Brickfilms Chronicle

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In the early part of 2008, Brickfilms LLC sold it's main asset (brickfilms.com) and was dissolved. The previous owner (Josh Leasure, known as "RevMen") sold brickfilms.com and most of it's ancillaries to Cynthia Price (known as thickasabrick or TaaB for short).

The sale went relatively smoothly, but the transfer did not. The community backlash and the result of it was drastic. This page attempts to chronicle what happened and put some perspective on it.

Contents

Sometime in September 2007

Brickfilms.com had been steadily growing since its inception in December 2000. By 2007, it had grown too big for one person to finance. Sometime around mid 2007 RevMen decided to sell brickfilms.com and most of its assets but was unable to find a buyer.[1]

Around September, RevMen was contacted by TaaB who expressed an interest in buying the site. During the subsequent weeks, the deal was sorted out and the transaction made.

January 2008

Over the course of the life of brickfilms.com, there were many hiccups, server glitches and down time. This was understandable given the evolved nature of the code. On January 19th, TaaB made her first post on the site.[2]

Since there had been no indication that a transfer was underway and no official announcement about the change in ownership, members were confused as to who "thickasabrick" was.

Woww.. who is thickasabrick? And no its not working for me.
Rsteenoven, here


Site admin thickasabrick hey never seen him before. Or is my computer playing up?
nomfee, here


Members realized that TaaB was a member, showing as having joined at the end of November 2007. But they were caught off-guard by the sudden appearance of a new admin. Without clarification, members assumed that TaaB was a male and that "he" was hired to fix the chat[3] due to TaaB's first post:

It should be working. Any feedback would be appreciated. The more specific, the better.
thickasabrick


Eventually, Stefan managed to get the chat working again.

February

The next time TaaB came to prominence was in February. There were some members who took exception to the appearance of new advertisements on the site.

I would very much like to meet the one person out there who is gullible enough to click upon web based adverts and hence give every other webmaster on earth a reason to justify placing large adverts that everyone else just ignores.

Legoman, sure he can't be the only one who doesn't know who thickasabrick is.

Legoman182182, here


TaaB posted that Patrons would not see the new ads.[4] At this time, Jonathan Schlaepfer (known as "Schlaeps") was the Administrator of brickfilms.com and was forthcoming about the new advertisements:

I'm sorry this had to happen so suddenly. We were looking at the site revenue vs. hosting costs, contest costs, etc. and realized if we did not take some action we'll start going into deficit. I was hoping that by introducing new patron features we might be able to avoid adding additional advertising, but it just wasn't cutting it.

I'm sorry about this addition but please understand that it was neccessary to keep this site and this community working without losing money on it.

If we do get enough patrons / donations to cover costs, we'll begin to remove the ads.

Schlaeps, here


Many of the younger or more immature members took great personal offense to the new ads. Some of the older or more experienced members saw the ads for what they were - a necessity to help cover the costs of maintaining the site:

Guys, this isn't that big of a deal. Seriously. Does it affect your browsing experience that much?
Dave, here


So it's not worth it to keep our beloved Brickfilms.com site out of the red?

As Bert, and Lech, and Schlaeps, and every other minister/administer who replied to this thread said, we are working very hard on finding a solution. Trust us. In the meantime, feel free to donate or become a patron, or, even better, do both.

Lord_Of_The_LEGO, here


First sign of clarification

It is at this stage that TaaB made her first post which elaborated slightly on who she is and what her role at brickfilms.com is. Some would argue that it should have been the first, but this was the sixth post. The five previous posts where about fixing the chat.

Newsflash: The sky is NOT falling. Brickfilms is now part of a network of educational websites. That means there are more people to jump in and lend a hand when needed!

It also means that we can allocate resources from other sites to insure that Brickfilms not only survives, but thrives. In that respect, it really doesn't matter "how deep we are" because the network can subsidize this website FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES to reach a break even. Sure, we would rather see that sooner than later, but its not like anyone has to worry about the website being in trouble.

We really want to support this great community. We heard loud and clear that some of you don't like ads, so we immediately blocked ads to all patrons. If anyone really hates the ads, there is an easy (and cheap!) way to opt out!

We aren't interested in "taking over." Schlaeps is firmly in charge and will be as long as he wants to be. Our role is to support Schlaeps who does an extraordinary job here.

Expenses for hosting, marketing, & prize money runs just under $4,000 per year. That means that if we were to rely on patrons only at $12 / year we would need roughly 330 patrons. Right now we have about 50.

So... lets say we double the number of patrons to 100. Thats possible - oh, by the way, those 100 patrons will also need to pay $40 /year. Then again, if we don't expand beyond the current base, we are looking at $80 / yr. Looking at the history of the website, that's probably not going to happen.

That's the economic reality. We made a decision that it was better to advertise, than balance the budget on the backs of a core group of dedicated users. The same group that already invests a ton of time & work on this website.

In closing, I hope this clears up a lot of confusion. I hope that if you enjoy the website that you become a patron. I hope you buy your bricks through the merchandise page which is under construction.

I REALLY hope you cut us a little slack as we do our best to invest in this community, support Schlaeps and help him to guide brickfilms into the future!

Thanks!

TaaB, here


This put some members at ease but was still vague as to just what was going on. The "Brickfilms is now part of a network of educational websites" caught people off guard. And although the post does a fair bit to explain what is happening, it is still very obscure to many members.[5][6].

Although RevMen assured the members that all was fine[7], many are not reassured that something strange isn't going on.

Am I correct in thinking that rev has sold out to an education website conglomerate for which thickasabrick is a representative of some sort?
Legoman182182, here


Hmm, I was hoping for a more indepth explanation of all this and thought there would be an official announcement. But this thread is now two days old, so I'd like to ask: Who is thickasabrick? Why does she have to be a site admin and not just a moderator? What network (What is their agenda? Are they commercial or non-commercial? Do they have a political or religious slant?)
Mirko, here


Could we please know the name of the company past "a group of education websites"?
Squash, here


There is no new information forthcoming in that discussion.

March

In the last days of February, a new discussion[8] was started regarding the type of advertisements that were now showing up on the site. Many members expressed further displeasure at the advertisements. The problem stemmed not from the ads being on the site, but from the apparent randomness of them. Many of the products and services were for things unrelated to brickfilming and few or none of the visitors to the site would be likely to click on the ads.

This has got to be the strangest part of the Brickfilms.com advertising makeover.

First the Google ads advertised things relating to brickfilms (GIO Insurance and "child protection" thingy, anyone?)

Then the Brickfilms.com store became an Amazon outpost selling wooden blocks, megabloks and cement.

And now, nonsensical gibberish that no-one in their right minds will want to read. Skimming over these nonsensical paragraphs I noticed that they're not too clear about what they're trying to advertise.

This criticism may seem harsh, and I know all about how financial difficulties of some sort mean that the site needs to be inundated with ads, but clean, clear ads with a purpose are the answer, not mindless drivel coming out of babelfish about things we have no interest in at all.

Whittleberry, here


It was at this stage that a crucial junction was reached, only nobody realized it. Previously, brickfilms.com had been a community based site, run by members for the members. The new owner (it was later revealed) had more experience with business-oriented sites and knew what worked there. This site was the first time TaaB had been working with a community-based site.

I agree with Whittleberry. My main concern at the moment are not the ads or how annoying they may be but rather a lack of information for the community. Brickfilms LLC is probably not legally obligated to publish a report, but I very much suggest the site owners not put the trust of loyal community members at risk.

There was a time when RevMen would even ask us patrons if it is ok to give server space to non-patrons. I understand that we are not the main source of financing any more, but this is a community site after all. Brickfilms.com would be nothing without the collective knowledge and works of its users, be they site maintainers, patrons or "just" film makers who happen to present their work and knowledge here.

Mirko, here


We know that Schlaeps doesn't own the site, so who does? RevMen?I don't think so. And the "owner of the site" needs to "maintain some income". I suppose this means that Brickfilms.com isn't a non-for-profit community site, it's being used by someone to make money. I thought it was being hosted as part of a conglomerate of educational websites to save money and, at the end of the day, have enough money to be able to pay for operating costs, but the site is being used as a money-making tool by these "owners".

This may seem like an angry rant or something, but it's not really, it's just that I'm disappointed. To know that someone is making money off this great community by covering its site in irrelevant ads really "grind my gears".

Whittleberry, here


Once again, confusion was the order of the day. Dewfilms summed up many of the concerns of the members:

RevMen asked for our input on a great deal of things, Brickfilm wise. From t-shirts, contest names, Brickfest, etc. Heck, even back when Jason left and RevMen took over there was an introduction thread. Where is the introduction thread for our current situation? I would please like to know what happened in a thread or in a friendly PM...
  • The what's and why's of RevMen selling/handing over the site to thickasabrick.
  • The who's, what's, why's and goals for thickasabrick.
  • The future of Brickfilms.
  • The what's and where's of patron funds.
  • Is Brickfilms deeply in the red...why...what can we do about it.

I just want a few questions answered. Not just for me but for the community as well, so that there are no hurt feelings. Brickfilms has great potential. I would hate for people to leave based on misunderstandings due to lack of communication. The result of which could mean the loss of patrons, lots of people leaving or the possibility of the site going defunct.

Dewfilms, here


Being directly questioned, TaaB responded:

Okay - this has been addressed many times, but lets tackle this again:~). My primary role is to continue to build on the great foundation that Jason, RevMen & Schlaeps have laid. RevMen was confident in my abilities to do just that and hence, here I am. The Goals haven't changed, with the possible exception to expanding the appeal to a broader audience, including AFOL. The future of Brickfilms is bright as long as the community remains vibrant, more great films are created & we expand our membership. The patrons funds are earmarked to go back to the community in the form of prizes. In fact, I just authorized $200 in prize spending. Because Brickfilms is now part of a network of websites, there are no worries about "being in the red" as the network is comfortably in the black. (We do want the site to at least, break even, hence the new ads)

Regarding the ads, I really hate it when a commercial comes on TV at the most inopportune time, but you know what - the advertisers pay for the network. The same goes here. If you don't like the ads, become a patron & you won't see them.

