Thursday, September 18, 2014

Some FAQs about the LUG

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I haven't explained very well the recent news that I'm starting a LUG. Here's something of an explanation, in hopes of answering some of the questions people have brought to me so far. Feel free to send in any additional questions you may have - for now I am coordinating this from the blog's current e-mail address:

Why start an online LUG?

Because location-based LUGs don't cut it for an alarming amount of people. There are many reasons for this - maybe your nearest LUG is quite some time away, or has few members and never really got off the ground. Perhaps you've left a LUG because of some disagreement with other members of that LUG. Maybe someone or something in a LUG has scared you off. Maybe you're too young to meet an AFOL cut-off, or you prefer to build in themes that people near you are not supportive of. Maybe you just want to be more involved in "big things" at conventions and your LUG isn't interested in collaborative convention displays. The fact of the matter is that there wasn't a catch-all LUG that could cover everyone who feels left out of traditional LUGs, and there needed to be one.

One online LUG that has been successful is BioniLUG, which is part of BZPower. I joined that LUG some time ago and have found it to be very well-run, and an excellent way to connect fans across the world for the purposes of participating in group builds, coordinating convention activities, and the support of a LUG. The only "problem" is that it's very much a part of the Bionicle community, which unfortunately does not include all that much of the general LEGO fan community. At some level, that's a strength, but it means that BioniLUG can't be the catch-all LUG that everyone without a LUG should join (although if you do build with Bionicle elements, I highly recommend joining both BZPower and BioniLUG).

Why now?

Truthfully, this is a really bad time for me. I probably shouldn't be doing this now, when my personal life seems to be bottoming out and my main LEGO-related blogging outlet is in disrepair. This sort of LUG is something that the LEGO fan community desperately needs, and I'm very passionate about making it happen. Additionally, the community team at LEGO is in the process of rolling out improved guidelines for becoming a registered LUG. Under the new system, a LUG must be around for a full year before LEGO will recognize it and consider providing any support to the LUG. That was a major incentive for starting sooner rather than later, even if it does mean a bit of disorganization upfront.

So what's this LUG called?

That's our first order of business - figuring out an appropriate name that gets the point across without being antagonistic towards traditional LUGs. Sure, I'm launching it from LMOTD, but I'm not vain enough to make this about me (DanLUG?) or this blog (LMOTDLUG?). Other suggested names include USA LUG (too national) and ANTI-LUG (too antagonistic), but I'd like to see us settle on something a bit more neutral.

Do you have a mailing list? Yahoo! Group? Google Group? Facebook group? Some other kind of group?

That's our second order of business - deciding what to use for internal communication. I am certain it will not be a Facebook group, because many people (including myself) have very firm negative beliefs about that company's behavior and approach to the web. Beyond that, I'm not sure what we'll settle on - it'll be something accessible and easy to browse the archives of.

So how do I get involved with this nameless LUG without an internal group yet?

For now, make sure I have your e-mail address. I'll keep you in the loop as things move along. So far, you haven't heard much because things have not moved along much. You can probably help push things along by shooting me an e-mail with your opinions and advice on the name and what to use for internal communication. Until the LUG has a proper website of its own, I'll keep posting any announcements about it here at LMOTD.

Seriously, though, how will the LUG work?

There will be some form of internal communication, and some sort of collaborative build for large events (which will probably be just US LEGO fan conventions at first). There will be dues - likely $10 the first year and $5 per year after that (we're still copying ideas from BioniLUG), which will primarily cover the costs of mailing things to LUG members. That higher price in the first year will cover the cost of a pretty engraved or printed brick with the LUG name (or logo) for your name badge.

Since I'm mostly planning this as a service to the general AFOL community, expect group builds to lean (at least initially) towards existing collaborations - Great Ball Contraption, Micropolis, Moonbase, Mini Con, Cafe Corner-standard town, etc. We'll likely pick one theme per year, and then try to transport as many modules as possible to various conventions. This does mean that LUG members will need to focus on building things to be sturdy and easy to set up, but that should be manageable.

Meetings will take place whenever it makes sense to do so (maybe you'll luck out and meet other dedicated LEGO fans who are local to you), but will primarily happen at/around existing conventions.

Some sort of opt-in exchange program will be arranged to transport original models to smaller shows, to better allow individuals without the support of a local LUG to run LEGO displays (say, at their local library or a Mini Maker Faire). This will allow Joe AFOL in the middle of no where to run larger displays (augmenting his own creations with models on loan) and to advertise his/her displays as the work of a LUG instead of just being "Joe AFOL". Should a solid local group emerge from such events, members will be encouraged to start traditional regional LUGs (either instead of or in addition to being part of this catch-all LUG).

Materials given to the LUG will be distributed in as fair a manner as possible (with the exception that priority will be given to members involved with displays) - think raffles for sets and "everyone gets a bag" for loose brick. This will be handled in a transparent and democratic manner on the group's internal forum. Items will be distributed at conventions when possible, and will be mailed in other cases.

Some additional benefits for members will be arranged for but not announced outside of the group. This is partly because LEGO does not allow information about any pilot programs to be shared with the general public, and partly because offers made to a LUG are intended to support the LUG and LUG displays (and not be used for personal enrichment).

Are there any ground rules?

Not really, because we want this to be as open as possible. I guess "void where prohibited" - for instance, in the US, there are privacy laws against collecting personal info from people under the age of 13. We want this to be fun and open to as many people as possible, though, so if you're too young, ask a parent to get involved on your behalf. If there's another obstacle you know of, let me know and I'll see what I can do to help. To the extent that rules are needed, we'll firm them up as we go along. Any idea is a good idea, except for the not happy ones, right Unikitty?

We will encourage members to be active in the LUG's internal communications and strongly encourage members to get involved with displaying original LEGO creations in public settings. Understandably, not everyone is comfortable with displaying their models publicly, but running LEGO displays is the most important thing a LUG does to grow the hobby.

For the sake of tracking LUG activity, promoting events, and preventing abuse of the LUG's name, any display run in the LUG's name will need to be announced internally to members of the LUG. We'll also expect that all members will abide by the inclusive spirit of the LUG - we want to unite all LEGO fans who are not already in a LUG, and encourage everyone to get more involved with the larger LEGO fan community.

What's a LUG, anyway?

It stands for LEGO Users' Group, and if you didn't know that, you might not be ready for one. The standards for what makes a LUG are fairly loose, but generally it's a group of LEGO fans who do LEGO-related things together. Common activities include running LEGO shows, assembling group builds, and drafting out sets. LUGs often also run collaborative layouts at conventions, support individual efforts among their members, and participate in other activities to grow both the LUG and the larger LEGO fan community.

No comments: