Friday, September 16, 2005

Hacking Legos

Last month Lego launched Lego Factory, software which allows users to construct digitally a lego model and then purchase through the web the bricks needed to make the models. Users can also purchase the bricks for other users' designs.

Seasoned builders quickly discovered, however, that the 'palettes' Lego Factory uses often contain more bricks than are required for the model, or worse don't have some bricks needed for the design. The user then has to purchase other palettes to acquire the needed bricks ending up paying for many unneeded bricks.

After finding that each palette is made up of several bags of bricks, Software designer Larry Pieniazek coordinated efforts with other users to create a database of all the brick bags and the palettes comprised of them. Factory users could now build their models with individual bags in mind, and then choose to modify their design if it required the purchase of too many palettes. Costs could be dramatically reduced if desired.

Encouragingly, Lego expressed the desire of the company to develop the factory together with it s customers. Lego was a little taken aback, however, that the hack emerged within days of the launch.

While Lego may be embracing a pseudo open source attitude with Factory, the company defintely does not want you to refer to their toys as Legos. This, apparently, could be devasating to their trademark, so they ask that you please refer to them as Lego toys or bricks. Go to and read the disclaimer. Geez. Lego's consumers call them Legos! Way to scold those that love your product. If I were a kid going to and that message is what I received, I would be confused and less-enthused.


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