The bottom line is this - Schlaeps is still in charge (with the exception of advertising - I'll take "credit" for that). He and the community will still control 99% of the decision making. Unfortunately, it just isn't practical to run EVERY decision through committee. I recognize that this is a tough change for some to accept, but trust that you will see the benefit as we continue to build this great website.

TaaB, here


There are two key things in this post, which may not be readily apparent from this brief summary.

First, the statement this has been addressed many times, but lets tackle this again is wrong[9]. The "this" in this context is the role of TaaB on brickfilms.com. It is possible that TaaB made a lengthy introduction and explanatory post in one of the forums that are not visible to the average member (such as admin sections) and TaaB did not realize that not everyone could see it. But it remains as fact that the role of TaaB had not been addressed many times, or at least not where any of the normal members could see it.

Actually, I don't frequent the forums as regularly as others, so I know little about what has transpired.

It's not in the FAQ forum, or the About page, or the Community page as a sticky. At least, not that I could find easily, at least not with the search terms I came up with. ("new owners" takes us to this thread! "Schlaeps is my new hunka hunka burnin' love" takes us to some thread Trill made)

So Dew has a point, it wasn't addressed other than Schlaeps has taken over on the front page.

I'm fine with it all, but I just don't know much ... I don't even know your real name. Mine's Errol.

...I hear about this 'network' a lot. Who are you? ...

...Are you an employee? Is this network a company? Has brickfilms become more 'professional?' ...

Errol, here


thickasabrick wrote: Okay - this has been addressed many times, but lets tackle this again:~).

It has been asked many times, yes. You keep reiterating how everything is fine and almost nothing is going to change. But we still don't know much about you and the network. What is the name of that network? Or, if it doesn't have a name, what are some other sites in it? Are you a company? Is this your only business area?

Mirko, here


An image made by Legoman182182, depicting TaaB as the Admin destroying everything in sight.
An image made by Legoman182182, depicting TaaB as the Admin destroying everything in sight.

The second key thing is buried at the end of TaaB's post: Unfortunately, it just isn't practical to run EVERY decision through committee. I recognize that this is a tough change for some to accept, but trust that you will see the benefit as we continue to build this great website. This signified a key change in the style of administration of the site. RevMen would normally tell most of the community about what was going on, while TaaB would not be.

At this stage, Schlaeps was still Admin, with TaaB as the Owner. However, due to a limitation of the forum software, TaaB appeared as "Administrator" on the site and so many members expected her to function as an administrator and not as a silent partner.

Despite all the apparent problems, some progress was made as a few members attempted to keep the more temperamental members in line.

Increased frustration with lack of communication

At first, I want to thank Dewfilms, Mirko and Whittleberry for their posts in this thread. I agree wholeheartedly with their statements and especially their questions. I share Dew’s fear that some members might leave because I’m upset about the lack of admin-communication myself and started thinking about clicking this site less often.

I regret to say I became estranged from this site’s management during the past few weeks. The community either gets no or just vague information about the recent changes. The behaviour of the new owners and admins (Not answering for days when being asked; Giving statements but not answering to questions; Communicating vaguely through other members etc.) is obviously inappropriate to calm down discontent, suspicion und fears of some members. Sorry, but when I read the mainsite’s welcome (“Welcome to Brickfilms - We are a community dedicated to the art of stop motion animation. Our main focus is the animation of plastic building toys, or bricks”), it don’t seem me to fit anymore to a site that is now owned by a “network”, which name is hold as a secret to community and which cobbles the site with ads unwanted by a large part of the community.

Finally some disordered remarks:

No offence to Krick, but as a Minister of Information I would resign facing so much important information which is not been given – or at least inform all member about the new ownership at the mainsite. Regarding the more commercialized handling of the site, future mods and ministers should be aware that they are also (presumably unpaid) workers of the “network”. BTW, which is the relation between the admins and the “network” – Are they on the payroll?

Willem, member since 2004, here


Dewfilms made a lengthy post[10] requesting more information and focussing many of the concerns of the community. TaaB replied with:

Exactly - any one could, but WE are :~) My identity and the name of the network (which doesn't even have a name) is really not important. I am a "silent" partner - Schlaeps is in charge here. RevMen developed a brilliant democracy & Schlaeps has done a great job as his successor.

Don't expect a treasurers report. This is a private company & it aint gonna happen! We'll continue to squander the patrons money by plowing it back into the community and offering everyone here a chance to make (hopefully a lot of) money.

Finally - don't bother breaking this post down point by point. This is my final word on this topic. I will NOT be posting again any time soon.

By the way ... did I mention that fundamentally, there are no big changes in the works, Schlaeps is in charge & there is no big conspiracy to disclose?

Now stop wasting time & energy worrying & start BrickFilming!

Cheers!

TaaB, here


The important thing to note about this post is that it is the first public post to establish an important part of TaaB's role: I am a "silent" partner - Schlaeps is in charge here. Although it was not heavily emphasized, so many of the members did not pick up on this point.

Unfortunately, TaaB also locked the thread.

On the same day, TaaB posted in a variety of threads discussing the Ads, the finances of brickfilms.com and site reliability. Many of the posts were in this vein:

In return for your patron subscription, you get an advertisement free environment, a private forum, members only software and other "perks" available only to patrons. Monies paid to become a patron are not "group property" and need not be disclosed to anyone (except our accountant & the government)

The bottom line is this - you are receiving a value in return for your spending. If you don't think its a fair value, do NOT renew your subscription. The choice is yours. We hope you will think its worthwhile to renew, when the time comes.

