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Sunday, March 29, 2020

Is Bricklink buying safe during peak coronavirus?

A viewer today asked for my thoughts about a potential LEGO fan safety issue in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  They have a friend who is abstaining from making part orders on the popular Bricklink marketplace out of fear of contamination, and wanted to know if I felt this was an overreaction.  Below was my response:
"I think everyone has a right to be as safe as they feel they need to.  There's no single right answer.  The fact is, no matter what we do, the majority of people on the planet are going to contract this illness, it's just a matter of when. Even if every country completely "flattens the curve" we're not going to exterminate this virus from existence, we're just slowing its spread so healthcare systems can keep up, while also trying our best to not transmit the darn thing to particularly vulnerable fellow humans that we or others care about.
With respect to Bricklink orders, based solely upon what I've read to date from the scientific community, in the worst case scenario if the sender has the virus and is contagious, viral RNA (which alone is essentially inert) can remain detectable on plastics for up to three days, but whole viruses are certain to have become nonviable more quickly than that.  Even if a contagious Bricklink seller coughed & sneezed directly into the package right before closing it up, unless it's sent via Express mail the chances of the recipient getting infected are probably infinitesimally low.
I think your biggest risk is if the mail carrier is infected and happens to cough directly onto the package right before dropping it off.  Still slim chances. If worried, open the package, dump the contents out, discard the package, then wash hands, exercising normal good hygiene practices along the way.  I think this can all be done very safely.
All that said, again, I think your friend has every right to choose to hold off for the time being, if that's what feels most comfortable to them.  Managing mental health and a psychological sense of safety is important especially when there are other stressors about."
What's your take on the situation? Are you avoiding LEGO purchases and "non-essential" package shipments right now?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Headed up the river with a boat and no paddle...

...and they got me on lock dowwwwwwn!

I have a theory that for every situation in life, classic Hip-Hop music has a reference. Today's proof comes courtesy of Cypress Hill. I'm in one of six contiguous counties in the state of California, USA, covering approximately 7 million inhabitants, now operating under "shelter in place orders" from local governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Technically we're not on full "lockdown" like some parts of the world. We're still legally allowed to exit our homes without explicit permission, but we're not allowed to gather in groups larger than 10 or with people from outside our own households, and we're not supposed to travel by foot, scooter, bicycle, or car to any place we don't absolutely need to. All "non-essential" establishments have been ordered closed including some municipal offices and all schools.

You may have seen news reports about people stockpiling toilet paper in recent weeks. These reports are accurate. Panic buying has occurred en masse, and in my region in particular there was a tremendous surge in this behavior just yesterday when our own change of status was widely announced and broadcast as an emergency alert notification on all of our phones. I topped up my own household's non- and slowly-perishable food supplies late last week, and already then there were about a half-dozen aisles completely stripped of all products. I got the last three packets of instant rice off one lonely shelf. Days later, some entire stores are all but empty. Amazon will be out of some commodities for weeks.

Everyone among my close & extended family & friends appears safe & healthy for the moment, but tensions are high and uncertainty & unease are palpable in the air. Nobody has any idea how long this will last or how bad it will get. While South Korea has given the world a clinic on pandemic response & "flattening the curve," many other places, including the mighty US, have been slow on the draw & prioritized minimizing public panic & bad early PR over taking care of serious business.

For me this is a first-in-a-lifetime experience. I remember the days of peak Ebola and got inoculated for H1N1, but coronavirus is hitting harder and closer to home & heart than either. With so many people stuck at home and looking for some good news or a positive escape, I should ideally be making more content than ever. Unfortunately there's not enough of me available to oblige. I've done my share of news reading, stock-taking, protocol-generating, and social circle debating, all of which takes time as well as mental energy. I also suffered a couple bouts of insomnia over the past week that knocked me down a notch. Boo.

I'll certainly do as much as I can to be normal for all of you, though, while maintaining proper care for myself and loved ones. I hope you all will do your parts as well to comply with common sense precautions, to avoid picking up or spreading this nasty little bug. There's plenty of unbiased, fact-based info out there about how respiratory tract viruses spread and how to minimize exposure through basic & easy hygienic practices & courtesies. Don't be patient 31.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Patreon is now live!

