Hi guys! I haven’t done an interview for quite some time. So, today I’ll be interviewing Linus Bohman! He’s a LEGO fan who’s the mastermind behind the website Swooshable (which compiles official LEGO set instructions) and his newly released site Brick Insights – a LEGO review aggregator website which compiles LEGO set review scores from a multitude of other sites! Let’s jump right into the interview with him!
1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? Just any fun facts you would like to share about yourself.
Sure! My name is Linus, and I’m an AFOL. My LEGO interests have primarily been MOCing, but the past year or three I’ve also been interested in the various forms of data our community produces. I guess that comes from my day job – I work in the web industry as a strategist. I live in Malmö, Sweden. That’s really close to Denmark. I’m married to the best woman ever – Jennifer – and together we have Sam, our son. He just turned 8 months old. Much of my time goes to family and work, but I try to be in my little LEGO studio as much as possible – usually a few stray hours a week. In there I’ve built a rig for filming and taking photos and have all of my LEGO sorted. By part, of course. Only fools sort by color 😉
I have the finger hinge tattooed on my left arm, as a tribute to my favourite LEGO part. I wish it never went out of production.
2. How long have you been an AFOL for? If you went through the ‘Dark Ages’, what caused you to pick up LEGO again?
I had the usual dark age in my teens, but began building again when I was 19 or so. That’s 15 years ago – I’m 34 this year. Time flies.
Interestingly enough it was Bionicle that brought me back. I went down the toy aisle in my local store, saw the LEGO brand on what I considered an “action figure” (8560-1 Pahrak, to be exact), bought it and went home and searched the web for information. The community did the rest – I think I spent many, many hours on LUGNET that day. After a few months of lurking I fetched our old LEGO from the attic and built a really crappy model. That MOC has, thankfully, been lost to the ages. The first thing I put effort into building was this little spaceship. I documented and posted it on Classic-Space forums. And I was hooked.
Since then I’ve had a few gray ages due to me moving around a lot, but I’ve always kept my collection and love for the hobby. I’m building and especially posting MOCs much less frequently these days, because adulting is a thing. LEGO has moved from being more of a creative and social outlet to being a relaxing past time for me.
3. You created the Swooshable website, which is a site with MOC techniques and set instructions. What prompted you to create the website?
Yikes, a lot of stuff. It’s a bit of a long story. I began working on Swooshable after a year of working my first web development job. I wanted to learn some new stuff and figured I build things for the community. Back then they were fun one-off things that encouraged creativity. Some of the old stuff still on the site for historical reasons, some have been removed because, well, they were really bad.
After a few years of me neglecting the site I discovered people still visited it. That triggered me to build version 2. The most popular parts were two things I called “SNOT Search Engine” and “Building School”. Both collected techniques and instructions to help people build. Seeing that these were most popular sections prompted me to explore ways to focus on building. I refined the information, added a bunch more stuff, built an entirely new site, and released it. The site grew, and I added more stuff to help people build – like the color data by Ryan Howerter and a small app to test colorschemes digitally.
Then, one day, I wanted to find an old set instruction. I went to Brickset thinking they must have it, but discovered that for older sets they just linked to Peeron and hoped for the best. I figured I could do something to fix that, and after some tinkering I had a pretty simple script that crawled a bunch of sites and compiled a list of instructions for each set. After giving that list to Brickset, I figured I needed to make the script more reliable. And thus, rebuilt Swooshable again. That’s the version alive nowadays.
Swooshable has always changed form depending on my current LEGO and web interests. It feels unfocused because of that. When my son was born I had to put work on it on hold, which was a good thing. It gave me perspective and much needed clarity on what the site could be. Instead of being my own playground I want to make it a fantastic technique catalogue for all generations of builders – I want hundreds of articles like this, complete with images, videos and parts references:
There’s a lot of work to be done, but I’ll get to it. Eventually.
4. One of your latest projects is the website Brick Insights, which I’m a big fan of. What inspired you to create the site?
Thanks! I’m glad you like it since you’re one of the largest reviewers!
Brick Insights solves my own problem. I hadn’t followed the new set releases for a time and wanted an easy way to figure out if I should buy a set. I tinkered with a prototype I checking a bunch of stuff like price, reviews, availability and some other stuff, and figured that reviews were the most important part. So I doubled down on that. I had learned a lot about set data when I built the instruction index on Swooshable which let me get started pretty quickly.
After all that it was easy to look at review aggregators in other verticals. I especially took a lot of inspiration from Open Critic at first.
They’ve done a great job transparently building a review aggregator for gamers. Combine these two things – data and a personal shopping problem – with a couple of months of work and you get Brick Insights. It has really helped me when I’m researching sets to buy, so I hope it’ll do the same for others. The first set Brick Insights helped me buy was the 70638 Katana V11 from Ninjago.
I know you don’t like it from your review, but I find it very cool 😉 I’m really excited about Brick Insight as a project. Right now I’m trying to gather feedback, make it as good as I can and see if people want to use it. If so I’ll polish it up as much as I can and continue making it even better. The reception has been great so far. I get the impression it fills a need for many people, which is really encouraging.
5. Do you have any plans for any future sites, or are you going to focus on these two projects for now?
I try not to start projects for their own sake, so I hope these two will be my main focus for the foreseeable future. Building these things is a lot of work, which is all done in my spare time and on my own budget. If they get really popular and sustain themselves better I would be happy to devote more time to this kind of work, but at the moment they’re an extension of my LEGO hobby.
If I do start something else it’ll be because I’ve spotted a problem I think I can solve with some fancy tech. I have a running list of problems, but nothing on there is particularly important at the moment.
6. What’s your favorite LEGO theme?
Anything space. I adored Blacktron I when I was younger, and I think I own all of the Ice Planet 2000 sets. Broken up into parts, of course.
7. Favorite LEGO set?
The Battrax! Now and forever. I really want to build a Neo-Blacktron Battrax someday, but I’m a bit intimidated. Such is its greatness.
8. What about your favorite LEGO minifigure?
Believe it or not, I don’t have one. They’re all MOC parts for me 😉 I do like to create (but not customise) my own figs to give my MOCs some more personality though.
9. Do you like to MOC? If so, what MOC are you most proud of?
I do! The MOC I’m most proud of isn’t online. When the web agency I owned merged with another company, I built a 1.5 x 1.5 meter mosaic of our new partners logo. I like it because it signifies a cool step in my career. The MOC I like the most that is available online is probably Vroomfast. It’s just the right amount of zany and playability. It seats two (Nude Alex and his bird Coco), can steer, and has some fun techniques.
All of my MOCs online can be found on flickr. I have a few I haven’t documented. Should probably do that.
10. Lastly, if you could change one thing about LEGO, what would it be?
Ooh. Tough one. My gut reaction is price. I want more of them bricks, you know? But when I think about it some more, the environmental impact is the main thing I want to change. Plastic isn’t great for the environment, and our favourite toy company produces a lot of it. I’m glad TLC is working on more sustainable alternatives. I’m happy to pay a premium for that.
On the community side I’ve been itching for a good place to talk and share images. Flickr isn’t quite what it used to be, but there aren’t really any alternatives. I guess it’s good that the community has many different places to talk, but it makes me feel a bit homeless, community wise.
Also let me know if you enjoy interviews like this! Do leave some comments below, whether they’re directed at him or me 🙂
VaderFan2187 out! 😀