That being said, we HAPPILY contribute more to the website than we collect. Why? Because we want the same thing that you do. We want Brickfilms to maintain its position as the #1 LEGO stop motion animation website AND to add even more cool stuff!

That's my final word on this topic.

Now stop wasting time & energy on this & start BrickFilming!

TaaB, here


What really irked many members was the frequent use of stop wasting time & energy on this & start BrickFilming and other such comments urging members to go make more brickfilms. Members perceived this as a financial request by TaaB in order to help make money for her and this "network" to which she owned or belonged to.


Schlaep's demotion

An image made by Trillspots, expressing the perceived direction of the site
An image made by Trillspots, expressing the perceived direction of the site

In mid march, Schlaeps was removed as admin on brickfilms.com by TaaB. The exact reason for this will vary depending on the source, but the main point appears to be that Schlaeps used hosting space on the brickfilms.com server to start work on a site[11] that would eventually become Bricks in Motion. TaaB took exception to this, kicked Schlaeps out and hired Zane Eastwood[12] to do the coding for the site.

This change in administration made many of the members angrier. Several threads were started demanding information and most were locked or deleted[13]. Since there was little information forthcoming from TaaB and there was no "official" administrator, confusion was again abundant on the site. One announcement from TaaB would have probably sufficed to calm things down, but she stuck to her "silent partner" model.

Alright, since the announcement is closed, I figured I'd make this thread to ask some questions.
  1. Why? That's the biggest question. All of us want to know why Schlaeps was de-admined. Did he do something against the community?
  2. Who's zane eastwood? Who is this mysterious admin that just comes in, says that Schlaeps has been de-admined, and closes the announcement to any form of discussion?
  3. What's happened? I'm sure this is NOT what any of us expected when Rev sold the site to thickasabrick. Brickfilms.com has gone downhill ever since, starting with the Ads, the search replaced, and now this. I think we all at least deserve an explanation.

So, those are my biggest questions. I'm sure you all have questions as well. Don't be afraid to post them here, so that they can be answered. This is our chance to speak out for the community. Let your voice be heard!

LegosJedi, here


Many members posted their dismay, anger and frustration over this sudden change.

Although several members pleaded for calm, many took a reactionary or adversarial stance in opposition to TaaB's posts.

I can confirm the posts made by those who contacted Schlaeps after this announcement, Schlaeps was booted without notice. That part doesn't settle at all with me.

And I thought it was the old original chat (Stefan's) that was causing crashes, not the current Beta Chat. And just so you know, we beta testers looked at the other chat Thickasbrick had in mind and it was deem unfavorable because it had too many features and didn't have the look and feel of the Stefan chat.

Lechnology, here


This is just...stupid. I'm not sad, I'm angry. Angry at this new management that we know nothing about. Why get rid of Shlaeps? He was a wonderful admin! He was just caring for the members of this community, the community The Network practically destroyed! What you have done to our community is absolutely...beyond ridiculous. That's right; our community. Thickasabrick, along with whoever your superiors are, you may own this site, you may have complete control over it now, but this is our community. We made the brickfilms, we made the resources, we have practically run the site. You may control it, but that doesn't matter. When the new site comes along, this site will be a wasteland, all because of you, and everything will be good again. I find the network that has destroyed this site simply disgusting.

I look forward to the day when the new site arrives.

-Badgerboy, cooling off and saying this: "If this is an April Fools joke, its not funny."

badgerboy, here


Don't you see. This 'company' has checkmate. They took out our leader, covered it up as if it was some kind of agreement. It's time for the BrickFilm Revolution! We must abandon in the masses. Our new site is in the works. It's time to leave the good times behind for new memories, better leaders, and the guarantee of the future. It's time!
Droid, here


I’m not sure where you came from Cynthia, or why any person who’s not genially interested in brickfilming would want to buy this site. As you’ve said numerous times before the site isn’t a great source of revenue, then why must I ask are you doing all of this? Why? I’m sure that this will be added to the increasing in length list of questions without answers, but still I must ask it, Why would a person who seems to be totally numb to what this community this place is about want to stay here….

This is a place that is friendly to new members, but also has a rich history with older members, who have spent years here, and now, because of you Cynthia, thickasabrick, that is all tumbling down…. Yes because of you, I simply won’t stand for you blaming certain members of this community, they are close friends of mine and I support many of their actions. We tried to reason with you, asked many questions, many times, (such as what is the network called). And we received no answers, just a cold shoulder masked by an overly endearing statement such as: “so go animate!”

I find myself wondering now, what you really have to gain from all of this, clearly this is becoming quite a drain on your time, probably far more than you had imagined when you took the steps to purchase the site from Josh. I would like to now say how great it would be if you were to offer to sell the site back to the community as in we’d all pitch in and buy it from you, but you’d never go for that, no you seem to be driven by some strange desire to control this place, but not as a member but as a distant administrator who owns a server, and if there really isn’t any chance of making good profit here, then why are you doing this to us?

