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The Brickset Forum : A discussion. What would make you engage more?

BooTheMightyHamsterBooTheMightyHamster Member Posts: 1,560
You'll probably be aware that the future of the Brickset Forum is being discussed at present.  It is becoming economically unviable for Huw to keep it running, in part due to the relatively low numbers of people using it.  Options being considered are:

- It remains as it is if Huw can negotiate a sufficiently large reduction in running costs from his host.

- The forum closes and we, as a community, relocate elsewhere.  To this end, there has been a group formed to look at alternatives - other forums, Discord, Facebook etc

It strikes me that the root cause is a lack of engagement.  As I write this, there are three registered users (including me), plus 12 guests looking at the forum.  Back when I joined Brickset about 12 years ago, it was a thriving community with many users talking about a variety of subjects at all times of the day and all times of the week.

So in order for it to be sensible for either of the above options to be pursued, there has to be an engaged audience.  There's not much point in a group of us setting up a new community elsewhere if only five people are going to use it, and similarly, I can sympathise with Huw deciding to pull the plug here - why keep it going if there's no demand?

So to get to the root of the problem, what would make you use - and value - the forum more?  I appreciate that I'm only going to get answers from people who are already here, whereas the most useful responses would be from those that were active members, but have drifted away.  So to that end, I'm willing to take wild speculation as to why people might have left.

One thing that stands out for me is the proliferation of automatically generated threads that come from the main site articles - they fill up the forum and hardly ever get any responses, as anybody wanting to comment on the topic will do so on the main site.  I'd like to see these removed, and retain the forum for 'user generated content' only.



  • drlmiles1drlmiles1 Member Posts: 195
    I'd agree with you about the auto-generated threads. Usually I will post in the comments for the actual article rather than come here to do the same, and it's difficult to see what people are really interested in on here, as there are so many orphaned threads with no posts clogging everything up.
  • karritkarrit Member Posts: 1,068
    I enjoy coming here as it is usually a less toxic space than many other forums and social media.  I've noticed the rise in lack of activity recently also.  There are still a few posters on here that I consider to be a bit offputting or toxic so I try to skip or avoid their posts rather than getting involved.
    Personally I've always preferred the forum style sites as opposed to all social media platforms.  I don't like having to access multiple different platforms in search of news, info & discussion and I hate the whole social media influencer system or whatever you want to call it.  I find it frustrating trying to keep up.  I don’t understand how reddit works.  I joined discord because that is the main way my LUG communicates but I'm still not used to how it operates.  The other LUG uses another platform that I'm told is something you need to constantly be on because there doesn’t seem to be any way to access old posts/messages.  I was sent a link but haven't tried It because that would be yet another place I'd constantly need to be checking.
    I refuse to be glued to my phone so I find the reliance on various different apps for info to be a huge time suck.
    I don't know what the answer is but if/when this forum goes away I will miss a lot of the people I've engaged with here.  I do still check in here several times a day most days.
    The thing I've found with many forums I've been on over the past 20+ years is as technology changes either the creator or owner of a forum loses interest in the subject so it dies slow death or they are unable to adapt to changes/upgrades that the service providers generate over time.  But there are a few that are still going strong.   
    I do have to say that I'd never heard of Vanilla Forums as a provider until I joined this forum and it seems to be a bit clunkier platform than others I've been on.
  • HuwHuw Administrator Posts: 7,119
    The auto-generated threads were added some time ago in response to feedback that people wanmted to discuss the articles here rather than the main site.

