Category: Building On Lego

My Lego Network

My Lego Network – Parent Review

My Lego NetworkMy Lego Network has been around for a few years but seems to have slipped below the radar a little, which is a shame because it has potential to be a great little online “blog” that kids can create and share with their friends and family.

My Lego Network

Lego has such a rich online presence that sometimes it is hard to see what is available beyond their shop and product guide.

From downloads, games, videos and movies to their comic creator and more, it’s hard to get the big picture of everything kids can access.

I know I have often been surprised by the presence of a Lego feature that I never knew about before and one of these is My Lego Network.

In a nutshell My Lego Network is an online micro blogging system catering for kids, specifically young Lego fans. It has been around since 2008 and though it didn’t take off as Lego might have hoped the Network provides a safe place for younger kids to have the interactive and social experience of the Internet in a safe and familiar environment.

How does it work?

Essentially, once a Lego account is created in a child’s name, you can help them set up a Lego “blog” in a controlled and monitored environment where no interaction is made with the rest of the web unless it is done so in a heavily moderated way.

Once a page is created, kids can Create Pages, Make Models and Share everything with new friends on the Lego Network or beyond. By forwarding a link to their homepage to friends and family, they can share uploaded images of new creations with others, no matter where they live or whether or not they are on My Lego Network themselves.

Creativity and Interactivity is also explored when kids decorate and customize their “homepage” and interact with other members of the Lego Network with pre-written email messages designed for use within the system.

Lego MLN Make Collect Create

By playing Lego Games and solving puzzles on the other areas of Lego.com kids earn badges which they can then collect or swap to increase their rank, filling their “blog” pages with cooler stickers, models, music snippets, icons and more.

I imagine this is a huge “make it or break it” factor for many parents – to make the most of the system kids need to spend time playing Lego online games or navigating the Lego website to receive rewards.

I wasn’t particularly comfortable with this “search for rewards” aspect of the site, but I can imagine I might be in the minority 🙂

I am also very comfortable in setting up webpages for people so my kids are able to display and share their creations on their own (moderated) blogs. Not all parents are in this position so My Lego Network offers a viable alternative.

Interestingly, kids can also keep track of stats for their pages (how many people visit, etc), a practical and educational skill that will serve the webmasters of tomorrow very well 🙂

Echo

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Echo-My-Lego-NetworkTo help kids navigate the potentially confusing initial set up process, Lego have designed a virtual robot called Echo. Echo is the first “Friend” in your Network as well.

Echo appears at the start of the design process to introduce kids to the blog and then can be called upon at later stages if help is needed.

Add Photos or LDD Designs

The ability to add photos of your own Lego creations as well as Lego Digital Designer files is a wonderful feature of My Lego Network, however the process of actually adding the images is a little confusing the first time round (at least it was for me!).

The short answer is that you don’t add photos directly through My Lego Network, but instead, use one of Lego’s other image galleries.

Here is the official guide to this process:

“You have two options – either you can take a photo of one of your LEGO creations and upload this to one of the many galleries on LEGO.com (BIONICLE, Creator, etc.) or you can download LEGO Digital Designer and build your very own 3D model and upload this to a gallery.

When you have uploaded your photo or model to a gallery, LEGO needs to approve it, before it gets visible and you can use it in My LEGO Network.

Once you have your model or photo approved, you can go to your Page Builder and choose a Gallery or Factory Module by dragging it to your page. Here you can drag it as you would in the Sticker Module. Hit Save on the Module, Save on the page – and presto!”

As I said, it isn’t straight forward but once you know how, it makes sense.

FAQ

There are a number of steep learning curves in setting up the blog. Thankfully there is an extensive FAQ and help section, along with the presence of Echo who relays advice to you using video screens and also offers short tips for accessing more badges.

The FAQ section is here and I would recommend parents go through this first before starting to create a page with their kids, just so they have an idea of how the whole thing works. It will make the setup process flow much more smoothly.

Lego have also made a Parents FAQ page to assuage any understandable fears parents may have about My Lego Network.

Order Lego Pieces

How To Order Lego Pieces – Bricks, Minifigures, Instructions

Order Lego PiecesI often get asked the question from other parents, “How Do I Order Lego Pieces?” and it is easy to see why.

