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Battle Over Blocks

Who would have guessed that the most buzz-generating story of our September issue would be about Lego? We pause from our reflections on September 11 to listen to what some die-hard Lego fans had to say about the company’s recent products … and problems.

Who would guess that the way to start a spirited discussion among adults is to bring up the topic of Legos? What do grown-ups care about the simple click-together blocks?

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Plenty, it turns out.

Charles Fishman’s story about the Lego company’s efforts to preserve both its child-centered values and its profitability in the September 2001 issue of Fast Company sparked conversation and debate not only on the Fast Company Web site but also in several other locations.

The Lego enthusiast site developed a modest thread of comments on the story and the future of the company.

But the most remarkable reaction came on August 29, when the story was linked to by the well-known “geek news” Web site, Slashdot.org. Immediately, the Fast Company site began experiencing the famous “Slashdot effect” as thousands of curious Slashdot readers leapt over to read the original story, slowing traffic on Fast Company’s Web site to a crawl.

More impressive still, Slashdot readers turned Legos into one of the site’s most popular discussion-board topics in August: Within just a few hours, there were 200 postings on Slashdot; within a couple days, there were nearly 400.

To give the discussion some focus, we asked three people to write about their experiences with Legos: The first essay is by an adult Lego fan, the second is by a parent whose child appears in Fast Company’s original Lego story, and the third commentary is by a cofounder of Slashdot.org.

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As always, we welcome additional comment and feedback.

– The editors

When Bad Things Happen to Good Bricks

Lego’s catalog is a veritable textbook of its problems, says one fan. It features endless brand extensions but no coherent direction. Allan Bedford

What Children Need: A Little Creative Deprivation

Don’t turn Lego sets into model-airplane equivalents, urges one mom. The product’s gift was its ability to engage a child’s imagination, not his direction-following skills. Lisa Gates

The Importance of a Faceless Fireman

Scratch any geek, and you’re likely to find a kid who grew up learning programming on the Lego “platform.” Jeff Bates

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