    However that hardly happenes nowadays so I have removed the link and they won't be posted any more.
  • ModeltrainmanModeltrainman Member Posts: 1,317
    For me, I try to come here daily. What often happens is, I'm often helping family, building, or attending church, so I forget to check occasionally. I do love the Christmas exchange the WV thread, etc, but lately, it seems some friends aren't around, either.(@switchfoot55, others). That and polybags seem to be harder to get, and the deals threads seem to be not lighting up as much(which I suppose is down to availability, economy...) I also like to share pictures of my builds, but then I see pictures of @evancelt's builds, and wonder if I should bother posting mine. I suppose I'd be more active in doing so, if I could get more feedback than I do.(not praise, just more...constructive feedback,(nice technique! Try this) as opposed to nothing, or worse  'This isn't a very good build,' 'Why?' '...'
  • Lo1sJessLo1sJess Member Posts: 707
    @Modeltrainman you should always show your pictures.  Very few are at @evancelt level and build as much or collaboratively.  I enjoy both of your build very much.  So @BooTheMightyHamster my two cents is we need more sharing of builds to interact on.  I think that’s why the winter village time and secret Santa have a big draw lots of pics and sharing.  
  • ModeltrainmanModeltrainman Member Posts: 1,317
    I probably check the forum 10 or more times a day to see any new posts. More than any other forum or social media. These are my people.
    Agreed, Russ! And everybody's so polite, here. We can pretty much discuss anything, ask for help, prayer, and 'seldom is heard a discouraging word...'I think FB, Twitter lose that. Those two places I've gotten yelled at for things, whereas on Brickset's forum, everyone's reasonable. (There was one time on Brickset proper that someone thought I had too many BDP entries, but even that is seldom.) I think we lose the friendships and relative safety of our group here, if we move to FB/Discord, what have you. As far as activity, I want more pictures of what everyone's building, even if sets. I want to see more of a dialog about what others think of a set. @TheOriginalSimonB and I had a nice back and forth about #76915, but that was in 'What are you building' or 'LEGO status,', one of those two, so it felt inappropriate to draw it out. 
  • 560Heliport560Heliport Member Posts: 4,267
    I too would like to see whatever others are building, even "just" sets. I like to see things from different angles than the official photos. Often the numerous official images are really only a few, just repeated at different resolutions, or the same image as the box front, but without the background.

    "Discord" just doesn't sound like a friendly, welcoming, or fun place. I have no experience with it, but the very name is off-putting to me.

    I don't mind when a discussion goes off-topic, if it's still about Lego- or people's other hobbies. I could do without political arguments, but those are pretty rare here.

    I'm not on any social media, aside from an occasional comment to a YouTube video. 

  • PapaBearPapaBear Member Posts: 665
  • Mr_CrossMr_Cross Member Posts: 1,713
    I'm happy to share my MOCs and have done more in the past but stopped for reasons I can't quite identify.
    I know I've stopped commenting on stuff too.
    I think that it's a broader problem though, I've stopped engaging - I think it's because I'm quite tired of the internet in general - but that's a bigger topic.
    I still like it here and think it's worth trying to save.
    So, I agree, what I think is needed is sharing, care, effort etc. - like any relationship it needs a little nurturing to grow.
    We probably need more points to engage us all though.

    Some thoughts:
    - could there be a prompt on the front page or a call out article indicating some of the problems the forum is facing - it is news!
    - support from LEGO for us - don't know how practical that is to manage or if a portion of the main site's support could be given over to the forum?
    - revive activities like bonusball, random part identification or parts in all colours
    - revive monthly challenges or have more reasons to share MOCs - frontpage moc of the month?
    - something collaborative - which needs thought and/or suggestions
    - round robins - I can put together a UK one, can anyone do a EU or USA? Mostly because international postage costs are absurd.
    - I don't know how to increase activity in the marketplace without more activity overall but the chance of doing a deal was often a good reason to keep checking the forum. Deal sharing would be nice too, but I agree there aren't the same deals out there - LEGO is worth more than Gold apparently!
    - PAB pick-up buddies? Going to a LEGO shop? Maybe offer to pick up PAB and/or polybags?  no sets, have a limit of two cups, three/four polybags or £25? needs more thought/rules.

