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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.

Friday, September 13, 2019

FTC vs. YouTube vs... JANGBRiCKS?

It's about time I said something about the elephant in the room.  The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has determined that YouTube massively violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 1998 by flagrantly turning a blind eye to the huge number of young kids using the service with their parents' accounts or simply by lying about their age during signup.  As a result of that finding, Google's been fined a petty (by their standards) sum of $170M, and more importantly, they're being forced to either clean up their act or face significantly greater consequences. 

As has been the case over and over again when YouTube is caught being criminally irresponsible for profit, they're going to overreact and devastatingly punish a significant number of content creators who have done absolutely nothing wrong up to this point.  This time rather than YouTube purging or restricting all of the fraudulent accounts clearly used by kids under 13, as their systems can easily detect (the root of the FTC findings), they're going to place sanctions on anything they deem to be "children's content." Mind you, there is nothing in COPPA even suggesting in passing that content for kids itself needs to be regulated, or that kids' viewing of that content warrants restriction.  It only insists that identifiable personal data such as names, birthdates, email addresses, home/locations, etc. of kids under 13 must not be stored or tracked.  In other words, there is nothing legally wrong with the existence of "children's content" on YouTube, and there is nothing legally wrong with actual children viewing said content on YouTube.  The only thing that's wrong is for children to be logged in with an account that's not COPPA compliant when they use the site or app.  YouTube's response, to butcher a metaphor, is akin to punishing the baby instead of throwing out the bathwater.  It's egregiously idiotic.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

How To: Criticize

[Originally published January 2015, brought to the top & mildly updated June 2019 in conjunction with a relevant debate going on at Brickset.]

You probably don't want to read a bunch of extraneous text, so let's get right to the point.  I think criticism is a good thing -- criticism of people, practices, products, companies, you name it. However, there are good & constructive ways to criticize and there are bad & inexcusable ways to criticize.  Here are some analogous examples from each side of the fence. Backstory for this article is shoved down at the end, if you're interested!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Peace is restored, for now

Last month I declared war against myself and set up some simple rules of engagement.  I would not publish reviews more than 3 days in a row, and I would take a minimum of 1 day off per week from uploading to my main YouTube channel altogether.  I'm happy to report today that I succeeded at those simple (but deceptively extraordinary) goals, and have achieved a state of armistice for the time being.  Let me share with you what I learned and accomplished during this unique & interesting period.

FAQ: Why don't I talk over my Pure Build videos

Q: Can you add narration to your real-time "Pure Builds?"
A: While this sounds like a good idea for people who like the sound of my voice, the reality of such an effort would fall apart almost immediately.  There are only so many ways one can say, "Look how these two pieces go together; isn't that cool?"  Only a tiny percentage of assembly steps in LEGO sets are ever unusual and noteworthy, and it's even more rare to encounter something truly new.  In other words, me narrating LEGO builds in real time would become agonizingly boring and repetitive in the shortest of orders, to viewers and myself alike.  It has been suggested that I fill uninteresting times with small talk, but I hate small talk.  Multiple-hour LEGO builds and me struggling to find entertaining things to say are two things that definitely do not go together.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

It's WAR! LEGO reviews vs. city updates & MOC work

The numbers are clear.  When asked directly, the majority of JANGBRiCKS YouTube channel viewers want to see reviews of current LEGO products more than anything else, by a significant margin.  However!  There some other reliable quantitative measures very strongly disagree.  The situation is just maddening enough to motivate the kickoff of a risky, radical experiment, and it all starts this week.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A New Personal Record!

Today I filmed, edited, and published a total of 6 hours of content to YouTube:

  • 1 hour 47 minutes of real-time HD Pure Builds
  • 40 minutes of shortened HD time-lapse versions of those builds
  • 19 minutes in a 4K quadruple-review on my Playmobil channel
  • 15 minutes in a 4K set review on the main LEGO focused channel
In all I chewed through 62 gigabytes of raw video footage and uploaded 13 gigabytes of finished product.

Not bad for a day's work?

PS: For MOC fans, the news is that I worked on a custom car for 5 hours the previous night. Didn't get it done, stuck on a perplexing build challenge.  I'll keep working on it and when it's done, it'll be worth about 30 seconds of video viewing time 🤷‍♂️