertion. Clear meaningful communication IS lacking in our hobby. It has been replaced with faving, clicking through, and insincere endorsements (ie. behaviors we have adopted because they parallel effective marketing techniques). Bare in mind, none of this countermands the benefits of building for yourself… it’s just a different thing.

        3. Rusts proposal is a cop out. He is retreating from the real challenge. The challenge is this: Critique can be beneficial, but it’s difficult to do, and it can hurt. While many builders wish there was a stronger critique ethic in the hobby, good critique is still relatively uncommon. By recommending that we not discuss the topic, but simply build instead… Rust is not only retreating from this important challenge, he is arguing in favor of a culture of creeping creative stagnation and self-absorbed isolation.

        Now, in addition to all that, you introduced myriad notions I agree with. Telling people what they should build is NOT critique, and it IS annoying. As you say: “Fuck off with that thing!” And again, as you say, seeking popularity is NOT the same as creativity. Indeed, as a goal in and of itself, popularity is pretty lame. That whole theme about irrelevant feedback… yeah, I’m down. If you build a house, and I say “Bikes are cooler” that’s not critique, that just… what? Snark? Crap? But critique is a narrower topic than feedback. (although… even if you call it feedback… “bikes are cooler” statements are still crap).

        In regard to the “my message is worth sending, and yours is not” What I mean is that if you post and don’t want feedback, that that is your basic position. Look.

        Here is my message, it is a picture of my MOC. I have posted it so that you can receive my message, but do not respond. Do not offer me critique. I do not want your message. It is only important to me that you get my message, not that I get yours.

        See? Again, our interpersonal communications are beginning to resemble market place behaviors. We don’t speak directly back to road side bill boards, and the advertisers don’t care. We see their message, and that is all that matters. Later, the advertiser will check sales (where we might check faves). More sales means the billboard was good. And that is what posting a MOC but not wanting feedback is like.

        I don’t disagree with most of your observations, I think we are arguing past each other.


      3. Ah, damn it, we’re talking about different things here. By building for your pleasure I’m not referring to rejecting feedback/critique in any way. I was replying to what you said (building for your pleasure is the devil and should not be the goal/you can do that in your cave away from prying eyes and should not be shared), not backing up Rust’s idea.


      4. MICHAEL RUTHEROFORD, you have me all wrong, at least I think you do, because I couldn’t even finish reading your essay on my detailed opinion. I made a comment towards the author not the hobby, and I don’t believe in hard lines anywhere in this universe, man. I’m saddened it came across like that. Do what you want, cause no harm, and know nothing is ever the same for anybody ever.

        My takeaway from this whole smouldering ant hill, as I look up and see that magnifying glass moving away from the sun, from that plastic infinity… is that maybe All of us cool redirect our energy from typing into building those things we talk about so everyone everywhere can/can’t, and be can/can’t be happy doing it.


  13. Well, I’m glad that this all played out. It’s interesting to me to see how far you had to go in order to gain any true criticism at all. Your “Last Chance” MOC had me genuinely confused, despite you explaining the whole thing to me. I struggle to see what it was, and thus it did it’s job almost too well. But overall, this article wraps it up neatly with a bow on top. At least, for those willing enough to click the link in your Flickr description. I’m sure the irony will take place with those who simply comment that your Camel was really cool looking.

    I can agree with everything you’ve been saying, the LEGO Community has truly been desensitized to most forms of criticism. One of the few TFOLs near me is heavily into military and especially World War II type builds. He explained to me at a recent convention that some builders in the World War II community have harshly criticized everything. He went further to explain that some builder posted a picture of a very fine looking tank, but was immediately attacked for it because it had no new techniques. Others went to his defense, saying that new techniques were not needed, and that the tank was very realistic by itself. Apparently, this is just one of many incidents that occur are all across the military community.

    Another thing that he explained to me was the battle of credit given for techniques used. Lots of builders will use techniques in their vehicles which others have used before. But apparently, the ones who have “made it first” demand that they be given credit for a simple technique. I know that before I saw it actually used anywhere, I thought the use between a headlight brick and a 1×1 cheese slope to create a continuous smooth face of tile-like sloping was completely my own discovery. But after showing me a few flame wars, I was completely taken aback. These few World War II builders will go to extreme lengths to make sure that they are given what they think they deserve. I know for one that if there is a certain technique that I know someone else has created, I will definitely give credit to them, and if too much of my design a stolen and claimed as the new one, I will make sure to inform the builder that he took it for me, but what happens in the military community is completely absurd.

    Overall I think that the Lego community needs a purge. Not like that one back in 2011, we can forget about that one, lock it up in a salt mine somewhere in Germany to never see the sunlight again. But there are certain politics…? In the local community that need to be brought to the surface for most builders attention. The use of credit, and the use of criticism, are only two. There are many more that we need to address and make right. This article will help others realize that something is amiss in that we’ve all been lemmings to the path layed before us. Someone needs to take the part of the parent in the community and set them all down for the birds and the bees talk, in a sense. But I suppose that is my opinion.

    But all that aside, well done on the article. Everyone is glad you wrote it, even if they haven’t really read it yet. This will be used in the days to come, and I know that it certainly helped me to not only become a better builder, but a better FOL and kind of a better person, I guess. So thanks.


    1. There’s a big difference between constructive criticism (which is what this article and blog tries to promote) and what you mention. I have little to no interest in war related stuff, so I’m completely unaware of how things are, but what you describe is anything but constructive criticism, it’s just Attack! (which is somehow not surprising given the theme the interest lies in I suppose). The smugness of claiming ownership of a technique you used first and the implication that nobody else can come up with and stole it it is inconceivable.

      What’s the 2011 purge all about?


      1. “not surprising given the theme the interest lies in”

        I agree that the petulance Brahm describes is repugnant. And I agree, as you say, that hot garbage is not critique. Further, I would add that it is rampant in the culture of our hobby. But to suggest that this naked aggression is to be expected of military builders by virtue of their chosen theme? That’s some pretty thin butter. Do we expect Pirate builders to consistently display a cavalier disregard for maritime law? Do castle builders burn witches and yearn to re-take the holy land? And if we buy into those assertions… then what the heck are the Bionical builders into? I don’t even know! No, this kind of petty possessiveness is not “military builder” thinking. Animal, criminal or, as is most relevant in our hobby culture… juvenile thinking maybe.

        That said, I think your right about the credit mongering. Were talking techniques here, not entire MOC designs. As Brahm states, copying an entire MOC without any credit given? That’s pretty shabby, and I think most people agree with that. But as you say, using a technique you have seen elsewhere? That’s fine. There is no registry of techniques. No Lego tec-patent office. And if we cant give and take techniques freely on line… geez, what the point? Replication, re-utilization, adaptation… that’s the fuel of progress baby! That’s why MOCs on the whole are better today than they were 20 years ago.

        and also… Yeah… What was the 2011 purge all about? AFOLs got purged? (must have been those dam military builders again!)