    I've noted a drop in my sets expenditure - in short, too many huge sets and a tightening of finances. I've never really been able to afford this hobby anyway, but it's got significantly worse in recent years.
  • truck730truck730 Member Posts: 368
    My Local lug has favoured watsap ,I'm not tech led so I'm mostly alone , I post pics and show off all the dumped lego I find (in a skip truck driver), I've a lot of 400euro built but as there's so much lego here already and has to be out of sight  (intolerant Wife) ,I'm seeing my lego life being strangled as such and maybe losing the way on the brickroad! I'm here everyday and love the news comments and the creations.
  • Mr_CrossMr_Cross Member Posts: 1,713
    truck730 said:
    I post pics and show off all the dumped lego I find (in a skip truck driver),
    oooh, can you (or do you already) share them here too? could you reshare any really good ones again?
  • Mr_CrossMr_Cross Member Posts: 1,713
    oh, and something that slightly bothers me is in the identify parts thread and the main reason I don't answer there any more. To me, it generally looks like the folks asking the questions are running shops and I don't see why I should give away my knowledge for free - if it felt more often that it was helping out moc builders or regular active members I would feel differently.

    I think I'd like to see a general expectation that if brickset members give sellers help by access to their knowledge, that those sellers offer a discount to brickset members in their bricklink/brickowl or ebay store... certainly if they're not participating in the rest of the forum!
    Obviously there's no way to police the difference between a genuine need for help from a cheeky chancer on a handful of posts... but I'd argue that it becomes pretty obvious fairly quickly.
  • oldtodd33oldtodd33 Member Posts: 2,729
    I think a genuine part of the problem is the economy as @Mr_Cross alluded to above. With inflation rising as it has in the last three years people are having to switch to survival mode rather than fun mode. There's really not much you can do about it except make the forum more fun for those at all economic levels. I know in my own case with my property taxes scheduled to rise $2500 next year that will leave a lot less room for Lego purchases. 
  • RedbullgivesuwindRedbullgivesuwind Member Posts: 2,142
    I agree that the forum was far more active and there was much more of a community feel to the whole place. I think that is part of the reason I have dropped off commenting as it feels like it has lost a lot of that. 

    - There used to be meet ups for local people, raffles for good causes, The Bonus Ball etc. These have disappeared from the group and it is a shame.

    - Way too many threads. I am glad Huw has stopped the auto posting from the main site. It was useful when there was a lot less Lego news and reviews but now it swamps the forum. There seems to be far less active merging of threads or keeping things on track. Some threads have just descended into sniping or were always going to cause issues when created. The Mods were good at being light touch but keeping an eye on stuff as well. I think maybe that is because Huw and Rex have to split their time between here and the main site. 

    - A lot of the threads I am drawn to are the MOC page, What are you buying, building, status, leaks as these are posted to regularly and people seem engaged and excited for. They feel much busier and far more positive than a number of other threads. Which seem to be dead or as said above just sniping.  
  • vizzitorvizzitor Member Posts: 533
    It might be an unpopular opinion but I feel removing the Like option on posts would increase engagement. Yes, it might mean more posts along the lines of "I agree with what this person said" or "Nice build/MOC/picture of stuff" but this also may encourage those of us that don't post too often to not lurk as much.
    Would it be possible to integrate the forum into the comments under articles? If the comments section was an embedded thread from the forum, it could be used to encourage people using the main page to participate on the forum.
  • CymbelineCymbeline Member Posts: 580
    BooTheMightyHamster or just Boo if I may be so familiar - I've been thinking about your question and the posts that I enjoy the most are the ones that expand my Lego knowledge and lead me to try something new. Pictures really add a lot and I appreciate seeing what everyone is up to Lego-wise or not. I've been guilty of "liking" posts too many times without commenting or sharing my own stuff. I endeavour to take more pictures and post - hopefully the quality will improve. 
  • BooTheMightyHamsterBooTheMightyHamster Member Posts: 1,560