Mtnbiker, member since 2003, here


After 26 pages of bickering with little meaningful discussion, the thread was locked.

Mass Resignations

On the 12th of March, following the sudden ejection of Schlaeps, many of the members who were serving on staff positions (known as "Ministers" on the site) resigned[14].

With Schlaeps' untimely departure, I find myself not being as useful in my position as I once was. I'm not a coder, and I'm not good at explaining what I want done. There were several changes to the Ratings System due to be made in the past month or so, but Schlaeps was busy and didn't get a chance to make them. I apologise for not pushing him, but I didn't realise we were going to be limited timewise. Unless someone steps up and would like to work to implement them, the changes will most likely not be made.

Effective immediately, I'm resigning from my position as Minister of Film Ratings. I assume the Admins know what to do.

Ladon, here


I am announcing my resignation as Minister of Film Contests owing to irreconcilable differences with the current management.
saulgoode, here


I am resigning. Because of recent events, I have no desire to dedicate any of my energy or time to this site. I will no longer manage the resources, review panel, or perform any moderator duties. I am also pulling out of the annual Brickfilm.com competition, FAR.

Effective immediately, I'm resigning from my position as Minister of Resources and all other official positions here at Brickfilms.com.

Lord_Of_The_LEGO, here


With this power vacuum spammers and trolls run amok in the forums. There are no mods to run site functions, contests or perform simple moderation tasks. Some ministers remain, notably Tim and Lechnology who try and help maintain order and help out new members.

The Brickfilms Trademark

In June of 2007, RevMen trademarked the term "Brickfilms" in order to pre-emptively protect the site from people wanting to use the popularity of the previously generic term "brickfilm" (or its variations like "brickfilming") for any nefarious purposes.

I trademarked the term "brickfilms" in case I needed to keep someone from using it in a way that was not befitting of the hobby we've built at brickfilms.com. I paid for it out of my own pocket and never intended to use it as some way to censor people or make money. Just as protection from nefarious deeds.

Of course you can continue calling your films brickfilms. Of course you can continue calling what you do brickfilming. Of course you can continue referring to brickfilms as brickfilms. You just can't claim to be (or appear to be) an official representative of the site unless you actually are one. (We're NOT)

Jason coined the term himself when he built this website. Saying it was in widespread use before the trademark was filed is not accurate. It was already in use, but it was in use at this website, by the person who invented the term and by the earliest members of the community. The purpose of the trademark is to to keep the term anchored to the hobby which has been primarily developed here.

Obviously, when I sold the site it didn't make any sense for me to keep the trademark, so I included it with the other things I sold. There's no reason not to expect thickasabrick to use the trademark in the same way that I would have.

RevMen, here


With the sale of the site to TaaB, she took active steps to ensure that there wasn't any of the above-mentioned "nefarious purposes" going on. This included some contrversy over a YouTube channel[15] and just who controlled it.

The purpose is to prevent third parties from using the name in a way that could harm the brand. For example, only Pepsi has rights to: http://youtube.com/pepsi. Just as only Brickfilms has the rights to use http://youtube.com/brickfilms.

That doesn't mean that people do not have the right to mention Pepsi products. It simply prevents them from representing Pepsi products as their own.

We can not and will not risk damaging the brand by having some inappropriate materials running on youtube or anywhere else by any third party using the brickfilms name.

Once again, this is not a conspiracy and all members will benefit if we are able to control our brand.

TaaB, here


This post showed that TaaB fully thought of brickfilms.com as a "product" and not as a "community" - a very powerful distinction which separated her from the rest of the community. The repeated references to brickfilms as a "brand" prove the business-minded mentality that she has.

Although the action (and what followed) are proper and make sense from a business perspective, many of the members are young, unfamiliar with business or simply immature. This is part of the nature of the community. Many members over-reacted to this perceived use of the trademark by an unknown person.

You won't identify yourself, tell us how the community is being run, etc and you speak to us like dirt showing us no respect / gratitude for what we do for the community.

Why would you think we'd trust you?

si665, here


When I produce a brickfilm and call it a "brickfilm", I am in no way presenting someone else's product. si665 is right, "brickfilm" is a generic term for what we do, just like Coke and Pepsi produce "soft drinks". Brickfilms LLC is just a company that happens to run one site related to brickfilming.
Mirko, here


April

During April, things managed to settle down - more or less[16]. TaaB made no posts between the 13th of March and the 1st of May.

Actually, I'm in here every day, but anonymously. As mentioned previously, I'm really interested in the members running the show here. I am particularly interested in helping Ahnt move forward & make the community better.

No need for the flamers to jump on this post & explain step by step why everything that I have done up to this point is wrong & how the website is awful, now. That horse has been beat to death.

We are to the point now that both Zane & I are looking to hand over all admin & mod responsibilities to the community. I expect this to happen incrementally, with additional admin & mod privileges being given, today.

Please direct any questions or concerns to Ahnt. It is my intention to work closely with him to provide any necessary help to move forward.

TaaB, here


During April, ahnt was promoted to be the Community Admin - essentially the site administrator and liason with TaaB who was emphatic on not being involved in the day to day running of the community[17]. However, many members were still disatisfied with this style of management. Many operated under the impression that TaaB was an Admin, when she was actually just the owner.