Lego is a medium based on small pieces and figures which can be made in to an infinite variety of models.

When a new set is released it often happens that a family may have the majority of pieces required for that set (or pieces that are close enough) but there remain a few specialized pieces that really make the set.

This is often the minifigures, but not always.

Buying a whole new set each six months or so soon becomes an impossible ask for families – both financially and environmentally – there is simply a maximum level of Lego one household can assimilate (I reached that some years ago!).

However it is possible to recreate the essence of the set with existing Lego and the careful addition of a few select new Lego pieces.

Case Study

A suitable subject for a case study would be a Star Wars Vehicle set like the recently released Malevolence or the Gungan Sub.

While both are beautiful vehicles, the large majority of pieces included in both sets are grey, a color of which most Star wars Lego fans have buckets of already.

So how do you go about recreating the set without actually buying it new?

The answer lies in purchasing important pieces from sites like Bricklink and ebay and having an open mind about the resulting model. It won’t be exactly the same as the bought set but in my mind that is half the fun of Lego – Improvising.

Lets take a look at how we could recreate these sets.

Lego Instructions1. Download Set Instructions

First we download the instructions from Lego.com.

Most instructions are freely available to download, whether the set has just been released or came out 10 years ago. Searching the site using model numbers for the two sets above I located the instructions easily and downloaded the books for each set in PDF.

So I searched for:

  • “9515” to locate the four instruction books for the Malevolence
  • “9499” to locate the four books for the Gungan Sub

Now we have all the steps required to make the sets we like plus we have an entire inventory of the pieces used to make these sets.

If you prefer a hard copy of the instructions you can often pick them up for a few dollars form ebay or bricklink.

2. Set Inventory

Lego Piece Inventory

At the back of the last instruction book for each set there are always one or two pages that lists each piece used in the model as well as:

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  • Number of each piece required
  • Color of the piece
  • Lego Piece number

At this stage we can carefully go through the list to to identify:

  • Which pieces we already have
  • Which we can easily substitute with similar pieces or different colors
  • The unique pieces we will require to make our version of the set look and feel as close to the real thing as possible.

When I looked at the two inventory lists of both sets, the first thing I could identify as obviously missing were the minifigures. It just so happens that for both sets there are a couple of minifigures that are exclusive, beautiful and will be hard (or expensive) to come by.

If you aren’t able to look past the minifigures then you might be better off buying the set or simply take a look at ebay for the latest price on each figure, as they will be available to purchase separately. You can also make a similar minifigure using those already in your collection.

Looking past the minfigures there is not too much here that I don’t already have, either exactly the same or in a different color.

Those pieces I don’t have I then need to locate on Bricklink or ebay.

3. Purchasing Lego Pieces

As both these sets are very new (and not widely available in the US) finding pieces at this early stage might be difficult. But as more buyers purchase multiple sets, piece them out and sell the major parts separately, then supply of unique pieces will increase.

However presently, many of the more generic pieces are available on Bricklink.

Lego Piece Number 61678For the Gungan sub I was missing a number of the small bright blue slopes that feature as decoration on the ship.

Locating the unique piece number in the instruction book inventory page (61678), I was able to find individual pieces for sale on Bricklink, just by entering the piece number into the search box.

At about 20 cents each (and I need 6 pieces) + shipping it is a fairly expensive piece so I might be better off using a different color I already have and finding another specialized piece for highlights.

Lego Piece 42060

Sure enough, I find the larger piece, a blue wedge (piece number 42060), is available for 5 cents per piece. It is much better value for money and allows my Gungan Sub ship to have blue highlights, just like the original.

Bricklink is very useful for this process. Allowing us to search for an item using the piece’s unique item number puts it one step ahead of ebay where you would have to search for “long lego blue wedge” or similar to find what you are looking for.

Like ebay you can check seller’s feedback on Bricklink and postage costs per piece are fairly insignificant compared to sending sets, no matter where in the world you order them from.

Conclusion

Over time, as more set are released I will look for the larger cockpit and fuselage pieces as they help give the sub it’s distinctive shape. It may cost me a few more dollars but it certainly saves me money in the long run and help my kids learn to use and appreciate the Lego they have.

I may even be able to pick up some of the less-rare minifigures to add to the set, as they always contribute a high level of playability for a relatively low cost.

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