      2. Haha, it was supposed to be a joke, although I supposed I could have worded better to make more obvious.

        Yet there is a connection between a chosen theme (well, chosen willingly not due to influence/peer pressure/what’s hip) and the builder… why else would you be drawn to it? I would not dismiss it entirely. Still the theme does not reflect the realism you mentioned (or the silly connection I said), but rather a romantic vision of the subject (with a good dash of fantasy thrown in), particularly when talking pirates/castle. And it’s not about what those fellas did, but rather what they represent as an ideal (freedom, chivalry, heroism, stuff like that) is where the connection is made. Of course, this is just a little part of why a theme is chosen, but it’s there.


      3. I can see that. You do notice there are certain political opinions that tend to come from that group as well, notably in discussions on SuckMyBrick’s photos.


    2. The pursuit of credit is one of the most maddeningly stupid things I’ve encountered online, usually from a younger crowd. I sorta blame Bruce Lowell for this, as his bloody brilliant sphere strikes me as having kicked off the “name a technique after the builder” thing, which seems to drive the desire for credit for insanely simple connections.

      People seem to forget that in a closed system, even with billions of possibilities, lots of other people have likely tried the same thing. It may be rare enough to be appreciated, but come the hell off it with demanding ‘credit’ for a door hinge or something. If what you built is actually revolutionary or inspirational, others will credit it for you.


    3. Well, it looks like I opened a new can of worms. I’ll try to digest what I just read from all of you.

      First, I’m glad we can all agree that crediting and wanting to receive credit can get to the extreme where nobody wins. And I’m glad we can also agree that receiving credit for something truly unique and innovative (look in’ at you, Karf Oohlu…) feels good. I think I need to clarify a few things. I saw some confusion with how this is related to military builders. I myself dabble in such a subject, and so I see a few photos here and there. The whole issue with giving credit seems to do you almost exclusively with these builders, usually in the historic part although I’ve seen it in other subjects. The World War II community, seems to be the most upset about this sort of thing. I feel like it maybe just people trying to get a little bit of power leverage. It’s completely useless, and I agree that techniques for pop up all the time (I’m pretty sure we’ve all made the Lowell sphere), and that certain things don’t need to have credit given to them, such as the sloping technique I aforementioned. But there is two different types I feel like have penetrated the LEGO community.

      Allow me to introduce you to Calin (_Tiler). With almost 5000 followers on Flickr, he’s kicked up quite a storm of creativity as far as the scale-minifigure-vehicle genre is concerned. A few months ago though, he ran into some legal trouble after posting some pictures of how to build some of his creations. Apparently, a builder in Hong Kong assembled his Batmobile and Kaneda’s Bike MOCs in bulk, and then proceeded to sell them on eBay. In this situation, there was no mention that this was not the builders own idea. Absolutely no credit was given to Calin, who designed and posted the instructions online. He proceeded to contact eBay’s vera resolution services. They claimed that he was not in control of this, and although he did create and post instructions for the MOCs, there is no copyright or patent. Lego only owns the copyright and patent to these builds, and so this he cannot lay any claim. Flickr comes with a creative Commons license, and so this was argued for Calin’s side, but it appears as though nothing has changed from when I last checked. This, unfortunately, is the extreme to which credit is absolutely needed, and not just merely wanted. It is a sad situation, and many builders have gathered around to offer support and help. The saddest part, is that on the arguably thief’s profile, he claims that he sells original and custom work on eBay and Bricklink. You can follow this dispute with the link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/_tiler/31419349400/in/dateposted/

      The second form is the little squabbles that go on over in the World War II corner. I have asked my friend to provide me with some links to famous firefights, and so I will attach those to this comment when I can. But after flicking through a few photos I have found that most every one I looked at had somewhere in the description a section for credit given to other builders for their techniques. It seems to me that it is a form of taxing, or a right of passage. When the builder does not post any form of recognition of a technique used, the hens immediately peck the red and attack the builder. In my opinion, this can be justified if a bill is purely taken from a few other creations, but somethings I noticed was the use of flags for a tank, and the use of a 1×1 round tile as a canteen on a figure. It really is absurd.

      I can further agree that after attending BrickMania’s World War Brick convention and getting the opportunity to speak with such builders, there definitely is a correlation between the type of builders and their age and personality. To make it short, a good portion of the WWII and military builders were kids raised on LEGO, then Call of Duty, who found out that they can be mashed together thanks to MegaBlox new deal with Call of Duty. They’re the kids that collect shoes and have a 4/1 bass to treble ratio when listening to rap music in their cars. So maybe that has an effect on the continuous power-struggle over credit.

      To rap it up, here’s a few things. Credit given can be needed, but not all the time and for every little thing. Don’t steal people’s MOCs, and don’t take two and put them together to call your own. There is a correlation between the Military genre and the builder’s age and personality that define the community expectations of credit. And last but not least, The Purge? You’ve all seen it in some form at some time or another. Here’s a good link: https://www.flickr.com/groups/1926760@N21/


      1. Brahm,

        The guy whos design was used by a vender? Yes, that stinks… but I don’t think he has a leg to stand on. I mean, yes, I just pulled a “Captain Obvious” because I’m simply repeating what the involved company says… everything posted on their site is non-copyrighted. But what I mean is that this fact should already inform our actions. I know that anything I post on line, in any image, in any format… it’s open for use by others. It’s a given (not that many people would copy my shite!). It stinks that his work gets “Used” by another to make a buck. But it’s also a given that there is NO protection on line. If we don’t want to risk the theft of our ideas, we need to stop sharing them. That is the nature of the relationship between a market culture and the internet. Publish it, and lose control. The vendor is a dick for not giving credit. Total dick. Such a dick… but that’s all. He’s a dick, and he don’t care, and he’s free and clear to sell the Lego as he sees fit.

        But your assertion that WWII builders are inherently prone to credit mongering… I still doubt. I myself have encountered young WWII builders, and I have also concluded that many of the high profile WWII builders are dicks. Specifically, I found them to be young, aggressive, wealthy, self focused, cliquish, prone to pack behavior, and absolutely COD centric in word and deed (Oh yea, and credit hungry like zombies on a brain salad!).

        But I concluded it was a perception trap. There are a few cliques of WWII builders who are very vocal and very homogeneous. They do their thing. Repetitious. Have their standards. They applaud one another, and shun new comers. They all seemed to think they invented the brick, and in a particularly ironic twist… many of them would use one another techniques, and scoff at the notion that they hadn’t invented it themselves. It’s a builders culture on the fast track to resentment, silence, and stagnation.