Wait. It takes an uproar like this to get them to come out of anonymity? Really? They were there this entire time, just choosing not to say anything? I see a problem with this.
Dave, here


During this time, Schlaeps released his site I ♥ Brickfilming. Many members moved from brickfilms.com to the new site.

May

During May, the forums looked almost like a ghost town. The number of posts being made appeared to be way down on the previous few months.

Why are these forums so slow? I mean, there are thousands of users, and i heard it was very busy at one point. why is everyone gone, and why are the only threads in community and almost none in actual brickfilming related areas?
n00bfilms, here


However, the data from the server showed the opposite to be true - there was more activity on the site, not less.

Funny - our stats show that traffic is up. We lost a handful of complainers - otherwise growth is steady. Pay attention to the posts & look at the archives & I'm sure that you will learn something about brickfilming.
TaaB, here


The site was getting steady traffic, and there were many guests visiting the site and watching films. But many of the members who had been a part of the site for many years could see that the volume of new posts per day was way down on the average. And many of the posts were being made by people complaining or making spam posts[18].

June

On the 10th of June (or thereabouts) a cease and desist order[19] was sent to Schlaeps from Adirondack Manufacturing Corporation[20]. This set off a new wave of controversy and outrage from the more excitable members of the community.

11 June UPDATE: Taab serves brickfilmers.com (the new site under Schleaps) with a cease a desist for allegedly infringing the copyright of the term "brickfilm". Word filter sabotaged, spew of threads with daft pictures and resignations. Taab comments. Directory boycott called for, general apocalyptic mood. This log backed up to avoid sabotage.
Legoman182182, here


This was further compounded by the alteration of some of the word filters on the forum of brickfilms.com:

Aenema, prior to leaving, edited the word filter settings on the forum so that thickasabrick becomes "THE FURY!," "off-topic" becomes "DINO CRISES," and "brickfilms" becomes "LEGGO MUVEYS." These people are upset because thickasabrick sent a cease and desist letter to Schlaeps over the use of the term "brickfilms." (btw, I made them appear normally in this post by inserting hidden tags between letters)

That's it in a nutshell. And it looks like someone spammed the home page, as has happened on a larger scale in several of the forums.

Smeagol, here


Many of the members who were unaware of this feature, much less who did it, incorrectly blamed TaaB and assumed that she was being juvenile and attacking the site deliberately in an effort to antagonize the members.

Many members were also under the impression that they would not be allowed to use the word "brickfilm" or its variants at all[21][22]. Of course, this could have been cleared up with one post - but it was RevMen who cleared things up:

Information about the trademark of "brickfilms" is in the public domain. You just have to go to the USPTO website and search for it. I think this information could answer a lot of your questions.

Brickfilms is and has always been "The Website" for Lego-based animation. That's why there's value in the name brickfilms.com. Referring to your films as "brickfilms" or using the tag "brickfilm" at Youtube doesn't dilute the value of the brickfilms.com domain name, so I see no reason to stop doing those things.

Starting an alternate website which uses the term "brickfilm" in its name, however, does. Especially when that website is made specifically to compete with the original. Cindy's company asking Schlaeps to stop using his domain name is in line with my original intent of registering the trademark.

RevMen, here


On the 12th of June, TaaB made one of the biggest posts she'd ever made, announcing intentions for the site and clarifying several details.

When I purchased Brickfilms.com from RevMen last fall, I did so because I liked the concept of LEGO stop motion animation and the fact that there was a vibrant community surrounding it. It was consuming a ton of RevMen’s time (wasn’t making him any money) & he decided it was time to move on.

From the outset, I wanted this to be a community project, and was perfectly content to stay in the background, paying the bills, fixing the website & looking for ways to have more contests with meaningful cash prizes.

There are 2 ways to generate cash from a website: on the backs of the members or on the backs of the advertisers. Our former Admin and the new management had philosophical differences as to what the right answer was. I felt strongly that the community should be free to all members and that advertisers should support our efforts. Our admin felt that the answer was membership fees. This disagreement, ultimately led to a parting of ways. That happens. It’s Okay – it’s not personal.

Unfortunately, many people took it personally and there has been a lot of hard feelings generated as a result. That’s too bad. It shouldn’t be that way.

TaaB, here


This seemed to herald the start of the new upward swing for the brickfilming site.

Film Directory Locked

I'm trying to edit information about my film (as well as give a new link) but when I hit "Edit", it just brings me to a blank page. Is this a common problem, or am I the only one who's having this issue?
Dave, here


On the 14th of June, members found that they no longer had the ability to edit their films listing on brickfilms.com. Many were deeply upset about this, considering the films to be their own property[23] but by this stage many members had left. Most of those remaining were apathetic towards all the drama and the locking of the Directory made barely a ripple in the forums. It is stated that the lock is "until things have calmed down"[24] with the implication that the films will re-editable soon. However, many of the members that did remain stated that they wanted to have their films removed from the directory.

This precipitated a general lockdown of the entire site, with most of the members who had been in positions of power (such as the ministers) having their powers suspended.