    Boo is fine!
  • FireFox31FireFox31 Member Posts: 305
    An online community can benefit from having a few people take the lead to engage the community.  That can happen through events (Secret Santa), build challenges, or simply being good resources for information.  We have those people on this forum but maybe they could get more support, more authority to take the lead on community engagement efforts.
    A forum is great for sharing and preserving knowledge.  I use this on automotive repair forums constantly.  But what knowledge do we want to share and preserve here?  And how well could it be accessed by search methods?
    One type of knowledge sharing I like here are the threads about sales at local retailers.  I appreciate all the people scouting their local stores and reporting back here.  Same goes for BaM bars and other product availability info.
    Publicity for the forum could help.  The idea about a Brickset post mentioning this could help.
    I come to the forum for discussion.  Blog post comments are people talking into the ether with no interaction.  Here, we have interaction, discussing ideas and opinions, encouraging and educating each other.  We just need more people who want to have this level of interaction.
    Big thanks to Huw for removing the auto-posting of threads.  I use the "Recent discussions" link at the bottom to see what's new.  It's really nice to see that be all actual content.
  • davee123davee123 Member Posts: 864
    So, I'm not as active these days, and I've always been an odd exception case, but a few thoughts:

    Auto-posts from Articles

    I actually like the auto-posts ... sometimes.  To be clearer-- I actually dislike commenting on articles.  If someone says something in a comment on an article, I don't know of a way I can search and find it later, or even remember where I saw it.  It's just gone.  Hence, I tend to view article comments as transient.  I often won't even read them.

    For things like "random part of the day" or "great deal offered on site X", those types of articles themselves seem transient-- I'm not going to come back to them later, they're just a neat tidbit that keeps the main site fresh.  But when it's something more novel-- like the analysis of Star Wars figures or even a really cool set review, then I'm more likely to want to see what people are saying, or even talk about it myself.  ... And when I do say something, I'd rather have a way of coming back to it later.  IE, forums as opposed to article comments.

    Admittedly, though, I don't know of a great dividing line between "stuff I'd like to see in the forums" and "stuff I would rather skip seeing in the forums".


    For me, I love being helpful-- and I also enjoy seeing interesting helpful tidbits that others have posted.  I'm not as commonly on the lookout to mundanely identify pieces or sets (although I will from time-to-time), but I'm much more interested in doing things like helping solve building problems, discussing the community, sharing insight into the LEGO Company and its practices, etc.

    I'm not pro-actively building all that much these days-- so I probably won't jump into building challenges myself, although I'll occasionally peruse what other people are making.


    One of the issues we've repeatedly run into in our LUG is forum accessibility.  People want to use their mobile devices, and that means it's enormously helpful to have an App rather than be stuck in a browser.  I don't know of any Apps for Vanilla Forums, but making things easier to get at is often a plus.

  • KeilupKeilup Member Posts: 268
    Some thoughts, perhaps disjointed.

    In the early days, there was far fewer places to get news, reviews, etc.  Brickset was one of the first and always the best along with this forum.  Many other "sites" have gained great popularity and following which is fine.  Social media blew up along with the hobby and the number of people in it.  So now there are so many Social Media places/sites to get info.  How the heck can anyone keep up with it all?  Answer: you can't.  You have to pick and choose where you spend your time just as you pick and choose where you spend you Lego money or on which sets (maybe you could buy them all before but you can't now with so many more produced).

    Some people love Social Media, some don't.  Some like them both.  Is what is is.  Social Media is still a maturing platform as a whole though.  Apps are coming and going (Myspace, Threads anyone?) and will continue, but companies are trying to be the one and get eyeball and ultimately their dollars.  It'll probably filter out a bit and stabilize more at some point.  Just not sure when and who will be the ultimate longer term players.

    I think a key is focus/purpose/specializing or whatever you want to call it.  This forum cannot and really shouldn't be everything for everyone.  It simply can't be.  Really true for Brickset proper too.  So yeah I agree, too many categories here.  I'm glad Huw removed the front page stuff.  I think if this forum kept a good focus, it would draw people and be engaging.  I can come, spend my limited time reading and engaging, and move on to the next thing vying for my time in life.  I think we can tell by the threads that do get traffic and as well as the comments mentioning things that went away but people want, what might work long run here.  I think there are things provided here that aren't elsewhere or at least not done well.  If the focus is kept fairly narrow and "bloat" is avoided, I think people will see the value here and want to come here to engage in the stuff that is here.  Some people may not find any of it engaging and not come, but that's ok.  Again no one can please everyone all of the time.