        But… but but but… I was fixating on these guys because they were the most vocal in there theme. Not the majority, but simply the most visible. Lots of guys build WWII stuff. Lots of guys. Older guys for example. And lots of guys from Europe and Asia. And I don’t characterize these builders as credit mongers (or even as remotely vocal). The COD fans (CODdies?) were in my face, filling my nostrils like cordite… but they don’t really reflect all, or even most of the builders out there who build WWII stuff. I mean, when you guys talk about “those WWII builders” are you really talking about that guy who built that massive minfig scale aircraft carrier? Or Joe Hammond and his big Normandy Invasion dio? Or that cool Spanish guy who built all those aircraft? I doubt it. Your talking about a bunch of entitled CODdies who like to stack up Brickarms and custom German Helmets and call it a dio… or who build a King Tiger, and then a King Tiger Mark II, and put them side by side for comparison (along with pictures of the real tanks…).

        Three demographic factors that I think are more important when identifying the credit mongers than the fact that they build WWII stuff.
        1. Young. These guys are young. Pushy, loud, shameless… proud. Foibles not yet hammered down by outrageous fortune. Common enough I suppose. No, not common to all young builders… just common in the culture at large.
        2. Digital/aftermarket/modders. Not patient types, normally more concerned with image fidelity than with working within the limits of Lego as a medium. None of that is “wrong” but it emerges as a trend in this credit mongering group.
        3. Computer game focused. World of Tanks, COD, Assassins Creed, HALO. On that note… think of the large overlap between HALO builders and WWII builders. Ever notice how petulant some HALO builders can be? Is there a WWII builder trapped inside every HALO builder, trying to break out?

        My point is that when if we say: “WWII builders tend to be more insistent in credit than Castle or Space builders”, then we begin painting in pretty broad strokes. I think you guys confuse WWII with “Young Gamers”.

        OH, and thanks for the “Purge” link. I haven’t read much yet, but now I have a start point.


        PS: I do totally buy into the notion of “theme cultures”. Castle Heads are different from Train Heads are different from Spacers are different from GBC guys are different from Mindstorms guys… Cultural trends emerge every time, and I may write an article about it. This is a good topic!


  14. Not gonna lie. I like to receive credit for a good idea or a well executed plan. Shit, I’ll settle for somebody saying I grilled the stakes well! Praise. Respect in the eyes of peers. (well… OK, I don’t know about respect, but I hear it’s awesome!). I dig it!

    But like you said, if you do anything worth a dam… somebody else will notice. If not… then shut up and keep walking.

    Oh, but stealing another builders entire MOC and not even mentioning them? That is kind of a button for me. I think those people go to a special level of hell. Right next to guys who take up more than one parking space because they think there car is so important.

    I’m an angry man… and nobody cares…

    Oh, and I like how you blame Bruce for this crap! Yeah Bruce! What the hell man?

    I laughed at that!


    1. Very much so in agreement with you on model copying and the like; most of what I am referring to, as I am sure you are aware, is people wanting to be credited with inventing common techniques, i.e. the hands of a mecha. I actually had a kid on mocpages once try and claim he’d come up with a hand design that Izzo had used almost a decade before…

      It’s fun to be known, and more fun to be known for doing something well, so I completely understand & even share the desire on some level. I just don’t think any random smorgasbord of 4 pieces in a particular orientation deserves mention of who did it first, unless it’s really quite impactful and noticeable on the final model, and you feel the guy who did it first inspired or helped you out immensely. People who go around demanding credit can bugger right off (usually).


  15. I think on the whole this was an excellent concept and article examining the habits of the Flickr FOL community! However, I do agree with the criticism (On an article about criticism, no less) that putting one intentional flaw into a build rather than going all out on the weirdness and convention defying would have been the way to go.

    I’m not a wordy person (Just ask any teacher I’ve ever had to write for in my short life) and in the short time I’ve actually been on flickr (4 months now) I have found myself hitting that favorite button a lot more often than I take the time to comment something useful, and when I do comment something constructive, I feel out of place in a stream of comments praising the build.

    My personal response to the builds in the experiment (If I remember correctly) is that I simply took a brief look at them and moved on without saying or favoriting.


    1. “I do agree with the criticism (On an article about criticism, no less)” So meta! (a comment about the criticism on the article about criticism… in a picture of a picture of a picture…

      Take it from a windbag… brevity is key!

      Second, all that said, sometimes pushing the fave button is good enough right? We should all critique more (I suppose) but slapping a guy on the back is not a cop out or a bad thing. Right?

      considering that you don’t say much, thanks for taking the time to speak here!



  16. First of all, great title. Any reference to Dr. Strangelove immediately earns points with me.

    Second, I’ll reiterate what a few others have said: It probably would have been a better approach to create a few builds that were 95% awesome, but which had one or two glaring defects. That type of build would probably be much more likely to invite criticism (I know this from personal experience, having unintentionally screwed up a few of my creations with a some real “boogers”).

    I’m pretty sure that most of the folks reading this article already had a pretty good idea how things were going to go before they actually read your results. Regardless, I think an article like this, as well as Michael’s predecessor article, is really needed to draw attention to the snowflake trend that has become pervasive in the Lego community in general.

    I’m not going to speculate on why people have been pulling their punches, because I’m sure that there are a multitude of reasons. What I am certain of, though, is that the pace of improvement and overall quality of builds is going to suffer if the trend continues. I’ve seen my own level of quality rise quite a bit over the last two years, and I know I probably wouldn’t have been as motivated to make changes in what I was doing if someone, occasionally, hadn’t pointed out those boogers.

    Finally, regarding getting “credit” for novel techniques of parts usage: Sure, everyone likes to be noticed or credited when they do something well, but there a few “innovations,” in any field, that can’t be traced back to one or more influences. The folks demanding credit for something they did probably owe much of it to those who came before them, whether they were consciously aware of the influence or not. Often, real innovation isn’t coming up with something that has never been done before; it’s integrating existing ideas together in a novel manner, or applying them in a manner in which they had not originally been intended. Picasso once said, “good artists borrow, great artists steal.” There’s no shame in stealing, as long as you do something good with the booty.

    I’m looking forward to seeing some non-deliberately-bad builds from you in the future.


    1. Noir…

      “as long as you do something good with the booty.”

      So many ways to go with that.

      Nope. I’m opting for silence on this one.
      Excellent comment by the way. The inescapability of re-using tecniques. Eventually, with use, they become mainstream. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. But as you point out, how well are you able to actually use what you borrow? Can you make the technique “Belong” in your build?

      Good stuff.



  17. There’s an intrinsic flaw with this experiment. By thinking about what makes a build good and trying to deliberately do the opposite, you ended up creating art that had more going on beneath the surface than the majority of things out there on the web made of Lego, which are straightforwardly representational, or just cartoonishly humorous. Minor criticisms about poor building technique or bad proportions don’t outweigh the fact that there was clearly something more interesting going on here than usual. In most of these, it is obvious that you were trying to push the limits in one way or another. Maybe you could try introducing a bit more “ugliness” into your straight models and see if it doesn’t make them stand out from the crowd more.
    (That camel with the minifigures, though, looks like it was done by a 7-year old.)


  18. I just discovered this place existed…

    Interesting experiment, I have noticed the same trend–Flickr comments are often too short to seem meaningful, and comments on places like EB are often pure praise.

    Your article/experiment is at least successful in the sense that you got this builder to examine how I give criticism. I tend to only give it if there is some positive comment I can also share–nobody likes to be handed bad news unless there is some good news mixed in. Also, I am pretty lazy and would prefer to post nothing if there isn’t anything in particular I can offer as far as commenting goes. But I think I am usually pretty straightforward with comments, although I suppose my style is more Beautiful than Bold.

    I had a couple remarks about the experiment itself: I don’t see marking a photo as a “favorite” on Flickr definitely positive (although there is a lot of correlation): I have used it before when I just want to bookmark a build, whether that’s because I like it or a particular technique, or because I wanted to find the link later on to share how nuts it was. Maybe I am in the minority there, though.

    Also, I agree that posting a near-success might have proved more insightful as to people’s reticence to critique. If they say nothing about the obvious flaw it reveals more than does a lack of posting at all.

    Also, the Mario build has enough whimsy that it actually has some merit beyond being a bad build, mostly because its an unfamiliar form of a familiar subject.


  19. Thank you, Aaron! It is viewpoints like this that should be the real meat and potatoes of this burgeoning art form. Constructive criticism is a true passion of mine and has been beat out of me throughout the decades, not due to the Lego community but certainly exemplified by this particular Sisyphean microcosm.

    There are three problems with your experiment, and I offer my own experience and experimentation within this test format as a single voice of wisdom.

    First, the Art Hoax is illogical. The notions in the past to debunk the critic is itself unsound. The premise is true AND valid; however, there are way too many factors and variables in the equation to accept that it is sound. The most notable in your case is that you are weird (it’s a good thing, a very good thing.) Expecting the unexpected should be… well… expected. Determination of what is good or bad is not only subjective but also completely irrelevant. Even Michael Bay can explode stuffs real good, usually very loudly and very slowly. And the metrics for determining the levels of “success” of a MOC or MAC are eternally flawed to begin with. Likes, hollow drive-by comments, and unavoidable views from a community salivating for builds from consistently great builders like yourself are all skewing any surreal statistics. So, in the end, the Art Hoax on the level of the Lego community cannot work regardless of the popularity (Nannan, Tyler, YOU versus the Murmurdogs), subjectivity (good, bad, whatever), or the rats (all of us conforming to the maze.)

    Second is the Observer Effect. In quantum mechanics and theoretical physics, the act of observing can invariably alter the observation. This is much more subtle in the art world and completely unavoidable. It is due to the instruments used for observation: Each of us. What every person brings to the table is unique due to that person’s own experience. And with the limitations of language and our 3% used grey matter, this experience cannot possibly be shared or fully understood. So, what we give in artistic expression is solely ours, and what we offer in constructive criticism is from a culture of one. Each of us. The same goes for the observer, you in this case. What you bring to the table is unique, and as I explained about the failing of the Art Hoax it is not sound and can therefore be deemed an illogical truth. It is absolutely valid AND necessary, but affecting change is entirely another elephant to eat. As for the observed in your experiment, there is always something even in the “bad” that can be taken as good. Francis Bacon said “Chaos breeds images.” In that respect, if there is just one grain of inspiration, it must therefore be equated as good if only in that observer’s developed/underdeveloped capacity.

    Third is the Berkley Paradox (not an actual paradox, I made this up many years ago while living in the Bay Area): The camel’s back isn’t broken because there is no camel. Through school, work, and in myself, I’ve seen more artists sink with their ship while gleefully playing second chair trumpet in the band absolutely fucking clueless because they are more concerned with staying in time than what is actually going on around them AND in them. You brought up Mocpages and it is the epitome of sinking ships, the captain bailed out in the first raft at the first sign of the iceberg but the band continued on. And it continues on! So, the ship doesn’t actually sink; however, I think we can all see that it becomes an island. Safe for some; but for the rest of us, we are Piggy in Lord of the Flies. These little islands cannot tolerate or accept what you, me, the Manifesto all have to offer and as a result we end up with more islands. More camels. This all amounts to what the community wants, and on sites like Flickr, Mocpages, and even Lugnet, the tendency to implode into fragments becomes less avoidable as they become galleries and museums with curators and patrons rather than studios with artists and critics. The state of the art is in need of critical thought and the representatives or our voice are Sean “yeah, it’s a big hummingbird” Kenney and Nathan “yup, that’s a first year art school project” Sawaya. The band keeps playing and the audience keeps listening. That’s their island and they’re welcome to it. THIS is the main problem with critique. There is no voice if no one listens. There is no broken back without a camel. The cause and effect are reversed. The Berkley Paradox is an effect looking for a cause.

    Those are my observed failings of your experiment in the harshest respect. BUT, the experiment is not a failure. The notion of “the ends never justify the means” is complete bullshit, never let anyone say otherwise. The means ARE the way to the end, justifying them is irrelevant and only necessary when it doesn’t work. Or, you get caught and are in front of a board of inquiry; but even in that case, it excludes too many variables to be an honest dissemination of all the facts. The same goes here in your experiment. It was not deceitful for the sake of duping the public, it was honest given the parameters of the premise. I know that those like Shannon may feel otherwise, but I also know that they are concerned about the same thing: Advancing the state of the art. Sometimes the swift kick to the pants is needed and in most cases it hurts. But the booty-boot can get brains in gear. And the final note is that: Brains in gear. Engaging the public, by hook or by crook, gets the communication started. Critique then must be learned to be accepted AND given so as not to incur the wrath of the easily butthurt or be ignored by the band in the din of the hymn. “Play well” does NOT necessitate that we play nice.

