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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Realizing what Patreon support could really mean

This evening while pursuing my usual modus operandus (research, brainstorm, plan, repeat) regarding Patreon & properly rewarding/supporting patrons, I had a mind-clearing epiphany.  A lot of my kindest and strongest supporters have insisted that if I accept their direct monetary support, the biggest & most important reward they'll receive in return is that I'll be able continue on doing what I've been doing up to now, making the best content I can.  I now realize this is incorrect.  I'll be able to do so much more, so much better.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Patreon preview & request for feedback

For years I've gotten a consistent stream of requests for a Patreon page, PayPal "tip jar," or other means of directly, tangibly supporting my work, and I've always pushed the idea away.  All that time, family & friends have tried to reason with me and explain why I should work past this holdup.  A lot of what they've argued makes perfect sense, but at the end of the day, there's always been a single point I've returned to: I didn't need the extra support, thus I couldn't bring myself to accept it.  Even through numerous YouTube maladies, I've always resolved to do whatever I can to keep my involvement in this hobby and contributions to this community self-sufficient through normal, reasonable ad placements.

Days into 2020, everything changed. The latest batch of YouTube changes utterly decimated residual ad income from nearly a decade of past work.  I finally accept that I need to decouple my ability to financially support my channels from YouTube's ever-shifting willingness to allow just that.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

What a difference... a day makes...

"Twenty-four little hours..."

Deep breath.

Right.  So, the video above explains it all.  Final data from YouTube's January changes arrived and the picture is extremely bleak for me, more than twice as bad as a supposedly accurate real-world test suggested it would be.  I really should be panicking right now, but somehow I'm not.

I need to make bigger changes than I have in the over 10 years I've been doing this whole LEGO thing (almost 7 of them full-time).  I'm up to the challenge, though!  In the coming days & weeks you're going to see me asking a lot of questions of fans across multiple media & communication platforms, including some with which I've never before engaged.  I have a lot of ideas swirling around and will need your direct input to help shape the best of them into a new reality.

My primary YouTube video style in particular needs a significant adjustment to overcome the latest round of major obstacles, restoring the ability of viewers to comment on videos (at least new ones), add them to playlists, and possibly most importantly, use the "mini-player" in the YouTube app.  This may be a bit disruptive at first, but I'm not fundamentally going to change who I am or what I do, I'm just going to make what changes are necessitated by factors well beyond my control.

It's a good thing I work well under pressure!  I'm actually feeling more than a little tinge of excitement over all this.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Where did YouTube comments go, and what now?

It's a little late, but YouTube today completed the second round of implementation of their changes to comply with the COPPA lawsuit settlement (that I've talked about quite a bit in the past) as well as some questionable add-ons they've bundled along.  The settlement was announced in September 2019 and in November we learned a lot of the specifics of what would be changing.  Now comments & end screens are completely disabled from most of my videos, and you will generally not get subscription notifications when I upload new content (not that many of you got these anyhow).  Some other features will be impacted as well.  All of this is because these videos count as "mixed audience" content according to YouTube's own definitions and had to be marked as "for kids" and restricted as such. The actual COPPA rule that YouTube flagrantly broke and is now forcing us creators to follow on their behalf actually allows "mixed audience" videos to be marked as "not for kids" since, by definition, "children are not the primary audience."  However, this requires a small extra step to be implemented by YouTube, and guess what YouTube didn't do?  It's pretty messed up.

At the time of this writing, my plan remains unchanged from last year.  I'm going to continue publishing my real-time Pure Builds, time lapse speed builds, and reviews & MOCs as I've done up to now.  Those of you who are aged 13 or older are welcomed & encouraged to continue commenting on my Pure Builds videos as those are very clearly aimed at a more patient, mature crowd and I've not seen any evidence that younger kids are interested in that content.  I have also been thinking up more ways to make videos on my main JangBricks channel that can be easily and honestly marked as "not for kids" per COPPA definitions, so you'll be able to comment on those.  You can also comment here on the blog, or on these other social media accounts:
As for the loss of subscription notifications, there's not much I personally can do, though you as a viewer can still work around this.  You know I upload regularly (averaging once/day over the long term), so just check the main channel any time you want to see what's new, especially during busy release seasons like we're in right now!  I decided not to spam up all of my social media accounts with "Hey I just posted a new video, go check it out!" posts every day, though I will do some occasional updates and I'm experimenting with posting videos natively on Facebook as well.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

What Am I Doing? Part 2!