Tim's power has been taken away. Nobody has power anymore except the admins.
badgerboy, here


For many, this was the last straw. The middle of June saw a sharp increase in "I'm leaving" threads[25][26][27]. There are few long time members left in regular attendance, with much of the population being made up of members who'd joined in the previous months of turmoil.

Blackmail?

At some stage during this problem, the control of a channel on YouTube came up. The member chosen1 had set up or taken control of a channel named "brickfilms" - clearly intended to be the "official" channel on YouTube for films supported by brickfilms.com.

Mr Schlaepfer:

Congratulations on your graduation. Good luck on your future endeavors. This is certainly a milestone in your life.

I would suggest that you do your best to persuade chosen1 to give you the credentials, if you don't have them, already. Bear in mind that Chosen1 was not the only individual with the login information. He shared it with other members of your group. Without the login info, I don't see a compromise as being very likely. I am sure that you understand that we need something in return, for allowing the use of the illegal domains, through a transition period.

Have a great weekend

Chuck Price, in an email to Schlaeps


The thinly veiled threat against Schlaeps, along with the specifically implied request that Schlaeps convince chosen1 to hand control of the channel over to TaaB was another catalyst in creating controversy on the forums.

Of course that's blackmail! Even if we have people in our group that have the info, it's really not our problem. The conflict isn't with us and a youtube channel, it's with Brickfilms.com and a youtube account. How do we fit into this at all?
LegosJedi, here


I think that TAAB is lying about her "husband" writing the letter, I think she only did that so that she wouldn't get the complaints.

Anyway, it seems bricks in motion is nearly done, as they're setting up camp and I can't login to the forums (no one can). So, when the new site is up, I won't be coming around here anymore. I'll be at the better site. The site with the better management; coders, adminsitrators, moderator(s) etc.

Guys, it's close to impossible to have two communities for the same hobby without any hassle.

Stevie Collins, here


Once again, it came down to RevMen to calm things down and point out the obvious:

The vast majority of visitors to brickfilms.com do not post in the forums or bother to read about site politics, etc. By far and large, most visitors to the site show up for a little while to watch films and read about brickfilming. It needs to be clear which sites are actually affiliated and which are just sites made by other fans of brickfilms.
RevMen, here


Despite all the hysterics, the matter was sorted away from the view of the members.

I am happy to report that the former admin has reached out to us to find a compromise in the Trademark dispute & I am hopeful that we can put a deal together. This has been handled in a very straight forward and professional manner and I would like to thank him for that. This is in sharp contrast to many community members who appear to have lost their mind over an issue that can and probably will be amicably resolved.
TaaB, here


I've receieved a final email from the corporation and we've reached an agreement.
Schlaeps, on the Bricks in Motion site


The exact agreement was not made public, but both parties involved appear to have sorted out their differences.

Brickfilms 3.0 and the future

At the end of May, there was a strong push to re-build brickfilms.com[28]. Several members even offered to help with the new version of the site.

Those efforts quickly fell behind schedule and it became apparent that there was not enough skilled members available to build the site purely from community commitment. TaaB took the decision to make the new version of the site in-house and made the announcement on the 12th of June:

Within 4-6 weeks, Brickfilms 3.0 will be rolled out using Joomla for the back end. Our programmers will do the heavy lifting, with as much input from the community as we can possibly get. The look and feel will be similar, if not identical to the current brickfilms website. We will utilize Joomla as the CMS, incorporate a phpbb3 bridge for the forum, and plugins & extensions for the Wiki, Film Gallery (Directory), youtube, podcasts and any other new features that the community would like to see.

This is a big and expensive project, but a necessary one to take brickfilms to the next level. I am hoping to put together a “steering committee” that will interact with the programmers along the way to make certain that they are “getting it right.” This will involve reviewing progress and emailing critiques & suggestions throughout the development. If you are interested in serving on this committee, please leave a post or PM me & let me know which pieces you are most interested in helping with.

TaaB, here


So now the site is in a sort of limbo, eye of the storm so to speak. It would appear that most of the controversy is over (unless something new comes up). Some members have stayed with brickfilms.com while others have moved on to other sites. A large portion appear to be visiting all the sites. If any one site will emerge as "the" site for movies made with plastic bricks or if all will flourish remains to be seen.

At this time (22nd of June, 2008), both of the big players (brickfilms.com and bricksinmotion.com) are about to roll out their new versions. Which becomes more popular will probably depend on how they set up their Directory (list of brickfilms). Brickfilms obviously has the brand recognition in its favour, but Bricks in Motion appears to now have the lions share of the more experienced members capable of making better films.

And the moral of the story? Communication! So much trouble could have been avoided if both sides had spent a little more effort talking to each other.

Update: TaaB responds

In the middle of July, a new discussion started up by a new member asked the question "Who is TaaB?"[29] In this thread, An Old Ore asked of TaaB "if you have any comments, corrections, rebuttals or comments on the report I wrote out, feel free to contact me". This was the reply:

Wow - this is quite a chronicle. You know what they say - perception is reality. Every time that I have tried to give my POV, it usually ends up in flames, and many of the "old timers" are emotionally invested in the former admin, so its a no win to even try.

