The Idea Dude


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Serious play

The Lego factory makes the mass customization concept a reality. The idea is that you download their digital designer, a 3D tool allowing you to graphically put together your Lego model using standard (but virtual) pieces. Share your model with the Lego community (some 77,000 designs have already been submitted) and click buy. The factory takes the design, collects all the necessary pieces, puts it in a box customized by you and sends it to you. Voila! a nice way to personalize your next gift. The neat part is that it is so consistent with what their founder and inventor created in 1932. A must read for anyone who has ever built a Lego toy is their corporate profile detailing their history and achievements over the years.

I remember listening to a keynote by Adele Goldberg of Smalltalk in the early 1990s at the first annual Object Oriented conference. (Yes, I'm dating myself now!) She likened object oriented design like Lego, the objects like the blocks must be built so that they can be re-used in many permutations. More importantly, they can be put together easily and pulled apart with the same ease. Sounds simple but I remember as a boy, many Lego wannabees selling blocks that you couldn't put together or once you did, couldn't take apart. Next time you design an interface think about the concept of software tolerance. I've been known to distribute Lego kits to software developers to illustrate the point. Hopefully the concept is not forgotton.

Some interesting facts on Lego. They are made with a tolerance of 0.002 mm. Only 18 elements in every million produce fail the quality tests. All Lego elements are full compatible since 1958 regardless of age or which factory they originated from. There are 915 million ways to combine six eight-stud Lego bricks. On average every person on earth has 52 Lego bricks.

If only software was made this way...


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