    I am in spite of my observations above, completely fucking giddy about your critique of critique and want more articles from you. As a crotchety, ill-tempered, drunk ass, cynic yearning for the days when that quintessential art form actually had substance for me, I take solace in the fact that someone as youthful as yourself and as prevalent a voice as you have being able to shout from the mountaintop with the good word. I encourage you to continue to do so with the only advise I can offer: Exclusivity is death. It is the sole reason I have not continued with my own development of a Lego forum where this can be explored and expanded upon. The art community I have been a part of for several decades now has seen the rise and fall of such arenas, and it always resides in the noninclusive winds that drive the windmills to continually grind out the same old grist. The same goes for the Lego community; tilt at that windmill and people like me will follow. There is an art to critique, and I see that there are more of us out there salivating for it. We want it, we definitely need it, we die without it. This island earth has a place for us to actually get it right this time. Lego is unique with its online presence and community at large, it has something no other art form in the past has: Nostalgia and complete compatibility. Drop a box of Lego in deepest, darkest Papua/New Guinea and watch their brains click in gear the instant they click two pieces together. Think fondly on your childhood days playing with Lego, now do the same with casting bronze, painting with oils, claying up an armature. Yeah, I didn’t think so. The notes of familiarity and instinct that Lego invokes are far wider and deeper than anything in the past. That is also why critique is so difficult and so necessary. Let this medium be fun, but also let it drive you bat shit crazy. Be angry at it. Hate it! Be offended by the yellowing whites and the inconsistent colors. Engage the art, engage your brain, engage everyone’s brain, then tear that shit up and get on with the next thing. Get the community involved by being a part of that community, that means communing (sort of in the title. 😉 ) The fear of hurting someone’s feelings and our laziness needs to be THAT camel, and I for one am more than happy to break its back and curb stomp that bitch completely out of spit. I’ll pick my teeth with that last straw as I walk away in slo-mo while the carcass inexplicably explodes in deafening glory. ‘Cause Michael Bay.


  20. I think this may be one of the reasons I stopped engaging with the online Lego community. Over the past few years I’ve never been more involved with building and creating Lego models and I feel like I’ve grown as a artist/designer/hobbyist/whatever because of that. I just never really engaged with the online presence of the hobby during that time.

    It just feels like Flickr kinda went the way that Facebook or Instagram or other social media platforms are prone to go. The addictive chase for likes and pick me up comments didn’t lead to actual growth or conversation. I think the online community formed the foundation of who I am as a Lego builder, but it wasn’t until I got to a place were my designs could literally be ripped apart and critiqued from every angle that I started to better builder in almost every way. I don’t know, maybe I’m just a cranky millennial yelling at an over saturation of social media to get off my lawn, but it was that in-person and honest approach to critique that put the final nail in the Flickr coffin. I found what I had been craving, authentic critique and encouragement to do better in my creations.

    Maybe I’m not good at getting critique from faceless individuals online, or perhaps as a online community we just aren’t good at conveying those messages to each other. I really don’t know, and I don’t really have any practical solutions. I just wanted to wast everyone’s time with my rantings. But as someone looking to start to re-integrate with the online community, these observations that you wrote about make me question how I want to present my work and engage with others about this hobby we all love/hate/whatever.


    1. “I just wanted to wast everyone’s time with my rantings.”

      Not possible on a site that might as well be called “Rant House!”

      To bad Patrick Swazy can’t be in the film version any more…


    1. I cannot agree about the invite only aspect. Granted, I understand that any group would be inundated immediately and there would be a loss of focus; however, an open door policy is the only way to assure that exclusivity and elitism are avoided.

      I think that critique should be a full frontal attack by everyone. Once a post is made, proper critique can then commence. Flickr is not like an art installation, this is Lego for fuck’s sake. Tweak as needed then re-present. If it cannot be done, then move on and learn from your mistakes; make what’s next THAT much better. That is after all the purpose of critique, it’s what the creator takes away from the other eyes outside their own tunneled vision. It’s not to perfect the turd that just got dropped unless the artist is asking specifically for assistance with it, it’s to expand the conversations into the next turd.

      Think of it like a comic book: There is a frame filled with artwork, action, dialogue, and reason. Then there is the next frame continuing it all. The real “A”rt is the space between. How did the artist get to the next frame? How can we as an informed viewer help them get through that tiny yet insurmountable space? The downside to all this is the reliance on the artist’s reception; do they trust OUR information, knowledge, and wisdom? Egos are fragile, and when there is a determined focus they are brittle at best. I think this is a major variable/borderline constant in the community regarding constructive criticism. Positive and negative critiques are equally valid, sound, logical, AND POWERFUL. We know that our input can influence in either direction, what we don’t know is how it will result. I think we can all name many builders that have left, been driven from, or lost the need to be a part of a community that doesn’t really commune.

      Is the problem then the forum? If Flickr is THE SHOW, then how can we make errors freely? We don’t need a group, we need a pre-Flickr Flickr. As open and expansive with all eyes AND ears AND voices AND minds open. Engage the brain THERE, make the critiques, mistakes, corrections, failures, successes, and perfections; then put on a show. This not only perfects the work, but also perfects the argument. Why did you build this that way? Because I tried it the other way already. Why did you choose this color? Because this other color didn’t work. What are you trying to say with this? Look at my previous work and follow the progression. Art is not the turd, it is the process.

      And yes, this goes for clones on plates. We cannot dismiss or exclude anything from an open forum even though we despise it. Why do we despise it? Because it is beneath us? Is it, I’ve seen Mike’s builds. 😀 I know I sound like a broken record with this, but the only question that matters is, “What’s next?” How can a critique of a clone on a plate, or similarly uninspired turd help? Simple, we hate it. And make no mistake, hate is a very good thing. That is when the critique turns inward and we must deconstruct OUR own process. Why would WE put a clone on a plate and present it to the world? To satirize, to poke fun at, or to start a narrative with a character that has a history, a story, a future that we want to share and explore?

      So, rather than there being an “invite-only, honest, critical Group ON Flickr”, there should just be an honest, critical Flickr. Then maybe a group for the actual finished turd. The Show group perhaps. Flickr is already a cacophony of wandering minstrels shitting out their own collection of notes, there should be a “Carnegie Hall” for all of us to present our music.


      1. Ah, see? It’s working already. And since pop-culture has permeated this thread, I suppose I may just hop in with this extremely relevant clip:

        By watching part of this scene from Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s not too hard to figure out which character is who in the LEGO community. I mentioned “Part of a plan,” to which it was modified and CRITIQUED… (see that?) to something better. I threw it out to see if the cat would lick it up (obscure reference to 12 Angry Men), and it was taken and formed into something new, something better than before. I honestly liked that it was modified more in depth. I didn’t think about it too much, but someone else did and made it better. So kudos to you.

        I honestly think that this could be an idea worth pursuing. My concern is “it” not being on Flickr. A lot of new builders come to Flickr before anything else, and so if it was a new blog or website, many builders who may want/need criticism would be unwilling or find it hard to be on or get to a different site. Many TFOLs only recognize MOCpages as a graveyard of builders who used to be. My fear is that this may be treated e same way. The times are changing, and forums are slowly being phased out by newer builders, at least from what I’ve heard or seen. But I agree with the whole artistic process thing; Flickr is the show, and there isn’t really a good-sized backstage area for the performers to get ready. But being able to make a backstage would require a lot of work be done to the theatre, and it may not be possible without damaging or remaking the foundation.

        So if people are genuinely interested in this, then more would have to be decided.


      2. I’m intruiged. Not having seen the movie (I don’t dig superhero movies) can you break down your comparison for me? Who is the dancing tree? Who is the generic snarky white dude with the Walkman? Who is the violent raccoon?