In the end, actions speak louder than words. There is plenty of room for more than one stop motion animation LEGO website on the internet (as long as there isn't any TM infringement Smile

If we intend to stay the number one website of this type, then we need to deliver the best user experience. I can assure you, that it is our intention to do just that.

You are to be commended for your work and your interest in "getting it right." On whole, its pretty close.

The bottom line is this: our former admin had free reign of this website, with the exception of the advertising. Had he chosen to "go with the flow" regarding the ads, the rest of the drama would never have unfolded. The primary purpose for advertising was to cover the hosting expense and improve the number and value of prizes. It doesn't seem to me that this should have been the turning point for a brickfilms "civil war" Surprised Our former admin disagreed.

Its nothing personal, although some members insist on making it so. We do not discuss any Legal issues publicly, as this can have a negative effect on reaching a compromise or agreement. Unlike many who post their "legal opinions" here, we actually have a TM attorney as well as an attorney that specializes in matters pertaining to the net.

We will continue to operate this website in a professional manner, and if others choose to make personal attacks or discuss private issues publicly, that's out of our control. Heck, we even pay the bill for being attacked in our own forums!

Fortunately, we have a solid core of members that are interested in seeing this website succeed. New members are joining every day and I am confident that Brickfilms best days are ahead.

Our new LEGO partnership is just the beginning. Brickfilms 3.0 will blow your socks off! I find this to be a very exciting and fun time for Brickfilms.

Keep up the good work

TaaB, in this post


So now we wait with baited breath for BF3.0 - which sounds promising so far.


This article was written by Leonardo Escobar as a chronicle of the events that occured on brickfilms.com in the first half of 2008. He is the user An Old Ore on the brickfilms.com forums and is known as Dr Neo Lao everywhere else.

Footnotes:

  1. ^ Ask RevMen anything thread on bricksinmotion site has some details.
  2. ^ First post on brickfilms.com by TaaB. This was followed by confusion from members who had not encountered this member before.
  3. ^ He's the dude who was hired to fix the chat. That's why he's admin. So he can get in there and fix it. - by Droid, here
  4. ^ I have some GREAT news. We are turning the ads OFF - on all Patron Accounts. For those who are annoyed by ads, just sign up as a patron & your problem is solved! - TaaB, here
  5. ^ Wait, who are you? - Brickfield Studios
  6. ^ I second that. This guy with a "Sight Admin" badge pops up to tell us stuff about the economic situation of brickfilms. We'd like a little explanation. Most of us are pretty loyal to Schlaeps, so someone else with a "Site Admin" badge kind of rubs some of us the wrong way. - Leonardo812
  7. ^ Chill out, folks. thickasabrick is legit and on your side. And she appears to be a Jethro Tull fan, so you know she's good people. - RevMen, here
  8. ^ Here, started by RP Hoogle who took exception to some of the advertisements being displayed on the site.
  9. ^ A simple search of all posts by TaaB will show that no definitive reply had been made, at least not in the open forums.
  10. ^ Readable here. Several specific and reasonable questions are asked.
  11. ^ This version is written about at length on Schlaep's blog on bricksinmotion.com - TaaB has been less forthcoming about the details from her side
  12. ^ Zane was much more well received. His first post was informing of Schlaeps demotion. His third post, just a few hours later was an introduction and a bit about himself.
  13. ^ The longest thread at 26 pages remains, but is locked.
  14. ^ Five ministers quit within two hours of each other, with many normal members following suit.
  15. ^ The YouTube channel brickfilms is considered to be the "official" brickfilms YouTube channel.
  16. ^ There was some minor controversy over some ratings being removed by some of the staff, but only a few members took offense with this. It might have been due to many members having already left the site or only posting sporatically.
  17. ^ It was never my intention to interject myself into any of the discussions in the forums. - TaaB, here
  18. ^ Legoman182182 made good, brief summary of events here, but some events are merely stated as fact without references.
  19. ^ You can read it here on the new Bricks in Motion site.
  20. ^ The AMC does not have a large web presence, however, it appears to be controlled by Chuck Price (Cynthia "TaaB" Price's husband) who is also a part of We build pages
  21. ^ So, does this mean that we can't use the word 'brickfilm' in our YouTube titles, tags, write ups, credits, etc. etc. ? - Dewfilms, here
  22. ^ Anyway, I find that not being able to use 'brickfilm' as a tag for our YouTube videos is completely absurd. - Littlebrick, here
  23. ^ MAY I POINT OUT THOUGH TAAB, THE FILMS ARE OUR FILMS, WE HAVE A RIGHT TO EDIT THEM BTW - Rsteenoven, here
  24. ^ This comment was made by Legoman182182 here. The complete quote is They were removed, and I quote, "untill things have calmed down" but there is no source given nor is the quote attributed to anybody. The assumption would be that it was TaaB or Zane in one of the non-public forums.
  25. ^ Kyle, member since 2003 posts a departure thread.
  26. ^ dave, member since 2003 posts a departure thread.
  27. ^ RevMen posts some advice for everyone making "I'm leaving" threads in an effort to alleviate the drama.
  28. ^ An Old Ore started a thread on the 30th of May calling for a total rebuild. TaaB was supportive of the idea and several members offered to help with the new site.
  29. ^ member Kieran Skywalker who joined the previous month asked, in this thread.
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