Hi all!  I've continued to be a bit quieter on YouTube than usual in this between-releases season, but I've also continued to use this time for important behind-the-scenes work that will pay dividends in 2020.  The four major groups of tasks I mentioned previously have all been wrapped up, but a bunch of new stuff, some completely unexpected, some long overdue, has been keeping me busy.  Time for another update list!

LEGO Marvel Avengers Hulk Helicopter Rescue review & thoughts! 76144

With subscription notifications going away on YouTube for a lot of content (including much of my own), I'm going to experiment with a return to posting up about my new videos here on the blog.  I'll be playing around a bit with different ways to do this over the coming months. Right now I don't have any fully-formed clever ideas, but I'll at the very least share some link updates on a fairly regular basis, most likely in groups rather than with a new post for every single video.  I'm open to suggestions, so let me know what you'd like to see.

Friday, November 8, 2019

What Am I Doing?!

I may seem a bit quiet on the content front at the moment, but don't worry, all is well.  I'm not in a motivational rut and there's no other problem behind the scenes, but at the same time there's no big-bang MOC I'm secretly working on or anything.  This is the most dramatic new product release lull of the year, with the trans-holiday rush looming over the horizon, and I always use this time to work on mundane chores that nobody else cares about.  Most of these "between" seasons have delayed starts as normal work goes overtime, and that has resulted in a significant backlog against which I'm now making as much progress as I can, while I can.  For those curious, here are some of the major groups of chores currently underway:

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

FAQ: Price/part vs. price/weight in LEGO sets

Q: Should we look at price to weight ratios for LEGO sets instead of price to part?
A: No. No we should not.
  1. In terms of production costs, the price of the raw ABS that goes into each set is minuscule.  In a quick search as a consumer, not even having access to true high-volume industrial pricing, the price of ABS looked to be around $1/lb. in moderate bulk and I'm sure with the outrageous quantities LEGO deals with, they get a significantly better deal than that. The $800 USD UCS Millennium Falcon thus contains less than $25 worth of plastic.
  2. The smaller LEGO pieces are, the more they weigh for a given volume of completed set; 8x 1x1 bricks weigh more than a single 2x4 brick that takes up the same space, and 3x 1x1 plates weigh more than a 1x1 brick. In other words weight and what I simply call "volume of stuff," the total amount of visible/usable product when assembled, are not directly coupled measures.  You can easily make one LEGO model smaller, yet heavier than another with the same general design.
  3. The sense of value that consumers derive from a LEGO set has nothing to do with its weight. We care about its size, play features & fun, complexity, level of detail & visual interest, accuracy if applicable, and construction.
With the release of 2019's Ultimate Collector Series Imperial Star Destroyer, many people compared the weight of its package to that of the UCS Millennium Falcon to arrive at a single data point "proof" that LEGO prices all of their products by the weight of the raw ABS plastic (plus bags, cardboard, instruction book paper & binding, etc.). The boxed Star Destroyer came in at $0.055 USD per gram, with the Millennium Falcon at $0.060/g.  That's within 9% of each other or even potentially "equal" if you round off another decimal point.  However the theory falls apart quickly if you look at more than two sets.  Bricklink displays the total weight of just the individual components in each set inventoried in its catalog, sans packaging.  Even sticking strictly to boxed minifig-compatible Star Wars sets from 2018-2019, the range is far too wide for comfort:
  • 75229 $0.099/g
  • 75217 $0.094/g
  • 75220 $0.083/g
  • 75243 $0.080/g
  • 75222 $0.075/g
  • 75203 $0.071/g
  • 75234 $0.067/g
  • 75214 $0.052/g
The data doesn't fit the hypothesis, and there's no good logical argument in favor either.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

My thoughts on the LEGO UCS Star Destroyer 75252

Today marked the public release of the second LEGO Ultimate Collector Series Imperial Star Destroyer, the hollow, but beautiful 4,784 piece behemoth.  If you have any interest in it whatsoever, you've surely already been soaked in news announcements and "analyses" in addition to full-fledged (and fully positive) reviews since LEGO shipped pallets of them out for free to generate praise.  As much as I used to wish I had the original mega-model from 2002, I won't be buying the new one.  At $700 USD, it costs too much and more importantly, at over 2 feet wide and 3.5 feet long, it's too dang big.  I do rather like it, though...

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

So, What's Going On?

It's been quite an eventful year for me and my YouTubing adventures, and with a final lull now in effect between release seasons, let me take a step back and let you know where my head is at and how things have been going in general.  The good news is, I still like LEGO, a lot.  I'm also a lot happier with my work today than I was a year ago, with a more positive outlook on the future of my various content publishing channels.  Let me take you through the key points of interest.