        I’m genuinely interested in a critique group, no matter what the venue or whether it’s a new group or a revived older group. It’s the best outcome of all this discussion. Witth all the conversation generated by this experiment and Mike’s article across several sites it’s clear that there is a hunger out there for constructive criticism, it just needs a few people to raise a banner and devote the time/energy to it. I’m too tied up with this site to do it myself, but I would support such a venture.


      3. Robert Webber, baby! General Denton in the Dirty Dozen. 12 Angry Men is one of my favs.

        This is the beautiful thing that is Art. Even the most grandiose successes can be traced to the most humblest of actions. Van Gogh’s Sunflowers was painted simply to decorate a boring wall for his buddy Paul Gauguin’s visit, and it fetched nearly 40 fucking million bucks. Granted, that is not normal, but even the great must come from humble. It is essential to them being great, can’t have one without the other. If it is necessary to have another “photo dump” that is the FINAL dump, so be it. I have always felt that Flickr is the studio, I just don’t think everyone else sees that being that there is no final final. You’re welcome, Keith (my art school girlfriend.)

        This idea is definitely worth pursuing and working out the kinks. Another site is costly and cumbersome, but maybe a group on Flickr as the Carnegie Hall would be a great start and a delineating line in the sand.


      4. I think a Flickr group for the studio rather than Carnegie Hall would work better. A lot of builders don’t want to flood their public streams with WIP photos or even alternate angles from the “main” pic, but those problems disappear if the studio is an open but “private” (according to Flickr’s settings) group focused on C&C. Only people interested will see the ugly stuff and builders can still retain their public profile.


      5. Thank you, I was going crazy trying to find that group…the name makes no sense, no wonder I couldn’t manage it. I purged a bunch of dead groups last year and that must have been one of them. I remember participating there a few times but the quality of critique started to slide downhill if I remember correctly. I think it was pretty effective in the beginning, and it certainly didn’t lack for submissions. Like all groups, good or bad, it had a finite useful lifespan and now it’s a dead hulk.


      6. I think I agree and disagree with this sentiment. I think there are times when criticism should start with a small group of trusted individuals and other times when it is should include everyone. I only have a limited amount of experience with the professional art world, but I think I can draw an analogy here to a similar process — a doctoral dissertation.

        At most schools, a doctoral student is assigned an advisor early on in his studies. The advisor helps the student to formulate a thesis topic and provides periodic input during the course of several years as the student conducts his research, formulates his hypotheses, analyzes his data, and draws his conclusions. During that period, the reviewing “audience” is pretty much just the advisor, although at some point, some other students might get involved in offering constructive criticism. As the student draws closer to being ready to present his dissertation, a committee is formed, usually consisting of a handful of professors from his department. These few professors review the student’s work and provide critical input prior to the actual dissertation. Their input might require the student to explore some avenues that he hadn’t originally considered in order to answer questions about his work. Finally, the day for the dissertation arrives. This procedure is usually supposed to be a “rubber stamp” process, in which the committee hears the dissertation and approves it. However, at a number of schools, the dissertation is open to any faculty member, and sometimes those “outsiders” can throw a real wrench into the works by posing a question that those on the committee, blinded somewhat by tunnel vision, wouldn’t have considered. These outsider questions, which often force the student to justify his work from a broader perspective, are valid, but if they were used to guide the course of the student’s work early on, they could have led to a lot of wasted effort going down blind alleys.

        I think art probably needs to incubate in pretty much the same manner — with criticism first being offered by a group of knowledgeable “insiders” and then later opened up the community at large. It’s not that the entire community’s criticism doesn’t matter, but that it might have the possibility or derailing a work of art if it is offered too early. The problem is that Flickr doesn’t really provide the best forum for that type of incubation, since the mechanics of Flickr groups make it difficult to create those incubating “inner circles.” The inner circles shouldn’t be the ultimate destination, though.

        That being said, sometimes the whole incubation thing doesn’t work at all. One of the artists from which I have drawn some inspiration, Jack Vettriano, has pretty much been flipping the bird to that inner circle of art critics for his entire career. The public at large, though, loves what he has done, and he has been laughing all the way to the bank. My guess is that if there were a cabal of theater critics in Shakespeare’s day, even he would have only gotten luke warm reviews, since many of the learned folks considered him to be too “showy” and dramatic.

        In the days of the internet and social media, it’s harder to separate “the show” from “the studio,” but I think there is still value in doing so. Ultimately, I suppose that it is up to the to artist to create “the studio” by selectively choosing to heed or ignore criticism based on where it comes from. And for some, “the studio” might be limited to just themselves. What this means for the critic, though, is that if you want gets inside “the studio” and have a real influence on the work of others (and perhaps have them reciprocate), it is up to you to provide clear and thoughtful criticism, the type that an artist has a reasonable chance to actually use to improve his work.


      7. Jeezis, last post there was 5 years ago. That ain’t dead, that’s fully incorporated into the dust. Sad too, they had the right idea and the format to do it.

        Maybe, and this is me thinking not entirely awake yet, we already have this and we’ve been ignoring the possibilities. If we can bring ourselves to curb our fucking language, Mocpages might be a site to post for C&C. None of us like it there, the pic quality sucks ass, and the moderation is intensely pathetic (not to mention all the socially inept future tire biters mouth breathing their way towards their Christian school home windows for a taste.) But all these things are sort of a perfect storm for critique: The simple uploader is easy to use once you scale the image to 1000 pixels, don’t need to post more than a few shots, each image can be a specific problematic issue to focus C&C, the quality is a non-issue, the zealots are few and keep to their fiefdoms, but the most important aspect (and frustrating) will be the language filters. That would force a well constructed critique. I think the problem with critique nowadays isn’t necessarily on the receiving end but rather on the giving. As I stated before, there is an art to critique. Sometimes it cannot be just given off the cuff for full efficacy, most of the time it needs to be thought out through the actual critique. Critical analysis of the critique by the one critiquing. Critique is an idea, not a belief; it should be as pliable as the one open to it. Say what you mean, mean what you say; the filters on Mocpages will discard our lazy language and refine it indirectly. Mocpages has other issues of course, but none that are any more frustrating than Flickr’s. Except the patented Bonk, Smash, Thud episodes, but that’s just an inconvenience and nothing deadly.


      8. Although I’m obviously not a fan of MOCpages I think you’re correct to say that it is probably the best place for a C&C group. The core audience is younger than Flickr and even in it’s diminished state, the site is also still an active point of entry for new builders. Several years ago, w hen I was an Ambassador I ran a MOCpages group called “Ask Keith” which was envisioned as a place where new and young builders could ask me anything they wanted to about MOCpages, the Ambassador program or the hobby in general. I also offered a formatted Constructive Criticism feature that is very similar to the one here on the Manifesto. Within a week, all the questions were in the C&C thread and it got to the point where I couldn’t keep up with the influx of people wanting an honest opinion and by the time I shut down the group there were well over a hundred reviews. So although the site is less than ideally, I think there is the most need for it there and the most desire on the part of the populace. By and large I don’t think the population of Flickr would be as interested in the concept.

        I also second your opinion that such a group, regardless of it’s location, must be a public one. I don’t think we need yet another example of a private-clubhouse of Lego Nerds, it just sets the wrong tone from the jump and doesn’t provide any service to the people who need it. Most of the established builder’s I’ve met have a cadre of trusted types who offer criticism, or they can reach out quickly to get it.

        Now, tell me more about the interrelationships of obscure artists while I find the rolling papers.


      9. Bricks Noir, I think your analogy works to an extent. Usually in a doctoral dissertation there is a legal precedence, credit, and mucho money involved. In the art world, the perspectives are purely subjective and as Vettriano shows they are also take it or leave it (love that guy!) Net zero gain, but even Jack can benefit from some input and in all likelihood already does from friends and family. The art world could use more eyes on every work as can the Lego world. I think having a select few in an online community will be a natural occurrence really, certainly at first. Look at what we are doing here, this should be a discussion that the entire Lego community should be participating in; however, I’m sure the metrics that Keith can provide would show that we are barely a percent given that scope. And as you pointed out, there will always be a tendency to tunnel vision with fewer eyes on it. The more that engage, the chances of missing an important detail will reduce dramatically.


      10. If a group were set on Flickr, MOCpages, or elsewhere, as a “pre-show” forum for criticism, I’d favor the name “LEGO Turd Polishing.”


      11. Maybe I’ve been out of the game for so long that I don’t really have a feeling for the online community, but is there a general sense of dissatisfaction with the output or quality of Lego creations in community as a whole? Or is the ongoing discussion fueled more from an individual desire for self improvement that is not being encouraged/filled by the community?

        Either way, it seems that there is a recognition that for a critique friendly mentality to succeed it has to begin somewhere. A specialized and dedicated space for discussion and critique would be ideal, but maybe it can start even smaller. Maybe there is a way to start adding an intentionality to normal browsing and perusing of models. I can’t remember the last time I commented on someone’s photo, but if I started intentionally laying out what I like about their creation as well as asking well formulated questions about their process, then I would be better prepared for the public forum when it is created.

        It’s like the early art and design classes I’ve been in. The professor hands out the early assignments, and then we turn them back in later. After that is the inevitable critique, and they suck. No one really wants to point out anything wrong, no one want’s to be the center of the conversation. It was always interesting to me to observe how critiques changed after the couple useless first ones. The class wide critiques never really reached that great of a level, there are always going to be people who just don’t care. The further the class got along in the semester though, the more connections were formed. By the end of those classes, there was typically at least a small number of people I could approach and say “hey, does this suck?” and they would tell me what they thought about it in a more meaningful way.

        So maybe what I’m getting at is that meaningful discussion and critique has gotta start somewhere. Whether it’s in a large forum, a small group, or individually, it will probably suck in the beginning. But maybe that’s just the growing pains to create something that is actually beneficial.


      12. Critique is a conditioned event, both giving and receiving. By the end of that art class, the students were in essence trained through fire to analyze the process. It also helps that they’re within striking distance. 😉 I used to sit back and watch a class critique unfold and get thoroughly disgusted at how it was a pedantic exercise in the mechanics of popularity and it became quite obvious that art classes were somehow hijacked as the wood shop, easy A, GPA maintainer. The best part of some wisecracking asshole like me laying in to a real turd (if it deserved it) in spite of the creator being some big shit on the student counsel was that it made everyone stand up as well, even the teachers And being THAT guy forced me to up my game dramatically because critique is more revealing about the one giving it than it is about the turd receiving. It forces you to be honest on every level, especially with your own art and Art. The bonus is that everyone else MUST follow suit if there is any desire to be taken serious. But critique needs to be learned as much as any skill and continually refined in order to maintain reception. These occasional growth spurts in the community only succeed in pointing out the need for it.


    2. Realistic. I agree that from a “most people” perspective, this is a good way to go. Don’t know if I would go it, but most likely I would. It jibes with the limits (the safety requirements) of most builders.

      But intuitively, I think after a certain time, it would be difficult to avoid the pitfall of “consistent critique”

      I know, that sounds pretty good right? Consistency. But I am talking about the emergence of a small group of “generally acknowledged” critics. After a while, there opinions can become unarguable… and the real danger at that point is that they will consistently dismiss certain creative risks. Taken to an extream, it might result in a homogenization of on lone MOCs. The same guys, encouraging the same things, over and over… in a rut that gets deeper and deeper.

      This emergence of an orthodox perspective. Tried. Tested. “Proven”. Its a thing that happens over and over.

      All that and yet, on another level, I agree with your assertion. Post here ONLY if your cool with critique. It’s polite. Understood. Self selecting.

      You stimulate conflicting ideas with this notion. And THAT makes me trust the idea.


  21. A post/rant about encouraging more active discussion in the community hand-in-hand with a mass comments purge on most of the photos involved? Oh, the irony. You’ve robbed us a major part of the lesson from this “hoax” if we can’t look back at it in context with how the community reacted pre- and post-reveal. If anyone wanted to delete their comments or unfave, that’s always been their choice. As someone who still thinks the Mario build is good, I take issue with the idea that people who initially responded positively to it are now being revealed as somehow foolish.

    When I saw the Mario build I assumed something was up just by nature of being familiar with your past work. I figured you were exploring some new free-form style of abstract building. Given that it took only 45 minutes to build, I guess that wasn’t far off. Intended or not, there is a “style” to it, which is inherent to all transformative art forms. And my criticisms were targeted at making improvements to the execution that wouldn’t sacrifice that style. I praised the direction you went in while criticizing some of the part integration, but not so much the part choices themselves. As I mentioned in our FM’s:

    “Critique is just as much about addressing the good things as the bad, and like it or not there is still a ton of good in that Mario build, as intentionally shit as it is. By saying “this area could use work,” we imply that it’s bringing the rest of the build down, meaning that parts of it are in fact good. It’s sort of a duality type of thing; you can’t have one without the other. If a build is actually terrible through-and-through, then what critique is there to give other than, “start over”? And even in such an extreme case (if such a case even exists) there’s no real need to say that when it can be assumed that there will be an entirely new build somewhere down the line anyway.”

    It is very rare that I dislike or disagree with the style of something enough to comment on it. It generally feels presumptuous and unhelpful so I tend to only critique the details. Seriously, who wants to pick apart a clone on a plate? And how would you even go about doing it? Where do you start? As others have said already, you would have done better to build otherwise captivating MOCs with a few glaring faults. Though in my opinion, the Mario build succeeded in this.