The official JANGBRiCKS Patreon page is now open and accepting signups! I heard your requests, collected your specific feedback, consulted with experts, and did my best to put together a selection of membership tiers and rewards that would really fit both what I do and what fans want.

Pledging is of course 100% optional and I have exactly zero plans to remove anything from my normal stream of YouTube content.  However, in spite of the chorus of assurances that the very continuation of my videos & builds is itself "the reward," I insist on giving supporters more.  There will be additional content made available through Patreon, including videos YouTube's algorithms don't want me to publish as well as early access to uploads before they're made public and really raw & candid peeks behind the scenes.

YouTube has knocked me down & kicked me numerous times over the years. Now, through Patreon, the fans, the people who really matter, can help elevate what you know of as JANGBRiCKS to a new phase of interactivity and energy.  You can get a minifigure of yourself to walk the streets of New Jang City.  You can get your own message or video clip featured on my main channel.  You can influence the evolution of my work and the priorities behind it more directly than ever.  You'll even be able to participate in my first ever brick-themed live chat sessions and maybe, just maybe, some exclusive live video streams.

Check out the new Patreon page and please consider supporting my move to become simultaneously more viewer- and hobby-focused, taking a step away from the drama of chasing YouTube's ever-changing rules & tricks to just share as much fun & wholesome entertainment with all of you as possible.

Thank you in advance and as always, let me know if you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions.

Recovery update

For a little more than a month now I've been back to work on a "new normal" basis, getting caught up on reviews and figuring out how to most comfortably & efficiently work in the all-new studio.  Viewer reaction to the new format has been shockingly positive.  I, myself, have felt perfectly comfortable being in front of the camera again, though I do yet need to work on physical access to review subjects from behind the filming rig when doing the traditional close-up shots.

I've been marking new videos honestly as "not for kids" and YouTube hasn't overridden this choice on any of them as yet, though I still don't know if I'm completely in the clear as COPPA settlement enforcement actions have not begun to date, to my knowledge.  I remain unfortunately confident that I need to leave most of my previous 10 years of work marked "for kids" forever, though, and that loss might thus never be recovered.  New legislative efforts in the US have been initiated, meanwhile, to expand the relevant definition of "kids" to everyone under 16 instead of 13, and separately to essentially end toy unboxings & sponsored "reviews" targeted at that broad audience group. Ouch.  I'm happy to mostly not be thinking about laws & such right now, though, as my focus is back on the content where it belongs!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Why 4,000+ videos have comments & most ads disabled, but new ones don't

I've covered the fallout of the FTC vs. Google settlement for YouTube's flagrant violation of COPPA in three dedicated blog posts, five videos, and probably over a hundred smaller postings. Anyone concerned about the issue with regards to me and my channel should have no questions about where I stand on it all and why.  Yet, questions & confusions remain, so here we are again.  In my last video on the subject I very clearly explained that the real-world effects on me after YouTube's compliance update necessitated a significant and immediate change to my video style & approach, otherwise JANGBRiCKS as you all know it was all but done for. During 2 & 1/2 weeks of downtime that followed, I figured out a new plan, completely disassembled & eliminated my review studio setup, and built something entirely new.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Eleven years & 3,000 posts ago...

Above is the exact photo, pulled from its original upload location, that opened the very first post on my earliest LEGO-related blog, Zeyek's BIONICLE: Untold.  The in-character narratives of Zeyekti-Iiloptinous Mazzourel and a simultaneously-launched "Behind the Scenes" blog of custom creations would later give rise to my "Unofficial Hero Factory MOCs Blog," all three of which I would subsequently combine under the "LEGOJANG" banner, finally renamed in 2014 to "JANGBRiCKS." 

Good times, all, and still going like the Energizer Bunny! 

[Edit: Wait, is the Energizer Bunny still a thing?]
[Edit2: Yes, yes it is, whew.]

Saturday, January 25, 2020

A re-launch progress update

It's been two weeks since I was forced to yank the e-brake and put a full stop on the JANGBRiCKS channel on YouTube (and almost everything else, for that matter).  By the time I posted my video explaining how YouTube had killed nearly all value in nearly all of my work of the past 10 years, I had formed a mental image of what my primary content, LEGO reviews, could look like in the post-COPPAcalypse era.  Based on viewer feedback, I discarded that initial concept and eventually figured out something that would be less of a dramatic departure from the style many people had come to really enjoy.

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.