    I was aware of Vanilla forums as I have been around for the rise of the Internet and spent time early on learning these "new" technologies.  I'm a tech junkie at heart.  I have a love / hate relationship with Vanilla or least this form setup.  In general I love it - it's simplicity and general ease of use.  A couple things I despise though is the inability to edit (and maybe delete?) posts as well as the horrible search capabilities.

    Yes, figure out how to engage people is at the core, but I think figuring out what this forum's core focus is and setting up and keeping it in that vain are the key to get and keep people engaged.  I'm constantly looking at all the various places to read and learn about Lego.  I tend to spend the most time in places that are focused, do what they do, and do it well.

    And yes, I do like the community feel here and yes, the vitriol is so much less here than on most social media platforms.  Hopefully no matter which direction this forum goes, that remains similar to today as so few places have that.
  • Russell844Russell844 Member Posts: 2,482
    I've noticed that when I check the forum for the first time each day, there are only a handful of threads with new posts. Before there would be almost a page or more.
  • KeithBKeithB Member Posts: 73
    I'm on a model train forum.  I don't check it that often, but once a week an e-mail is sent out with "trending" topics in each main area.  About half the time I see something that looks interesting, which gets me to click on the thread and read through it.  That gets me to the site, and so then I spend some time catching up on what's been happening.  It does help me engage with that forum when I otherwise would not.
  • Lo1sJessLo1sJess Member Posts: 707
    @Bumblepants I enjoyed the bonus balls, was here for the originals!
  • jmeninnojmeninno Member Posts: 1,216
    I will say that I too also enjoyed the bonus balls.  And when the leaks thread was about actual leaks.

    Or leeks.
  • BooTheMightyHamsterBooTheMightyHamster Member Posts: 1,560
    I never participated in the Bonus Ball thing. Saw the threads but never actually had a look. Can someone summarise what was involved, and we’ll look at resurrecting it if at all possible. 
  • ShibShib Member Posts: 5,477
    edited July 16
    It was answer a basic opinion type question (e.g what’s your dream LEGO theme?) then the first 60(I think) posts were given a number based on their position and the number drawn on the UK lottery’s bonus ball was the number of the winner. You could easily use a random number generator instead of relying on the lottery number which would allow for more numbers and guarantee a winner if you don’t fill enough numbers for the lottery.

    To more generally answer the question of the thread I honestly don’t know what would make me actively post more - I used to be a lot more active, but now I tend to just read posts and don’t reply as often. I think as noted by others I’m just more tired with the internet in general
    these days and prefer real world events and discussions instead ( although I also hope the forum does survive long term as I really prefer it to social media)
  • klintonklinton Member Posts: 1,256
    My engagement level has literally nothing to do with the forum. My experience here is perfection, every time I come.
    I just don't tend to post unless I'm particularly excited about a Lego release or I need information.
    My questions are always answered, and the people here are always lovely and enthusiastic.
    I've always said that the fact that the forum isn't so active is the appeal. It's just a bunch of genuine enthusiasts without the pretense and drama that haunt literally every other space on the internet. Driving up traffic will kill the charm.
  • KeilupKeilup Member Posts: 268
    ^ I can relate to this - a lot.
  • AstrobricksAstrobricks Member Posts: 5,564
    I have found the forum generally easy to use and understand. I always use the recent discussions view, so no problem with filtering out old threads. I also appreciated the Brickset article auto-posts since I dislike the ephemeral and frequently negative comment sections on the main site. But apparently I was (almost) alone. 

    I admit my engagement has probably waned due to my not adding to my collection as much any more. I used to be a ravenous consumer and contributor of the Deals threads. It's nice to see the number of deals going up again as clearance sales get more common, like before Covid.