    I faved the Mario build once and I unironically faved it again. And yes, this means I think it’s better than many of your “real” MOCs. Even with the flaws it speaks to me more as a whole because of how refreshing it is. Your idea of shit is different from my idea of shit. And I think the fact that you thought it was shit speaks to how narrow the accepted aesthetics in this hobby are (echoes of the Murmurdog debate…).


    1. Sooner or later someone was going to point out the irony in that, and I’m not going to lie, I’ve kind of been dreading it. Disposing of the learning potential the comments could have provided may have been a bad choice, but it was one of only two and I had a very strong conviction that failing to mask the results was the worse choice. I don’t think the people who liked the MACs are foolish, nor do I believe that they have reason to feel bad, but that won’t change the fact that some of them might still feel humiliated or as if they’ve been “had”. Those feelings would have been exacerbated if I’d left the comments up.

      Guarding against that scenario was a tactical move; alienating the people who are probably in especial need of this message would have resulted in just another sermon to the choir. Basically, I was more concerned about that than I was about alienating people like you who would be (and are) angry about the comments being removed but already know the importance of critique. I’m sure there are people who fall in cross categories there, but I haven’t seen many of them.

      If you think my foresight in that respect was flawed or seems to doubly incriminate me of thinking that the people who liked the MACs are foolish and should feel humiliated that their comments “needed” to be hidden, I can’t really offer a counterpoint. All I can do is repeat that I was and still am consciously opposed to the idea that there’s reason for people to feel bad about how they reacted to the MACs. Deleting comments basically erased all concrete proof that any of this even happened, but I considered it more important to make the experiment less potentially offensive. Watering it down like that is what I thought was necessary to make it amenable to a larger audience, but it’s not going to surprise me massively if you have an idea that could have worked better. I’ve learned way more from people’s feedback than the experiment itself. 😀

      Your FM was extremely helpful, but as I think I mentioned elsewhere (I’ve been answering comments on and off for over a week now and my memory’s starting to fail me) I was unable to really integrate your advice into the experiment itself, though I tried. As I mentioned in the article, Last Chance failed as a critiqueable build but did end up being nigh-unpraiseable. Logically following from your message, however, an unpraiseable build would be by definition uncritiqueable as well. So trying to make it unpraiseable was the wrong route and the Dilbert Method would have worked better. Live and learn. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      Mario’s been growing on me, actually. I think I can guess which of my “real” MOCs Mario outclasses, heheh (though with our differing tastes it’d probably be off the mark again…whoops!). Honestly, I really wasn’t thinking when I built that one, not at all. Not thinking, and there you have what went wrong (right). Thanks for the metametacritique Christopher!


  22. Thanks for the effort!
    Not sure if it has already been pointed out but a better indicator of feedback is the ratio between favourites and views. In average you score 150/12000 = 12.5%. Your bad builds, funnily enough, score *more*: 95/6000 = 15.8% !
    Baffling, isn’t it?


    1. I dunno about that calculation. If something gets blogged, it’ll get a shit-ton more views than favorites, even moreso if it’s based on a popular IP and gets picked up by blogs outside the Lego community. Keep in mind a lot of Lego “fans” don’t even have Flickr accounts and just like to collect Star Wars sets and read TBB.


  23. As Rodiziorobs said earlier, I have also just discovered this blog, and I’m ashamed to say it took me this long to find! I’ll hopefully be sticking around though, as so far she seems like a pretty great hangout!

    As for the article itself, all I can really say (with my limited knowledge of Lego building and the online community as a whole) is that I agree with the overall message completely. I myself have fallen down the pit of ‘blank comments’, those quick responses that take a second to write and convey next to nothing to the builder, and am only now starting to realize what I’m missing.

    For those on here who remember DA2 and my small contribution to it, perhaps you’ll remember my first infantry squad, the MOC that got me back into the online community (URL: http://www.moc-pages.com/moc.php/413729 ). One of the first comments I got was from Michael Rutherford and it nailed what I needed to improve. And those first comments made me want to try harder and do better, which wouldn’t have been possible if he’d just left a blanket ‘Nice squad’ and left it at that.

    In my opinion, whether or not the experiment worked or whether it was the most effective hoax that could be made didn’t really factor in when I was reading through. For me, it just showed the rarity of criticism even for below par MOC’s, which was the intention. I honestly didn’t think deeper into the experiment itself after that, (that’s Matt’s job after all :D) but I did think into the concept of constructive criticism and it’s importance in the Lego community. I personally know what the effects of good criticism can be, and the improvements that can be made. Your article really helped widen my eyes, as well as both direct me to Michael’s work and this blog as a whole. So cheers for that! And I’ll be taking your (and Michael’s, and the words of those in the comments, and probably countless others) advise and start giving accurate critique more often.

    So long as I’m qualified to offer it 🙂


    1. Ah, Commander Werewolff,

      “So long as I’m qualified to offer it…”

      Dude, you build? Your qualified.
      You offer critique? Your qualified.
      There is no licensing process. No field manual. No rules.

      It’s an arena. An absolute meritocracy. Good critique will beget good reception and result in improvement (for all parties: Builder, Critic, and third person viewer). Lame critique will be seen as such. It’s not the end of the world though, its just like building! Get better! Critique and MOC both are art forms that can improve with repeated iterations.

      Your in it up to your eyeballs already man! Glad to see you on the blog!



      1. Cheers! Good to hear from you again mate, and yep, it was definitely a comment I should have left out. But oh well, you learn from your mistakes 😀


    2. Werewolff! I’m glad you found the blog, I appreciated your contributions to DA2, you definitely added value to that game above-and-beyond the confines of the actual game, and I hope you stick around to add to the conversation here. If you ever get the itch to write an article, we’re always open to reader-submissions. Are you still writing poetry? I remember how popular your offerings were with the other players. I’m always looking for a new angle to explore on the Manifesto, so don’t hesitate to offer a suggestion or two.

      And I’ll echo what Mike and Vitroelum said, you’re definitely qualified to offer critique. Don’t confuse any self-perceived shortcomings on your resume or experience with an ability to deliver useful criticism. You have demonstrated a clear understanding of the topic and I’ve seen you give good feedback in the past. Don’t hesitate to add your voice to the choir, the hobby can only benefit from your participation. Welcome aboard! It’s good to have you here.


      1. Thanks Keith! Good to be here. And yes, I still dabble in poetry and I would definitely be willing to write something for the blog in the future.


  24. “So long as I’m qualified to offer it” This comes up so often. There’s no such thing. You either have an idea of what may be wrong with a build/how it could be improved or you don’t. It makes no difference whether you’re the god of building or someone who just started putting bricks together. A good idea is a good idea.

    Sure, there’s the part where the builder might go with the “Who are you to tell me my work ain’t perfect?” attitude (Bleahhh!), but that’s his loss for rejecting a good suggestion.


    1. Yeah, I released how stupid it sounded after I posted it, but thanks for pointing it out! And you hit the nail on the head with how Bleahhh! that attitude is.


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