This is the fifth salvo in Michael Rutherford’s regular column, Fire for Effect. Take it away Mike…
The planet LUGNET… The Lego User Group Network… The Home World. Once the undisputed hub of the entire AFOL sector, it was a powerful marketplace of ideas. Almost 20 years later, LUGNET hangs invisible from the ceiling of cyberspace… like a gigantic, arthritic bat… hidden from view in the darkness, but still clinging defiantly to life. A desolate place… its once thronging multitudes are long gone, fled to the promise of a better life in the off-world colonies. Those few who remain on the Home World are merely stewards who live in the ruins, creatures of habit who hold out hope for better times and new track geometries. The mighty stream of message traffic that once flowed in from every corner of the AFOL sector has now slowed to a trickle of Ones and Zeros… Occasionally, the dusty silence of litter strewn streets is broken by a distant sonic boom, a recon drone swooping down from orbit on a preprogrammed census sweep.
LUGNET was a good thing and nothing like it exists currently. In its heyday, the site was a communications nexus, a cognitive disco and an atomic snow globe of creativity. Announcements of MOCs were the mainstay, but not the only commodity to be had. Ideas, conversations, debates, arguments, product news and other deliberations were all available in seemingly inexhaustible supply. And links? Links a go-go! Links to LUGs. Links to images. Links to other more specific groups. Links to other blogs. Links to contests. Links to Keith’s mom… It was the allure of this perpetual tumult that lured me into my first public utterance as an AFOL. It was Sunday, the 24th of October, 2004… at exactly 04:14:42 GMT. The transcript of this first transmission remain in the abandon archives even today! Prepare yourself, it was both insightful and inspiring.
Nicely put. Apparently I couldn't handle the dictionary after all.
Yet for all this activity, LUGNET was swept from majestic cultural centrality into the margins of the AFOL world in the blink of an eye. The thronging population crashed… seemingly overnight. Historians would argue about the cause of LUGNETs collapse… if they cared. But of course, historians, like most other people, could care less! But trust me… if they did care… they would argue!
What happened to LUGNET?
I think the AFOL race should ask itself, and perhaps ask beings from other races, this question. The answer to the question may be an unpleasant but valuable cautionary tale.
Why is our home world all but dead?
Well for starters… I sure as hell don’t know! I have deepened and broadened my ignorance by steadfastly refusing to do any serious historical research. Further, I have carefully cultivated a massive cataract shaped exactly like modern consumer communications systems. I don’t know an iPhone from a xylophone (Wait wait! I know… the iPhone is the one you play with little mallets!) On the upside, failing to back your opinion with research means you don’t have to worry about the age-old question: APA or Turabian? So, in the unlikely event that you are STILL reading… know ye this: Every word of this article is based on the subjective opinion of an aging white man! I’m also pretty sure my world view is mired in the Western tradition… and further tainted by years of work in the service of the state! Also, my daughter says I’m a misogynist, but she is incorrect… silly girl! So read on, only at the peril of your plaid wearing, Panini eating, Seattle’s Best drinking, hipster soul! And get your rebuttal in gear… because I think I’m setting myself up for some rotten tomatoes here… Oh, Shush… here comes my thesis!
My best guess regarding the cause of the great population collapse on LUGNET is three-fold. First, the rise of the specialized sites. Second, the triumph of the visual over the verbal. And third, some technical stuff that I can neither comprehend nor articulate… but I’m pretty sure it’s in there some place.
The first horseman arrives. Behold, the rise of the specialized sites! And like so many catastrophes, it sounded like a good idea at the time… As I recall, it was the castle community that inadvertently broke the first seal in 2003. The castle heads were the first sub-community to strike out from the home world, they were the first brave souls to seek a better life on a distant planet, which their wizards had named Classic Castle.
In the interest of clarity, I don’t mean to point an accusing finger here. I think the castle heads, as a culture, have always been one of the more refined and dignified AFOL sub-cultures. They embody a sort of renaissance ideal. They strike a balance between the icy, unblinking technical competence of the Train Heads and the aggressive emotionalism of the Spacers. The castle heads are a calm, restrained and tolerant people. They are by and large a friendly lot and enjoy a culture of gentile artisans and hearty drinkers. Always willing to make room at their table, always ready to laugh (Come to think of it… Castle Heads might actually be Halflings…). No, my intent here is not to admonish.
Photo Credit: “Very old Friends” by the always entertaining Pate-keetongu.