    I agree that more building posts, whether sets or MOCs would get me to hang out longer. No-one should feel their efforts will not be appreciated just because some people post amazing MOCs. I would be interested in more MODs; maybe because that's the kind of thing I have done more of myself.
  • datsunrobbiedatsunrobbie Member Posts: 1,831
    I log in pretty much every day, have not posted much recently. Scored a couple of tubs with several small builds and a couple big ones all jumbled together, so free time has gone into building. 
  • datsunrobbiedatsunrobbie Member Posts: 1,831
    edited July 18
    Huw said:
    The auto-generated threads were added some time ago in response to feedback that people wanmted to discuss the articles here rather than the main site.

    However that hardly happenes nowadays so I have removed the link and they won't be posted any more.
    Would it be possible to bulk-delete the auto-generated posts that have zero replies? Seems like that would reduce a lot of clutter, and bring stuff that's buried 6 or more pages deep back up to the top.
  • AstrobricksAstrobricks Member Posts: 5,564
    Huw said:
    The auto-generated threads were added some time ago in response to feedback that people wanmted to discuss the articles here rather than the main site.

    However that hardly happenes nowadays so I have removed the link and they won't be posted any more.
    Would it be possible to bulk-delete the auto-generated posts that have zero replies? Seems like that would reduce a lot of clutter, and bring stuff that's buried 6 or more pages deep back up to the top.
    What view are people using that leaves these old posts cluttering up their view? The default view (the one I usually use) groups the Brickset auto-posts together in their own section, which @Huw recently moved to the bottom of the page. The other sections show the active threads at the top like they always have.

    (Sorry, I mistakenly said I use the recent discussions view above. I don't typically use it, but the default view still puts recent discussions at the top of their section.)
  • datsunrobbiedatsunrobbie Member Posts: 1,831
    edited July 21
    I usually sort by recent discussions, when I posted there were about 10 pages that were mostly the auto-posts.
  • AstrobricksAstrobricks Member Posts: 5,564
    I usually sort by recent discussions, when I posted there were about 10 pages that were mostly the auto-posts.
    I guess I hardly ever go beyond the first page, so they don’t clutter up my view.
    PM'ed you a response to this post.
  • arathemisarathemis Member Posts: 627
    The forum is great. All questions are answered, discuttions are generally nice to follow. 
    BUT.. And there's a big But, my Lego novelty interest hs dropped. There are too few themes I follow with interest as opposed to 3-4 years ago. Too many D2C, too many way too big sets, too many releases of the same thing (I can't even remember how many hulk busters we had in the past 3 years) that nothing seems special anymore. So I just stopped giving a damn about them. I generally buy the classic re-releases, a battle pack here and there, maybe a city set for some animal piece, and that summarizes most of what I buy as new sets from TLG. They eff-ed up IMHO.
    I feel like many more previous enthusiasts are in the same boat. For example The predictions about EOL sets thread hasn't been touched in quite a while.
    So my lego hobby is being reduced to just Moc-ing a tank here and there, maybe a small diorama. Maybe buying a bulk lot and sorting it throughout the year. 
    So yeah... The enthusiasm level is not what it used to be, but that is all TLG's fault, not Brickset. On the contrary, brickset is pulling me a bit back to what it used to be (with WV, or modular prediction threads). 
  • AstrobricksAstrobricks Member Posts: 5,564
    @arathemis, I feel what you’re saying, but in my case at least, it has more to do with my progression in the hobby, and my realization that I don’t have the space or time to keep collecting the way I was back in, say, 2017-2018. I don’t see that as Lego’s fault. If anything, they have continued to impress me with clever and complex sets designed for AFOLs. (Plus, they will of course keep repeating themes and sets that kids actually want.) I just can’t keep buying the way I used to. And I think you touched on another sign of the forum’s problems - the people who are newer to the hobby and therefore more likely to still be rabid collectors have not been finding their way here. And I don’t think that’s Brickset’s fault either. It’s just another sign of shifting ways people use the web.
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